Birchbox Review | January 2015

Birchbox Review_January 2015_ATG FINAL
The first Birchbox of 2015 arrived a few weeks ago and it’s been quite the experimentation. My take on how January’s Birchbox products held up…

#1. Key West Aloe Gentle Aloe Cleanser | What is it about the word “aloe” that conjures up such feelings of calmness? Well, this facial cleanser from Key West Aloe lives up to that soothing feeling. (Ahh!) What makes this cleanser unique is that it contains 30% pure aloe vera, packing nutrient-rich power. It’s gentle enough for sensitive skin, smells wonderful, has a great texture, and compliments use with your Clarasonic device extremely well if you have one. Your skin leaves the bathroom feeling clean, soft, refreshed, and calm. At $16.50 full-sized (granted it’s only 6 ounces), it won’t break the bank either.

Overall: A do.

#2. Essentiel Elements Wake Up Rosemary Body Lotion | It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of the shower gel version of this product. I use it when I’m looking for an especially indulgent showering session. This is in part because the scent is incredibly invigorating and instantly wakes up your senses, which is helpfully intensified by the steam. It should be no surprise then, that the body lotion equivalent packs that same Rosemary-scented punch. Admittedly, I went back and forth a lot with this lotion when deciding what my review would be. On the one hand, I loved the light texture and the way the product melts into your skin right away, without a trace of residue. On the other hand, though I enjoy the body wash immensely, having that same scent in lotion form isn’t really my cup of tea I found. I tend to prefer softer scents when it comes to lotions, usually, of the vanilla or floral variety. Add in the fact that there are entirely TOO MANY lotions in the world to not be fully satisfied (even if I am loyal to its counterpart), and I’ve made my decision. I’ll finish the sample, but my relationship with Essentiel Elements Rosemary products will likely stop with the shower gel.

 Overall:  A do…if the fragrance doesn’t bother you.

#3. Sweet Science Invisible Daily Tint  | I was pretty stoked to see this guy in my January box. I’m a huge stickler for having SPF on my face anytime I leave the house. Though my daily go-to moisturizer has sunscreen protection, my sometimes preferred heavier moisturizer for the winter months does not, essentially forcing me to use the product that does. It’s nice to have something that if you want more coverage to brave the colder months, you can still use it and slap on products like Sweet Science’s Invisible Daily Tint to help with the lack of sunscreen. This SPF 35 packed formula somehow mimics the coloring of your skin upon application, but invisibly settles in. This is because the tint is also designed to even skin tone, which you can see instantly. I’ve only used the sample on days when I didn’t want to wear make-up (though you certainly can use it with make-up) and I’m impressed. While the product is slightly gooey/messy to work with, I enjoyed the SPF protection and the light, even skin-toned coverage it provides, without the need for foundation. It also mattifies the skin, blocking out “shiny face syndrome.” I have to say, I’m not a fan of the $45 price tag for the full-sized version (at a mere 1 ounce!) – especially given how flooded the market is with products like this. That being said, this is a solid contender.

Overall: A do…if you can get behind the cost.

#4. REN Glycol Lactic Radiance Renewal Mask | This mask sure does make a girl feel special. It contains fruit acids and papaya enzymes that gently exfoliate the skin. It tingles for a few seconds after applying, but the feeling doesn’t last long and isn’t irritating in a way that makes you want to just give up and wash it off. It also smells wonderful. I’ve only used this product a few times and it would take consistent use to really see an overall improvement, I’m sure. I can say that 10 minutes after 1 use…your skin feels soft and refreshed; your complexion a little brighter. I hate to sound like a broken record (and trust me, I know beauty can be pricey) but again, $55 for 1.7 ounces is a stretch. Don’t get me wrong, if I find something I L.O.V.E. I’ll work with the cost, but glycol lactic masks are everywhere (though they do tend run on the pricier side, I know). I’m keeping my options open at the moment. I thoroughly enjoyed the sample and will certainly finish it out.

Overall:  A do (so far)….if you can get behind the cost.

#5. Katherine Cosmetics Everyday Eyeliner | I’ve sampled and reviewed A LOT of eyeliner over the years through Birchbox (and I mean a lot!) but this find one from a brand I’d never even heard of has to be my favorite yet. The “sample” was generous as you can tell – the liner arrived full-sized! I was immediately struck by the smudging brush located on the opposite end of the liner for your convenience. The pigment was rich, didn’t smear, was long-lasting, and flattering. I received the “Bonanza Black” shade (which to me channels more of a dark brown) and found it something that I could use day-to-day with no trouble. Perhaps if you’re fairer skinned the “Cessna Brown” might be more your speed. It’s little finds like this that make Birchbox fun! I highly recommend this liner if you’re in the market for something new and something that works.

Overall:  A do.

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What I’m Lovin’ Right Now

Blend{Click image to enlarge.}

I know some people don’t like to fall into the trap of or even believe in New Year’s resolutions; but I’ve always liked the idea of working toward goals. And yet, I haven’t taken the time to sit down and formally write my list of resolutions for 2015. I can’t say that I will at this point either.

Admittedly, I meant to do this over my holiday vacation, but other things got in the way. Rather than beat myself up about it, I came up with a very simple idea for how I wanted to approach 2015 in such a way that negated the need to write this long list of things that I would likely never get to because…you got it…life got in the way. Instead, I simply told myself that I wanted to have something to look forward to every day. I think this is a much more realistic and manageable way to deal with life at the moment. The great news is that it doesn’t have to be anything big. In fact, it will likely be the small things most days: a latte from my favorite café, heading home to binge watch Girls (my current obsession), meeting a friend for lunch, or curling up with a good book and my favorite candle burning nearby (see #3 below).

I haven’t sworn off New Year’s resolutions entirely – but I’m giving it a break this year. I will share that there is one main area of my life that I am aiming to make a big change at this year, that will require some thought and course of action; but really, I just want to spend more time being present, enjoying the little things.

As such, I’m lovin’ things that embrace small pleasures, things that aid in my goal to have something to look forward to each day. Below you’ll find a few ideas that I have in mind – be it the perfect bath after a long day (#7); a DIY project to sink my teeth into (#6); trying a new, healthier recipe (#8); planning a date night with my guy (#2); or treating myself to a little bling (#9). There’s always something to look forward to, and for once, I want to take it day by day.

Here’s to small pleasures and that one big change in 2015. I’ll keep you posted on how things come along. Here’s…

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 1. A fresh take on why we’ve got “happiness” backwards. | Enlarge to See Full Quote.

2. Where to go when you need a date night. | The 13 Best Date Spots in LA.

3.  The best smell in my apartment as I type this. | Bella’s “Midnight Orchid” Soy Candle.

4.  In case you thought you were doing everything right on the skin front. |  20 Skincare Mistakes That Are Damaging Your Face.

5. A quick reminder of your birth-given power. | 7 Things You Don’t Know About the Power You’ve Always Had.

6. Inspiration for what to do with all those damn coffee mugs taking up unnecessary cabinet space. | DIY Pallet Coffee Cup Holder.

7.  Everything you need to turn into a prune from the comfort of your own home. | Crafting the Perfect Bath at Home.

8. What to do when you perpetually have avocados and tomatoes ripening faster than you can eat them. | Avocado Quesadillas.

9. Feeding your minimalist jewelry binge. | Bar Drop Necklace.

10. Because winter reeks havoc on your skin…and it won’t win.  | Eau Roma Water (a personal favorite at the moment).

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Birchbox Review | December 2014

Birchbox December 2014 _ ATG FINAL 3

A little remaining 2014 business to take care of today. How the latest and greatest in beauty and lifestyle products made a gal feel a bit more gorgeous…or not so much. Let’s step back and get the skinny on the last Birchbox of the year.

#1. Acure Organics Sensitive Facial Cleanser  | Clearly, the probiotic trend is on the rise. I can personally attest that as supplements, they do wonders for the digestive system, but not until Acure’s product arrived in the mail, did I ever hear of probiotics in your facial cleanser!? Aside from being free of commonly found chemicals in your typical cleanser (think along the lines of parabens and phthalates), this organic cleanser does everything right. It’s gentle, creamy, non-scented, and moisturizing. This discovery has been an absolute dream to work with during the winter months. Admittedly, I usually like products that overdo it on the scent. It somehow makes me feel like it’s more of a treat to wash my face (than just a simple hygiene-based practice) when inhaling an invigorating fragrance, but I honestly didn’t mind here. I used this cleanser with my Clarasonic. Combined, it created something pretty special. I was actually surprised at the mere $14 price tag….until I realized that a “full-sized” product is only 4 ounces. Beware, you’re in for a treat, but you’ll pay for it.

Overall: A do. If you can get behind the cost.

#2. Beauty Protector Protect & Oil  | This discovery from Beauty Protector had all the right ingredients to impress me: a light-weight texture; a pleasing, subtle scent; and upon application, a nice sheen. Unfortunately, there just wasn’t enough moisture in this product to make me feel like my strands were consistently hydrated. I had to use quite a bit of oil once I gauged that might have something to do with it, defeating the “light-weight” factor some. I can imagine someone who simply needs a hint of moisture that would like this product. However, if like me, you have chronically dry hair (and prefer to spritz in moisture) – I’d skip this and recommend the Macadamia Professional Healing Oil Spray

 Overall: Pass.

#3. Laura Geller Beauty Spackle Supercharged Fortified Under Make-Up Primer | I’m a gal who appreciates a good primer before make-up use. I wasn’t always of this mindset, thinking that it was simply another expensive product that was ultimately unnecessary. When Birchbox introduced me to Lancôme’s La Base Pro Primer, I became a believer and haven’t looked back. The caveat is that Lancôme’s primer is expensive, and between you and me, I use the tiniest pump possible to stretch not having to buy it more than once or twice a year. This alternative from Laura Geller just might replace Lancôme on my counter-top vanity. It’s $12 cheaper and 2.5 times the size! The added benefits, outside of creative branding (I think calling this stuff “Spackle” is pure genius), this primer is infused with vitamins and anti-aging ingredients. As such, it can also be worn alone for a soft, make-up free, highlighting glow to the skin. It’s a win, win.

Overall: A do.

#4. Manna Kadar Lip Locked | When I hear that a lip product is “a primer, lip stain, and gloss in one,” I can’t help but get excited about the potential. If done right, it eliminates the need to have several different products in your make-up bag that can be achieved with just one. When I hear that a lip product is all-in-one AND long-lasting, I’m officially on-board. Unfortunately, Manna Kadar didn’t get the memo – their product is lacking. I’ll admit that my dissatisfaction was in large part because I received a shade that was too close to my natural lip color to really stand out. This may work for some ladies, but if I wanted to sport a look the same color as my lips – I’d just throw on some clear Chapstick and call it a day. What I really couldn’t understand was why this was considered “long-lasting?” I’d swear this stuff came off pretty quickly. Then again, seeing as how it was mere inches in difference from my natural color, perhaps my eyes deceived me? So, I tried again…and determined they weren’t. Bottom line, there are entirely way too many products on the market for all this guess-work. I expect to be impressed immediately when it comes to lip products.

Overall:  Pass.

#5. Lord & Berry Paillettes Eye Pencil | A little bit of sparkle and a whole lot of fun, just in time for the holidays. Lord & Berry’s glimmer-filled eye pencil was a festive addition to my make-up routine on Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve. I found the pencil to be long-lasting and the amount of glitter not too overwhelming. Unfortunately, unless you’re club-hopping every weekend after the holidays, or find yourself at a lot of parties throughout the year – there won’t be much use for it. I certainly plan to enjoy the sample as the appropriate occasions arise, but it’s not practical for everyday use.

Overall: Indifferent.

Birchbox Blue Gold Foil December 2014_ATG FINAL 2

{Side note: I would’ve paid $10 just for the stunning blue and gold foiled box! Well done, Birchbox.}

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Birchbox Review | November 2014

Birchbox November 2014 ATG FINAL (2)

A breakdown of how the latest and greatest in beauty and lifestyle products made a gal feel a bit more gorgeous…or not so much. Let’s step back to last month and get the skinny on November’s Birchbox…

#1. Gilchrist & Soames Spa Therapy Body Wash | This Gilchrist & Soames Body Wash was a total treat from my daily Caress-inspired bathing experiences. I absolutely loved the subtle marine and citrus scent. It instantly restores you, while equally making you feel fresh and clean. I certainly also welcome products that are crafted with care. I’m not one to personally go out of my way to use only organic and/or chemical-free formulas, but I don’t mind the added benefit. This body wash seems to make an effort to remove certain chemicals that tend to get a bad wrap. That being said, I realize the hypocrisy when I say that what usually drives my decisions when using products in general, is not only performance, but cost. It’s hard to get behind a $15 bottle of body wash when I get something for twice the size, 3 times less in cost. But I’m not a party-pooper either. I can see the benefit if you like to have something more luxurious and high-end in your shower too. I might splurge on a more expensive body wash to compliment those days when you just want a little something more. I’m a fan of this one from Gilchrist and Soames, as well as this great find from Essentiel Elements just a few months ago.

Overall: A do. If you can get behind the cost.

#2. Juice Beauty Green Apple Peel Sensitive  |  I respect what Juice Beauty products aim to do, but once again I’m unimpressed when it comes to performance. I think the first two things that made me realize I wouldn’t care for this product before I even applied it to my face was the strange water-y consistency, and that I felt duped by the fact that this had no resemblance in scent to “green apples”…or anything. Ultimately, what I couldn’t get into was that I didn’t feel like it was strong enough to really make an impact on my skin. I’m not blaming this product entirely, because I can’t say for sure whether it was the cause – but it also didn’t help that I would notice a blemish or 2 after using it.

 Overall: Pass.

#3. theBalm Cosmetics Cindy Lou-Manizer | I might lose cool points for this but it took me a minute to figure out what this was! I thought it was just a simple peach-hued eye shadow sample. I had to physically read the instructions on it before I understood that the cleverly packaged powder pot is an all-in-one highlighter: for cheekbones, eyelids, or all over face application. I’ve used it mostly as that aforementioned eye shadow, which gives a subtle hint of color that brightens the eye area, but have experimented with it more loosely as a facial luminizer. Lo and behold it does add a very gentle glow to my face that’s appealing! And I have to say, I just love the packaging.

Overall: A do.

#4. Eslor Firming Collagen Day Cream | One of the things that I totally appreciate learning from my mom at a very early age, was taking care of my skin. This is not to brag, but I’m in a happy place at the moment, where I’m not too concerned or deal with wrinkles. Then I got to thinking as I first opened the jar to Eslor’s cream, that this probably means that in order to maintain that good skin care habit I’ve had since I was a teenager, that I probably should pay more attention to products designed to help keep my skin firm. Though it helps that I’m African-American (and the saying “black don’t crack” is true…to an extent), being in my early 30s is probably the right time to start using firming products to help keep me in my happy place as long as humanly possible. I realize it’s better to start early and prevent, rather than spend all of this time (and money) trying to correct and repair once those fine lines start to appear. Admittedly, I had a hard time gauging if this product was working for me since I’m in my wrinkle-free happy place and I’m sure I’d need prolonged use of it to see a noticeable difference. I will say that I can get behind the scent and the rich luxurious feel of this cream. It’s no joke at $85, but I suppose this is much more realistic (and healthier given it’s paraben-free formula) than a $10,000+ face-lift. However, I’m not a fan of the cost. Personally, I would find a more reasonable alternative.

Overall: Too soon to say, but I like it so far. Too expensive.

#5. Chuao Chocolatier | I’m not usually one to bash chocolate, but I’ll have to here. There aren’t too many ways to ruin chocolate, but Chuao Chocolatier certainly found a way. This treat is offered in a variety of flavors leading to me believe that perhaps it was just the flavor that I received that missed the mark. The Firecracker flavor, described as a “chipotle caramel fudge dotted with popping candy and salt in dark chocolate,” was so disturbing, I didn’t even finish it. At first bite, a rich dark chocolate taste hits your tongue in such a way that makes you smile, then the spiciness of the chipotle along with the tang of the salt complicate things immediately. Add in that the chocholate then starts to physically pop in your mouth (channeling Pop Rocks candy circa 30 years ago) and I was completely turned off. I like my chocolate rather simple: rich, sweet, perhaps with a bit of crunch from a nut or something – but never spicy, salty, or popping in my mouth. Yuck!

Overall: Pass.

#6. Harvey Prince Petaly Noir | Harvey Prince is quickly becoming my favorite fragrance line. They consistently do no wrong as far as I’m concerned. Their Hello scent is my signature go-to when I want to smell fun and flirty. Essentially, before you even open your mouth to speak, the fragrance does it for you. It aptly says, “Hello! I’m here.” Petaly Noir couldn’t be the opposite of traits. Reserved for when a gal wants to channel her inner seductress, this fragrance is bold and dark and demands the personality of a woman who can handle it. Its combination of jasmine, vanilla, orchid, and lily of the valley make it an intense statement fragrance. It might not be for everyone, but I adore it.

Overall: A do.

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Birchbox Review | October 2014

Birchbox Review October 2014 ATG FINAL
A breakdown of how the latest and greatest in beauty and lifestyle products made a gal feel a bit more gorgeous…or not so much. Product reviews are left to right, top to bottom. Here’s the scoop on October’s Birchbox…

ModelCo Power Lash Long Wear Black Mascara 

I might have found a contender to my beloved They’re Real! Mascara. ModelCo’s Power Lash Long Wear Black Mascara was a welcome sample to play with this month. The formula, which made me raise a brow in concern because it’s surprisingly thick and a bit messy as I pulled the wand from the tube, held its own. It didn’t clump, flake, and when wanting to create volume with multiple coats, it did so with ease. The strong jet black shade is also right up my alley. Aside from the thick formula (which ended up redeeming itself based on performance), my only other criticism was that I found the brush a little thick for me, which meant having to clean up my eyelids a bit once I’d finished application. Otherwise, I’m impressed. This is a great mascara that won’t break the bank.

Overall: A do.

Essentiel Elements Wake Up Rosemary Shower Gel

The moment you dispense this shower gel onto your loofah, you realize pretty quickly that you’re in for a treat. The smell that fills your shower is energizing and heavenly. Add in that this product has a luxurious texture, produced a rich lather (I’m sorry, I’m a sucker for suds), along with how soft my skin felt once I stepped out the shower and I’m sold…almost. Unfortunately, it’s hard to justify spending $19 on body wash, particularly when Caress does the job for $4 and gives you 10 more ounces of product per bottle – though I realize you’re getting a host of more natural ingredients and much sexier packaging (that glass jar is pretty cool, by the way). If I were to make a full-sized purchase of this, it would be a body wash I’d use a few times per week (as opposed to my daily go-to) to enjoy the spa-like experience at home to unwind after a stressful day. Either way, I enjoyed Essentiel Elements Wake Up Rosemary Shower Gel and I think you will, too….however, this would used more as a special indulgence to get some longevity out of it.

 Overall: A do. If you can get behind the cost.

Curlisto Deep Therapy Masque 

I’ll be honest, this is a product I want to use a few more times before making a firmer, concrete decision one way or the other. That being said, I’ll write my impressions after just one use. I appreciated the scent and creamy texture of Curlisto’s hair masque. My hair felt great as I worked the product in; instantly giving it a sleeker, more hydrated feel. One thing that comes to mind, however, is that this masque requires you to have already conditioned your hair prior to use, which I found unusual. Most masques go right on after shampooing in my experience. As such, I had a hard time gauging the performance of the masque in and of itself. Was my hair feeling great because I’d essentially already conditioned and then used this product? I suppose the best way to know would be to “break the rules” and just use this mask right after shampooing to really rate its merit. Suffice to say, I’m not praising the product or disregarding it altogether, because I’d like to use it a few more times. However, I’m big on first impressions and given the $36 price tag, this didn’t readily knock it out of the park for me.

Overall: Too soon to say, but it’s not looking great at the moment.

LuMESH Hydrating Lip Gloss 

This lip gloss didn’t do much for me. I’ll admit I enjoyed the slight tingle it gives your lips after application, but I always found myself somewhat eager to rub this off after a while (which is probably a good thing, meaning it has some staying-power). The shade I received, “Sadie,” wasn’t any different from the natural color of my lips, so it didn’t do much other than give a nice sheen to them. This is usually okay with me when wanting to keep my look natural and un-fussed looking, but I simply wasn’t blown away by this product – likely because of the shade, but also because I’m over lip gloss at the moment. I have no qualms with lip gloss, but I’m finding that I’m currently in more a lipstick with staying-power place in my life. I won’t pursue this product any further once (or if) I finish the sample.

Overall: Pass.

Miracle Skin Transformer Miracle Revival Mud 

While it should always be mask season, I notice that toward the later part of the year is when my skin needs extra TLC to keep hydrated, clear, and happy. As 2014 begins to wind down and the cooler temperatures join us, I was thrilled to see this product in my box. I don’t currently have a good go-to mask that I use with any sort of regularity (unless is comes in the form of a Birchbox sample). Miracle Skin Transformer’s Revival Mud Mask, therefore, came just in the nick of time. I’ll admit I wasn’t thrilled with the smell of this product, but tried to keep my focus on how effective the product would hopefully be. 15 minutes later, the first few spent slightly uncomfortable as it burns upon application, and I was a fan. My skin felt soft, clean, and supple. The $38 price tag is discouraging to me, so I don’t know if I’d ever go full-sized, but I would save up Birchbox points toward the cost. This is a great mask if you’re in the market.

Overall: A do. If you can get behind the cost.

SeaRx Microdermabrasion Face and Body Scrub

SeaRx is quickly becoming one of my favorite brand discoveries through Birchbox. I still dream about their moisturizing lotion often since I ran out the sample last month. (Gosh, I loved that stuff.) Their scrub did an admirable job. While this can be used for the entire body, I kept usage to my face only. I think the reason why I’m not raving about this product was that I was expecting a more “harsh” scrub. The crystals used in this formula are very, very fine almost to the point that you don’t even feel like it’s giving your skin a thorough exfoliation. Rather than ding it for not being a “rougher” scrub, perhaps this makes it something pretty special to be able to effectively give you a smooth and fresh face after use? I mean, my skin looked and felt incredible so I guess that’s all that matters. Either way, I still personally like a deeper feeling exfoliation. I’m not planning to continue with this product after the sample runs out.

Overall: Indifferent.

Thanks for reading!

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Birchbox Review | SEPTEMBER

Birchbox September ATG FINAL

September’s Birchbox ranks as one of my all-time favorites. I don’t really have a bad thing to say….well, maybe a little thing… or two.  Let’s break it down!

#1. Macadamia Professional Healing Oil Spray  | Coincidentally, about a week before this product arrived, I remember looking at myself in the mirror and flat out saying out loud (yes, I talk to myself…and often), “I wish I could just add a lightweight spritz of oil to my hair right now, to give it just a hint of shine and moisture in-between shampoo sessions.Of course, I already have an oil product that I use religiously for this purpose, but it involves distributing product the old-fashioned way: pouring a gooey substance into your hands, rubbing them together, and then applying to the hair. I was in the mood for something that I could just grab, spray, comb through and be out! Sometimes the Birchbox Gods, or rather Goddesses, hear your cry. This Macadamia Professional Healing Oil Spray satisfies all your hair moisturizing needs. It’s light, instantly gives your hair sheen, smells heavenly, requires no contact with gooey substances, and works great on wet or dry strands. It also didn’t hurt that someone walked over to me one day and said my hair looked fantastic! Outside of my stellar hair-dressing skills (I’m no José Eber but I do well), I’m giving this product part credit in keeping my hair happy and healthy as of late. I’m in LOVE. This will definitely become apart of my routine full-time. The great news is that it’s a steal on Amazon for twice the size.

Overall: It’s a do. Repeat: It’s a DO. Third time’s a charm: DO IT!

#2. TEMPTU S/B Highlighter  | I like make-up as much as the next girl, but unless I’m going to work or going out somewhere special, I don’t feel the need to have a full face of make-up on. And even then, I keep things pretty standard: a little concealer for under the eyes, foundation, mascara, and if I’m feeling especially in the mood, some blush on the cheeks. The point being that I’ve never used a highlighter. Thanks to Birchbox, I got my first taste using this “Champagne Shimmer” highlighter from Temptu, who I learned is also leading the at-home make-up airbrushing revolution (and now I kinda want one). While I don’t think a highlighter is an absolute necessity (because this becomes yet ANOTHER expense), I can certainly see how incorporating a good highlighter magically gives your skin a more polished, glowing look after you’ve applied your basics. I especially loved the effect you get when mixing the highlighter with your foundation for an all over radiant shimmer (a tip I learned from a fellow Birchboxer). Since I’m new to highlighters, I want to experiment with different shades and brands, but this one from Temptu is a great start. It’s seriously has me considering the idea of adding highlighters to my routine.

 Overall: A do.

#3. Yu-Be Moisturizing Skin Cream | Rumor has it that this has been Japan’s top-selling moisturizer for over 50 years…unfortunately, this would be the product where I have that aforementioned bad thing to say. While I appreciated this product’s aim – moisturizing everything from my heels to my lips (somehow that sounds weird as I type that, but that’s what this stuff does!), I couldn’t get past the Vicks Vapor Rub smell. I felt like I should be in bed with a cold just begging be to able to smell something, anything, so that I knew my clogged sinuses were only temporary and that relief was on the way. (In that moment, even catching a whiff of Vick’s is a godsend). I liked the product, but couldn’t get over the smell or the texture. It really just seems to be a high-end version of Vaseline if you ask me.

Overall: Eh.

#4. Laura Mercier Full Blown Volume Supreme Mascara | If you knew me, or read any of my beauty-related posts over the last year, you know that I’m loyal to Benefit’s They’re Real! Mascara. I’ve said it over, and over, and over….and over, again. I’m very happy in the mascara area at the moment, but if I were on the prowl for a new find, this gem from Laura Mercier might be a serious contender. It goes on smooth, welcomes multiple applications with ease to create volume-filled lashes to your liking that don’t clump, and it doesn’t flake. Here’s where my second bad thing to say comes into play: I’ve gotten so use to the ease and clean application with Benefit’s wand (I hardly ever have to use a Q-Tip afterward), that I have a hard time using the more traditional “bushy” mascara wands that get product all over the eyelid (yuck!). Otherwise, this is a great mascara if you want a more natural look. If you want intense volume and va-va-voom lashes, They’re Real! is your friend.

Overall: A do, but I’m still sticking with They’re Real! until they stop making the stuff. Best mascara. Ever.

#5. Dr. Brandt Pores No More Vacuum Cleaner | Luckily, I don’t really have much pore-related drama in my life. I may get a blemish here or there every so often, but I don’t personally battle blackheads or have large pores or anything. My skin concerns are almost always related to hydration and seeking a more even complexion (because on the rare occasion I do get a pimple, it almost always leaves a small mark behind). That being said, this mask from Dr. Brandt was impressive for me in that it didn’t make my skin feel dry after use. This is important given that its mission is to extract all the junk that’s lurking in your pores – and in my experience, products such as these have me begging for a moisturizer as soon I get the stuff off. I enjoyed sampling this mask. It’s quick and easy to use. I appreciated how it turns light blue as an indicator that it’s time to rinse off. The most heavenly part has to be the way your skin feels squeaky clean as you pat dry. The feel of the air on your skin is indescribable right after use. Magic!

Overall: A do. If you can get behind the cost.

#6. ChapStick Dual-Ended Hydration Lock | At the moment I’m crushing on Burt’s Bees Tinted Lip Balm, but this Chapstick will go to good use. My relationship with Chapstick was re-invigorated by Birchbox last October when they introduced me to their Hydration Lock product line, which I adore. The twist on this particular Chapstick is the “Dual-Ended” feature. One side “Renews” while the other “Moisturizes” (yeah, I don’t get the difference either.) Upon further investigation, the “renew” end is great for use alone or as a primer for your lipstick during the day. The “Moisturize” side contains antioxidants more geared toward night use. The gimmick is apparent here, but I still like the product. Chapstick is Chapstick. I doubt I’ll be paying too much attention to what end I use. As long as my  lips feel nourished and it lasts longer than 10 minutes, I’m happy.

Overall: A Do.

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5 Reasons This Week Will Rock!

5 Reasons LogoHappy (almost) fall! As we gear up for another Monday, the first day of fall tomorrow, and a very busy week ahead, I’m particularly excited about a few things coming down the pipeline. Here are 5 reasons this week will rock…

1. Pumpkin spice everything.

1-New folder (2){Last year’s celebratory salute to all things pumpkin.}

You may have seen the article floating around about how Starbucks’ ever popular Pumpkin Spice Latte apparently has everything in it but actual pumpkin! It certainly is causing a pretty polarizing discussion around its supposed ingredients and its relationship to your health. Some are arguing that the original article is simply shedding light on what’s in our favorite fall beverage with the aim to help you make a more educated decision about what you put in your body, while others are touting that the article that caused a stir (no pun intended) is not “scientifically validated.” Look, I’m not going to get into whether one should or shouldn’t here. To each his own. What I will share is that seeing as how it’s Monday, that I’m going to need a pick me up (and hello, it’s fall!), I’m likely standing in line to grab my very first celebratory Pumpkin Spice Latte of the season as you read this. My motto: everything in moderation. (But yes, nothing probably beats real pumpkin.)

2. More radiant skin arrives in the mail.


When I learned Birchbox sold the highly-acclaimed and universally loved Clarasonic Mia, I immediately started saving my Birchbox points to join the legion of worshipers. Nine long months of reviewing products (oh, the agony of playing with make-up!) to save up points, along with a sexy $10 off coupon and I finally placed my order over the weekend! I can’t wait to join the Clarasonic family to see what all the fuss is about. It arrives in a few short days. I’ll keep you posted on if this thing is worth the hype, but I already suspect it is. More radiant skin is on the way!

3. Date night with a twist.


What would typically be another uneventful Wednesday night probably settling in for a solo evening of homemade pasta and my Kindle, has me excited to see the usually more prim and proper Dan Stevens (of Downton Abbey fame) in the well-received new thriller/mystery film, The Guest. Fans of Adam Wingard’s You’re Next, are apparently in for a treat. The Guest is at an uber impressive 93% on Rotten Tomatoes. Sometimes a gal just needs her guy, a good thriller, and some sort of sugary candy fix to look forward to. Uneventful Wednesday night plans, cancelled.

4. One more dose of David.


I’ve spoken much love toward my yoga instructor, David. Needless to say that when he announced he was leaving for Nepal for one month I was selfishly not a happy camper. It’s like discovering national treasure itself when you find an instructor that equally challenges and pushes you, but always makes you feel okay with listening to your body and doing what’s best for you. The good news is that I get one more dose of David in class tonight before he leaves. I plan to take it all in, be present, and get my yoga on with my favorite instructor. Once I’ve had my last dose and roll up my mat tonight in a more calm, focused space, I’ll do the “yogic” thing and wish him well on his travels…but not a minute before. Nepal is very lucky to have him.

5. “It’s handled.”1-Fullscreen capture 9302013 122013 PM

Don’t bother me this Thursday night. I’m unavailable. Scandal is back! Who-hoo! And now that my beloved Kerry Washington has popped, we get more Olivia Pope and less awkward framing and camera work to hide the baby bump. The icing on the cake? I’m super excited to see Viola Davis in the equally anticipated new drama How to Get Away with MurderLet me re-iterate: no phone calls, texts, Facebook comments, Instagram likes, or unexpected visits at my front door this Thursday night… and every other Thursday night until further notice. I’m busy. 🙂

I hope this Monday finds you looking forward to a rockin’ week, too!

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