Beauty Review: The Sephora Once Upon a Castle Advent Calendar

Beauty Review: the Sephora Once Upon a Castle Advent Calendar | Writing Between Pauses

A very funny thing happened to me a week ago. It was a typical Monday. Actually, scratch that: it was not a typical Monday. Forrest had slept until well past 6am, which is very weird for him; when I finally woke him up, he was grumpy and just not his normal self. When I dropped him at my mom’s, he didn’t want to eat, he just wanted to lie on my mom’s couch. I arrived at work worried about him and a little flustered. And what did I find at work?

Advent Tweet
All my Advent Calendars

In October, I had tweeted about a dream I had where I received 10 Advent Calendars in PR. It was a silly dream and a silly tweet and I had kind of forgotten about it. Clearly, my coworker had not! This is one of the funniest jokes I’ve ever had played on me. She really committed! It was not what I expected to happen that morning, but alas, it did.

And even better, one of the Advent Calendars she got me was the Sephora Once Upon a Castle advent calendar. Last year, I dutifully reviewed the Ulta Beauty 12 Days of Beauty Advent Calendar to great success, but had passed on getting another one this year; I just wasn’t feeling it and I hadn’t had time to check for sales on beauty advent calendars.

This review, for that reason, is brought to you by my dutiful, lovely coworker who knows how to pull off a good joke!

The Sephora Once Upon a Castle Advent Calendar Value

(And yes, before you ask, I opened everything when I was bored while Forrest was sick. He’s better now, but I am barely able to speak I’m so sick!)

Here’s everything that came in the calendar, as well as the value:

  1. Peony Fizzing Cube - $1.44

  2. Eye Pencil to Go in Intense Black - $6

  3. Universal Brow Freeze - $12 normally (currently $5 on sale)

  4. Color High Nail Polish Mini in It Girl - $5

  5. Lip Liner to Go in Classic Red - $6

  6. Cotton Flower Fizzing Cube - $1.44

  7. Cream Lip Stain in 01 Always Red - $14

  8. Express Eye Make Up Wipes (2) - $1

  9. Blueberry Cream Body Wash - $1

  10. Instant Nail Polish Remover Wipes (2) - $1-2

  11. Color Hit Nail Polish Mini in Sugar Coated - $5

  12. 1 Small Nail File - $1

  13. 4 Stickers - $0.50

  14. Spiral Hair Tie - $0.50

  15. Small Owl Post Its - $0.50

  16. Flat Make Up Sponge - $2

  17. Charcoal Nose Strip - $3

  18. Colorful eyeshadow in Lazy Afternoon - $8

  19. Blush in Shame On You - $14

  20. Small Mirror - $1

  21. Cherry Fizz Cube - $1.44

  22. #LIPSTORIES in Labyrinth City - $8

  23. Express Eye Make Up Wipes (2) - $1

  24. Spiral Hair Tie - $0.50

All in all, not bad! Sephora originally listed the value of this advent calendars as $95; it’s no longer listed on the Sephora website because it’s sold out. When I calculated the value, even with my guesses for the smaller items (which, I’ll admit, are a bit generous), I got a total of $96.32. So, $1.32 off, which feels like a weird amount to be off!

A few items I could not find on the U.S. Sephora website. These include the Fizzing Cubes, which I found on the Australian Sephora website for $2 AUS; that’s about $1.44 US, so it was an easy conversion. This is actually where the extra $1.32 comes from exactly. It feels so weird that I estimated everything else correctly—the stickers, the mirror, the nail polish wipes—but an actual price calculated from one of their websites was wrong! So, they’re putting the value of the Fizzing Cubes at $1 even, even though they sell them for way more than that in Australia. Interesting, huh?

So what are the highlights of this advent calendar? Are there any really good items?

Short answer, yes. There are some duds, but I’ll get to those.

The Universal Brow Freeze, Lip Liner in Classic Red, Cream Lip Stain, Blush, and #LIPSTORIES Lipstick are all absolutely amazing products. I would say those 5 products alone make this calendar worth it. The Cream Lip Stain is in one of the most perfect red shades I’ve ever found; it is both blue-toned and firetruck-y, so it’s nice and bright without being orangey. I’m a little obsessed with it. I also love the #LIPSTORIES lipstick, as it is so smooth to apply and feels wonderful.

However, I do think the items need to be divided up a little more evenly: the item for door 24, the last day before Christmas, is a little hair tie! I feel like that should be one of the lipsticks, at least, or a bigger item. The last two items are repeats in general, so again, just a bit disappointing! I think that’s one of the things that makes this calendar feel a big wonky is that there are big stretches where you get a bunch of little things: the first doors open to such great items, then suddenly you get a nail file, stickers, a hair tie, and tiny post its… all in a row!

This is such a lovely calendar though and I’ve already repurposed the box into a toy for Forrest when he’s hanging out in my room. Pop a few small toys behind the doors and bingo, fun for kids!

While at the mall over the weekend (I know, sick and inexplicably at the mall? Sounds fun) I saw that my local Sephora still had a few of these in stock, marked down to a really decent price. So if you’re in need of a treat for yourself (or want to play a last minute joke on your coworker), now is probably the time to grab one!

Beauty Review: Sand & Sky Australian Pink Clay Mask

Beauty Review: Sand & Sky Australian Pink Clay Mask | Writing Between Pauses

I don’t know about you guys, but whenever I see something all over Instagram—you know, those viral products that every single Instagram baddie seems to be making videos about—I get intrigued. The part of me that works in marketing knows this is a marketing trick. The more we see something, the more we want to try it. Like those Coco & Eve hair masks. Or, in this case, the Sand & Sky Australian Pink Clay masks.

A bunch of beauty gurus I follow had videos about this mask. They’re all similar. I know you’ve seen them! The Pink Clay mask is particularly intriguing to me because clay masks are amazing for oily and acne prone skin—but they can also be super drying, so your skin requires a lot of babying afterwards. I wanted to try it, but the price tag (nearly $50 for a tub) held me back.

However, a few weeks ago, Ipsy was offering some deals on sample and full size products to add to your Ipsy bag. Well, color me foolish, I saw the Sand & Sky Australian Pink Clay available as a deluxe sample and thought, yes, I will pay $3 for that! It should be at least big enough to use 5 times.

Guys, I’m a fool. Truly, I don’t know how Ipsy keeps fooling me. You’d think at this point before I throw that sample into my cart and buy it, I’d look at the size information. To me, deluxe sample sizes should be fairly substantial. “Deluxe” implies you get at least a few uses, right? I’m not off base here. This is the hill I will die on. This sample is too small!! And for $3? I’m a fool, but you know what, this mask is pretty dang good. Sorry, spoiler alert.

I received this in my ipsy bag and immediately lost it because it is so small, it’s basically naked to the human eye. Just kidding. It’s not that small. But it’s pretty tiny and cute! I was so excited to try it, but I had just gotten back to Idaho—aka my skin was dry as a bone and absolutely wrecked. I decided to give myself a few days of moisturizing before I tried it and I’m glad I did. Without further ado, let’s jump into this review.

(If you want to read more about my adventures in teeny tiny Ipsy samples, click here.)

As a mask…

So, one of the ways to use this mask (yes, there are multiple ways, let me get to it!) is to use it, duh, as a mask. All over the face or in your problem areas (most likely your t-zone). After a few days of hardcore moisturizing (thanks Meriance!), I decided to go for it. I slathered this mask on, using almost half the tube for my apparently giant face, and waited.

And it dried down. Y’all, it dried down. My face was basically one, big tight bandage. Danny was laughing at me because I couldn’t really talk. It didn’t feel painful or bad, it just felt like I had gotten the most intense facelift in the world. It was funny, but also slightly horrifying. When I rinsed it off, my skin definitely felt super clean. Like, cleaner than it has been since I hit puberty and turned into an oil factory. I moisturized and put on some hyaluronic acid because… I was dry. I was clean, but my skin was parched. The next morning, my skin was glowy, but still very dry; I ended up putting on a few dabs of Dove’s DermaSeries moisturizing cream, which is technically for your feet. It helped though and truly, my skin looked amazing. It helped clear up some congestion I had from dry skin and environmental changes (that Idaho to Oregon drive, y’all) and definitely improved the texture of my skin.

So as a mask, I give it a solid 5 stars. It’s great if you have oily skin, but you need to moisturize a lot after using it. Or else, you might really wreck your skin. It also smells really good; lightly sweet without being overpowering.

Sand & Sky Pink Clay Mask Instagram

As a spot treatment…

And here’s the second way to use it. Instead of using it as an all over mask, you can use it to spot treat individual blemishes. If you’re prone to dry patches, like I am during the winter, avoiding it as an all over mask it probably a good idea since it is quite drying. However, I had a cyst pop up over the weekend; I dabbed a bit of it on, let it dry, then went to sleep. When I woke up, it was pretty much deflated. I rinsed and moisturized and felt amazing.

So, if you need a spot treatment, this is kind of perfect. And really, it’s the perfect size for spot treating. Genius.

Final Thoughts

Is this worth the $3 I paid for it? In this size, I want to say no because I am naturally frugal and I really sometimes believe $3 should last me a month. But honestly, it is worth the $3, even though the size was a shock when I first got it. A full size tub costs $49 and has a net weight of 60 g (or 2.1 oz). The sample size tube is 13g, or a little less than 25% of the full size tub. In that respect, this little sample was worth it. It’s hard for me to say whether I would pay $49 for a full size tub of it; I do really like it, but there are comparably good pink clay masks out there from other brands that are much more affordable. They do have a holiday kit on sale at the moment for $59 that includes the mask, a mitt for rinsing, and a storage pouch.

Have you tried this mask? What did you think?

Beauty Review: My November 2018 Ipsy Bag

Beauty Review: My November 2018 Ipsy Bag | Writing Between Pauses

It feels like ages since I reviewed my last Ipsy bag! How was November so long and so short at the same time? Thanksgiving fell early this year, plus my Ipsy bag took a particularly long time to get here (thanks to an additional order I made).

I’ve officially decided that after I get my December bag, I’ll be discontinuing ipsy for a while. I think it will help me refresh and get back into loving it. As I wrote in my one year of ipsy review, I’ve lost my appreciation for ipsy, simply because getting 5 new things a month is… a lot at first, then gradually becomes normalized.

As always, you can read my past Ipsy bag reviews here. And don’t forget, if you want to try Ipsy, you can sign up using my code here.

Ipsy Bag 1

1. Helios Beauty Eyeshadow in Pinky’s Up, $12

I didn’t want to like this eyeshadow, but gosh darnit, I did. I got the shade Pinky’s Up, which is a champagne pink shade. It is a cream-to-powder blend that can be used as a primer as well. However, I wore it plain on Monday and really loved how it looked. It applied really well and did not crease.

2. Marc Anthony True Professional Bye Bye Frizz Leave In Conditioner, $2

One thing I really resent from Ipsy is when they send something that is super cheap from the drug store. Case in point: this leave in conditioner is from a brand I can find in Wal-greens, Target, and Walmart, as well as Ulta. It’s only $8.99 for a full size. So the sample size they sent is less than $2 if I bought it somewhere. So not only do I not have the hair texture for a leave in conditioner, this isn’t something I need sent to me as a sample. They might as well send me a tube of deodorant!

Ciate London Translucent Powder Review

3. Ciate London Translucent Powder, $3

I’m a sucker for translucent powders. It was in my ipsy bag that I first used my favorite of all time, It Cosmetics Bye Bye pores, so getting a new powder is very exciting. This teeny tiny baby sample is from Ciate London. It’s really cute, but taking photos of this reflective tub was a huge pain. Cut to me spending hours photoshopping my own reflection out of the main image for this blog post!

Ok, but does it work well? Yes. It does. I happened to use it my first day back from Idaho when my skin was dry as a bone, so I did get some irritation around my nose but I think that was my own fault. I’m moisturizing like crazy and will report back if it improves once I’m not experiencing massive dry patches. This sample is about 1.5g; the full size is $22, which isn’t bad for a full size product, so I estimated the sample to be about $3 value.

4. Dermadeli Pumpkin Seed Serum, $8.75

I love a serum. This is probably my favorite thing in my bag this month! Here’s what it promises: “Pumpkin Seed Serum is considered one of the ‘super-foods’ for skin hydration. With the addition of zinc, our Pumpkin Seed Serum also helps decrease inflammation of acne and completely eliminating acne formation on surface of skin.” Sign me up!

This serum actually did a lot to help with those Idaho-induced dry patches on my face. It feels great on the skin. A full size is 1 oz for $35; this is 0.23oz, about 1/4 the size, so I estimated value at around $8.75.

November 2018 Ipsy Bag Review

5. Huda Beauty Lip Strobe in Enchanting, $18

There is no world in which I would put this lip gloss on. It’s pretty. It’s nice! It smells good! But I am 30 years old with a toddler. Lip gloss isn’t in the cards for me most days, but especially not one that is basically white with pink-blue sparkles.

Helios Beauty Eyeshadow Review 2018

Final Thoughts

The full value of this bag is… $43.75. Wah-wah. Two very low cost items combined with some middle-of-the-road cost items. As I’ve said, it’s not necessarily the value of the bag, but the novelty. I enjoy the translucent powder, the eyeshadow, and the serum. I had hoped for a darker shade of the Huda Beauty gloss (a cranberry was available, why did I have to get the unicorn snot one!?) and the leave-in conditioner is absolutely baffling. All in all, a really decent bag!

Beauty Review: Mériance Anti-Aging Skin Care Kit*

Beauty Review: Mériance Anti-Aging Skin Care Kit | Writing Between Pauses

When I received an email a few weeks ago from Mériance asking if I would like to review their full anti-aging skin care kit, well, I couldn’t say no.

As you all probably know, I turned 30 in October. And while I’m not showing any signs of aging (at least in my skin), I’m a big believer in taking care of my skin to keep it looking good. For me, that has meant double cleansing, wearing my SPF every single day, and keeping moisturized. I tend to shy away from longer, more complicated routines. The Mériance Anti-Aging Kit seemed right up my alley!

I received my kit a few weeks ago. Here’s everything that’s in it:

  • Rejuvenating Serum

  • Native Collagen Serum

  • Anti-Aging Collagen Cream

  • Night Repair Cream

  • Eye Contour Cream

And here’s what the kit, and all the products, promises:

Meriance bio-active collagen derived from marine origin replenishes the skin with properties that enhance the supply of collagen fibers. Meriance collagen is not modified or synthesized! It regenerates the connective tissues that support the skin’s structure. This ingredient helps to deeply hydrate mature and dry skin in order to maintain healthy and resilient cells.

My favorite thing about this kit is that you get just about everything you need for a routine. So while the cost upfront might be a little shocking, these are full sizes, you don’t use that much every single day, and you get everything you need. The order to apply everything is really basic too. Here’s what I do:

  1. Double cleanse with jojoba oil, then the Body Shop’s Tea Tree facial cleanser.

  2. Apply the Rejuvenating Serum, which contains peptides. It helps to enhance the other products in the kit. It has hyaularonic acid, which helps plump skin.

  3. Apply the Native Collagen Serum. It has a high concentration of collagen.

  4. At this point, I use the Eye Contour Cream mixed with a tiny amount of my favorite vitamin C cream (right now, I’m using Revlon’s). I only use this around my eyes to help with my melasma and moisturize the skin underneath my eyes. I let that sink and dry for about 5 minutes.

  5. Apply the Anti-Aging Collagen Cream. This is a thick, lovely moisturizer that smells really good and feels even better! I’ve been struggling with dry patches since Thanksgiving and this really clears them up within a few days.

  6. Apply the Repair Night Cream. This is a double dose of moisture that I use after the Collagen Cream. It contains antioxidants that can help adjust repair your skin.

Meriance Anti-Aging


How quickly did I start seeing results? As I said, I struggle with dry patches once late Fall and early Winter hits; usually my nose and cheeks are where I struggle the most, but this year, my under eyes have decided to join in on the dry skin party.

I haven’t used everything enough to speak to the anti-aging effects quite yet, but I have noticed that my skin has been much softer, much less textured, and much more “supple” feeling (for lack of a better word). My dry patches have been much less severe and as long as I’m good about applying both the Collagen Cream and the Night Repair Cream, they are much less noticeable, and even not there at all, throughout the day!

As someone who is acne prone, I’m always really worried about trying new products. However, acne-prone skin is dehydrated skin and these products have been helping so much! I’m getting less oily throughout the day now that my skin is being better moisturized every morning and night.

If you have dry skin or are beginning to worry about aging, this is definitely a kit you want to pick up! I have a special coupon code just for my readers for $100 off your first kit. Just click the image below, or click here, and use code MichelleLocke100 at check out!

Disclaimer: As always, an asterisk (*) in the title of this post indicates that I received this product in exchange for review. However, my views remain my own! Posts like these help me keep the lights on here at Writing Between Pauses. For more information about my disclosure policy, click here.

Beauty Review: Too Faced Dew You Full-Coverage Foundation

Beauty Review: Too Faced Dew You Full-Coverage Foundation | Writing Between Pauses

I write about foundation a lot. Like, more than I ever thought I would, really. Which makes sense, as foundation is the makeup I bought use the most and struggle the most with. The truth is there is never going to be a perfect foundation that suits every skin type and every need. When it comes to my reviews, I’m often speaking just of myself and making generalizations for people with skin types similar to my own.

When it comes to foundation, I’ve reviewed Sephora’s and Ulta’s quizzes (as well as 6 different foundations). I’ve reviewed the Wet’n’Wild Photo Focus foundation and the Makeup Revolution stick foundation. I’ve even developed a process that I use for making sure my foundation lasts longer than four hours.

In the process, I’ve tried a lot of good and bad foundations. In writing my blog post on the Sephora & Ulta foundation quizzes, I discovered that the Too Faced foundations were, surprisingly, some of the best I tried. I didn’t love the Born This Way foundation, because the colors closest to my skin tone were all a bit off and I found it broke down a little too quickly. The Peach Perfect foundation was one of my absolute favorites, but the strong peach scent was a bit of a turn off and I found it oxidized a lot.

As a birthday present to myself, I decided to try the Too Faced Dew You foundation. It’s a full-coverage, but “glowy” foundation that was part of the fruit-themed collection that came out at the beginning of Fall. (I won’t get started on my tangent about that collection; it was extremely cute, but was definitely a summer collection, so I don’t know why it came out in September! From a marketing perspective, I had a lot of questions.) My hopes weren’t exactly high, but I was excited to try this foundation; I hoped it would combine the things I loved about the Peach Perfect foundation in a slightly less oxidizing formula.

Too Faced Dew You Full Coverage Fresh Glow Foundation

This foundation is marketed as a “hydrating” foundation; it’s “dewy” as opposed to matte, but still full coverage. Here’s what it promises:

Hydrate and brighten your Tutti Frutti complexion with this dewy, gel-cream foundation infused with soothing watermelons and cucumbers.

And here are some more promises:

  • 20 hydrating, brightening shades

  • Formula leaves skin with a glowing satin finish

  • Infused with soothing watermelons & cucumbers

  • Helps even skin tone

  • Gel-cream formula leaves skin ultra-hydrated and brightened

  • Non-comedogenic

  • Longwearing

20 shades isn’t exactly very many. However, there do seem to be a fair number of medium shades; the parts that are missing out are the darker shades which is a systemic issue in the beauty industry. It doesn’t make me happy to see this foundation with so few shades for people who are darker skin toned, but I know they just recently expanded the Born This Way shades. Here is to hoping they expand all their shade ranges for all their foundations and concealers.

The idea of a hydrating formula that is also long-wearing was very exciting to me, shade issues aside. I am oily (very oily) often because my skin gets dehydrated; so I need a combination of both hydration and powder to keep my skin looking decent throughout the day.

So what did I think of this foundation?

Is the Too Faced Dew You Foundation Good for Oily Skin?

My first impression was, just like the Peach Perfect foundation, it has a very strong smell. It smells strongly of watermelon. It’s not bad, but again, it is sickly sweet. It’s not as bad as the fake peach scent, but if you’re sensitive to smells, it can be a huge issue. I found that the watermelon smell didn’t bother me nearly as much as the peach scent, so it works for me. But if that’s an issue for you, this foundation may not be the one.

Just like the Peach Perfect foundation, I love how it looks on my skin as I’m applying it and immediately after. Most Too Faced foundations are very, very yellow to me; I feel like they struggle with pink or neutral undertones. However, I’ve found that Swan is a close enough match that I can tone down the yellow with concealer afterwards. The finish is absolutely amazing, though, and looked great after applying.

I’ve worn this multiple times for 12+ hours. I find that with my standard method of applying (The Body Shop mattifying spray and powder underneath my foundation, then powder on top as well), it lasts about 6-7 hours looking really good and without touch ups. After 6 hours or so, I start to notice it getting quite patchy; by 8-10 hours of wear, I usually have patches where it has rubbed off or simply disappeared completely. This isn’t out-of-the-ordinary for foundations and my skin; 6 hours is actually longer than I’ve ever gotten most foundations to last! I’m impressed for that reason; very rarely do I even wear foundation for 8+ hours. However, if you’re very oily, struggle to make foundation last, and work long days, again, this might be a more difficult foundation.

My favorite thing about this foundation is that it manages to be both dewy and matte on my skin. It doesn’t look matte-matte; you know that look of a very dry foundation. It almost makes me look old. This foundation doesn’t do that, but it does dry down—and that can make it oxidize a tiny bit. However, it’s not nearly as bad as Peach Perfect, so I’ll take it. I feel like it’s a very natural finish on the skin; not too matte, not too dewy.

How long does the Too Faced Dew You foundation last?

Is this the perfect foundation for oily skin? Well, I think it depends on what you’re looking for. For me personal, I place how it looks over any super long-wearing abilities. I tend to wash my foundation off the moment I leave work and I don’t wear foundation on the weekends, unless I’m going to an event. If you need long-wearing, I don’t think this is the best foundation out there for that. If you do want something that looks incredibly natural, this is a great option—and despite being “dewy,” it does work very well for my oily skin.

Have you tried the Dew You foundation? What did you think?

Beauty Review: Bratoxinsta from BRZLNSKIN*

Beauty Review: Bratoxinsta from BRZLNSKIN* | Writing Between Pauses

Several months ago, the brand BRZLNSKIN reached out to me about doing a review of one of their products. The more I learned about BRZLNSKIN, the more excited I became about reviewing their products. Here’s what they say is their mission:

We see balance as a way for nature, science, and humans to coexist in a modern world and all of our products reflect that ideology.

To create balance within the human body, especially as it relates to the body’s largest organ, the skin, we’ve created the secret to beautiful skin and its a combination of science and nature.

That’s something I can absolutely get behind! Most of their products are dedicated to anti-aging, something that, having just turned 30, I’m just starting to get interested in. I’m somewhat lucky as I don’t really have any visible signs of aging yet; I don’t have crows feet, significant under eye issues, or anything like that. A lot of that is just pure luck and wearing SPF most of my life! However, I’m all about prevention for the future.

BRZLNSKIN Bratoxinsta

BRZLNSKIN sent me their Bratoxinsta product to try out. This product promises to “smooth the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles in 60 seconds or less.” It is specifically meant for the under eye area, but can be used anywhere really. It doesn’t just instant de puff and smooth out, however; it does have ingredients to help improve the appearance of your skin overtime.

You don’t need very much product to get the benefit either. Just a dab! I could instantly feel it begin to tighten as I patted it onto my skin. At first, it’s a little scary because I’m not used to that part of my face feeling so tight! But when I looked in the mirror, I thought, “wow, I look great!” A few weeks of use and I’ve been absolutely loving it;

I don’t have many fine lines (I’ve just started to notice a tiny bit of creasing under my right eye), but my undereyes are often puffy, thanks to a lack of sleep. I started using this in the morning, after I had washed my face and moisturized. It has made a huge difference in how my concealer looks during the day and I generally just look a little less tired.

Reduce fine lines

I really love Bratoxinsta! I also love that a tube lasts so long! At $59.99, it’s more of an investment than something I would usually buy; but you use so little to get a great effect, I feel like it’s absolutely worth it. As well, the dispenser and component of the product are high quality and designed to help keep the product itself fresh. It’s easy to store and it’s not messy like some pump containers are!

I can’t recommend Bratoxinsta enough, especially if you struggle with undereye wrinkles, fine lines, or puffiness. You can read all about it and try it yourself here.

Disclaimer: as always, an asterisk (*) in the title of this blog post indicates that this post is sponsored. I received this product in exchange for an honest review. Posts like these help me keep the lights on here at Writing Between Pauses. However, all views remain my own. For more about my disclosure policy, click here.

Beauty Review: AHA! Peel so Good Skin Renewal Gel

Beauty Review: AHA! Peel So Good Skin Renewal Gel | Writing Between Pauses

Back in August, I posted my review of the Holika Holika Pig-Nose gel, which basically acts as an exfoliating gel. My review was positively glowing: I use the Holika Holika gel at least every 7-10 to help with my textured skin and it has made a huge difference in the past few months. For a $2.99 tube I bought on impulse at TJ Maxx… it’s really, really good.

But the more I use it, the more I get nervous. I haven’t found it in TJ Maxx or Marshall’s since I bought it, which means I need something that works just as well for when this tube is over. (Note: when I originally wrote this post a few days ago, I hadn’t found another tube of it anywhere. However, just this past weekend, I found it at TJ Maxx! So keep your eyes peeled.)

I purchased the AHA! Peel So Good Skin Renewal Gel (from the Korean brand, Faith in Face) about three months ago with the intention of comparing it to the Holika Holika. Even though it is also a Korean brand, I decided to test it first because: I see a tube of it nearly every time I visit Marshall’s or TJ Maxx; it comes in a much larger amount than the Holika Holika tube; and at $4.99, it’s still an absolute bargain.

Here’s what the AHA! Peel So Good gel promises:

A soft cellulose scrub containing AHA complex. Feel good by renewing your skin into clear and radiant skin.

The gel is almost the exact same texture and appearance as the Holika Holika gel and it has the same, somewhat strong smell. (It is somewhat chemical-y, as I noted in my previous review, but it doesn’t bother me that much!)

The good news is that this exfoliating gel works almost exactly the same as Holika Holika: after 5 minutes of a thin layer on my face, I scrub off all the dead skin and residue from the previous week. My skin is so soft afterwards and my texture definitely looks better.

Even better news? This gel has made huge headway on my acne scars, especially on my chin. My scarring from cystic acne is one of my biggest insecurities and I hadn’t noticed a huge improvement with using Holika Holika. But once I started testing this product out every other week, I noticed a huge improvement. So you’re struggling with scarring on your face or new, I cannot recommend this product enough.

In the showdown between AHA! Peel So Good and Holika Holika, who wins? I think it depends on what you’re looking for! Holika Holika is a size of tube that suggests it is just for your nose (even though I use it all over my face), so if you struggle with clogged pores on your nose, that would definitely be a winner. But if you’re like me and struggle with textured skin and scarring, I highly recommend the Peel So Good gel! I like both pretty equally, but I know which one will last longer and that’s a better deal to me!

One Year of Ipsy: Is Ipsy Worth It?

One Year of Ipsy: Is Ipsy Worth It? | Writing Between Pauses

I’ve had Ipsy for over a year now. This blog post has been 13 months in the making; I signed up for Ipsy with the intention of writing a blog post like this one. I know, I know, that sounds absolutely weird, right? But sometimes content ideas are what they are and this felt like an important one. There are lots of individual Ipsy blog posts out there that base value on one or two bags. But I’ve never seen a blog post that goes through the average value per bag and more. That’s what I set out to do with this blog post!

Ipsy has been a wild ride. There have been some excellent months and some not-so-great months. I’ve learned a lot along the way. I don’t want to take up too much space with this introduction—I mean, what more is there for me to say about Ipsy? Let’s jump into the important bits: is Ipsy worth it?

Ipsy Bag November 2017

What is the Value of Ipsy?

If you’ve read my Ipsy reviews for a while, you know that I have a standard way of calculating the value of each item. This was something I started doing after 2 or 3 bags—so unfortunately, my first few blog posts didn’t include this information. I had to go back and accurately calculate values, so some valuations have changed! (If you want to read all my past Ipsy reviews, click here.)

A big part of this blog post is going to be focused on the actual value of the bags over a year—or 14 months, in this case.

The bag with the lowest value was my October 2018 bag at $44.75. In that blog post, I actually said I was pretty sure it was the absolute lowest value of a bag and my somewhat educated guess was right. Now, a $44.75 bag for $10 is still pretty good. However…

My bag with the highest value was my July 2018 bag at $93. Now, that’s a good value for $10! I will be honest though, I barely even remember my July 2018 bag, but I was pretty sure I loved everything in it.

Let’s talk averages.

I received 14 bags from the time I first signed up for Ipsy and in total, all 14 of those bags contained items that have a value of $911.65. I calculated this number 3 different times, then had Danny calculate it twice. Yes, over $900. That’s insane. I pay $10 a month for an Ipsy bag, so for $140, I have received over $911.65 worth of make up, skincare, and brushes. That’s… impressive. That really is wild.

The average value per bag is roughly $65.12, when you calculate it out. That’s pretty decent for, again, a $10-per-month subscription service.

In total, 14 bags with 5 items each (sometimes, I received 2 masks, but I still consider that 1 item) equals 70 items total. That feels like a lot! If you calculate the average value per item, it comes to $13.02. That’s pretty decent.

If you’re like me, you like trying new things all the time and that’s really the beauty of Ipsy. So, in terms of monetary value, yeah, it’s a great deal. If you’re looking for the cheapest bag with the highest reward, I think you can’t do much worse than Ipsy.

Ipsy Bag April 2018
Is Ipsy Worth It

Can You Pick Favorites?

Remembering 14 bags, with 5 items each time, can leave me struggling to remember when I received what. For example, I received two very similar highlights in a row (February and March, I think), but I get them mixed up all the time. However, I was able to identify a few favorite and least favorite bags and items.

My favorite bag so far has been April 2018: this bag is actually my favorite actual make up bag, plus contains some of my favorite items ever. When identifying my favorite item, I picked the Steve Laurant blush I received in this bag. I wear this blush at least 3 times a week. It is just a perfect blush. This bag also had a spectacular mask, a good lip color, and a decent body scrub. The eyeshadow from this bag makes my eyes itch, but that’s not really anyone’s fault.

In terms of least favorites, my least favorite bag has been my most recent bag, October 2018. Sorry, October 2018, you were just a bummer of a bag.

If I had to pick a least favorite item, I actually wouldn’t be able to; I would say, the multitude of similar eyeshadows and highlighters I’ve received have been my least favorite items overall. I don’t wear highlighter anymore (your girl has texture, ok!) and most of the eyeshadows are formulas that fall incredibly flat… or they send me a taupe which I already own 20 times or a purple which has no pigment. It’s always a toss up.

This is one of the downsides of Ipsy. We’ll tackle it next.

Ipsy Yearly Value
Ipsy Value After a Year

What Are the Downsides of Ipsy?

Things start to duplicate. It’s a real bummer to get the same color of eyeshadow four times. Or a highlighter that you don’t wear. Or masks that you can’t use. Lots of people complain about this aspect of Ipsy. But, it is plain impossible for any subscription service to stock eyeshadows in unique colors that everyone will like. Think about it: it’s not cost effective to haver 4-5 different eyeshadow colors for each Ipsy subscriber, so they settle on extremely common shades, like purple or taupe. It’s just the way of the world.

But it does get exhausting! To me, that has been a major downside and I end up regifting eyeshadows and highlighters to people who can genuinely use them.

Another downside really is the bags. In concept, a make up bag is a useful item. But most of these make up bags aren’t big enough to hold more than the 5 items that come in it! In fact, some of the masks I’ve received haven’t even fit in the bag itself. I can use them in my purse for a few items, or for traveling on day trips, but otherwise, they aren’t useless. I’ve gathered up most of these bags from over the past year and I’m donating them to my local women’s shelter to provide for women there.

Do Bloggers Recommend Ipsy

So, Is Ipsy Worth It?

Like I said, monetarily, if you’re someone who likes trying lots of new products, absolutely Ipsy is worth it. $10 a month will get you a decent variety of things to try. And it’s important to remember that you can always tell them not to include things! I’ve officially removed highlighters and eyeshadows from my Ipsy preferences, so I won’t be receiving them anymore.

Some people suspect that Ipsy bags get worse over time, but I think this is actually a bias. Ipsy is really fun and exciting at first, but as humans, I think we naturally get jaded and the excitement gets old. “Oh, another highlighter? Yawn!” It’s not as fresh. That’s why I think it’s important to take a break if you find yourself getting bored. I’ll be receiving my November and December Ipsy bags, then pausing for a while, at least 6 months, before restarting. This will give me time to use up some things I’ve been hanging on to, clean out anything expired from my collection, and restart fresh.

I feel like I’ve received a decent variety of items—I’ve been able to try brands I would never buy on my own, like Huda Beauty, as well as gotten some items I really genuinely love.

If you’re looking to try Ipsy, know that it takes a little tweaking to get your preferences just right. But it can be really fun! If you want to sign up, use my link here.