Beauty

Beauty Review: My August Birchbox

Beauty Review: My August Birchbox | Writing Between Pauses

We’re back again with another Birchbox review!

I have one month of gifted boxes left, so it goes without saying: a huge part of my next two reviews will be about whether I see value in these boxes. Has receiving them improved my skincare routine? Have I gotten any absolutely cannot mix items?

A huge part of why I review beauty products is helping people pick products that have the most value for their money. There is no point buying a $5 product or a $50 product if it doesn’t work, or it is deceptive, or whatever. That’s why I write the reviews I do: I want you guys to get the most out of your money, so when it comes to your self-care, you’re not feeling like it was a total waste. However, beauty and skincare is so subjective; I’m just one voice of many and I hope all beauty reviews help you make your best decisions.

So, if you’d like to try Birchbox based on my previous reviews or this review, click here to use my referral link.

Now, let’s talk products.

August 2019 Birchbox Value

This month, I chose another curated box: originally, the box showed an entire eyeshadow palette (which I knew couldn’t be true), so I wasn’t expecting it. It turns out, everyone received one single eyeshadow from the palette. I chose this box specifically for the R+Co product, which I’ll talk more about shortly.

1. Dr. Lipp Original Nipple Balm for Lips

I really like Dr. Lipp products. I’ve been using this on my stupid elbow; when I first moved into my new house, I gave myself a blister on my new desk in my office doing embroidery. (This is a very weird problem.) Since then, the blister has healed, but I’ve had a very scratchy, dry spot on my elbow. My moisturizer from my Ipsy Glam Bag Plus last month helped a lot, but I still needed a sealant to put over it. This stuff worked. So if you’re having very dry, stubborn lips or other patches of skin, this stuff is the way to beat it. It’s only $14.50 for a full size tube and I legitimately can’t imagine using an entire thing fast.

(If you’re nursing or have a newborn, this might be a great nipple balm. It used to be called the Miracle Balm and still advertises itself as a moisturizing sealant. Double check the ingredients though!)

2. Smashbox Cosmetics Photo Finish Primer Water

I am suspicious of all primers, but I actually really liked this one! It does come out a bit like mace (I hurt myself the first time I used it), but for once I actually did notice a huge difference in my makeup! I didn’t have to use my usual powder (which has talc, I know, I know, I know) to keep my makeup set all day. However, it’s $32 for a full size bottle of 3.9oz. Not sure how I feel about that price as the amount you use is very hard to control. I’d prefer if it was in a dropper, but as a spray bottle, it just kind of gets out of control.

3. R+Co HIGH DIVE Moisture + Shine Creme

Listen, let me tell you how dumb I feel right now. I specifically picked this box for this item, which I thought was a moisturizer. For your face. I have been putting this ON MY FACE and wondering why I’m getting such bad congestion on my chin. I was like, “is it just a crappy product?”

No, guys, it’s for your hair. So yeah, I picked a box for a hair product, which I didn’t realize was a hair product, even though I’ve complained about Birchbox sending me far too many hair products. My reading comprehension has been so good lately, I don’t know what you’re talking about.

I have yet to use it in my hair because I literally just noticed as I was reading the description for this review that it is for hair. Feel free to mock me in the comments, I deserve it.

Birchbox Curated Boxes Worth It

4. IBY Beauty Poolside Eyeshadow in Dive In

This eyeshadow is part of the larger Poolside palette from this brand, which is actually quite pretty. I expected this shade to go on and be kind of sheer (I don’t have high expectations for most “unknown” eyeshadows). Y’all, this was BRIGHT, metallic pink on my eyelid. I put it on and was immediately like, “oh shit.” So it’s pigmented! And very blendable. I’m actually really impressed. The larger palette is really pretty, with the standard neutrals then some brighter shades (I’m peeping the shade No Running, a bright, metallic purple). Is it super wearable? Probably not. But fun.

This shade, however, on it’s own will make a good, vibrant color to use all over the lid. It is pretty bright, so toning it down will be key for me to wear it more.

5. Too Cool for School Coconut Oil Serum Eye Patch

You guys know I’m not too big on coconut oil on my face, but eye patches I’ll willing to try. My suspicion is that these don’t actually have much coconut oil in them, but more of a scent component. I haven’t used them yet, as I’m saving them for a more special occasion.


Whew, that’s it! I’m still embarrassed about the R+Co hair products, but alas, what can I do? I actually do really like this box. That’s one of the benefits, I think, of picking a curated box from Birchbox: you know exactly what you’re getting, which I do always like.

The question is: do I think this box is worth $10? The samples are all so small (and then after-the-fact, Birchbox only gives you the information for the full-size products), but I feel like they are enough to give you an idea of if you like it or not. A prime example is the primer water: I have at least 5-10 uses of that (if I can get that spray nozzle to calm down), so I’ll know within 2 weeks if I like it enough to take the plunge on a $32 bottle. (I guarantee you I won’t, though.) I like having a lot of things to try for $10 and I feel like this box at least gave me that. However, I do wish sometimes the samples were just a bit bigger!

Beauty Review: Maple Holistics Apple Cider Vinegar Shampoo*

Beauty Review: Maple Holistics Apple Cider Vinegar Shampoo* | Writing Between Pauses

A few weeks ago, Maple Holistics approached me to review their Apple Cider Vinegar Shampoo. I love Maple Holistics products and whenever they approach me with a product to review, I really can’t turn it down. The reason I love Maple Holistics is because their products are all-natural, paraben and sulfate free, and good for the environment. They are also cruelty free, which makes me feel better about the products I buy and use. (And I know many of my readers are also concerned about how their products effect the world around them!) In short: using Maple Holistics products make me feel better about my impact on the world.

I’ve previously reviewed their Tea Tree Shampoo and their Silk18 Shampoo. To sum up these reviews: the tea tree shampoo helped my scalp a lot. The Silk18 shampoo made my hair gorgeous and silky, but didn’t do much for my highly sensitive scalp. Both products are totally worth their cost—which isn’t even “high end,” but highly affordable—and can be beneficial to lots of different hair types.

To summarize all my hair issues (sorry if this is old hat for you!), I have a lot of straight, fine hair and a very, very sensitive, dry scalp. I’ve tried just about everything for it, but in the past 6 months I’ve fallen into a fairly good routine:

  • Monday: A clarifying shampoo followed by a heavy hair mask mostly on my scalp

  • Thursday: Wash with the Paul Mitchell Tea Tree & Peppermint Shampoo**, follow with half hair mask (I use BRITE’s Unicorn Hair) and half Paul Mitchell Tea Tree & Peppermint Conditioner**

  • Daily: use Aveda’s Shampure Dry Conditioner Spray

My weekly clarifying shampoo is usually a revolving door of samples I get from Birchbox (I swear I get one a month, which has been handy if nothing else). However, I’ve been wanting to pick a more solid addition to my routine that I can use weekly and really get benefits from.

(**Note: Would you like a review on this shampoo & conditioner set? Let me know in the comments!)

So when Maple Holistics asked me to review the Apple Cider Vinegar shampoo, I knew I needed to go for it. I’ve done ACV rinses on my hair before and noticed it helped a lot with my scalp’s sensitivity. However, using apple cider vinegar so much made my hair kind of smell, so I was hesitant to do it too frequently.

Here’s what Maple Holisitics has to say about this shampoo:

Remove buildup, restore volume and boost shine with our new, hotly anticipated apple cider vinegar shampoo. One of the most powerful ingredients in personal care, apple cider vinegar provides a variety of benefits for hair and scalp alike. We tap into its full potential in our apple cider vinegar shampoo, providing you with a shampoo that soothes the scalp, removes buildup, clarifies and adds or restores shine. Enriched with natural ingredients like sunflower, argan and jojoba oil, our apple cider vinegar shampoo is sulfate and paraben-free making it great for all hair types, color treated hair, and sensitive skin.

The reason I use a clarifying shampoo once a week is because my scalp tends to suffer from any product build up during the days I don’t wash; this includes not just the products I use, but also my dry skin itself (flakes!), oil, and anything that’s in the air (pollen has been an especially big issue for me this year). A clarifying shampoo really helps me ensure that my scalp is at its optimal health. However, clarifying shampoos can be incredibly drying.

That’s the first thing I like about the Apple Cider Vinegar shampoo: I get the clarifying aspects of apple cider vinegar, without the extreme dryness caused by some shampoos. As well, it has all the benefits of an ACV rinse without making my hair smell like an (admittedly delicious) salad.

This shampoo also has jojoba and argan oil, which means that it is also moisturizing; again, this leaves my actual hair looking much nicer. I did use this shampoo combination with my usual hair mask and only once a week for about 3 weeks. However, I did notice an improvement in my scalp by the second week. My scalp tends to get really red and irritated if I use a shampoo I’m not supposed to (aka every time I go on vacation and use Head & Shoulders or a hotel shampoo that I know is going to murder me), and I didn’t experience that at all with this shampoo.

After I used it the first time, Danny asked me: “so what does it smell like?” Interesting enough, it has kind of a green apple scent to me—however, it’s not strong and it’s not strongly scented, period. It smells almost neutral—so don’t worry about that ACV smell, seriously.

If you’re looking for a good clarifying shampoo that will revitalize your hair, without breaking the bank, this is a great option. It costs $12.95 for 10 oz, which is incredibly affordable. A 10 oz bottle of Maple Holistics usually lasts me about 3-4 months, depending on how often I use it. To purchase, click here.

Disclaimer: As noted by the asterisk (*) in the title of this post, I received products in exchange for review. However, all opinions remain my own! To learn more about my disclosure policy, click here.

Beauty Review: Birchbox, July 2019

Beauty Review: Birchbox, July 2019 | Writing Between Pauses

About 10 days ago, I had every intention of keeping my blog schedule. Then life happened.

I know if you follow me on Instagram, you’re probably thinking, “Is she going to mention it? Is she going to talk about it?” The truth is: right now, probably not. But to cut a long story short if you don’t follow me on Instagram (and you totally should)… I (as well as all my coworkers) were laid off on Wednesday. We knew it was coming, but it happened sooner than we thought and with a variety of factors that were really, really unpleasant.

In short: Wednesday was a terrible, no-good, very bad day. And to be honest, Thursday and Friday weren’t much better.

I don’t really want to talk about it right now (is a Birchbox review really the best place to get into all these feelings?), but it’s had a huge impact on every single part of my life, for better or for worse. I will be writing about it eventually, but not now. It’s too fresh and I’m too “in” the situation.

I was feeling pretty melancholy Saturday after I put Forrest to bed. Danny was getting ready to go to the gym and I had exhausted my to do list and simply couldn’t do anymore. (I’ve been fiddling with a blog post for LinkedIn for, like, a week now.) Danny told me I should write a normal blog post. You know, for that other blog I run, that I love and refuse to give up even when it’s a huge pain in my ass? (Bless.)

He was right. I needed to feel normal. I needed to write about something not related to my career. I needed to have a phone call or a meeting or a text where I didn’t rehash the story over and over again and start crying again and wondering how 5 years went by so fast and I didn’t do all the work I wanted to and I feel like I let clients down and blah blah blah blah. Rinse, repeat, ad nauseum.

So here I am: freshly scrubbed out of the bathtub, with my Birchbox freshly photographed, ready to write about it. Sorry for this heavy introduction, but hey, it’s the truth. And as Birchbox pointed out in an email to me recently, Birchbox is all about taking care of yourself.

You can read my past Birchbox reviews here. If you’re interested in a longer Birchbox vs. Ipsy blog post, I’m working on one that will be posted in 2-3 months. So stay tuned! As well, if you’d like to sign up for your own Birchbox subscription, click here!

One note about this month’s Birchbox: I chose a curated box just out of curiosity and because I hated the customization samples this month. Ho-hum.

Is Birthbox Worth It?

1. Number 4 Super Comb Prep & Protect

The month I don’t receive a Number 4 product from Birchbox will be the day I feel like I’ve made it. Every month I get a product from them! The thing about Birchbox reviews that niggles at me (that I mentioned last time) is that there’s no way to say I don’t actually like something and want to stop receiving something. It’s all just about whether I’ve tried the product before and whether I’ll be buying it soon. There’s no way to say, “I actually hate this and would like to stop receiving these Number 4 products because I’ve barely liked a single one.” Either way, this one is a solid “fine”: I don’t love it, I don’t hate it, it’s the 4th detangling spray I’ve received. I can only use so much.

2. ARROW BOOST Color Enhancing Lip Balm - Blush Hour

I received this same product in my box last week. It remains the same. I’ll be regifting this one.

3. Clarins Wonder Perfect Mascara 4D

Mascara! I usually hate receiving mascara because it’s something I’m very picky about (in short, I hate all mascaras and have yet to find out that doesn’t make me miserable). On Wednesday, I wore this mascara and cried a lot and ended up looking exactly like those emo girl photos circa 2004 that were super popular on Myspace, so that was very exciting. Aside from that, I actually quite like it; it’s a little goopier than I prefer, but it doesn’t get clumpy like most mascaras.

Bumble and bumble. Don't Blow It (H)air Styler - Fine

4. Bumble and bumble. Don't Blow It (H)air Styler - Fine

Yes! Another hair product! This one is is actually quite nice. If I use it right after the shower, my hair dries with less flyaways and general nastiness. It smells good and makes my hair feel pretty good, so it gets some solid points there.

5. invisibobble® POWER in Pink

I really don’t like this style of hair tie: they tend to tear my hair out. However, these ones are really nice. (Am I going soft?! Giving in? Being less critical!? Never.) I’ve been wearing them quite a lot in the past week as I throw my hair into any variety of messy bun, weird ponytail, or half-pony-bun-thing. In fact, I’ve already lost one, which is the sign of a well-loved hair tie if I do say so myself.

6. COOLA® Dawn Patrol™ Classic Primer SPF 30

Can you believe I picked this curated box specifically for this product and then was crushed when it arrived and I realized it is primer? A product I neither like nor use? Good one, Michelle, good reading comprehension there. Yeah, it’s an SPF primer, which is great in theory. But this is silicon-y as all hell and turns my already oil face into a slip and slide. I can’t even apply foundation over it, it’s a lost cause. I tried wearing it without foundation and I was so shiny and my skin felt so gross I had to baby wipe my face in my car. A great look! I’m regifting this. Why couldn’t it have just been a nice COOLA sunscreen?

ARROW BOOST Color Enhancing Lip Balm - Blush Hour

Final Thoughts

Did reviewing these products help me get out some of my sadness and aggression? Yes. Do I feel better now? Absolutely. Do I like Birchbox? Not really. I’ll be ending my subscription as soon as I get my sixth box. I feel like I haven’t gotten anything I really love or use, but rather a bunch of shockingly similar hair products that basically act as conditioners. I’m not overly impressed, but perhaps I should have expected it—Birchbox seems like maybe it’s more of a hair-focused subscription (that’s just my expectation) and that’s not exactly what I love focusing on. (My hair does exactly 4 tricks: curls/waves that fall out within 4 hours; a bun; a high ponytail; and down.)

Beauty Basics Guide: How to Pick Your Foundation, Primer, & Powder

Beauty Basics Guide: How to Pick Your Foundation, Primer, & Powder | Writing Between Pauses

Welcome to the beauty basics guide! My first post, a guide to brushes, was so successful, I decided to keep going! If you have a beauty basics question, or an area where you think a guide would help, let me know in the comments. I noticed that so many beauty blogs don’t post a basics guide when it comes to beauty; we’re all learning and sometimes we all need a foot up!

Foundation, primer, & powder are considered the base of your makeup. When you have a good base, you can pretty much always feel confident about your makeup. As well, if you’re main concern is evening your skin tone or hiding a few blemishes, your base is where you want to focus most of your energy.

When it comes to choosing foundation, I know it can be super overwhelming; there are so many to pick from! This post won’t necessarily help you pick your specific foundation; I instead hope to help you determine what you should look for in a foundation, as well as a primer and powder. Let’s get started!

Primer

I know I just mentioned foundation, but it makes more sense to work from the bottom to the top in terms of application.

Primers are incredibly popular for helping smooth out your foundation, make application easier, and increase the wear time. There have always been debates on whether you need to use primer or not; a lot of people do and a lot of people don’t.

I happen to fall into the category of someone who avoids primer; occasionally, I will test one out. But usually, I decide I don’t need it; the reason is because primers often don’t play nice with my skin at all. I’ve yet to find one that really worked for my skin.

That being said, lots of people love primers. If you want to try one, here are a few things to look for.

If you have dry skin: Primer is often ideal if you have skin that is quite dry or can get flaky with foundation. Hydrating primers, like e.l.f.’s (which is super affordable), can help boost your skin’s moisture before you apply foundation. There are thankfully lots of hydrating primers on the market; here’s a great list of 10.

If you have oily skin: Primer often doesn’t place nice with oily skin, so you have to make sure to pick your primer well. Check your ingredients; slippy, silicon-based primers are better for dry skin, so avoid those. Any primer that promises “mattifying” is better, but make sure to spot test accordingly. The Tatcha primer is one of the best on the market, but for $22, is a little spendy; here’s a list of a bunch of options.

If you have regular skin: If you feel you’re neither super oily or super dry, you can pretty much get away with anything. The world is, essentially, your oyster—primer-wise, that is. Here’s a great list of 15 primers that you can check out.

Foundation

Foundation! If you’ve found your perfect primer (or you’ve decided to skip it for the moment), it’s time to think about foundation.

It goes without saying: not everyone needs or has to use foundation. You aren’t obligated to have perfect skin. However, if wearing foundation lets you feel more comfortable, then it is entirely up to you.

Like I said, there are so many foundations to choose from. I’ve reviewed what feels like hundreds of foundations for this blog alone. My most comprehensive post was about the foundation quizzes offered via Sephora and Ulta; you can read that post here.

When it comes to choosing foundation, here are a few things to look for:

If you have dry skin: Avoid foundations that offer “matte” or “mattifying.” These foundations will be too drying on your skin and will most likely contribute to dryness, texture, and flakiness. Look for dewy or hydrating foundations; go for water-based foundations, as opposed to cream foundations, which will be too heavy on your skin. My recommendations include Too Faced’s Dew You foundation and Wet’n’Wild Photo Focus Foundation.

If you have oily skin: You can play with using dewy foundations, but if you get oily throughout the day and tend to have your make up break down, matte or mattifying is the way to go. Cream foundations tend to work best on oily skin, but it depends on your needs when it comes to foundation. My recommendations for oily skin are the Hourglass foundation, Tarte Amazonian Clay foundation, and Too Faced Peach Perfect foundation.

Powder

Powder is probably the base product I’m most passionate about. Honestly, with the right setting powder, regardless of your skin type, your base will be amazing. Just like with foundation and primer, some people don’t necessarily need powder; if you have exceptionally dry skin, you aren’t going to want a powder that is super matte. However, if you have oily skin and you skip powder, you’re doing your base a disservice.

I’ve reviewed a ton of powders for my blog and I have a very specific set of requirements for powders—all of which are based on my skin type (which is very, very oily). This isn’t necessarily going to work for everybody because I follow the Wayne Goss method of powdering before foundation, then powdering after.

One mistake I often see people make is baking with a ton of powder on their undereyes; this is because we see beauty gurus or instagram videos doing it. Plain and simple: this will make your undereyes look terrible. It looks great for photos. And if you only set your undereye concealer, then the rest of your face makeup… isn’t set. Using powder all over your face makes it easier to apply powder blush and contour, as well as highlight. So, simple: a light layer of powder over your entire face.

If you have dry skin: again, you’re going to want to be careful with powders, as they can be quite drying. Look for a powder that doesn’t offer mattifying or long-lasting power—and definitely avoid talc-based powders. A few powders I’ve tried that I think would work great for dry skin would be the Hourglass powder and the Make Up Revolution luxury baking powder.

If you have oily skin: There are definitely levels of oily skin, but if you struggle with your foundation breaking down, I highly recommend trying the Wayne Goss method. (You can read about my foundation process here.) My favorite powder for oily skin is the It Cosmetics Bye Bye Pores powder; nothing sets like this powder does. If you are oily, this will keep your skin dry all day.


That’s it! The basics on choosing the right products for you and your skin. Have anything to add? Share with me in the comments!

Beauty Review: I Tried Ipsy Glam Bag Plus So You Don't Have To

Beauty Review: I Tried Ipsy Glam Bag Plus So You Don't Have To | Writing Between Pauses

I waited patiently—anxiously, even—for this: I finally got off the waiting list for the Glam Bag Plus.

I’ve been an Ipsy Glam Bag subscriber for over a year now—probably 18 months total, minus a few months where I skipped or put my membership on hold. I have reviewed nearly every single Ipsy bag I received; I quite liked a lot of them, but started to find them boring in the last few months. (You can read all my Ipsy reviews here.)

When they announced the Glam Bag Plus, I immediately signed up for the waiting list; I knew I wanted to try it, even if $25 was a bit steep (compared to $10 a month that is!) Mostly, I just wanted to see what they would actually send.

The Glam Bag Plus is, like Boxy Charm, 5 full-size products every single month. The regular Glam Bag promises a mix of sample size, deluxe sample size, and full-size products. The full size products in the Glam Bag are usually masks or single eyeshadows. The Glam Bag Plus is $25; comparatively, Boxy Charm is $21 per month and seems to be primarily name brand products.

How does the Glam Bag Plus compare? Let’s see what I got in my first box.

(As a note, I did receive 2 bonus items that I received through trading in my points on Ipsy. I will include small reviews for them!)

If you’d like to try the Glam Bag Plus, you can sign up here.

Ipsy Glam Bag Plus

1. Tula Major Glow Cooling & Brightening Sheet Masks, $26.25

Here’s an interesting note: these Tula masks usually come in a pack of 4. I received 3 (and the package says “pack of 3 masks”). Now, to me, if the standard pack includes 4 masks and this pack includes 3…. that’s not full size. I don’t know what size it is, but it’s not full size, that’s for sure. Already, that makes me highly suspicious about the “full size” aspect of this box! But I digress; a pack of 4 masks costs $35, making each one worth $8.75. That makes 3 worth $26.25.

The plus side of all this: I really like these masks! I love masks that are two pieces, because they tend to fit better. I also really like the hydrogel feel of these masks. It’s been pretty hot already this summer, so I like to pop them in the fridge and wear one in the evening while I watch TV.

2. Suva Beauty Hydra Liner in Grease & Six Twenty Brush Set, $26

This is interesting because this “item” is actually two items: a Six Twenty Brush (for eyeliner) and the Hydra Liner in the shade Grease (black). The brush is $12; the liner is $14. They might be sold as a set, but I can’t find that option on this brand’s website. So, I guess that’s pretty nice; it’s technically two full size items. Personally, a $12 brush is a bit much for me, especially as it is a teeny tiny liner brush.

This eyeliner is activated by a wet brush. It seems nice, but I haven’t gotten a chance to experiment with it a lot yet. I love winged eyeliner, but I personally prefer an all-in-one tool; it’s just easier for me, especially as I won’t have time to wash a brush every single day.

Is Ipsy Glam Bag Worth It

3. Tetrix x Ipsy Game On Eyeshadow Palette, $15

This is an interesting one: an eyeshadow palette specifically by Ipsy. Not any other brand, but… Ipsy.

This is a big of a rankle for me. To me, the point of this beauty subscription is to receive either indie brands or major brands… not Ipsy products. It’s like signing up for a beauty subscription and getting Target’s generic brand items in it. They’re great, but I can buy them for cheaper on my own.

As well, apparently there is a second palette that has colors I would much prefer.

I estimated this price at around $15. If I’ve being generous, that’s about $2.50 per eyeshadow (the cost of Ulta Beauty’s individual eyeshadows, for comparison). However, the full Tetris x Ipsy Collection retails for $158 total. Since this palette isn’t sold anywhere else, I have nowhere else to link to!

It is a fairly decent palette. I quite like the shade Game Day, which is foiled; Stack It Up is pretty and so are Block Party and Game Night. However, I don’t wear navy eyeshadow, so Game Over is a bit much; and orange eyeshadow makes me look ill. I’ll use a fair number of the shades so it’s not a total waste, but I am disappointed to receive essentially a generic palette. C’est la vie.

4. Tréstique Matte Color + Shiny Lip Balm Lip Crayon, $25

This one is actually pretty nice, if a bit gimmicky. In the picture on Ipsy, it looked like it was actually 3 products in one. But when it arrived, I realized the packaging is literally just shaped like a giant lip crayon with a smaller lip crayon inside and then the teeny tiniest little lip balm to ever exist. Both are quite nice; I like the color of the lip crayon and the lip balm feels nice. My only annoyance is that I have to carry around a giant lip crayon to use a little balm! The shade I received is: Belize Bordeaux & Grenache Balm. The pictures look absolutely nothing like the color it is. The website make it seems like a dusty rose pink; it’s more like… red wine. Burgundy.

5. Sunday Riley C.E.O. Vitamin C Rich Hydration Cream, $65

OK. OK. OK. Maybe… maybe it’s worth it just for this. An ENTIRE tub of Sunday Riley C.E.O. Vitamin C cream! I can’t! Miraculous! Marvelous! Extraordinary!

Am I being dramatic? Yes. But a tub of this alone costs $65. I can see why they perhaps cheaped out on the eyeshadow palettes and masks (I see you, Ipsy), because whew, $65!

This is one of those creams I’ve dreamed of trying but didn’t have the actual cash. I’m never going to drop $65 on just a moisturizer. Especially one that is all about Vitamin C.

Oh, have I mentioned? Vitamin C makes me break out. Bad. I’m still going to try this ($65!!!) But I don’t have my hopes up. In fact, my hopes are… low. I’m probably going to break out. But who knows? Maybe this will be the vitamin C cream of my dreams; I have heard excellent things about it.

What Comes In Ipsy Glam Bag Plus

A word on my points items! I received the Neogen White Truffle Oil Drops and the Billion Dollar Brows Eyebrow Brush. I love an oil on top of my moisturizer at night to help with my dehydrated skin and I am so far loving these oil drops. I’ve been meaning to get an eyebrow brush for ages, but just never got around to it; I like that this one is angled slightly and has both types of brush that I need. In total, I traded in like 1200 points for both of these and the brush alone is worth $16. Worth it.

Ipsy Glam Bag Plus Products

Final Thoughts

In total, the value of this first box is… $157.25. Ok, DANG! That’s pretty good!

Let’s compare, however. If we review my “One Year of Ipsy” blog post here, we know that in July 2018 I received a bag that had a value of $93. That’s a difference of about $64. If a $10 Ipsy bag has the potential to be worth $93 (and that was a slight outlier of a bag; my lowest was a $45 value bag in October 2018). The average value of my Ipsy bags has been $65, which is pretty good for a $10 purchase.

Looking at it logically, of course a $25 box is going to have a higher value than a $10 bag; but I actually don’t feel like it has enough comparative value. In this first Glam Bag Plus, I only received one recognizable brand (Sunday Riley) and the value of that product greatly inflated the value of the bag. Remove the $65 cream and this Glam Bag Plus is only worth, wait for it, $92. So 4 products total is worth the exact same as a 5-product Ipsy bag that cost only $10. I feel like, again, this is a box of filler products with one extreme high end product thrown in to inflate the value.

However, that being said… despite my criticisms, I do quite like every thing I received. Was it worth the $25? Sure! I’m really happy with everything, even if I’m suspicious of it all as a whole.

If you’d like to try the Glam Bag Plus, you can sign up here.

Have you received the Glam Bag Plus? What did you think? What did you receive?

Beauty Review: Birchbox June 2019 Review

Beauty Review: Birchbox June 2019 Review | Writing Between Pauses

This is my third Birchbox of a 6-month subscription I was gifted. To jump to the point right away, my overall impression has been a little… lackluster. I enjoyed my first box; last month’s box had 4/7 samples as hair products. And this month’s box is better, but I still don’t get that excitement I thought I would have. It’s not bad, but it’s not great either, you know?

In short: I don’t look forward to my Birchbox arriving quite as much as I do my Ipsy bag. (And even better, I have a very exciting Ipsy review this month. Stay tuned!)

You can read my past Birchbox reviews here. If you’re interested in a longer Birchbox vs. Ipsy blog post, I’m working on one that will be posted in 2-3 months. So stay tuned! As well, if you’d like to sign up for your own Birchbox subscription, click here!

Birchbox Branding

This month’s Birchbox theme was self-care, clearly. My box included a pamphlet about how Birchbox isn’t a “beauty box” (er) and it had a checklist of self-care suggestions that included, “take a walk around the block” and “actually SEE your friends”, as well as things like “Plan some time off for 3 months from now” (yes! I can afford that!) and “moisturize your hands.” My favorite is “get some actual sleep (7+ hours please!)”; what a privileged thing to send people! I’d love to get 7 hours of sleep per night… I simply can’t. I’d love to take a vacation or go on a nature walk; I have neither the money nor the time.

I find corporatized self-care extremely embarrassing and painful, because these self-care items are very much about pampering. Lots of people take part in self care that is along these lines, but self-care isn’t prescriptive. Self-care is very much about taking care of yourself and your mental health—and sometimes self-care isn’t cute stuff like taking vacations and going on nature walks. It is taking a shower when you have been so exhausted for 3 days that showering is insurmountable; it’s taking your medication even though you might not want to; it’s cutting off toxic people because they are making your mental health worse.

So anyway, I found this very annoying. At the end of the day, Birchbox is a beauty box that sends out a few samples to a lot of people every month and while I’m glad any large company supports mental health initiatives, I would like to see them reflect those ideals inward. How is their medical insurance for employees? Do they provide mental health support, life-work balance? Do they accommodate mothers? What is their family leave policy? And most importantly: are all their employees compensated fairly? It’s great to send out a checklist of potential self-care items, but are they supporting actual humans in their actual policies? (This goes for all companies that decide to use mental health in their marketing, not just Birchbox.)

I’m off my soapbox now. Let’s talk about the products.

Is Birthbox Worth It?

1. Wilma Shumann Skincare Hydrating Collagen Eye Pads, $7.20

These made my skin burn, which is often a problem I have with eye pads and eye masks. They also didn’t seem very wet, as to open the packaging, you have to slide out a plastic tray (a waste of packaging!!) and it makes all the serum spill out. Not only is that a waste, I had that these plastic masks aren’t actually soaked with product; it just sits on top. Give me a biodegradable eye mask over this. The value for these is quite low, as a “full size” includes 5 sets of masks for $18, making each set of eye pads worth about $3.60.

2. Too Cool for School All-in-One Egg Mellow Cream 5-in-1 Firming Moisturizer, $7

I love this K-beauty brand and I love this moisturizer. This is probably my favorite thing I received and one thing I will probably buy a full size of. I’ve been really struggling with extreme dry patches on my nose and cheeks, especially during my cycle, and this is one of the few moisturizers that has really helped. A full size is 1.76 ounces and costs $36 (which is pretty expensive). This sample is 0.35 oz, making it around $7.

3. Beauty Protector Protect & Detangle, $2.94

You can find this at Walgreens. Walgreens! It costs $23.50 for a full size, which is 8 ounces. This sample size is 1 ounce, making it worth less than $3. It’s a perfectly fine detangler, but I’m not exactly impressed. I don’t know why, but I don’t feel like getting sent things I can buy at Walgreens is really fair! I can go to my local Walgreens and find these things myself.

What comes in a Birchbox

4. Arrow BOOST Color Enhancing Lip Balm in Blush Hour, $15

They also sell this at Walgreens. This is the one product that really increased the value of this box and I’m not sure thats a good thing. $15 for one lip balm that turns a bright pink? I’ve seen reviews that say this is a really flattering color and it is supposed to change “just for you personally.” I don’t agree. This is really unflattering on me. I don’t mind the balm itself (even though I think lip balm is a bit of a scam even though I cannot stop using it), but I won’t be wearing it out of the house.

5. Amika Perk Up Dry Shampoo, $10

I don’t like Amika products generally and I get so many samples of them! I also don’t use dry shampoo as it makes my dry, itchy scalp 400 times worse. Also, dry shampoo has been linked to alopecia areata (when my alopecia was at its worst, I was in a dry shampoo phase, which is not a coincidence). A sample can costs $10 from Sephora. I won’t be using this product, so it is getting passed on to donate.

6. Eyeko Skinny Liquid Eyeliner, $11

Funny enough, I just bought (via Ipsy) another Eyeko liner. This one isn’t the same; it’s a felt tip pen, which is my absolute least favorite kind of eyeliner. I don’t know what monsters are using felt tip eyeliners still; they aren’t good, they don’t work well, and they don’t look good! End felt tip liner! Every brand needs to make a good brush tip, which makes a sharper line and a better wing. But no! Brush tips are hard to find and felt tips populate the world at astronomical rates. Anyway, this is about half the size of a full size, making it worth $11. I will not be using it.

New Birchbox Pricing

Final Thoughts

This box has a $53.14 value. The value lies almost entirely in the lip balm and eyeliner, with the dry shampoo coming in third. That isn’t exactly great; I don’t like when the value of my beauty boxes is bolstered by one or two products, because it means i’m getting sent filler usually. There are two things I will not use period in this box (the dry shampoo and the eyeliner), one thing I will use but not outside the house (the lip balm), one thing I’m indifferent on (the detangler), one thing I don’t like period (the eye masks), and one thing I love (the moisturizer).

This might just be an unlucky box. In fact, that’s really just the truth. I forgot to log in and choose my custom option this month, so I got a grab bag and it feels like this isn’t tailored to what I like at all. I wish there were some way for me to tell beauty subscriptions all the things I love, love, love and hate, hate, hate so they know not to send me color-changing lip balms (which never look good on me) or felt eyeliners or dry shampoo.

One thing about Birchbox is that their system for reviewing items is not good and last month, when I reviewed my items, I didn’t get my credits like I did the month before, as if the system wasn’t registering them. It was pretty annoying and it makes it hard to indicate that I don’t want certain items.

This is all to say: I found my Birchbox quite disappointing this month.

Beauty Review: My May 2019 Ipsy Bag

Beauty Review: My May 2019 Ipsy Bag | Writing Between Pauses

She’s back, baby!

By “she’s back,” I mean, I caved and started getting Ipsy bags again because I like paying $10 for 5 products every month because it’s just… easy. And I get to try lots of things. And also they have the Glam Bag Plus now, which is $25 for 5 full-size products and I’m very intrigued. Listen, that’s a lot of excuses, but let’s just go with… she’s back, baby!

Giving myself a break from Ipsy (and trying out Birchbox in the interim) honestly felt like a really great choice. When I restarted my Ipsy, I felt refreshed and ready to get some new products. And as a bonus, I happened to restart just in time to snag a few of the deluxe samples they usually sell for $3-6. Last time that I happened, I tried the super popular Sand + Sky clay mask. I’ll share what I got in that sale at the end of the box, but otherwise, let’s jump in to this Ipsy bag review!

As aways, you can read all my Ipsy bag reviews here. You can also sign up for Ipsy using my link here.

Is an Ipsy glam bag worth it?

1. BAD Gal Bang! Mascara from Benefit - $13

This mascara is the reason I don’t trust beauty gurus (especially the huge ones on YouTube). This mascara sucks. All Benefit mascaras suck! Can we stop pretending they are good? They are all gloopy, flaky, and nasty. I’m tired of the propaganda! Benefit does not make good products and I’m tired of talking about them and their shtick. Anyway, I knew I wasn’t going to like this and surprise, it turns my lashes into absolute spiders legs, so let’s just chalk this up to they had to include this sample due to a contract. This travel size (deluxe) sample costs $13 (seriously, $13 for mascara that is worse than something you’d buy in a drug store). (Someday, I’ll write an entire post about how much I dislike Benefit, but alas, today is not that day.)

2. Translucent HD Finishing Powder from BellaPierre Cosmetics - $35

I love a powder and so I was very excited to try this one from BellaPierre, a brand I’d seen in a few YouTube videos, but nowhere else really. This powder appears to be a full size; it weighs 6.5g and the It Cosmetics Bye Bye Pores comes in at about 6.8g, so that seems right to me for full size. Comparatively, the It Cosmetics Powder costs $29 for 6.8g and this powder costs $35 for 6.5g, making it quite spendy. It is a decent powder: not as mattfying as It Cosmetics (my ride or die), not as pretty on the skin as the Hourglass Veil powder (but still more effective). It’s a good in-between powder for when I’m having a day with very dry skin or the weather is quite dry already.

3. Bio Fresh Mask with Real Calming Herbs from RE:P - $4.92

I love a clay mask and I love that this one is soothing! During my cycle, I have a few days where my skin gets very flushed, sensitive, and red. I am so excited to use this mask then to help calm down my skin a bit. It smells really herby, for lack of a better word, with a lot of chamomile. I have worn it once and quite liked how it made my skin feel, but I’ll need to test it a few more times throughout the month to see. A full size tube is 130 g for $32—this sample tube is 20g, which is fairly sizable and I will get quite a few uses out of it.

What comes in an Ipsy Bag?

4. Prep + Prime Natural Radiance in Radiant Yellow from MAC - $4.93

I’m not a huge fan of MAC products, but I have heard good things about their primers. I was a bit flummoxed by this primer as they sent me the color “Radiant Yellow”. Now, on the skin, I don’t notice any color, but on the Sephora website, it says specifically that Radiant Yellow is intended for deeper skin tones. They have a pink shade that they recommend for Fair to Medium skin tones. This isn’t MAC’s issue, but just one of those times where I find myself saying, “WTF Ipsy!?” I haven’t noticed that this makes a huge amount of difference to my foundation; I am not a primer user, I don’t find it effective for my skin type (and I think many skin types would benefit from not using primers), but I wanted to give it a fair shot. On the upside, it hasn’t completely wrecked my skin or made my foundation slide off. A full size tube is 1.7 oz and costs $42; this sample tube is 0.2oz, which is fairly large considering the amount you use.

5. Lip Icing in Drip from Estate Cosmetics - $10

I could not find this exact color on the Estate Cosmetics website, but all of the other Lip Icings are $10 per tube. Which is fairly affordable for a really nice lip gloss. I don’t love lip glosses, but I’ve been getting a ton of them in subscription boxes (and recommended to me) lately, so clearly the tides are turning against me and my matte lipsticks!! I’m not prepared for that to happen, but whatever. I do like this gloss; it’s a pink shade, like most glosses, and looks like… lipgloss when you put it on. I’m so biased against lip glosses, I survived the lip gloss trend of the early 2000s, and I don’t want to repeat it because they all look the same. It doesn’t matter what color the lip gloss is, it’s going to look like shiny lips once you put it on and it’ll be gone in 20 minutes!

6. Pore Clearing Clay Mask from Innesfree - $6

This was a bonus item which I bought for $6. I’m so glad I bought this because it’s just like the Aztec clay mask that everyone gets from Amazon, but doesn’t wreck my skin nearly as much. It dries down so tight and sucks everything out of your pores. If you have a break out, you need a mask like this to help those suckers dry out. I’ve already worn this twice and I’ve gotten compliments on my skin within 24 hours each time—which never happens. I have bad skin, guys, but this really takes the care in terms of clay masks. Will absolutely be buying a second one.

7. Black Magic Liquid Eyeliner from Eyeko - $6

I’ve been looking for a Kat Von D Tattoo Liner replacement for actual years. KvD is a mess and if you don’t know the story, hop onto your friendly neighborhood Google and take it for a spin. She’s been a mess for a long time, but it’s been aggravated in the last few years and especially the last year. I don’t want to tell anyone what they should spend their money on, but I vote with my wallet and it’s a “no” from me. That PSA aside, I’d heard good things about the Eyeko Liquid Eyeliner, so when I saw a sample for $6, I went for it. And honestly, it might be better than Kat Von D! It’s black, matte, and a brush tip, which means it’s 100 times better than a felt tip (I said what I said). I’ve worn it every day for a week and the only downside is that, unlike Tattoo Liner, it is water soluble, which means it wipes and comes off much easier.

Final Thoughts

In total, this Ipsy bag, without my special items, comes to a total of $67.85 in value, which is highly inflated by the powder sample and the Benefit Mascara. I really don’t think that mascara sample is worth $13—I’d say about $5, tops, and that’s being very generous—and while I like the powder, it feels like such a small amount. $35 does seem a bit… outrageous, and I frequently pay $29 for powder! Am I hypocrite? Anyway, that’s a fairly standard value for a bag, but I feel like they added the powder purely to bring it up. I like a lot from this bag: the gloss is middle-of-the-road, I like it, but I resent it; the primer is ok; I love any mask that comes my way; the powder is good; and the mascara is going straight into the bin.

All-in-all, a fairly OK bag. I’m hoping next month, things pick up thanks to my reviews. As with any Ipsy bag, I always find myself thinking, well, I didn’t like these things, but at least it only cost $10 for me to try it. It’s not like I bought a full size Benefit mascara only to find out it sucks; it’s also not like I paid $35 for a tiny amount of powder! That’s the beauty of Ipsy, really.

Beauty Review: Prana Dry Brush*

Beauty Review: Prana Dry Brush | Writing Between Pauses

About 7 years ago (yes, 7 years ago), when Google Reader was still alive, I read a blog post from someone I followed about dry brushing. I can’t remember her name, or her blog’s name, but that memory of her raving about dry brushing stuck with me. Whenever I heard it mentioned, I’d think of that blog post and think, maybe I should try that?

But then I never actually did anything about it. I stayed curious about dry brushing, but in the chaos of my life (getting married, buying a house, working on my career, working on this blog, having a baby, successfully raising that baby into a toddler), I never got around to. I mean, I just bought a jade roller, guys. When trends pop up, I try my best to get on the train, but often, I’m running behind the train in two different shoes and my hair in a messy bun.

So when Prana Brush reached out to me about trying their dry brush, I knew I wanted to try it immediately. I jumped on a phone call with Jessica, who told me all the great things about the Prana brush, how it worked, and what it did. And honestly, I was on board. It didn’t take much convincing. I’ve had 7 years to stew on this, I was ready.

What is Dry Brushing?

What is Dry Brushing?

Dry brushing is exactly what it sounds like: you use a brush to gently “brush” your skin, usually moving towards your heart. You do this dry—not with a loofah in the shower, not by dampening the brush. This helps exfoliate your skin and prepare it to be washed in the bath or shower, as well as improving your lymphatic system’s health, minimizing the appearance of cellulite, and helping circulation. There are tons of other benefits to dry brushing too.


The Prana dry brush

When I first received my Prana dry brush, I was impressed by how well made it was and how soft the bristles felt—while also being seriously exfoliating. I tried it the first time that day before I jumped in the shower. The number one thing to remember about dry brushing is that you aren’t scraping your skin or going hard on this brush; it’s just a gentle motion. I noticed a huge difference in the dry skin I always have on my ankles and elbows almost immediately!

Dry Brush with Copper Bristles

The Prana dry brush is different from other dry brushes because it has ionic copper bristles in it, as well as standard bristles. You can see them in the picture above. I know “ionic copper bristles” sounds incredibly harsh, but I promise you, they’re really not! The ionic copper bristles “create a natural friction between the ion-charged copper bristles and your skin,” which is incredibly good for your skin.

This brush is designed to be used dry, of course, and doesn’t require cleaning. Copper is naturally antibacterial, so there is no need to wash this dry brush as you would a normal brush. After I used it, I just carefully tapped it on the side of my tub to remove any dry skin that it may have picked up. It came in a beautiful cardboard box that I am using to store it on my windowsill (in the chaos of packing, at least).

You can learn more about dry brushing from Prana Brush here.

Final Thoughts

So, was dry brushing worth the 7 year way?

In short, absolutely! I’ve noticed a huge difference in my skin, especially on my legs, which have often been a “problem area” for me. I have strawberry skin, which means my hair follicles are visible. I’ve always decreased this by using self tanner, or wearing tights as much as possible, but I’ve found since starting to dry brush, I’ve noticed a huge difference in how these spots appear! My skin is also smoother and softer, absorbs lotion better (no slick seal feeling when I get into bed!), and doesn’t have any problem dry spots. Since it’s only 2 weeks, I can’t speak on the other benefits of dry brushing, but I’m excited to see how I feel in a month or two. I’ve definitely struggled with my energy levels in the last 3 years (thank you, postpartum depletion!) and so if this helps me get my body back in fighting order, I’d really love it.

Have you ever tried dry brushing? What did you think?