Beauty

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 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: 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?

Beauty Basics Guide: A Complete Guide to Brushes

Beauty Basics Guide: A Complete Guide to Brushes | Writing Between Pauses

The number one question I get in my day-to-day life, as well as in my email, and in comments, is: what brushes do I need if I’m new to makeup?

I’m definitely not the first person to be asked this question (and I’m definitely not a makeup expert, just someone who likes a little makeup), but I do have my own ideas of what makes a good “starter brush” collection.

Back when I started getting into makeup, I bought a really, really cheap brush set at Walmart that I used for years: it had a big fluffy face brush and a blush brush, as well as a selection of not-very-good eyeshadow brushes. These brushes shed hairs like it was their job, always rinsed out black (not a great look), and were more plastic than anything else.

I’ve since moved on from that era of my life (although I only recently finally threw away the last of those brushes, it was nearly 15 years old! I’m ashamed), and thought I’d share the advice I usually give to people who ask me what brushes I recommend for daily use.

Face Brushes

Face brushes are, as seems obvious, brushes you use on your face: for foundation, powder, and blush, as well as highlighter and contour. I use a ton of face brushes every day, but when it comes to basics, I only have two recommendations.

Best Face Brushes

1. A Good Kabuki Brush

A kabuki brush is a dense brush that works well for putting on foundation or buffing things out. I use my kabuki brush for:

  • applying cream foundations

  • blending out my contour

  • blending out my blush if I put on too much (it happens)

  • applying my baking powder

I use an elf flawless selfie brush; it was $6. You really can’t beat that price. (Technically, it isn’t a “kabuki” brush, but it looks and acts just like a kabuki brush.) I’ve used this same brush, buying new ones every year or so, for years; it is super affordable. But because you use it to applying foundation and oilier products, you need to wash it extremely regularly. Overtime, that can cause mold and mildew, as the bristles are so tightly packed. So keep your eye on it and if you notice it looking (or worse, smelling) funky, toss it and buy a new one.

What Face Brush Do I need
Learning to Use Brushes

2. A large, fluffy face brush

This brush is large and fluffy. It’s perfect for:

  • Applying powder or brushing away excess after baking

  • Applying blush

To me, a fluffy face brush is the most essential brush you need, but that might be own bias, as I wear a lot of powder. The brush I have here is a FARAH face brush; you can find a similar one here. However, elf, as usual, makes a really great affordable version.


Eye Shadow Brushes

For me, those two face brushes are all you need for your entire face; you can use both of them for foundation, powder, blush, contour, whatever else you need. From there, it’s just eyeshadow brushes.

What Eyeshadow Brushes do I Need
Eye makeup brushes
Tapered Blending Brush

Tapered Blending Brushes

You’ll need at least one, but I prefer to have two. Sometimes, I apply color with one, then work on blending and diffusing with the other. But really, that’s just a personal technique. My two favorite brushes are the tapered blending brush from FARAH and the Elizabeth Mott tapered blending brush.

These brushes do just about everything:

  • Blend eyeshadow

  • Applying color

  • Applying highlight

If you have any eyeshadow brush, this is really the one to pick.

Packing Brush
Contour Eye Brush

Packing Brushes

Packing brushes are designed to applying color to the lid before being blended out. If you’re doing more complicated looks, these brushes can be a great way to pack on color before blending out. My two favorites are from my Ipsy bags, but I like this one from Elizabeth Mott.

Brush Sets

In general, a great way to save money and get a variety of brushes is to buy a set of brushes. Here are a few of my favorite sets.

Beauty Review: Maple Holistics Silk18 Shampoo*

Beauty Review: Maple Holistics Silk18 Shampoo* | Writing Between Pauses

About a year and a half ago, I wrote a review of Maple Holistic’s Tea Tree Shampoo (one of my favorites). You can read that here.

As you all surely know by now, shampoo is one of my bugbears. I have a very sensitive, dry scalp; shampoos will work for a little while to relieve the dryness, then stop. I have reviewed so many shampoos and while they all worked for a while, eventually, my scalp went back to its usual: dry, flaky, itchy, sensitive.

When Maple Holistics reached out to me about reviewing their Silk18 Shampoo*, I was excited… but aware that like most shampoos, my dry scalp will probably acclimate to it. I’ve started to realize that I need to focus more on nourishing my scalp between washes, instead of expecting the shampoo to do all of the world.

My review of this was slightly complicated by the power outage at the end of February. I wasn’t able to shower for the first 4 days, by which time I was on day 7 with no washing. My scalp felt great and I realized I needed to start giving myself more time between washes. I used the Silk18 Shampoo for that first shower and oh my gosh… it felt amazing.

I really like Maple Holistics for a lot of reasons; the first one is that all of their products are cruelty free and ethically sourced. This helps me feel a lot better about the products I use, even if I can’t guarantee it for everything that works me & my hair! I also like that their products contain natural, soothing ingredients that are low on a toxicity scale, which helps keep our waterways clean.

Maple Holistics shampoo

The Silk18 Shampoo from Maple Holistics promises the following:

Achieve stronger, smoother, more luscious hair with silk18 shampoo. Infused with a rejuvenating blend of 18 silk amino acids which help fortify hair follicles and strengthen strands to protect hair from dryness, breakage, damage, split ends, and hair fall. The nourishing formula gently cleanses dandruff, excess sebum, and impurities to leave your hair and scalp feeling fresh but not stripped. Enriched with argan and jojoba oil to add supreme softness and a luminous shine. Our shampoo is sulfate and paraben-free making it great for all hair types, color treated hair, and sensitive skin.

All of those things are definitely true. I have slightly drier-than-average hair (although not bad compared to my scalp) that can get slightly frizzy and ugly after a few days (usually if I wear it in a bun too much). However, this shampoo definitely gave my hair most luster and shine than any other shampoo I’ve used recently, which is a definite plus. I used it in combination with my Formulate conditioner, which was really, really lovely.

Good shampoo for oily scalps

You might be wondering, what about your scalp? Well, it didn’t help my dry scalp as much as I would like—but it didn’t make it worse. When it comes to shampoo, that’s really all I can ask for! Some shampoos definitely make my scalp feel awful and this isn’t one of them.

So what’s my final verdict?

I love this shampoo for my hair. I like it for my scalp. I have found that using it in combination with my blend of half Head & Shoulders and half my Formulate shampoo on my scalp, then this on my ends… I get the absolute best wash I’ve gotten in a while. I’m currently working on washing my hair much, much less often to see if that will help my scalp health overtime. (I’m talking… like washing my hair every 10 days here, which seems like so long!) If you have drier hair, this is a great shampoo to try for a little extra moisture here at the tail end of a very, very cold winter season.

You can try the Maple Holistics Silk 18 Shampoo yourself by purchasing here.

Disclaimer: As always, as asterisk (*) in the title of this post denotes that I received this product in exchange for review. However, all opinions remain my own! Posts like this help me keep the lights on at Writing Between Pauses. To learn more about my disclosure policy, click here.

Beauty Review: Alba Botanica Acne Patches

Beauty Review: Alba Botanica Acne Patches | Writing Between Pauses

Back when I was in middle school, Clearasil came out with these acne patches—little clear, round patches that you could put over zits and pimples with the intention to help them heal faster. They definitely worked, because I used them somewhat religiously for at least 2 years. But then they stopped making them, I stopped looking for them, and I never thought of it again.

However, in the past few years, tons of brands have come out with things that are very similar. And as it turns out, you have been able to buy essentially what Clearasil marketed for years in the pharmacy—it just wasn’t marketed to teenagers. Cool!

Sometimes, physically covering a pimple is the best way to keep yourself from picking on it—I know that’s true for me. I really wanted to try some of these “new” (to me) patches, but often found the cost prohibitive on the ones my friends said really worked. I asked tons of beauty groups and they all recommended K-beauty brands—which is fine and good, but so expensive to order sometimes.

Alba Botanica is a drugstore brand—you can find it at Target—and they sell “Acnedote Pimple Patches”. I looked at them in Target, then backed off at the price. $10, for a set of 40 patches. That felt like quite a bit. (I just looked at the Target website and they are $6 on there—but recently Target has made clear that there are things that are more expensive in store than on their website. So make sure to scan everything with the Target app and get price matches done!) I decided to pass.

10 minutes later, I found the exact same thing in TJ Maxx. For $4. Score.

So, here’s the real question: are acne patches worth it? Do they still work as well as I remember them working in middle school?

The answer is, yes and no.

I had two larger pimples on my chin that I wanted gone, so I slapped a patch on them and left it on overnight. In the morning, both pimples had large whiteheads. I remember this happening when I was younger; if nothing else, the patch would make the pimple get a head so you could pop it. However, I’m at an age where i know that’s not a good thing to do. However, when I peeled off the patches, it peeled the thin skin off and popped them for me.

So I was left with two big scabs.

Yeah, not sure that’s an improvement.

Do Acne Patches Work?

The two scabs did heal pretty fast after that, as I babied them. I decided to try these patches with some smaller whiteheads that popped up around my temples (thanks to my glasses rubbing) and they were much better at getting rid of those overnight, without a damaging scab in its place.

Basically, I think there are two really good ways to use these patches:

  1. To stop yourself from worrying a large pimple (such as a cyst)

  2. To get rid of small comedones

However, my big warning is: these patches do help make zits more “poppable”, which is debatably a good thing. If you have a big cyst, sometimes you just want to be able to pop it so it will stop hurting. In that situation, these are miracle workers; they help drain the inflammation and create a head, so you can get rid of the cyst faster. For comedones, they really do get rid of them overnight.

Are these worth it? Yes. I’m going to keep testing them out throughout the next few months, and try to find other brands to test alongside, but I do like them—even though my first experience was a little negative. I think, as with any beauty product, you have to keep your expectations realistic, especially in terms of what it achievable and what isn’t.

I Tried Personalized Shampoo from Formulate & It Changed My Life*

I Tried Personalized Shampoo from Formulate & It Changed My Life | Writing Between Pauses

When I first received an email from Formulate several weeks ago, I was immediately excited. I had been looking into the myriad of personalized shampoos available—I knew that my scalp issues meant I needed something personalized, but I was put off initially by the cost of other brands I found, as well as their often wishy-washy stance about being cruelty-free.

But from the moment Caroline from Formulate emailed me, Formulate felt different. Firstly, they’re very upfront about their cruelty-free and vegan stance, as well as being paraben free, sulfate free, dye free, and preservative free. I was really excited to try Formulate and I especially couldn’t wait to start washing my hair with the shampoo they sent me.

The process of creating my shampoo (and conditioner, of course) was really easy. I actually filmed it on Instagram (you can watch it in the Formulate highlight!). I love a good quiz, so walking through picking what I wanted from shampoo, telling them about my hair and scalp, and more was not only fun, but helped me think about what I want from a shampoo.

I don’t know about you guys, but sometimes I get so caught up in wanting my hair to look a certain way that I forget other things—like nourishing my scalp, preventing split ends, and preventing breakage. It was nice to be able to pick 5 things for my shampoo and conditioner to really target. The quiz and sign up process took me maybe 15-20 minutes.

The most interesting part of the quiz was when it asked for my zip code. This was so they could pinpoint where I live and adjust my formulation to the humidity, average temperature, and climate of where I live.

You know what else was nice? Being able to pick from a bunch of beautiful scents—as well as the strength of the scent. How a shampoo smells is really important to me, but I always find myself disappointed when I use a shampoo that smells great, but it doesn’t make my hair smell like that later.

I picked the Verdant scent for my shampoo from Formulate; Verdant is a combination of lilies, grass, and Eucalyptus. It’s flowery and herby at the same time. I also picked Strong scent—hoping that it would make my hair smell 24/7 like lilies. (Spoiler alert: it totally does!)

It took about two weeks for my shampoo and conditioner to arrive from Formulate. In the age of Amazon 2-day shipping, that feels like a long time. However, it gives the scientists at Formulate time to look over your quiz, analyze where you live, and make the best possible shampoo and conditioner for you.

The box my shampoo arrived in was beautiful. The shampoo bottles themselves look really cute. There is something so shallow about aesthetic packaging, but I think we all prefer things that look good, right? They also came with two pumps to use, which is good, because I am not good at pouring shampoo! Another cool thing about the bottle design is that both shampoo and conditioner have Braille on the side. You so rarely see this in beauty products, so it is nice to see packaging being adjusted for those who require Braille in their daily lives.

From the first use, the thing I noticed the most was the smell! I’m so glad I went with Verdant; I absolutely love the smell of it. And the smell sticks around for a very long time. (I did, of course, pick Strong for a reason!)

The second thing I noticed was that this isn’t a shampoo that foams up. Like most sulfate free shampoos, it feels more like a thin conditioner. I’ll be sharing some tips next week about washing your hair with sulfate free shampoo, because, trust me, there is a small learning curve! If you’re used to standard shampoos, there is a period of time with sulfate free shampoos where your hair has to adjust to a new formula. I’ll talk about that in my blog post next week, so stay tuned!

(Don’t forget to sign up to win your own formulation! Click here to enter.)

Formulate shampoo review

The Benefits to My (Poor, Sensitive, Abused) Scalp

If you’ve read my blog for a long time, you know that I’ve really struggled with my scalp for the last year or so. It’s been a hell of a journey: I’ve tried just about every shampoo and conditioner under the sun. I spend more money on oils for my scalp than skincare. I’ve tried hyaluronic acid serums on my scalp (helped!), I’ve spent a small fortune on medicated shampoos, and my dermatologist is honestly really sick of looking at my scalp and saying, “I think it’s just dry.”

When I tell you that my shampoo from Formulate has fixed my scalp, it feels a little bit like an exaggeration, but it’s not. One of the big factors I selected for my shampoo was scalp health; I have a very sensitive, dry scalp that has gone through some trauma the last year and it needs healed. So Formulate chose vitamin E oil, along with other soothing ingredients, to help heal my scalp. And it did! From the very first wash, my scalp felt less tight and itchy. After about two weeks, my scalp wasn’t flaky anymore. I’ve had a few flairs, probably from dry weather and me deciding to use a hair mask that I knew would probably make my scalp itch, but nothing like the past. I can honestly say that that is life changing. Not having an itchy, flaky scalp all the time is a huge deal.

Aside from my beautiful scalp (prettiest scalp on the block, if you will!), I’ve also noticed a huge change in my hair texture. I’ve always had very silky, fine straight hair. It has a little bit of a wave to it in some spots; my hairdressers have always described this as “straight-relaxed” hair, meaning it basically conforms to the shape of my head. (A nice description, I think.)

Since I started using my shampoo from Formulate, I’ve noticed a major change in my hair texture. I’ve always had a lot of hair—like an absurd amount, despite how fine it is—but it was pretty lank and took a lot of effort for it to have volume. I’ve had a ton of volume since I started using Formulate and my hair feels a little more wavier—less pin straight and more relaxed, and it doesn’t conform to my head so much. (I know that’s a weird way to phrase that, but how else do I describe that!?) I can only speak for people who have straight hair, but this is a huge improvement for me.

Is Formulate Shampoo Good

Wash Less, With Better Hair

Over the past few years, I’ve been trying to reduce the number of times I wash my hair per week. I know it’s drilled into us that maximum cleanliness means showering (and washing your hair) every single day. However, that can often cause, or make worse, scalp problems, as well as dry out our hair. (And it goes without saying: this all totally depends on your hair type!) I have managed to get down to 3 washes a week, but I’d like to reduce to about 2 washes a week because I find that’s when my scalp and hair feels best.

The great thing about Formulate is I feel like it helps me stretch the time between washes. My hair stays shiny and clean feeling for a lot longer, because I don’t have that residue build up caused by sulfates in shampoo. My hair is generally less oily, but still moisturized and pretty for several days in a row. No oily hair days!

As I mentioned, there are definitely some growing pains associated with going sulfate-free. I read a lot of articles as I started using Formulate and I will share more about this in a follow up blog post, but the number one thing I learned is that it will take several washes (about 3-4 weeks worth) for your hair to feel “normal” again. Using sulfate-free shampoo isn’t like using regular shampoo, but it does leave your hair just as clean (promise).

I can honestly say that the improvement to my scalp has made me want to never switch from Formulate! That alone is enough, but the scent, the way my hair looks and feels, the vegan and cruelty-free stance… it all makes me want to support a great company like Formulate.

The Second Formulation

I loved my Formulate shampoo and conditioner from that first use (honestly, the scalp benefits alone! I know I keep mentioning it, but it really is so huge for me). However, there were a few things I wanted tweaked.

That’s what is so great about Formulate. They work with you really closely in the first few weeks to help ensure that the shampoo and conditioner you use is perfect for you. The more you pay for a shampoo, the better your results often are; as someone who loves saving money, I’ve realized over time that… you pay for what you get, especially if you have a sensitive scalp or difficult hair! Formulate really makes your money go far though.

My initial feedback for Formulate was that I felt like my conditioner weighed my hair down a little bit and left a residue, specifically on the back of my head, that was hard to rinse. I also felt like my shampoo was just a little too drying on my hair. I sent my feedback in and a few days later, a second set of shampoo and conditioner was on its way to me. And the changes were HUGE! No more residue from my conditioner and the shampoo left my hair feeling silky and hydrated again. I’m so happy with my results from Formulate. And I know that if i start noticing any other issues, I can send them a note and get my shampoo and conditioner tweaked to improve.

Personalized shampoo review

This all leads me to the most exciting part of this collaboration with Formulate: I have a giveaway going!

You can enter to win your own formulation by clicking the button below. You’ll be able to personalize your own shampoo and conditioner and get the hair you’ve always dreamed of!

Have you ever tried customized shampoo and conditioner? What did you think?

Disclaimer: As indicated by the asterisk (*) in the title of this post, this post is a collaboration between Formulate and myself. I received product free in exchange for an honest review and promotion on social media. However, all opinions remain my own! Posts like these help me keep the lights on here at Writing Between Pauses. To learn more about my disclosure policy, click here.

Beauty Review: My December 2018 Ipsy Bag

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

I’m so glad I stuck it out for Ipsy because in December, everyone got 6 items instead of 5. I’m always here for a little bonus! Funny enough, last December, I wrote something like “the December Ipsy should have an extra little gift!” Now, I’m not crediting myself with this 6-item Ipsy, but I do think it’s funny that they decided this year was the year to do it.

The last few months of Ipsy have been a little ho-hum for me. So I’m really excited that I’m finally excited about a bag again! This month’s bag was really, really good minus one item—and considering it is a 6 item bag, that’s pretty good.

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.

December 2018 Ipsy Bag Value

1. Ciate London Glitter Flip Lipstick in Infamous, $9.50

This is a half-size lipstick (a deluxe sample). It’s 1.5 ml, as opposed to the full size 3 ml. Therefore, i priced it as half the usual price. I’ve been receiving a lot of Ciate London stuff, which is fine because I love their packaging! And I love this lip; it’s a fairly standard berry-toned red lipstick, that when you rub your lips together goes glittery. It’s an interesting lipstick and the glitter isn’t chunky or anything (shout out to the glitter balms I wore in middle school that had literal craft glitter in them). It will be gorgeous for a holiday party!

2. F.A.R.A.H 35E Tapered Blending Brush, $10

You can really never go wrong with a brush! I feel like I’m always reaching for a new blending brush, so adding another one to my collection is absolutely no problem. This one is especially pretty. The standard 35E brush with a non-decorative handle is priced at $10, so I kept this one at that value. It is a lovely brush though—very soft—and I’ve had good luck with the F.A.R.A.H brushes I’ve received in the past.

3. Dr. Lipp Moisturizing Colour Tint in Sweet Potato, $8.80

When I first saw I was getting a tinted lip balm, I was a little annoyed. But I ate that annoyance because this balm is, well, bomb. It’s tinted using sweet potato dye, which means it’s all natural. I also found that the brand Dr. Lipp makes a lanolin nipple balm, so to the nursing or pregnant women out there—might be worth a gander! Their prices are really affordable (once I ran them through conversion from pounds to dollars). And this tint is lovely; my lips feel moisturized and the tint isn’t too much. Just a nice natural color.

Is Ipsy Worth It December 2018 Bag

4. Steve Laurant Loose Powder Pigment in Antique Olive, $18.00

I love Steve Laurant products—I’m on record saying the blush I have from them is my favorite blush of all time. It’s so gorgeous. I was excited to receive a loose powder pigment, which isn’t something I use a lot, but I was so disappointed when my bag arrived and I saw I got… antique olive. What a shade! It’s like a shimmery khaki green. I will probably never wear it, but at least the packaging is pretty.

5. Tinct Nail Polish in Aarhus, $10.50

I can’t find this color on their website. As well, they seem to have completely different packaging. And the mL to oz measurements on the packaging I received from Ipsy do not 1) match the same size nail polishes on their website or 2) make sense. This nail polish is sketch. Also their website’s heading is “Mysite 1.” My SEO brain itches.

Either way, I don’t wear nail polish and I have NO idea why I received this. The color is pretty ugly too.

6. Kiss & Smink The Everything in Tulum, $20

This product is a great idea in thought, but in execution, it’s… questionable. It is a lovely product and I will use it, but the color I received is just a little too shimmery for me. This is an all-purpose stick: blush, eyeshadow, lips. It’s the color Tulum, which is a shimmery, light pink. It does look lovely as a blush, but it’s so shimmery. It looks almost like a highlight-blush combination on the skin, which is fine—except I stopped wearing highlighter, so…

What's In an Ipsy Bag?

Final Thoughts

The total value of this bag is $76.80. I’d say this is the best bag I’ve received int he last few months—I love just about everything in it minus the nail polish and the loose powder (which I don’t hate, I just don’t like the color at all). I feel like Ipsy is pulling out all the stops because they know I’m getting ready to cancel! That’s still my plan, but if this bag isn’t making me have my doubts… I do think it will be good to take a break though. This bag was definitely worth the $10 and I’m so excited to play with everything I got!