Beauty Review

Beauty Review: My September 2019 Birchbox

Beauty Review: My September 2019 Birchbox | Writing Between Pauses

Another month, another Birchbox!

This is actually my last Birchbox from a 6-month gifted subscription. I won’t be continuing my subscription and I’ll share my reasons at the end of this post.

One thing I’ve noticed is that whenever I’m having a hard time in my personal life, I turn towards writing about beauty products because I find it very soothing & calming. I can still engage my brain, but not think too much about how sad or burnt out I feel. If you haven’t read my most recent Instagram post, you should to get a better idea of what I’m talking about.

I’ll be writing a full blog post about it soon, but I need a little bit more time to decompress and really think about what I want to say.

ANYWAY, let’s talk about Birchbox this month, shall we?

Is Birthbox Worth It?

1. Davines MOMO Shampoo & Conditioner

I’m annoyed at how much I like this shampoo (and liked the conditioner, but there was seriously only a TABLESPOON in the packet, gag me), because I didn’t realize it’s from the brand Davines. I feel like every time Birchbox sends me a hair care sample it’s that French brand or Davines. Branch out, Birchbox!

That being said: wow, I love this shampoo. I love this shampoo so much I’m considering spending $30+ on a full size bottle and I’m considering spending $33 on the conditioner, because it really made my scalp feel ah-may-zing. And as someone whose scalp often feels like the Sahara Desert, that’s saying a lot.

I think for most people, the conditioner would probably be too heavy. But dang, it felt good.

Both the shampoo and conditioner have a really light, natural melon scent. Really lovely.

2. This Works Deep Sleep Pillow Spray

I love a pillow spray. I actually own several pillow sprays, and I often sleep with my diffuser going (lavender and jasmine is my favorite sleep scent, but if I have a headache, I often add peppermint and eucalyptus and cut the jasmine). Needless to say, I was pumped for this pillow spray. It is a REALLY small tube though, but I’ve used it for three nights in a row and it is going strong. A full size bottle is $29 (oof).

It is scented with lavender, patchouli, and chamomile essential oils, which is funny because it smells almost entirely like vetiver to me.

I love the smell of it, but as with most essential oils, I think the claims about “helping 89% of users fall asleep faster” are bullshit. It smells nice and it is relaxing, so I love it, but I can very easily make it myself!

3. MODEL Co Lip Oil

This is a very standard lip oil. The applicator (a fluffy doe foot) sucks. I like lip oils at night, but I don’t like glossy lips generally. So this isn’t my favorite product to receive.

MOMO Shampoo

4. Eyeko Brow Liner

I don’t use brow products, so this has gone immediately into my donate box.

5. MAC Cleanse Off Oil

I love a cleansing oil, so this one I was pretty excited about! The sample is minuscule though. I am not sure I buy that there is jojoba oil in it, as jojoba oil is not clear. Immediately after using it the first time, however, I broke out in MULTIPLE large cysts on my chin, which have become increasingly rare for me. Did the oil cause it? It’s hard to know because it’s totally possible it is stress related. That being said: I’m going to wait to use this again.

6. Bioderma Sensibio Light Soothing Cream

Speaking of those cysts, I also used this with the MAC Cleansing oil, so I’m not sure if the cysts are caused by: the cleansing oil; stress; or this moisturizer. Anyway, I did really like this moisturizer; it smells good and did make my skin feel really soothed. When I get stressed and upset, I tend to look like a mess, super red and splotchy, so this was nice. But if it made me break out: no so nice.

what comes in a birchbox how many samples
Birchbox makeup bag September 2019

I’ve really enjoyed receiving a Birchbox these past few months, but as I said, I’ve decided not to continue. I just don’t think the customization and types of samples I can receive are worth it. I much prefer Ipsy at this point (even though I’ve switched back to the regular Glam Bag). When it comes to beauty subscriptions, I can be highly particular about what I like, so it’s hard to explain.

That being said, I’ve really enjoyed receiving Birchbox for the last 6 months. I’d love to hear your thoughts if you’re a Birchbox subscriber; do you like it? What makes you love a beauty product subscription?

Beauty Review: My August Ipsy Glam Bag Plus

Beauty Review: My August Ipsy Glam Bag Plus | Writing Between Pauses


This is my third Ipsy Glam Bag Plus and will probably be my last.

Last month, I was in a very weird place in my life (my Glam Bag Plus review actually cracks me up; I won’t be editing it, let it stand as a testament to not review amidst personal crisis), but this month, I’m feel a little more stable in my work life and my emotional life. So I’m ready to review with the mindset of whether or not $25 for these products is fair.

Obviously, $25 for 5 full size items is always going to be a good deal. However, is it worth it in terms of… am I getting things I like using? Do I feel like the customization works?

With that in mind, if you’d like to sign up for the Glam Bag Plus, click here to use my referral link. And as always, you can read my past reviews here.

Let’s talk products.

Ipsy Glam Bag Plus value

1. Thrive Causemetics Liquid Lash Extensions Mascara, $24

I hate getting mascaras in my subscription boxes!!! I swear, I do set everything to NOT receive mascaras and yet, here I am, second month in a row with a full size mascara. The It Cosmetics mascara is still one of my least favorites ever (it is so clumpy and gross looking), but this one might be a close second: it makes my eyes itch intensely. I have worn in 3 times and I legitimately worry each time whether I will go blind. And it doesn’t even make my eyelashes look that good.

Props for being an ethically focused company, but oof.

2. F.A.R.A.H. Brushes 5-Piece Eye Perfection Set

I’m always a little suspicious about anything I can’t find on the brand’s website. This is no different: I cannot find anything similar to this brush set on their website. If I had to estimate it based on similarly priced sets, I would say anywhere from $25-30, maybe up to $40. I always lean more towards the lower estimate; in combined brush sets (like a set of 4 face brushes and then these same 5 eyeshadow brushes), the cost is $50. If it’s an even 50-50 split. $25 makes the most sense to me.

Anyway, I have received FARAH brushes in the past and I do like them. These do stain really easily; I used and washed them once and they are permanently pink, purple, and brown… respectively. They are perfectly fine brushes and since I use eyeshadow brushes a lot, I appreciate a variety.

Ipsy Glam Bag Plus full size eyeshadow palette
Tarte Dream Big Eyeshadow Palette

3. Tarte Dream Big Eyeshadow Palette, $30

I have suspicions that this palette is just a leftover holiday or New Years season palette launch from Tarte.

I’ve never heard great things about Tarte palettes. They are never really on my radar. I do like this one; it’s relatively small (about the size of my hand) and I like the color story. At first, I was utterly unconvinced, but I do like the shade All In, the mauve-pink metallic in the top middle row. The rest of the palette is pretty generic, but it does have some additions I don’t have in other palettes, so I’m willing to forgive it.

Swatched shades from left to right: Hustle, All In, Happening, You Can, and This is It.

All the shades swatch really well (I would say Happening, the purple shade, is one of the weakest). The black metallic, Hustle, did stain my arm really badly. So there is that at well.

At $30 for the entire palette, it has 8 colors. That evens out to $3.75 per eyeshadow, which is a little high to me.

4. Purlisse Blue Lotus Essential Daily Moisturizer with SPF 30, $45

I really like the brand Purlisse and so this moisturizer is probably one of the things I’ve been most excited to receive. It has SPF 30 (YES) and on my skin, does not leave a white cast. However, I saw “on my skin” because it is impossible for me to determine if it would on darker skin tones. If you have any input, I’d love to hear it; I know finding SPF moisturizers that don’t leave a white cast is much harder for POC.

I do really like the moisturizer. It does have a faint SPF smell, but I don’t mind that whatsoever. I haven’t noticed it making my skin worse in anyway. It’s been all positives.

Murad AHA BHA Cleanser

5. Murad AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser, $40

I have wanted to try a Murad product for years, but baby, they are expensive. So getting this exfoliating cleanser was like a gift from the skincare gods. I was so excited for this product and I was not disappointed. Does it smell a little funky? Sure. Does it make my skin feel bomb though? Absolutely.

It’s $40 for the full size bottle and it is big baby. I cannot imagine using this entire thing in a year. You’re only supposed to use it 2-3 times per week, as it is an exfoliant; no skin damage here, baby. I feel like, knowing how good it is now and how big the bottle is… $40 seems pretty fair. And you guys know I don’t say that a lot.

Final Thoughts

I estimate the value (thanks to the brush set) of this box to be $164. That’s… pretty good, for $25.

Like I said, $25 for 5 full size products is always going to be a good deal. But is this providing value to my life?

Of the 5 products I received, I hate 1 (that mascara), I love 3 (the cleanser, the moisturizer, and the brush set), and I’m meh on the 5th (the eyeshadow palette: like it, but don’t love it). To me, that evens out pretty good; I now have 3 full size products that I can use for a fair amount of time, all for $25. Even if I bought just those items, I’d still be spending $110.

More importantly, is getting my Ipsy Glam Bag Plus fun? Yes. Of course it is! It’s fun to get new things!

I do think this will be my last box, however. Even though these products are valuable, for me right now, $25 per month is a little steep just budget wise right now. (I did get laid off a month ago!) I will be switching back to the $10 a month bag. I’m glad I tried it! I’m glad I went for it and got to experience it, but for the price, it’s just not my thing.

That being said, if you’re someone who wants to start using skincare and make up, but have no idea where to start, the $25 a month price is really good and gives you a variety of products to try for a long time. Not just samples.

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 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: L'Oreal Paris Rapid Reviver Conditioner*

Beauty Review: L'Oreal Paris Rapid Reviver Conditioner | Writing Between Pauses

My relationship with my hair is complicated.

For the last 12 years of my life, I’ve gone through a series of cut-into-pixie-and-grow-as-long-as-possible periods. I got my hair cut into a pixie just weeks before I had Forrest, then didn’t get a haircut for 3 years. (My hairdresser, as you can imagine, was as shocked as me. It really didn’t feel like 3 years, in my defense.)

In the last year and a half as well, I’ve developed an intensely dry scalp, that can be flaky, but mostly just deeply annoying. Sometimes, it’s tied to my cycle. Sometimes, it’s made worse or better by what I use in my hair. But the baseline for my scalp seems to be dry as hell, with a side of flakiness, and that’s just… my normal as an adult. It goes without saying: of all the terrible genetic traits to inherit, why this one (and my slow as heck metabolism)?

Whenever I look for products for my hair and scalp now, I have to be really clear about what I’m looking for: my hair itself isn’t necessarily dry, but my scalp is; my hair handles sulfate-free shampoos well, but not sulfate-free conditioners; harsh dandruff ingredients irritate my scalp worse; I need moisturizing, but not too much or it weighs down my hair… the list goes on.

When I received this conditioner for review, I was convinced I was going to hate it. The L’Oréal Paris Elvive Extraordinary Oil Rapid Reviver Deep Conditioner has the longest product name in the world (I struggled to shorten it for this blog post) and promises to “provide 2X more nourishment than any leading conditioner” and to be “lightweight, hydrating and moisturizing.” Two of those words mean the same thing, so… we’ll see.

Extraordinary Oil sounds way, way too heavy, doesn’t it? However, despite being called “Extraordinary Oil” and “a hair treatment” in various places both on the L’Oreal website and the tube, it also says it’s for daily use. Now, I subscribe to the idea that you don’t need to (and probably shouldn’t) wash your hair every single day. So using a heavy conditioner every day seems like a lot.

How good is L'Oreal Paris conditioner

I use a lot of hair masks, so I was fully prepared for this conditioner to have the texture of a hair mask. However, it doesn’t. It’s a fairly standard conditioner when you get down to it; it doesn’t feel heavy and it gives your hair that slippy feeling when you apply it. I’ll admit to being fairly addicted to conditioner; I never don’t use it, because my hair can be unmanageable without it. I love the slippy, smooth feeling and even though I know that’s sulfates, and the internet tells me that sulfates are bad for my hair, I also don’t like not using it… because then my hair turns into a single tangle that I can’t get out! Give me sulfates in my conditioner or give me death!

Did I like this conditioner? Yes! I did. It was hydrating for my scalp and didn’t weigh down my hair as much as I thought it would. However, do I think it is anything special? Not necessarily. Despite all the fancy names, it doesn’t really promise to be anything besides a hydrating conditioner—which is what all conditioners do. Whenever I’m testing a hair product, I have to ask myself, over and over again, if I’m noticing a difference in my scalp (better or worse); preferably, it’s actually best that a product has no effect on my scalp. This product is one of those where it didn’t make my scalp better or worse, which is often a solid win for me.

Is this a particularly special conditioner? Not really. It didn’t necessarily wow me in terms of making my hair look any different from any other conditioner. It should be said, again: I don’t really have dry hair, just a dry scalp, and my hair isn’t damaged from heat treatment or hair dye. The bonus is this is only around $4-6 depending on which drug store you go to. (The downside is that L’Oreal Paris tests on animals.) If you’re looking for a good, affordable conditioner, and you struggle with hair that is dry or damaged, this is a great option.

Would I repurchase? It depends. I think if I started heat treating my hair more, I would probably look for something similar (but cruelty free) to use, as it is really hydrating. But this specific product? Probably not.

Disclaimer: As denoted by the asterisk (*) in the title of this blog post, I received this product in exchange for review. If you’d like to learn more about my disclosure policy, click here.

Beauty Review: Sol de Janeiro Brazilian Bum Bum Cream

Beauty Review: Sol de Janeiro Brazilian Bum Bum Cream  | Writing Between Pauses

I love a gimmick. You guys know that. Holika Holika Piggy Nose? I’m there. I’m on it. I’m 100% for it.

I’ve been admiring the Sol de Janeiro Bum Bum Cream from afar for years; I’d heard rumors that people either absolutely loved the smell of it… or it made them want to puke. I’m not a believer in creams that “reduce cellulite” (cellulite is just how bodies are structured and made, especially bodies with estrogen, so you can’t really effect your body at that level with a cream), however, so I wasn’t really interested in buying it.

I did, however, receive a tube of Bum Bum Cream in my most recent Ipsy. (Yes, I’ve signed back up. No, I won’t be reviewing them for a while.) Which gave me the opportunity to use it and decide if it really is worth how gosh dang expensive it is.

Here’s what the Bum Bum Cream promises:

Our award-winning, cult favorite Brazilian Bum Bum Cream is a luxurious all-over body cream that absorbs quickly to help visibly tighten the appearance of skin. Infused with all-powerful caffeine-rich Guaraná extract and a cocktail of Cupuaçu Butter, Açaí Oil, and Coconut Oil, this fast-absorbing cream with our addictive Pistachio and Salted Caramel fragrance will bring out your most radiant skin ever. Try it and see what the “Bum Bum” effect is all about.

Let’s break that down.

“All-over body cream that absorbs quickly to help visibly tighten the appearance of skin”: (emphasis mine, obviously). “Visibly tighten” your skin? I’m not sure about that one, although I did spend a stupid amount of time asking Danny, “does any part of my skin look tighter?” (Danny: “What does that even mean? No? Are you ok?”)

“This fast-absorbing cream with our addictive Pistachio and Salted Caramel fragrance will bring out your most radiant skin ever”: I skipped the part with the ingredients, because that often means nothing to me. (Although I do have a note about it!) Is this fast-absorbing? Yes, actually it is. That’s one of the things I really liked about it. It’s kind of the perfect hand lotion to keep by my computer so I can still type without feeling like I’m making a mess. However, I want to talk about the fragrance.

Every time I put this lotion on in the past week or so, I’ve said, “I love this old school coconut smell!” And Danny agreed with me; it smells like old school sunscreen without the chemical sunscreen component. It is pure coconut.

So… Salted Caramel and Pistachio?! I don’t see that, although i guess it smells sweet and nutty. But I swear, I was more surprised reading this scent description than anything else. I’m usually pretty good with smells, but maybe not. I will die on this hill though; I’m 90% sure this is coconut-scented and they just don’t want to admit it!

Does Bum Bum Cream Work?

I liked a lot of things about Bum Bum Cream: the scent, the fast-drying aspect. I’m unconvinced that it does anything to your skin other than moisturize it (which is does quite well).

However, there are a few things I don’t like. The name, of course, sounds really stupid to say out loud, but as I said, I love a gimmick. Is it any worse than “Piggy Nose Peeling Gel”? Nah.

I also don’t like that if you use it on certain areas of your body, it doesn’t just tingle: it burns.

The first time I put it on, I just put it on my hands and I noticed it had a slight warming effect; I’ve noticed that with lots of lotions that use caffeine in them, so I wasn’t concerned. However, the first time I put it on my legs—and specifically, my thighs—it wasn’t just warming. It was like a burning tingle. Not entirely unpleasant—it didn’t hurt at all and didn’t turn me red or give me a rash—but kind of shocking if you aren’t expecting it. I have relatively sensitive skin and the tingling went away within 15-20 minutes… but if you’re skin is highly sensitive, this might be a huge issue.

That’s really the only big downside to me: that tingle can sometimes be light, but sometimes, it’s like a freight train. It just totally depends on where you apply it. And the thing is, I think it’s totally worthless; I don’t think it changes how my skin looks whatsoever, so it’s just needless pain!

Will I buy a whole tub of this? Maybe. I don’t think I’ll ever use it as a full-body lotion, but I do like it for my hands while I’m working or just around the house. I might buy a small travel size tube similar to the size I have for my purse.

Have you ever used Bum Bum Cream? What did you think?

Beauty Review: Peter Thomas Roth Peptide 21 Collection*

Beauty Review: Peter Thomas Roth Peptide 21 Collection | Writing Between Pauses

I love trying new skincare products. In fact, it’s one of my favorite parts about having my blog; getting the opportunity to try new things and see what works for my skin is just one of the many perks of blogging.

As an example: a few weeks ago, I received the Peter Thomas Roth Peptide 21 Collection to review. (I received this product from Influenster, not Peter Thomas Roth directly.*) Peter Thomas Roth is a brand I would never actually buy myself—even though I’ve heard great things about them—because it’s just a little out of my price range.

So, we’ve come to the downside of being sent products to review: sometimes you find stuff you really, really love that is way more money than you would ever spend on a product.

Here is what’s special about the Peptide 21 Collection:

Peptide 21™ proves there is strength in numbers—and diversity! An unprecedented amount and array of 21 Peptides and Neuropeptides allows the multi-action serum and moisturizer to effectively treat every area of the face and neck. Enhanced by cutting-edge Gamma Proteins, these formulas help improve the look of fine lines, wrinkles, elasticity, radiance, uneven skin tone and texture. Peptide-building Amino Acid peel pads complete the collection, providing powerful exfoliation while optimizing results.

I received all three products from the collection to review: the Peptide 21 Wrinkle Resist Serum; the Peptide 21 Lift & Firm Moisturizer; and the Peptide 21 Amino Acid Exfoliating Peel Pads. All three products focus on the main task of anti-aging using peptides. Funny enough, I think they are using “peptides” as a clever stand-in for “collagen.” As most of us know, topically applying collagen isn’t super effective when it comes to skincare; our skin can’t absorb it in a way it can be used for anti-aging. They claim these peptides “support” collagen proteins that already exist in our skin, but I’m not too sure on all that. (Science is not my strong suit!)

However, I will say this to start this review: I like every single one of these products. However, there is something a little gimmicky about the peptides stuff—I don’t know enough about it to know for sure, but I know enough about marketing to know when a gimmick is a gimmick.

That being said, again, I really like all these products. Do I think the peptides do anything? Not really.

Peter Thomas Roth Peptide 21 Collection

What I Like

My favorite part of the collection are the Exfoliating Peel Pads; they are a quick, easy swipe part of a routine and I’ve noticed the biggest difference in my skin just from them. (When trying new products, I usually add just one at a time.) They really are the stand out product from the collection, as they contain more than “peptides”. Here’s what they promise: “Packed with peptide-building Amino Acids, these exfoliating peel pads help reduce the look of pores, uneven skin tone, texture, fine lines and wrinkles while prepping skin for peptide treatment products.” It goes without saying, they don’t only contain peptides, but also Phytic Acid, Salicylic Acid and Sodium Lactate, as well as vitamins A and E.

I noticed a huge difference in my skin’s texture just from these pads alone. Usually, I try not to use anything that makes garbage pile up, however, and using a peel pad every single day (or twice a day) creates a lot of garbage at the end of the day. If this was a toner in a bottle, I’d absolutely be head-over-heels in love with it.

I did like the serum and the moisturizer as well. The moisturizer was probably my second favorite item, as I use moisturizer more than anything else (if I’m too tired to do my entire routine, a makeup wipe and moisturizer is as good as it gets). I am not big on serums generally; sometimes, I feel like they just add steps to a routine when that same thing could be added to a moisturizer. (I know there are many great serums out there. I’m just lazy, let’s be honest.)

Skincare for anti-aging

What I Don’t Like

It took so much self control not to say this in the above section, but: the serum feels gross. It makes my skin feel so sticky and slimy, no matter how long I let it sink it. I’m still using it, but I cannot wait to get to the moisturizer step of my routine purely to rid myself of the feeling. However, even after moisturizer, my skin still always feels a little gross, so I find myself skipping the serum more-and-more. And to be honest, I don’t notice a huge difference without the serum.

Here’s another thing about the serum: it’s $110!!!!!! I would say it’s the worst product of the collection, and the most useless, and it costs nearly DOUBLE the price of the peel pads! That’s outrageous and I absolutely do not love that. The peel pads cost $52, which isn’t a great price, but also isn’t bad as I really do like them. The moisturizer is $78, which is another yikes; I like it, but it’s not any better than a Pacifica moisturizer, which you can get for less than $15 at Target.

As always, for most skincare products, what it comes down to is price for me. You can find lots of things that give you the same or similar results to these products. Is this a nice collection? Sure. Is it way out of my price range? Yes. Will I be repurchasing anything from it? I may repurchase the peel pads if I can’t find a good dupe, but it’s definitely a long shot.

Good serum for anti-aging and acne

Final Thoughts

I’m glad I got to try this new collection; the peel pads, honestly, are the best part of it. But as I said, the price point is just a little high for products that I don’t feel deliver (at least on my skin). A lot of that price is clearly the name, which is all well and good—but who wants to spend $200+ for products that don’t make a $200 difference to your skin?

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