beauty

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!

I Tried Birchbox (So You Don't Have To) | April 2019

I Tried Birchbox (So You Don't Have To) | April 2019 | Writing Between Pauses

I love a beauty subscription. As you probably know, I’ve been an Ipsy subscriber for months (although we’ve been on a break recently) and have been looking for other beauty boxes to review and use each month. There is something to a beauty box, isn’t there? It’s like a special little treat.

I told Danny that the reason I love them is because it gives me the option of trying new things every single month… without spending a ton of money. To try a new moisturizer might cost $15+, depending on the brand—but I can get a deluxe sample of a moisturizer in a subscription box that I can use throughout the month, as well as other things to try, all for around $10-15 depending on the subscription.

That’s incredibly valuable to me! I love trying new things, but I hate spending money.

A few weeks ago, I was approached by Birchbox to review their beauty box subscription and to share with my readers. Of course, I said yes immediately!

Birchbox is the first beauty subscription box I ever remember hearing about: they really changed the game when they came on the scene! They are a tried-and-true brand with a ton of fans, so I was honored to be able to work with them.

I received my first beauty box this month and wanted to share everything I received, what I loved about Birchbox, and what I didn’t.

What Do You Get in a Birchbox

What I Got

Here’s everything I received:

  • Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray

  • Number 4 Lumiere d’Hiver Clarifying Shampoo

  • Marcell City Tinted Cream

  • Sunday Riley Luna Night Sleeping Oil

  • 100% Pure Green Tea Concentrate Cream

  • Number 4 Lumiere d’Hiver Reconstructing Masque

  • Love of Color Liquid Shimmer Eyeshadow (not pictured)

That’s $10 for 7 samples. Unlike Ipsy, there is no set number of samples every month. However, some of the samples in Birchbox are quite small; the clarifying shampoo and hair masque are both from the brand Number 4 Lumiere d’Hiver, but the shampoo is 1 fluid ounce in a travel size tube, while the mask is simply a packet (and much less than 1 fluid ounce). For that reason, it’s a lot more difficult to put a value on these products because you do receive a significantly smaller amount!

A prime example is that a full-size tube of the Oribe Texturizing Spray has 8.5 ounces and costs $46; the sample tube I received has 1 ounce. So, it would be valued at about 1/8 of $46: $5.75. However, not everything splits up quite that easily.

That’s ok though! I think even without strict numbers, we can talk about how valuable something feels: even though the tube of Sunday Riley’s Luna oil is quite small, a full-size bottle is only a little over an ounce and costs $105.

You read that correctly: full size is 1 ounce for $105. So receiving a sample tube, no matter the size, is going to be pretty valuable in terms of testing it out!

Birchbox costs between $10-15 a month to receive, depending on the status if your subscription. (You can learn more about Birchbox’s updated payment system here.) You can buy subscriptions in 6- and 12-month packages as well, which can help reduce your cost (and you can often get full-size gifts when you sign up. Score!)

Is Birthbox Worth It?

What I Liked

One of the great things about Birchbox, compared to Ipsy, is that you don’t just receive 5 samples: you get a variety and often 5+ things. In my first box alone, I got 7 samples, some of them bigger than others. I’d say everything except the hair mask, I can use for at least 3 weeks, potentially more. That gives me a ton of product to experience with.

I also like that Birchbox gave me options when it came to selecting my samples. As with Ipsy, the more you review the things you receive, the better the products will be suited to you. However, with Birchbox, you can receive a sneak peek of samples starting the month before; at the end of March, I was able to choose either one sample I definitely wanted in my box, or I could have chosen two curated boxes to receive. That meant that no matter what, I got to choose something to try—which is really, really fun!

I liked all of the products I received, except perhaps the clarifying shampoo (it made my scalp itch, which is 100% a “my scalp” problem!) and the CC cream (it didn’t match my skintone, but I did like the texture).

My favorite product is probably the 100% Pure Green Tea Concentrate Cream; I thought for sure I would love the Sunday Riley Luna oil, which I do, but it doesn’t wow me as much as I thought. What did wow me was the Green Tea Concentrate Cream! It smells amazing and feels beautiful on my skin; I love wearing it under my makeup. It’s one of those things that I would have never looked for, but thanks to Birchbox, I’ll probably be buying a fullsize tube!

Reliable Birchbox Reviews

Things You Need to Know

What are a few things I would want to know about signing up for Birchbox?

Firstly, I think you need to remember that these are samples: not necessarily even deluxe size samples, in some cases. I don’t think that’s necessarily a draw back, but I do think it is important to have realistic expectations of what you’re going to receive.

Secondly, you can earn points on Birchbox by reviewing items; these points can then be used to purchase full size items. That’s pretty amazing!

Lastly, Birchbox is not like ipsy. They are both beauty-focused subscriptions and while I’ve compared and contrasted them here, ultimately they serve two different purposes. Birchbox focuses a little more on tried-and-true skincare products; Ipsy is much more trendy and makeup focused. What you choose depends entirely on what you want to receive! Looking to find a skincare routine that changes your life? Birchbox would be the best choice. Want to experiment with makeup? Ipsy is your best bet.

If you’d like to sign up for Birchbox, you can do so by clicking here**.

Have you received Birchbox? What did you think?

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.

Beauty Review: Holika Holika Piggy Nose Pore Strips

Beauty Review: Holika Holika Piggy Nose Pore Strips | Writing Between Pauses

I feel a little out of practice writing blog posts! If you’ve followed me on Instagram, you know we were out of power in the last week of February. The Willamette Valley got hit by a huge snowstorm—and by huge, I mean, I had about 16-18 inches of snow at my house, and in the town and city, it was 6-8 inches. That’s a lot for this area! We had thousands of people without power. Our Governor even declared a state of emergency!

Our power was thankfully restored on March 3, after 7 days without, but we had to have our internet repaired as well—and that didn’t happen until Friday! Talk about having a rough two weeks.

I wanted to write about these Holika Holika Piggy Nose Pore Strips. I’ve written before about the same brands, similarly named peeling gel. Which I love, of course; it leaves my skin so smooth.

I’m naturally suspicious of pore strips, because I know they don’t work. The dots we often see on our skin are actually sebaceous filaments, a natural part of our skin that we can’t get rid of; because of how common air brushing is, however, we think they are blackheads. But they’re not!

That being said… clearing that oil can help us reduce our pore size. It’s a double edged sword: it’s very cathartic to rip out those little oil plugs; but once you know that they’re always going to be there, you start feeling a bit… bad about it, for a lack of better term!

Let’s get on with the review.

Holika Holika Piggy Nose Pore Strips

I found these at TJ Maxx (of course) for $3. For 5 sheets, that actually is quite steep—it’s only 5 pore strips! However, they technically have 3 strips per sheet, that you do in a specific order, so… I’ll take it.

These are very similar to the Tony Moly 3-step pore strips as well.

Here’s the instructions as they read on the packet: “1. After cleansing, place step 1 on nose for 15-20 minutes. Remove slowly and wipe off any blackhead or impurities in pores. 2. Wet nose with water and place step 2 on nose. After 10-15 minutes, remove slowly from the edge. 3. After step 1 & 2, place step 3 on nose. Remove after 10-15 minutes and gently tap for better absorption.”

Even if you stay in the bare minimum time, these pore strips take 35 minutes total! That’s a lot!

The first step smells a lot like the Clean & Clear salicylic acid toner I used to use in high school. It also smelled slightly sweet, almost artificially, beneath the very sharp, chemical smell. I’m not sure what to make of that. It seemed to be designed to “bring up” the oil in your pores and open your pores a bit more. Without knowing based on the instructions, that’s my best guess. It didn’t burn my skin or feel any which way in particular.

Step 2 is the step where you actually “cleanse” the pores: aka, you rip that shit out. This step is so reminiscent of other pore strips; you wet your nose and apply the dry strip, adhering it to your skin; it dries; and then you peel it up, revealing a little teeny, tiny forest of oil plugs. This strip worked… I would say better than the Tony Moly strips and not as good as the tried-and-true Biore Pore Strips.

The third step seems to be a toner; I think it’s designed to further cleanse your pores, as the packet mentions “absorption”. This one smelled very similar to the first one, but was very dry. Step 1 is a very wet packet (almost like a face mask with a serum), Step 2 is dry, obviously, and Step 3 was, surprise, also dry.

Do pore strips work

So, did I like these pore strips? They’re a K-beauty brand, so I really like them as an alternative to Biore Pore Strips. I know I shouldn’t, but I really do love using pore strips every few weeks to help with my pore size (and congestion). Since they work about the same (if slightly less well) as Biore, I’m willing to make the switch to them.

My one concern really is with the amount. In a box, you only get 5 sets… which may last a while, but since they are $14 on Amazon for a box of 5, that is quite expensive, comparative to other brands. However, I did really like them and you really can’t beat cute packaging.

If you’re a pore strip user, this is a definitely a great, fun option to try. If not, I wouldn’t say, you need to go buy this; it’s definitely a novelty, purely for people who already love a good, guilty pore strip.

the 3 Beauty Basics Everyone Should Have

The 3 Beauty Basics Everyone Should Have | Writing Between Pauses

One of the criticisms I hear most about the beauty community—from Instagrams to YouTubers to bloggers—is: no one posts any beginners tutorials anymore.

We all share our favorite foundations with the knowledge that everyone reading probably knows how to apply foundation.

We review products with the understanding that everyone has a grasp of the basics.

That leaves a sizable gap in information; those who might be interested in reading beauty reviews are left out. What if they don’t know how to apply foundation? Or they don’t know how to use setting powder?

One blog post isn’t going to totally fill that gap. And it’s hard to tell the beauty community to take 20 steps back and explain the beginning. But starting to open up the beauty community to not just amateur artists, but those who want to learn, will help make it a better place.

For that reason, I thought I would share what I consider to be 3 beauty products everyone needs—regardless of their skill level, makeup level preference, and more. For me, this serves as starting a basis for getting into beauty; if you’ve never worn makeup before, but want to start, or you’ve never had a skincare routine before, but want to start, these are a good place to start in establishing your own routine.

1. SPF

I go on about this a lot, but it is worth restating over and over and over again: you have to wear SPF every day.

Back up, rewind, read it again: you have to wear SPF every single day.

This is pure protection for your skin. Using a daily SPF on your face, neck, and shoulders (and if you want to be truly dedicated, your entire body) is a great way to protect your skin and keep it looking amazing. Not only is moisturizer one of the best ways to prevent aging, SPF only helps in that regard. Take it from someone with melasma on their face: please, please, please wear your SPF every single day.

How do you choose the best SPF? For me, I try to find a non-greast facial SPF in as high of a rating as possible. Right now, my preferred one is Aveena, which is only 15 SPF, but it doesn’t make me break out. I also use an SPF spray (watch for sales of this at Ulta) throughout the day during the summer to keep my makeup set and to reapply. (Remember, if you’re outside in the sun, you have to reapply SPF every 45-60 minutes. An entire day in the sun should use at least an entire bottle of sunscreen!)

For more about choosing a good SPF, here are two blog posts I have written previously: Summer Skincare and Protecting Your Skin. And don’t forget to protect your eyes too.

2. A good brush set

Some people prefer makeup sponges. Some people swear by beautyblenders. But everyone uses brushes, in one way or another. If you’re just starting to wear makeup, the power of a good brush set cannot be overstated. Brushes can help you be more refined in your makeup application. You learn to blend and handle makeup. And, honestly, brushes just look pretty on your vanity.

Lots of people have different preferences for brushes. Personally, I’ve only ever bought ELF and Wet’n’Wild brushes (I’ve received others in my ipsy bags). If you want to build a brush collection, I highly recommend signing up for ipsy or checking for brush sets at Ulta. The brushes you should definitely have in your collection are:

  • A fluffy face brush

  • A smaller, denser blush brush

  • A large, fluffy eyeshadow brush

  • A foundation brush (kabuki-style)

  • A small eyeshadow brush

With those 5 brushes, you really can do just about anything. Obviously, you can add more to your collection as time goes on, but those really are a good place to start.

3. A good concealer

If you’ve never worn makeup before, it can be challenging to jump right into foundation. Foundation can be challenging to match correctly to your skin tone and skin type. Concealer is a little bit easier; it’s like taking a baby step into foundation, without having to fully commit. If you’ve never worn foundation before, and aren’t sure if you need it, then you might end up not wanting to wear foundation. Some beauty gurus famously don’t wear foundation (like JKissa).

Concealer is perfect; you can use it on your under eyes to brighten, cover any small blemishes, and tone down any redness. But without the cakiness that can happen with foundation. I personally love Tarte Shape Tape; it took me a while to love it, but now I do. I also love the ColourPop concealer.

Finding one that suits you and your skill level, as well as your specific skin type, can take a little trial and error. I love Paula’s Choice’s tips for finding a good concealer.

Help! My Foundation Looks Terrible

Help! My Foundation Looks Terrible | Writing Between Pauses

Very rarely do I answer individual “reader” questions on my blog. It’s not because I don’t want to, but because very rarely are the questions people ask me something that I think can apply to most people. When it comes to blogging, I try to keep things applicable across the board so that as many people can find answers as possible.

But sometimes, I get a question that is so universal, I realize I’ve been neglecting writing about it.

Probably the number one question I get—from family and friends, in Twitter DMs, on Instagram, and in blog comments—is this: my foundation looks terrible sometimes. What am I doing wrong?

If you’re someone who wears foundation, you’ve undoubtedly had a moment where you’ve glanced in a mirror and thought, holy shit, what have I done to my face?

For me, it’s always in the tiny mirror in my car. Suddenly in natural light, I’ll notice how orange I look, or how splotchy, or how dry. It’s not flattering and often hard to fix on the fly while out-and-about.

So this question is about those moments: what’s gone wrong and how can you keep it from happening?

Potential Issue #1: Tools

Oftentimes, foundation that goes bad (in terms of: being splotchy, looking like a mask, or being oddly textured on the skin) is a matter of the tool that was used to apply it. Using the right tool for the right type of foundation is key and often requires a little bit of trial and error, what you prefer, and your skin’s texture. (That is: I’m not going to prescribe a specific tool for a specific type of foundation because it can be really variable.)

However, one really key aspect of any foundation tool is this: it has to be clean. So wash your foundation brush or sponge often (at least once a week) and let it dry completely. Always used a beauty blender-like sponge damp (not wet, not dry).

Play around with the tools you use to see what is causing the problem. I have found that using a foundation brush, then a damp make up sponge gives me the best texture, as well as easier application—that’s just what works best for me.

Potential Issue #2: Foundation Formula

Some foundations just don’t work on certain skin types. It doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with the foundation or your skin. It’s just the way the cookie crumbles, after all. A prime example: a lot of people with dry skin simply can’t use the Fenty Beauty foundation. It doesn’t mean that it is a bad foundation or that no one should use it; it’s just a matter of being incompatible skin types and formulas.

If you find that your foundation separates, disappears, or oxidizes, it’s just a bad formula for your skin type.

If you find that your foundation makes you look drier than the Sahara, makes your skin feel and look tight, and is more like a mask than anything else, it’s just a bad formula for your skin type.

Finding a foundation that matches your skin (both in tone, texture, and type) can be a long and somewhat arduous process. But here’s my advice: take a skin quiz on Sephora or Ulta, go in to the store, and ask for some samples. It’s the only way to really test a lot of foundations and see how they wear on your sin. That’s what I did for this blog post on foundation matching and it helped me find my perfect match: Too Faced Peach Perfect Foundation.

Potential Issue #3: Incompatible Products

If your foundation separates, disappears, oxidizes, or otherwise looks like trash really soon after applying, there might be another culprit: your baking powder or your primer. Or both.

When wearing foundation, I often recommend wearing it once without primer and just powder. Once with primer and no powder. Once without anything. And then, once with both. (You can do this, obviously, on days when you’re just at home.) This will help give you an idea of whether your products are even compatible.

Some primers just don’t play nice with certain foundations, depending on their chemical make up. This is beyond my skill level; if you’re better at science than me, you can totally research this further. But some primers don’t work with every foundation (and they, like foundations, don’t work on every skin type). So testing everything separately to see how it plays with your foundation can help you figure out if it’s the foundation itself that doesn’t fit your skin type or if your primer is causing your foundation go bad.

With powder, some are too heavy for certain foundations and can either whisk the foundation away when you brush or pat it on. Or, they turn grayish. Again, this is just a matter of the chemical compounds not playing nice together. It’s funny to think that every time we put on make up, we’re working with chemistry in a small way: we’re layering our skin (which has its own oils, of course) with multiple different chemical make ups, and sometimes they just don’t work together.

Potential Issue #4: Expired Products

If you use foundation really slowly, you might notice that after a while, it starts to look different.

When I was in college, I went through a phase of leaving my foundation bottle open. It dried it out and made it more mattifying. (This was back when I was using basic Covergirl foundation. Not my best moment, surely.) This was not great for the product itself, but I liked how it looked on. However, after a while, it also started to smell really bad. Why? Because my foundation had expired from being left out in the open and from just being kind of old.

I write the date I first open and use something on every make up product I own. (Or, I write it on a list if it’s a smaller package.) Then, I really try to keep to expiration dates on the packaging. You know the little compact looking mark on packages that has a 6m or 12m inside of it? That’s how long you are meant to keep it. For some things, it doesn’t matter—like mascaras—but for foundation, I do try to stick to it.

Expired foundation can be the culprit behind foundation that is separating or oxidizing really bad.

Potential Issue #5: Skincare Issues

Remember how I said when we do our makeup, we are kind of being chemists? This is another example.

I started using a glycolic acid serum that I really like—but I noticed that if I used it before I put on foundation, my foundation would pill. That’s right: instead of laying on my face, it would ball up as I used my brush. No bother, I thought; I’ll just use a sponge. Nope, my foundation was coming off in layers then!

As it turns out, that product just didn’t play nice with my moisturizer or foundation. I had to stop using it if I wanted any of my other products to work.

If you’re noticing problems with your foundation, certain items of your skincare may be the culprit. This is another case where you’re have to test with and without each product to see how it plays with your foundation. If you’ve narrowed down every other factor, this is probably the one—you’ll just have to see what product is making your foundation go off!