review

Beauty Review: Brite Briteplex Unicorn Masque

Beauty Review: Brite Briteplex Unicorn Masque | Writing Between Pauses

My hair, and scalp, has been one of my biggest struggles for the last year. I've always bounced back and forth between long hair and very short hair--but this is the longest I've had significantly longer hair. And my hair is actually the longest it has been since I was... 15 or 16, I think! 

A few months ago, I was in Ulta looking for some things to buy with a 20% off coupon and I found a bunch of hair masks from BRITE Organix. I had never heard of this brand before, but they are cruelty free and vegan, two things that are pretty important to me. I decided to go for it and try the Briteplex Unicorn Masque. Here's why: 

You totally deserve a treat.

I’m your weekly or twice weekly repair treatment. If you want to I can even sleep over (yup you can use me as an overnight masque).

We all know things get pretty rough when you bleach and colour frequently.

Urgh even hot irons and blow outs take their toll, so we’ve created a professional hair treatment for you to use at home and added a bit of sparkle to make things super fun and sparkly while you repair your hair.

I’m packed full of bond building ingredients to repair your damaged hair, fight frizz and create healthy hair between chemical services (like bleaching and colouring).

Those are some promises! As I've mentioned, I've struggled with dry, itchy scalp for almost a year now--probably because my hair is quite long, I wasn't using inappropriate shampoos and not conditioning my scalp, and the ends of my hair were damaged from not getting hair cuts (oops). Switching shampoos, using oil, and trimming my ends has helped my scalp problems... but the ends of my hair are still fried and I'm still putting off getting a hair cut. (I would have to stop working on one of my million projects to do it, wouldn't I? *insert panicked mom gif here*) 

This mask promises to heal hair damage, basically, and help bond hair. I use split end sealer and jojoba oil on my ends daily, and while it certainly helps, I knew I could be doing more. This mask seemed like the perfect option. 

I bought this mask for $12 at Ulta. That's quite expensive for a hair mask; however, I've used it probably 5 times already and have enough for another 1 or 2 uses. That's pretty good and evens out to a fair price. Brite is an Australian company, so their website is in AUD--however, all their products are available at Ulta, but they do also ship worldwide. 

My Experience

I used this mask after washing my hair with OGX Coconut Milk shampoo; I then put on the mask, pretty heavily, and tied my hair up in a bun. I let it sit for about 20-25 minutes while I read. It smells really good--a faintly sweet smell, not too medicinal and not too heavy. When I rinsed it, my hair instantly had that really soft feeling that often happens when I use conditioner. Once I let it dry, my hair looked a lot shinier and my ends didn't look quite as frazzled. 

You know what's odd? While reading the reviews and product description, it seems to suggest there is glitter in this mask. I didn't notice or see any glitter. Granted, I haven't used the entire package yet, but I'm squeezed up from the bottom and... no glitter or sparkle. Isn't that odd? Perhaps it's just the one I got, but that was something very strange I noticed while reading reviews. I'm kind of glad, as I'm not sure my scalp could tolerate glitter of any kind. 

Aside from that, I did really enjoy this mask. My hair felt quite soft for several days after using it. I try not to use it more than once a week, however, as it could easily weigh down finer hair. I'm quite happy with the results and will definitely be repurchasing! 

What Is Skin Congestion & How to Stop it

What Is Skin Congestion and How to Stop it | Writing Between Pauses

A few months ago, I started noticing the weirdest thing: on my temples and underneath my jawline, I started to feel very rough, bumpy skin. At first, it seemed kind of normal; I would exfoliate and moisturize, and it would go away... for a few days. Then, I would notice it again.

At the same time, my skin was improving in terms of surface acne, thanks to using jojoba oil and the Body Shop tea tree line, and my cystic acne was improving, thanks to jojoba and dropping dairy. But as the rough patches continued, I also noticed that the same areas would often breakout into clogged pores, usually related to my cycle. 

What was going on?! 

I started to research, and ask my beauty groups, and quickly realized the answer: congested skin. 

Gesundheit, am I right? 

I set out to learn everything I could about skin congestion, how to prevent it and get rid of it, and how it happens in the first place. 

What is Skin Congestion? 

Congested skin isn't just one thing; it's a lot of things. If you're skin is congested, you might notice: 

  • Bumpiness underneath the skin
  • Blackheads
  • Small whiteheads
  • Angry inflamed breakouts
  • Enlarged pores
  • Dull appearance
  • Thick looking skin

Congested skin basically means that your pores are clogged--they're congested!

This can happen for a lot of reasons, but the number one reason is dehydrated, oily skin that is trying to produce more moisture, but dry skin, or dead skin cells, traps that oil inside the pores. Thus, you get a dry, bumpy feeling texture (almost like dry chicken skin), a thickened appearance, dullness, and breakouts related to all those problems. It's definitely not fun and a lot of people experience it. 

How to Fix It

I've been very frustrated with my congested skin, as I find that things like salicylic acid makes my acne worse. However, I knew I was going to have to break down and try something outside of my usual routine. Here's what I've been doing to help my congested skin--and I've been seeing a ton of improvement. 

1. A strict cleansing routine: The moment I'm done wearing makeup for the day, I wash my face. If I get home from work at 2pm, I wash my face immediately if I'm not going anywhere else. The less I wear make up, the less likely I am to dry out my skin and trap more oil. 

2. Exfoliating regularlyI usually keep exfoliating to every other week--but recently stepped it up to every 4 days. I started using a homemade sugar scrub, which I would normally not recommend as pieces of sugar are too sharp for the average skin. However, if you're struggling with congested skin, this is something you can use maybe every other exfoliation.

I also started using the Holika Pig Nose Blackhead Clearing Massage Gel; this is a Korean product that essentially acts as a peel. I apply it underneath my jawline, on my temples, nose, and chin--the places where I  have the worst clogged pores, congested skin, and general dullness. I'll have  a full review of this product soon, but let me say: it is an absolute DOOZY and has helped so much! 

3. Use glycolic acid. I was never a huge fan of the Pixi Glow Tonic... until I started getting congested skin. As much as I didn't like it before, the moment I started using it after I received a sample in my Ipsy bag, it helped my congested skin so much. It actually got rid of it within a few days of use--then I ran out and I started over at square run! Pixi Glow Tonic is a bit expensive, but it is absolutely worth it if you're noticing congested skin. 

4. Hydrate. Remember how I said congested skin is dehydrated skin? Hydration is both external and internal. If you have congested skin, drink plenty of water, slow down on the coffee (ugh, I know), and eat lots of fruit that help hydrate your skin (think pineapple and watermelon). As well, using an intense moisturizer will help plump your skin from the outside. I really like bliss's Drench & Quench cream to water moisturizer; it's very light, but also super effective. (I'll be posting a full review of this moisturizer soon as well!) 

Tackling skin congestion can feel like a never ending process; you might try things that I swear by that end up not working. But if you follow the basics--good cleansing, good exfoliating, and hydrating--you'll be well on your way to glowy skin again! 

Beauty Review: Honest Beauty Younger Eye Cream

Beauty Review: Honest Beauty Younger Eye Cream | Writing Between Pauses

I wrote on Instagram last week about my experience with my Honest diaper bundle and customer service, but to reiterate: I receive Honest diaper bundles for Forrest and the past few months they've been showing up, well, absolutely destroyed. This month was no different, with my bundle arriving torn apart, diapers missing, and, worse, the free gift I had received (the Honest Beauty Younger Eye Cream) was nowhere in sight. I was extremely disappointed.

Thankfully, however, Honest Customer service sent me a package of the missing diapers and eye cream that arrived within 2 days. They really are amazing. 

I've been somewhat acutely aware that I needed to start including an eye cream in my routine for a while--I don't necessarily have dry skin, but at 29, I do want to start thinking about how to keep wrinkles as unlikely as possible. My skin has definitely gotten more crepey, especially around my eyes. It's not severe yet, but it was something I was watching.

Enter the Honest Beauty Younger Eye Cream. As I had the opportunity to add it to my bundle for free, I figured, why not!? It's free! Here's what it promises: 

You’ll love this deeply hydrating eye cream, which contains hyaluronic acid to attract moisture and hydrate skin. This botanically charged formula also features barbary fig and baobab fruit, both rich in essential fatty acids. A chamomile and calendula blend helps calm and soothe. Eyes look younger and more refreshed. With results so eye-catching, don’t blame us if you get carded.

Oh la la! At $28 for 0.5 fluid oz, it's not the most expensive product out there--but it is a bit more than I usually spend on a skincare item! However, since you don't use much of it at a time, it will last quite a while. Here are the results of a test study, according to Honest: 

In a consumer study of 106 women, after 4 weeks of use:

94% agreed eye area felt refreshed after use.
88% agreed eye area looked rejuvenated and revitalized after use.
86% agreed fine lines around eyes were less noticeable after use.
84% agreed wrinkles around eyes were less noticeable after use.
82% agreed they looked like they had a good night’s sleep after use.
82% agreed eye area looked younger after use.
81% agreed eye area was instantly plumped after use.

Oh wow! However, that's only 106 women and only 4 weeks of use. 

My Experience

I've been this for 2 weeks now. I know that's not a very long time for a review, especially of a skincare product, but here are my thoughts about that: 

  • As I don't really have wrinkles or severe signs of aging around my eyes, my visible results are going to be much more subtle. 
  • I'm adding this purely for extra moisture. 

So, do I like it? 

It took some getting used to to remember to put it on before my moisturizer at night--and it's especially difficult to remember to pat it and not blend it. (Cut to a flashback of me in high school absolutely destroying my face by rubbing it and scrubbing it. Old habits die hard.) 

I do quite like it. It doesn't feel greasy or heavy; it doesn't pill if I put it on under my make up; and I don't feel like it makes my make up wear off. I have felt like my eye makeup has applied better lately, but that might just be wishful thinking. 

One thing I don't love about it is the smell. In reviewing other Honest Beauty products, I've mentioned this as well; they smell is odd. It's not bad. But it's not good. It's not added fragrance, but it doesn't smell natural either. It smells vaguely like plastic cheese, if that makes sense. They really do need to work on the fragrance of their products, because while the smell doesn't last all day, it is very obvious when I'm applying it! 

Do you use an eye cream? What kind do you use? Once this tube is done, I'll be looking for a replacement! 

Product Review: Uniquely J Voxbox*

Product Review: Uniquely J Voxbox* | Writing Between Pauses

This is going to be a rather quick review. To start, I received three products in this Voxbox from Influenster and, not to give it away, they all fell a bit flat. It's hard to get excited about crackers and freezer bags, but I did my best!

Disclaimer: as always, the asterisk (*) in the title of this blog post denotes that I received these products free in exchange from review. However, my choice to feature them here is my own and all opinions are my own. You can read more about my disclosure policy here

What is Uniquely J? 

Uniquely J is the generic brand of Jet.com, a website that I know most for having somewhat bizarre commercials. Jet.com is a lot like Amazon, selling household goods on subscription services for cheaper prices. So basically, you sign up and get toilet paper autoshipped to your house every 6 weeks--so it's technically cheaper than buying it from the store. 

Uniquely J is their brand of just about everything: coffee, paper supplies, cooking supplies, cleaning supplies, snacks... They've got a bit of everything. You can check it out here

What I Received

In this voxbox, I received: Fig and Olive Large Crisps; Almond Chocolate Biscotti; and Freezer Bags

Mocha Almond Biscotti

Uh, yeah. Freezer bags. 

Freezer Bags

First things first, let's discuss what I liked: the packaging of these products is cute. I mean, it's really cute. The boxes are cute. Everything is cute. But then, you open them. 

Ok, it's not quite that dramatic. 

Fig and Olive Crisps

But I was pretty disappointed by the snacks because, well, they have the makings of everything I love. I love biscotti! I love crackers! I love those things! Yet, I wouldn't eat either of these things by choice. 

Let's break it down.

I'll start with the Fig and Olive Crisps. They're insanely sweet. Not sweet and salty. Not savory with some sweetness. They are sweet in the way that British people often describe American bread. (Yes, you're not alone, Brits. I, a born and bred American, also hate how sweet our bread is.) They are blisteringly, mouth-puckeringly sweet. I have no idea what you would eat these with, honestly. A dip might help reducing how teeth-numbingly sweet they are, but I honestly can't imagine what I would dip them in. Cheese? Gravy? The possibilities are all quite disgusting. On the plus side: Forrest likes them, but occasionally I catch him eating crayons. He is two years old, after all; his tastes aren't exactly discerning. 

Next, let's talk those Almond Chocolate Biscotti. Almond! Chocolate! Biscotti! Can you imagine? It sounds delicious, right? While the Fig and Olive Crisps are much too sweet for being a savory cracker, these biscotti are not sweet enough, despite being essentially a cookie. What is going on?! They are vaguely chocolatey, with bits of almond in them... but I wouldn't call them a biscotti. It was like two different kinds of blandness getting married to form another type of bland in the form of a cookie. They are aggressively bland in a way that is almost unsettling. And worse, they aren't even whole. This isn't a sleeve of little biscottis; it's a bag of essentially biscotti pieces. It's so bizarre! How can something that should be so easy to make taste amazing taste like I'm eating a piece of cardboard that's vaguely chocolatey? 

Needless to say... the two snack choices didn't make me very happy!

Then, of course, we have the Freezer Bags. I don't even know what to say about these! How do you review freezer bags? They zip. They have cute little designs on them, which isn't exactly my thing, but it's a nice touch. They seem to freeze well. They are quite thick and you get a lot in the package. It's hard to like or dislike freezer bags! 

It's funny because this voxbox had the other option of receiving cleaning supplies... I would much rather have gotten cleaning supplies, because I love a good window cleaner or wipe for my counter! These snacks have officially been put into the "treats for Forrest" bin and we've moved on from trying to make them work. But hey, the Uniquely J coffee does look really good and the prices certainly aren't bad. 

I Tried Hungry Root So You Don't Have To

I Tried Hungry Root So You Don't Have To | Writing Between Pauses

NOTE: As of February 4, I have a new review of Hungryroot available. Please click here to view that new blog post. As well, you can now use my promo code to receive $25 off each of your first two boxes of Hungryroot—that’s $50 total! Just sign up at Hungryroot.com and use my code below to receive your discount.

If you like free stuff, I’m also hosting a giveaway with the wood watch brand, JORD. Click here to enter!

hungry root promo code

A few weeks ago, one of my favorite podcasters, Jackie J, posted on her Instagram story about Hungry Root, a vegan meal delivery service. As Jackie would say on Natch Beaut, color me intrigued, baby!

Of course, because I looked at it online, I started to get ads for Hungry Root: in my Instagram feed, on Facebook, everywhere. One night, I clicked on an ad to see the price: the introductory offer was about $50 for a box.

Honestly, still pretty steep considering that's my budget for a week's worth of groceries for 3 people. However, I talked to Danny about it and we agreed it would be nice to try to get an idea of vegan recipes to replicate. The next time I saw an ad, I clicked on it again--and guess what? The introductory price had been cut to $30. Ok, for $30, I'll try anything especially if it's food. 

I ordered, I set a delivery date, and I waited. 

What is Hungry Root? 

Hungry Root is a vegan delivery service that promises each meal to be under 500 calories. It's ideal for people who need fast recipes that feature plant-based proteins. You can learn more about Hungry Root here

(I'm still debating whether or not to write Hungry Root with a space or as one word. On their packaging, it's two words. On their website, one. I'm torn, clearly!) 

The Delivery

So, shipping was relatively fast, although my box got delayed on the way to me. It was supposed to show up Tuesday, February 13 or Wednesday, February 14. It showed up on the afternoon of Thursday, February 15. I had started to get worried because it's a box of food

As I posted on Twitter at the time, the delivery driver also didn't take my box of food up my driveway. I live in the country and my driveway is quite long, but it's not a difficult driveway to get up at all. In fact, my husband manages it in his small car pretty easily. We get delivery trucks all the time, as well as our garbage service. The delivery driver chucked my box of actual food into the ditch beside my driveway. I kid you not: I had to try and wrangle Forrest while digging this out of the ditch, wondering if this $30 box of vegetables would be ok or not. (It was fine, in the end.) 

This wasn't Hungry Root's fault, just a 3rd-party delivery driver who was apparently feeling a bit lazy that day! 

The box was pretty large and heavy because it was packed with biodegradable insulation (nice) and Arctic Ice packs. I'm still not sure what to do with these items; can I recycle them? Toss them? What's the process? I do wish the Hungry Root instructions had something about recycling the box or turning it in for credit. 

Hungryroot 1

What I Got

Here is everything I received for this first order: 

  • Cucumber Corn Black Bean Salad

  • Roasted Corn Edamame Salad

  • Black Bean Brownie Batter

  • Fluffy Maple Chickpea Batter

  • Chickpea Alfredo Sauce

  • Thai Peanut Sauce

  • Carrot Chips

  • Cauliflower Rice

  • Shaved Brussels

  • Superblend Salad

  • Sweet Potato Mac

  • Avocado Crema

  • Braised Lemongrass Tofu Nuggets

  • Peanut Butter Coconut Cookies

  • Roasted Red Pepper Quinoa Bowl

All those items promised to make the following dishes, based on the Hungry Root recipe book they include: 

  • Fluffy Maple Chickpea Pancakes (breakfast)

  • Avocado Bean Southwestern Salad (lunch)

  • Simply Seasoned Carrot Chips (side)

  • Red Pepper Sauteed Sprouts (side)

  • Crispy Greens Sweet Potato Hash (main)

  • Carrot Edamame Peanut Stirfry (main)

  • Heart Corn Edamame Stew (main)

  • Pad Thai Fried Rice (main)

  • Peanut Butter Coconut Cookies (dessert)

  • Black Bean Brownies (dessert)

The plan we signed up for (The Good Life) says they include enough for 5 meals, plus 5 sides, snacks, or sweets. My recipes don't necessarily narrow down to those parameters, so it's difficult to tell. However, it is nice to get a few sweets included because it makes it a bit more fun. 

Hungryroot 2

What I Liked

I'm a relatively picky eater and, to be absolutely honest, I'm always very hesitant about vegan food. I typically don't like the way most vegan dishes skew (basically, really heavily sauced things). So I was excited that these dishes were a little more "basic" and gave me some ideas of what I can make at home that isn't standard vegan fare. 

My favorite dish was probably the Avocado Bean Southwestern Salad; that's something I would definitely make myself. Each recipe is for 2 servings--and the servings were huge. I'll talk about this a bit more in the next section, but one issue I did have was that the flavor, especially of the dressing, was just a bit... basic. But it was still quite tasty and I really enjoyed it. 

My other favorite item was the Black Bean Brownie Batter. You can bake it or eat it plain. Danny and I ate it plain throughout the week, just taking bites whenever we wanted it. It was so good! This is something I wish I could purchase ala carte; I just want a tub of it at all times. 

I liked the convenience of all the dishes and how easy they were to make. This is definitely designed for people who perhaps don't really know how to cook or don't have time. I found it a bit frustrating that in the end, it was just opening a bunch of separate containers. There isn't really any "cooking" involved! 

What I Didn't Like

As I mentioned, there just wasn't as much cooking involved as I expected! It's mostly just quickly sauteeing stuff, adding water, and letting cook for maybe 3-7 minutes, then mixing with a container of salad. It's nice because it's so quick, but I really enjoy cooking and so I got quite frustrated having to wait until 10 minutes before dinner to start! 

Danny quite enjoyed almost every single recipe, but he's a trooper and will eat just about anything. His favorite was the Crispy Greens Sweet Potato Hash, but I added a fried egg to give it some protein. That's the issues with some of these recipes. They all promise to be under 500 calories per serving and they definitely are... but some of them a lack a protein element, even though they include a lot of bean salads and the like. 

As I mentioned, I want to talk about flavors. The overwhelming flavor of most of the prepackaged salads is vinegar. There is a lot of vinegar. I love a vinegar-based salad dressing as much as the next person, but it's quite a lot. In general, there isn't a lot of flavor to anything. The Thai Peanut sauce used in the Pad Thai Fried (Cauliflower) Rice is very heavily just peanut butter and very spicy--there is no dimension to it. It's not bad, but it's not something I would want to eat nonstop. It would be nice to see a variety of flavors or perhaps spice packets that can be added to these items to make them have a bit more dimension. 

Another thing: the individual items are labelled really oddly. Like a package of sweet potatoes is labeled "Sweet Potato Mac." But it's just raw sweet potato! It's not a package of sweet potato mac and cheese; you add the sauce separately. 

Is it Worth the Money? 

I paid $30 for this--effectively half the price of the box usually. Was it worth the $30? Honestly, I'd say no. I ate two things that I really, really loved; the rest was a bit meh, I could dress it up... but at that point, I'm just making my own recipes and cooking for myself! 

What made it worth it? It gave me some ideas of recipes to make and things to try in the future to incorporate more vegan food into our diets as a family. I would never purchase it again, but I enjoyed it. And honestly, finding out how good black bean brownie batter is definitely gives me something to think about. Anyone have a good recipe for that? 

What Changed?

You might notice I have a promo code with Hungryroot now. A lot has changed at Hungryroot and I’m so happy to be working with them. My first review was critical of the meal subscription idea—I felt that the box felt more piecemeal than, say, a Blue Apron box and I ended up doing a lot more experimenting. As it turned out, Hungry Root was kind of on the same page. As of January 2019, they have rebranded—not only is their new logo and website gorgeous, but they’ve transitioned to being less of a meal delivery service and more of a grocery service.

Here’s why I love that: I can’t get grocery delivery services in my area and I’m not alone there! What Hungryroot offers is the option to pick a bunch of healthy groceries and have them delivered to your door on a subscription. Our weekly grocery budget is about $50-65 these days so a single small Hungry Root box can give us a few breakfast options, some pre-cut veggies, and a few treats, which is just about all we buy anyway! You can visit my new blog post about Hungry Root to learn more about my more recent experience with using their service.

Have you tried Hungryroot? Are you considering it? I'd love to hear your thoughts! 

Beauty Review: My January Ipsy Bag

Beauty Review: My January Ipsy Bag | Writing Between Pauses

Can you believe it's time for another Ipsy bag review? Since I wrote my December review late, it feels like these are happening back to back! If you'd like to see my past Ipsy bag reviews, click here

This month's Ipsy bag had a work out theme (herumph) because it's January, after all. I'm quite happy with the things I received, except for the bag. I'll get to that in a minute. First, let's list these products, shall we? 

1. So Susan Liquid Matte in Raisin Flesh 

This is a full-size liquid lipstick that retails for $14.00 and comes in 6 shades. You can visit So Susan here. This liquid lip promises "brilliant moisture without the stickiness and long-lasting colour without the flakiness." These are lies. Absolute, bald-faced lies. This liquid lip is gorgeous; I love the color Raisin Flesh (a deep, rich, pink-mauve), but on the lips it wears... really oddly. If you apply too much (like, the normal amount you'd put on), it doesn't dry down and basically shellacs your lips together. I put it on when I first opened my Ipsy bag and then drove home; I had to pull over halfway home, grab a baby wipe, and scrub my mouth. I couldn't part my lips it was so sticky! When I rewore it later, I applied a super thin layer and it dried down better; but this lipstick does that thing where it wears off only in the middle, leaving me with a super attractive halo every single time I popped into the bathroom. 

Needless to say, this isn't something I would recommend to wear all day; good for a single event, perhaps, where I won't be eating or drinking, but it is not long-wearing and the texture is super odd. 

2. Vasanti Cosmetics Kajal Waterline Eyeliner in Intense Black

This full-size eyeliner retails for $19.00. You can view it here. I have to be honest, this was an item I knew was going to be disappointed to me. As a personal point, I do not tightline my eyes; to me, this is a trend that ages you... to around 2005, when everyone was walking around looking like a raccoon! I haven't tightlined my eyes since I was probably 19 years old and I'm not looking to start again. It makes my eyes look smaller. Period, end of story, I don't want to talk about it anymore. 

That being said, this is a decent pencil; it's creamy and quite pigmented. It's just not my thing. I could see myself using it on my top lashline, but absolutely not my waterline. 

3. Preventative Measures 101 After Hours Lip Balm

This lip balm retails for $8 and is available here. I love a good lip balm and this is another one. It smells, lightly, of papayas and goes on pretty smooth. It doesn't have any ingredients that cause irritation or dryness (looking at you, Burt's Bees with peppermint oil!). It is, however, just a lip balm. 

4. Purlisse Beauty Blue Lotus Seed Mud Mask

This mask retails for $48 (!!!!!) for a full-size and is available here

I have to say: I wasn't sure about this mask when I saw I would be receiving it, but I quite like it. When I first applied it, I started to grumble because it felt like it had walnut shells in it. But after reading the ingredients more closely, I realized it is crunched up blue lotus seeds--still a little intense for an exfoliant (they are much too rough), but for a mask every 1-2 weeks, not bad. I did like the smell and feel of this mask and it made my skin feel good and my pores look small. 

5. The Balm Cosmetics Mary Lou-Minizer 

The full-size version of this retails for $24 and is available here. I expected to be disappointed by this as I'm not a huge fan of the Balm... but this highlight is pretty nice. It's not chalky and goes on pretty smooth. It also makes a great eyeshadow color. It's pretty smooth and pigmented, but blends in nicely. I really love it! I wish the size they'd sent to us was larger; it's the size of a small eyeshadow pan, as opposed to the larger compact. 

The Verdict

This bag is perhaps the ugliest bag I have ever received from Ipsy. I've been struggling not to be like, "I love this product, but did you SEE this UGLY BAG?" while writing this entire review! The bag is heinous! It's going into my donate bin, alongside the liquid lip and eyeliner. (Both sterilized, I promise.) 

Per usual, let's add up the cost of this bag if you purchased each separate item. The total is $113, but that uses the prices for full-size and I received 2 trial size products. And while $113 value for a $10 purchase is quite big, I was disappointed by both of the full-size objects I received. 

Not every Ipsy bag will be a winner! I left feedback regarding these items on my Ipsy account, so I'm hoping for a better month next month! If you want to try Ipsy for just $10 a month, click here to sign up using my referral code

Beauty Review: L'Oreal Color Riche Shine Lipsticks*

Beauty Review: L'Oreal Color Riche Shine Lipsticks* | Writing Between Pauses

As always, the asterisk (*) in the title of this post indicates that I received this product free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own, however. You can read more about my disclosure policy, and review standards, here

A few months ago, I decided to go cruelty-free. This has been harder than I expected, because many brands still test on animals and even if they don't, they are often owned by larger groups that test on animals. This is the case with L'Oreal, who has their own make up brand, as well as owning several other make up brands (like Kiehls). 

I read a great argument recently that talked about how it's ok to have an ideal (being cruelty free) but not sticking to it 100%. I consider myself a vegetarian these days, but sometimes I do eat meat--so what do I call myself? It's hard to know! However, it's ok to be imperfect. 

And while make up isn't a necessity, sometimes things just work. Take, for example, the L'Oreal Pro-Matte foundation; for about 3 months, it was my absolute favorite foundation. It's the closest match to my skin ever. It doesn't oxidize. And even better, it didn't break down throughout the day. And then, they reformulated and I was devastated. I realized how important that foundation was to me, how it made me feel like my skin was so beautiful. I believe whole-heartedly in being cruelty free when it comes to my cosmetics, but sometimes, like any imperfect human, I fall in love. 

The case could be made for these lipsticks as well. 

I received these L'Oreal Color Riche Shine lipsticks from Influenster in exchange for a review. Let's look at what L'Oreal has to say about them: 

Ultra-rich, ultra-radiant shiny lipstick. Glossy, high color finish for lips that Shine. Available in 16 luminous, high-definition shades.

Those are some promises, aren't they?! Truly, they aren't wrong: these are very, very high shine lipsticks and they are insanely pigmented. I received the shades Enamel Red (924), Lacquered Strawberry (920), and Burnished Blush (906). 

Enamel Red is a true red. Lacquered Strawberry is an extremely bright, hot pink. And Burnished Blush is a light, mauve-y pink shade. These are three fairly standard colors and, for that reason, I was a bit disappointed. Sometimes, I just want to try something outside of my standard red-pink-blush family. I'm a bit notorious for always wearing a red or mauve lip! 

Considering there are shades like Gleaming Plum (an almost neon purple), Varnished Rosewood, and Glossy Fawn, receiving three standard colors was a little wah-wah. 

That being said, I love the shades I received. I will probably wear all three of them throughout the year. I especially like Enamel Red. Despite being a traditional lipstick, with all the problems that come along with transfer, short wear time, and high shine, it felt really good on my lips: moisturizing and smooth. And even as it wore off, it left a decent enough stain of color so that I didn't get that annoying halo look. 

The only gripe I would have is that these lipsticks all require a pretty heavy lip liner, as well as primer. Why? Because I found them sinking into my skin around my lips and bleeding. I don't have fine lines (I say, my hand to my chest, looking shocked), but looking in the mirror after applying these, I briefly wondered if I do have fine lines. After a long talk with my mom, I was assured that I do not, in fact: these lipsticks just bleed very badly! Lip liner and primer (I used Bite Beauty's primer) works to keep it at bay. 

Were these lipsticks moisturizing? The website says that: 

Experience a hydrating and lasting chine effect coupled with a rich color pay-off. This lipstick's true color formula has 60% more oils, leaving lips comfortable and conditioned throughout the wear and for days after. 

Did my lips feel hydrated while wearing these lipsticks? Yes. Would I say it kept them hydrated for days? Absolutely not. However, if you're over how dry matte lips make you feel (trust me, I understand), these are a great option because they are so heavily pigmented! 

What's my final verdict?

Would I purchase these lipsticks on my own? Part of me wants to say yes, because they are great, hydrating, and have some gorgeous colors. But a larger part of me says that no, I wouldn't, because L'Oreal isn't a cruelty-free company and I want to stick to my guns. However, if you're looking for a hydrating, high pigment lipstick, these are a wonderful option for you.  

These lipsticks retail for $9.99 and are available from L'Oreal's website here

Book Review: Camino Beach, by Amanda Callendrier

camino beach review

It's been a minute since I've posted a book review, but I think I'll be posting more in the future. You can always follow my colorful reviews on Goodreads here. Let's get started! 

This book is Camino Beach, by Amanda Callendrier. It's a debut novel and here's a teaser description: 

In this poignant debut loaded with humor, heartbreak, and Southern charm, old friends road-trip their way to solving a mystery and righting a long-ago wrong.

I was attracted purely because of this description, because I love Southern novels; I love road trip stories; and I love mysteries. 

Friends, this book was absolutely none of those things. Note: this review does contain spoilers to the entire nonexistent plot of this book. 

The setting was absolutely nonexistent. If you removed the specific town name, you could plop this novel down in any setting and it would be exactly the same, minus Myrtle Beach. And spoiler alert, they spend approximately 12 hours in Myrtle Beach in one of the most useless and rambling plot lines ever. 

Most importantly, do you want to read a book full of absolutely repulsive characters who have absolutely no conscience or self-awareness? This is the book for you then. 

TRIGGER WARNING: This book contains the sexual abuse of a teenager by a teacher. It is treated like said teenager "cheating" on his girlfriend. It never acknowledges that he was sexually abused by a teacher in a position of power. This is abhorrent. It happens near the end of the book; if it had been "revealed" earlier, I would have put it on my "do not finish" list. I just want to warn you. I didn't like the book before this was revealed, but it made me absolutely sick that I'd obligated myself to review it. 

In 1997, Sarah and Kristen were just two absolutely awful teenage girls in some vague Southern Town. They graduated high school, went on to college, graduated, and went onto equally disappointing lives: Sarah is divorced, lives in an apartment above the bookstore she owns, and routinely treats her next door neighbor/former classmate/best friend, Jack, like absolutely crap; on the opposite end of the spectrum, Kristen is a tiny, blonde former gymnast who married a big ol' slob named Chris (yes, they are both named Kris/Chris) and has three anonymous children that she never talks about except to complain about them. She works some kind of job, but otherwise, buys Jimmy Choos, lives in a McMansion, and drives a Rover. 

In high school, there was a third friend, Roxanne, the only likable one in the bunch. Roxanne was impulsive, self-destructive, and, most of all, fun. However, she disappeared before they graduated and while they did call local boarding schools after her mom (their gym teacher, inexplicably) told them she was sent to boarding school, they didn't do much to find her. 

Except when their 20 year high school reunion rolls around. 

Kristen decides it's time to bite the bullet and find Roxanne. Sarah, our primary narrator, is nervous because she did something "awful" that she is sure is the cause of Roxanne's disappearance. They go on a saga to buy an El Camino because Roxanne owned one. This takes up approximately 1/3 of the book. They buy an El Camino named Elvira. 

Jack decides to join them for the trip to Myrtle Beach, after Kristen's private investigator turns up an address for Roxanne there. We are treated to multiple unpleasant scenes were Sarah is an absolute nightmare of a human to her ex-husband. 

Ok, slight diversion from going over the plot: Sarah got divorced because... reasons? It's never fully explained, which is fine, but she treats her ex like absolute garbage. Why? Because Sarah is a garbage person. There, I said it. Take this character and throw her away; she is a self-centered, obnoxious, mean, vile human being. There is nothing redeemable about Sarah as a character. I do not understand why she has friends or why she received this characterization. She sucks. She divorced her husband because he was slightly resistant to her taking out a loan to buy a bookstore. Listen, do you know how much of a struggle it is to own an independent bookstore? It is NOT easy. I love bookstores and I'd be hesitant too! But this book apparently takes place in an alternate reality where people go to bookstores all the time. Her ex-husband is a professor, a fact that they make fun of every time he is mentioned. That's right, he's the only person in the book who uses his brain and they treat him like dirt. Cool. 

They head for Myrtle Beach. Along the way, they stop in Sarah's college down and Kristen, another garbage person, destroys a college students senior project. Seriously. 

They get to Myrtle Beach and find a hotel that is $60 a night, but also has a bar beside the pool. There are so many awful, useless parts to this book, but the road trip to Myrtle Beach (the only road trip) only takes up about 5 chapters, tops, and is super pointless. 

The next morning, they surprise drop into Roxanne's address. Surprise, it's not Roxanne. It's her mom, Mrs. Wilder, their mean gym teacher. She has no idea where Roxanne is. Cool! They leave, meet Jack's college roommate Bert for margaritas, get drunk in a Mexican restaurant, and then they all get into a massive fight. 

Then, they go home. There is no plot.

This is the part of the novel where I stopped caring. It was so anticlimactic. They literally just go home. Kristen gets a bug in her butt to go check school records; they do and guess what? The school has all their school records. Listen, a records room with your "official record" is a thing that literally doesn't exist. But whatever, in alternate reality where garbage people are allowed to flourish, it's real. It's so exhausting to have this scene. As if there is some giant room in every public school where they keep every piece of banal information about every kid that ever stepped in the building. 

Anyway, they end up finding a sticky note on the back of Roxanne's file with the number of a school that's in, you guessed it, Sarah's college town. They do no research and go. They find Roxanne. She's perfectly normal, living in a nice little house with her daughter, also named Sarah. She is pleasant and happy, but she's not the Roxanne they know. 

Ok, let's back up a minute: throughout all these scenes, we get treated to scenes from high school Sarah. HS Sarah is somehow 400x worse than present day Sarah; she is boring, mean, and absolutely obsessed with herself. So, the entire novel I thought the bad thing she did to Roxanne would be huge: she ratted out Roxanne about drugs or she actually murdered her or SOMETHING. No. Here's what she did: she signed a statement saying that Roxanne had been cheating off her homework to avoid getting her scholarship taken away. 

I'm sorry, but that's not awful. That's barely even bad. That's literally what every teenager would do if they were caught to be helping their friend cheat. Roxanne had been cheating off Sarah; Sarah admitted it; and...?

Anyway, in their meeting with Roxanne, it turns out that's NOT why Roxanne left school. She left because her mom had been messing around with Roxanne's boyfriend. So the principal helped her transfer schools and leave. Cool for Roxanne. She met her current husband, got pregnant, got married. She chilled. Never once does anyone say, "Holy crap, your mom sexually abused a student?" No, they act like her boyfriend Mark cheated on her. These. People. Are. Garbage. 

So, after all that time, the bad thing Sarah did didn't even matter. It's not even part of the story. The only person who cares about it is Sarah because she's obsessed with herself. 

Kristen and Sarah then leave.

Because Sarah is obsessed with her stupid self, she goes to visit the former principal to ask WHY he made her sign that statement. I'm not sure why. It's pretty obvious. They were busting Roxanne, rightfully, for cheating. The principal basically says he just did it to make a point and that it's ok that she signed it because all teenagers do selfish stuff. No kidding, the principal, even though we're supposed to see him as some kind of delusional mean guy, is the only intelligent character in this book; he looks Sarah dead in the face and is like, "people usually grow out of being so selfish, but whatever, you seem like a piece of work." 

Sarah feels enlightened and goes to Kristen's house. Kristen had spent tons of time complaining about her husband; however, when Sarah brings up this past conversation in relation to her talk with the principal, Kristen acts like Sarah is accusing her of something. Listen, Kristen, I know you're a few slices short of a whole pie, but follow along. Kristen ends up getting a new shower head and is suddenly in a better mood, proving that she's an absolutely repulsive, stupid character and Sarah isn't much better. 

So Sarah leaves, feeling pretty low. She calls Bert to ask him to go to the reunion with her and he says no, because Jack made it clear he likes Sarah. Jack is a pushover and while he is pretty obnoxious, he deserves better than Sarah, a woman who literally never thinks of anyone but herself. 

So Sarah goes to the reunion with Jack and proceeds to get drunk within, like, 5 minutes. Then Mark, Roxanne's high school boyfriend who was sexually abused by a teacher, comes up and asks about Roxanne. Sarah, who is awful, acts belligerent and causes a scene; then Jack punches a man who was sexually abused as a teenager by a teacher and they act like he's a hero. Wow, I'm so glad I read this book. 

Kristen and Roxanne then bust into the reunion, dressed to the nines. They all go outside and make the real Camino Beach and get even more drunk in the back of it. It turns out, Roxanne did name her daughter after Sarah (WHY) and apparently had watched Sarah a few times while she was at college because she literally lived in the same town. This is proof that Sarah is totally self-absorbed; Roxanne had been in this sandwich place once while Sarah was there and SARAH DIDN'T EVEN NOTICE. 

Eventually, Jack confesses that, actually, he really likes Sarah. They kiss. It's totally inexplicable why Jack likes her because, again, Sarah is an absolute garbage can of a human being. 

If you want to read a book about the most self-absorbed awful people in the entire universe, go ahead. Read it. I have no idea why it was written. A bunch of boring, mean white women going on an adventure to find the friend they treated like crap 20 years ago. Nothing redeemable. Nothing to learn. Awful people not getting their comeuppance.