Beauty

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, July 2019

Beauty Review: Birchbox, July 2019 | Writing Between Pauses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is Birthbox Worth It?

1. Number 4 Super Comb Prep & Protect

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

2. ARROW BOOST Color Enhancing Lip Balm - Blush Hour

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

3. Clarins Wonder Perfect Mascara 4D

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

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

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

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

5. invisibobble® POWER in Pink

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

6. COOLA® Dawn Patrol™ Classic Primer SPF 30

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

ARROW BOOST Color Enhancing Lip Balm - Blush Hour

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

Primer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Foundation

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

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

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

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

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

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

Powder

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ipsy Glam Bag Plus

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is Ipsy Glam Bag Worth It

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Comes In Ipsy Glam Bag Plus

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

Ipsy Glam Bag Plus Products

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beauty Review: Birchbox June 2019 Review

Beauty Review: Birchbox June 2019 Review | Writing Between Pauses

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

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

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

Birchbox Branding

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

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

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

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

Is Birthbox Worth It?

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

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

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

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

3. Beauty Protector Protect & Detangle, $2.94

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

What comes in a Birchbox

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

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

5. Amika Perk Up Dry Shampoo, $10

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

6. Eyeko Skinny Liquid Eyeliner, $11

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

New Birchbox Pricing

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

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