Thumbs-Down: Garnier Herbashine (Semi-Permanent) Hair Color

When my daughter wanted to color her hair this summer, I insisted she use “temporary” color, because I didn’t want her to worry about having roots and being stuck in a vicious cycle of hair coloring. As you may (or may not) know, if you’re in the market for anything-but-permanent hair color, you don’t have a lot of choices.  I’ve always used Clairol’s Natural Instincts on my long, thick hair (I’m committment phobic), so I recommended that.  However, the new Garnier Herbashine was on sale (it was her money) and I figured it couldn’t be much different.   (Plus, I love some of Garnier’s OTHER stuff!)  Boy, was I wrong…

Pros:    Inexpensive.  Ammonia-free. Probably OK for fine or short hair.

Cons:  This hair color is so thick and pasty, you can’t blend it into hair – especially thick, wavy hair.  Not as many color options as Natural Instincts.

The result:  “Striped” hair.  Seriously.  It was bad.  I figured “Hey, it’ll only last through 28 shampoos, so it’s not so tragic.”

The attempted solution:  Buy another box and try to “fill in” the areas that didn’t get enough color.

The final result:  Fewer (but still some) un-colored spots and NOT temporary color.  Apparently when you color hair with “semi-permanent” color twice, it becomes permanent-ish.  It took well over 2 months for the color to fade.

In Summary:  It’s possible that this product would be great on fine and/or short hair.  Maybe if you have a lot of hair, you’re supposed to use 2 boxes.  So, If you have thick (or lots of) hair and want to color your hair without it being permanent, I recommend using the Natural Instincts stuff.  Note:  They now have permanent color, too – called “Vibrant” –  so don’t buy the wrong one!  Also, there’s a newer formula that’s “cream” instead of the liquid.  It might cause the same problem as this one in thicker hair. (I bought some a while back, I’ll let you know after I try it!)

Price:  approx $8

Available at:  mass merchandisers, drug stores,


High-End Brand, Low-End Product

When I saw a line of Stila mini-palettes being sold at Ulta, I was SO excited.  I love Stila’s stuff (especially eye shadows), and these were only $10 for 4 eye shadows and 1 lip/cheek color in a mirrored compact.  I bought 3 for myself and one for my daughter.  I was not-so-excited when I went to use them and realized they weren’t the quality I had come to expect from Stila.  The eye shadow didn’t go smoothly and the colors weren’t very vibrant.  When I flipped over the mini-palette, everything became clear:  “Made in China”… 

I’m Not Anti-anyone:  I’m not saying that everything made in China is bad, but sometimes it’s a way to cut corners by making lower quality stuff. (and personally, I worry about the possibility of hazardous components being used – I’m not going to take a chance with stuff I put on my skin!) If you’re concerned that something you want to order online may be made in China, you can try checking the product description at  Often in the “Q & A” section, people will ask/answer about the country of origin.

Kind of Sneaky:  Beauty products are big business.  Companies are cashing in on their famous beauty product names by making lower-end products.  These are often marketed at Christmas time and are sold on end-caps of beauty stores. Yes, they’re less expensive, but sometimes you really do get what you pay for.  (Not true of all things, but some.)

Other Over-priced Products:  Ulta brand.  Their stuff comes in pretty packaging and some of it looks similar to higher-end products.  But the stuff I’ve tried doesn’t work as well, and is often made in China.  (They do have a nice line of scented body washes that are made in USA.)  Also: “Prestige” brand cosmetics – sold at Ulta.  Don’t let the pretty packaging (and the name) fool you.  I bought a “Prestige” lipliner and it was like trying to use a dried-out grease pencil on my lips.

Some Decent Stuff:  There are  lower-cost alternatives to high-end products.  The Sephora Collection line of cosmetics has some decent product offerings, but it’s kind of hit-and-miss.  I haven’t been impressed by the 2 different eye shadow products I’ve tried, but I like their eye makeup remover and have gotten some makeup palettes that I really liked.

In Summary:  If you want to buy your favorite brands and not pay as much, you probably just need to search around online and check the clearance aisles at Ulta.  Brands like Stila and Urban Decay usually have “closeout” type deals where you can get stuff inexpensively. (Unfortunately, the country of origin isn’t listed in the product descriptions.)  Once or twice a year, Ulta does a “21 Days of Beauty” promotion where a handful of high-end products are available at a significant discount.  Instead of cutting corners by buying cheaply-made stuff, shop around for a good deal on the stuff you really want.

My Latest Bargain Store Finds

I love shopping at beauty stores like Sephora, Ulta, and all those brand-specific ones like Origins.  But I’m not rich.  So, I fill the gap between my budget and my beauty products obsession by finding great products at discount stores.  (See my post about discount store shopping here)  Here are a few things I’ve found recently…

Ricky Care Anti-Frizz Comb

Retail price:  $8   Purchased at: Ross for $4


Burt’s Bees Lip Balm Set

Retail Price:  $10    Puchased at: Ross for $4

StriVectin SD Anti Wrinkle Cream

Retail Price:  $70    Saw at: TJ Maxx (clearance) for $20

Essie Nail Polish 3-pack

Retail Price:  $24 (if purchased separately)  Saw at: Ross for $9

Photo for example only – actual colors not shown.


In Summary:  If you’re willing to break outside your comfort zone to scour some bargain stores for great deals (scouring may be required – these stores are often very disorganized!) you might be able to find the products you love at an amazing price.

Review: Miscellaneous Burt’s Bees Products

Now that I’m no longer in my 20s, I’m trying to take better care of myself.  So, I buy “all natural” products when I can afford them, as long as I know they work.  Burt’s Bees makes a line of (almost always 100%) natural skin & beauty care items that are pretty affordable.  Here’s my summary review for items I’ve tried so far…

Pros:  Made of mostly natural ingredients.  Inexpensive.  Available almost everywhere.

Cons:  This company was bought by the Clorox company a while back, and I’ve heard some complaints that product formulations have changed. (I don’t know if this is true or not.)  Also, Burt’s Bees is Leaping Bunny approved (cruelty-free), but their parent company isn’t.  So, if you’re very concerned about this issue, you might not want your money going to support a not-cruelty-free company.

Quick Reviews:

Original Beeswax Lip Balm:  Good for occasional use, but a little waxy.

Honey Lip Balm:  Still a little waxy, but not bad.

Replenishing Lip Balm with Pomegranate Oil:  Much better, goes on smoothly.

Rejuvenating Lip Balm with Açaí Berry: Works about the same as the pomegranate one.  I like the “flavor”.

Lip Shimmers:  Smooth application, but may have more color than you want from this type of product.

Super Shiny Lip Gloss:  Decent lip gloss, but not too long-wearing.

Orange Essence Facial Cleanser:  It only takes a little to do the job. It smells great and removes makeup well.

Soothingly Sensitive Aloe & Buttermilk Body Lotion:  Meh.  Not a bad lotion, but it’s less moisturizing than most other body lotions I’ve tried.  It may be great for people with sensitive skin, though.

Lemon Butter Cuticle Cream:  Works well, but not very creamy. (It’s more of a balm.)  (Comes out well if you use your fingers to melt it.)

Hand Salve:  Works well.  A little greasy, but good on severely dry skin.

Aloe & Linden Flower After-Sun Soother:  If you’ve scorched your skin, you want to use aloe to prevent peeling.  This product helps cool skin down and re-moisturize.  It doesn’t work as well  as products like Solarcaine (for the pain caused by sunburn), but it’s natural.

Herbal Insect Repellent:  LOVE this stuff.  More expensive than “Off!”, but I like that it’s all natural.  (Although it’s much harder to find than the other products.)  It doesn’t leave you feeling like you’ve coated yourself in plastic, and it smells good (if you don’t mind the smell of citronella and other oils).  Best of all, it works really well.  It will make your skin a little oily, and you need to be careful when applying it because it might stain delicate fabrics.

 Shopping Tips:

Many of these products are sold at drug stores, Target/Walmart, and Ulta.

To get Burt’s Bees products at a deep discount, check Ross, TJMaxx, and Marshall’s stores.  They sometimes have a limited selection of items (especially gift sets).  On occasion, Big Lots stores get Burt’s Bees items in stock too.

Sign up for the Burt’s Bees mailing list to get great deals through their online store.  Follow them on Facebook for some other deals.

Shopping Tip: Get with the Program

Rewards/loyalty programs are a great way to get good deals.  Often, you’ll get “members only” exclusive deals and proudct offerings.  Sometimes, you’ll get coupons not available any other way.  In short, joining the program can help you save money…

Sephora Beauty Insider:  You get 1 point for every dollar you spend.  Points keep accumulating until you want to use them.  At the 100 point level, you can get a bonus-sized sample of a product of your choice (usually about 4 to choose from).  Keep collecting to 500 points and get a larger reward.  Also, you get a free gift during your birthday month.  This year’s was an eyeshadow, mascara, and eyeliner mini kit.  In addition, Beauty Insiders get e-mails with early availability of sales and products, as well as special free gifts with purchase.  They have a “premier” Beauty Insider program if you spend $350 in a calendar year.  For more info, go here.

Ulta Rewards:  Ulta has 2 separate programs:  UltaMate Rewards and The Club at Ulta.  Program availability depends on where you live.  “The Club” gets you points for spending $50, $100, etc.  You can redeem the certificate you receive in the mail for a free item from those listed.  Certificates are sent out 4 times a year and you can’t “bank” points.  UltaMate Rewards seems to work differently, but it’s not available where I live, so I’m not sure exactly how it works.   The best thing about the rewards program is that once or twice a year (usually before/after Christmas) you’ll get a 20% off total purchase coupon and it’s good for almost everything in the store, unlike most of the other coupons.  (You can use it for most high-end/”prestige” brands.)  For more info, go here. 

The Body Shop “Love Your Body” Program:  This program costs $10 to join.  On your birthday month, you can come into a store or place an online order and get $10 off (minimum $10 purchase).  The program also gets you 10% off all your purchases and “points” based on your spending.  Each time you spend at least $20, you get a point.  (2 points for $50 and up)  Once you have four “points”, you get a coupon for 15% off your purchase.  Once you get eight points, you get a free program renewal and $25 certificate.  I pretty much only joined for the discount and birthday gift.  I didn’t go on any shopping sprees at The Body Shop (one time I spent $19.78 – should have gotten something cheap so I could get a “point”…), so I didn’t really get any other benefits.  If you shop at The Body Shop on a regular basis, you should join the program.  Important note:  The birthday reward doesn’t have a “reminder” feature, so you have to just go in on your birthday month.  You won’t get an e-mail or postcard reminding you to come in for your gift.  Find more info here.

CVS ExtraCare Beauty Club:  This one is pretty new.  It’s basically an extension of CVS’s ExtraCare Card.  For every $50 you spend on beauty items, you get a $5 reward.  You also get a 10% off total beauty purchase once you sign up, $3 “extra bucks” on your birthday, and exclusive coupons.  Personally, I don’t buy a lot of beauty products at CVS because they’re usually WAY over-priced, but when they have sales AND I have coupons, it’s sometimes worth it.  If you’re interested, you can join here.

Get with the Program:  Joining some or all of these programs can help you save a lot of money on your beauty purchases.  Just make sure you don’t fall into the trap of paying for a membership that isn’t going to benefit you, or buying (more) stuff just because you have the membership.

Thumbs-Down: Pantene “Frizzy to Smooth” Shampoo & Conditioner

I’m always looking for frizz-reducing products, because my hair is naturally wavy, which quickly develops into a ball of frizz when it’s humid (which is about 90% of the time in South Texas).  Since I’ve liked Pantene products in the past, I thought I’d give this one a try…

Pros:  Paraben-free.  Affordable. Helps control frizz.

Cons:  Contains sulfates (2 types, shampoo only).  Doesn’t rinse out well.  Leaves hair looking greasy.

Note:  When I bought this product, it was called “Frizzy to Smooth”.  The Pantene website no longer lists this variety among their dizzying array of product offerings, but there is still the “smooth” line of products.  I don’t know if it’s the same or not.

In Summary:  This shampoo/conditioner DOES help reduce frizz – because it makes your hair look like you haven’t washed it in 3 days!!!  I had to use dry shampoo the first time and thought maybe I just didn’t rinse it enough.  The next time, I made sure I rinsed the conditioner from my hair thoroughly, but I got the same result.  I also tried using only the conditioner (with another shampoo) and still got the greasy look.  (Maybe if you have super-dry hair, this is a great product???) I ended up doing a double washing to get rid of the nasty been-stranded-in-the-wilderness look and switched to another product.  It takes a lot for me to actually throw away anything I might be able to use.  I threw these away.

Rating:  1 out of 5 stars 

Price:  approx $6 each, for “normal”  size

Available at:  drug stores, mass merchandisers

Shopping Tip: Love Perfume?

If you’re a huge fan of perfume (like me!), you know how expensive it can be to stay “fashionable” with your fragrance.  But, there’s a great way to get a good deal on fragrances…

Sephora Favorites:  Sephora sells these great sets.  (Look for them under Fragrance/Gift Sets/Sephora Favorites) It’s a bunch of samples that come in a pretty little package.  One of the sets even comes with a refillable fragrance atomizer (perfect for your purse).  The best part?  They all come with a gift certificate for a full-sized bottle of whichever fragrance you liked best.  (I liked several, so I picked the one that was most expensive – it cost more than the set when purchased separately!)

Availability:  These products used to only be available around the holidays, but it seems that they’re being carried all year now.  Some stores have some of the sets, but every set may not be available at every store.  If there’s a certain one you want, you might have to order it online.  The products are listed as “limited edition”, and the offerings change from time to time.

His & Hers:  They make gift sets specifically for guys, too.  This is a great gift for a teenaged guy or the man in your life.  (Who doesn’t want their guy to smell good?)

Price:  $42 – $75, depending on set

Available at:, Sephora stores

note: Products not shown to scale.

Thumbs-Down: Revlon Luxurious/Perle Eye Shadow

I got this eyeshadow for free when I bought a Revlon mascara, so maybe I shouldn’t be complaining about it – BUT it really kinda sucks…

Pros:  Paraben-free.  Inexpensive.  Comes in pretty colors.

Cons:  Cheaply made.  Not smooth. (neither “satin”, nor “perle”) .  Sheds glittery stuff all over. Doesn’t go on as evenly as most of Revlon’s eye shadows.

In Summary:  When I see the world “perle” (even if it’s not spelled P-E-A-R-L), I expect some sort of shiny – maybe even shimmery – finish.  (Still not sure how “perle” and “satin” are in the same product name…) The color was called “Lilac Shimmer”.  It should have been called “Lilac Strip Club”, because if you put on even the least bit of it, you end up with sparkly body-glitter-esque stuff all over your face. (Now that I look more closely, I can see the glitter in the eyeshadow, but it was hard to see in a florescent-lit store, and it was inside extra packaging, making it even harder to see.)  It’s possible that just this color is problematic and others are fine.  I’m just really glad it was free.

Note:  Revlon makes some really good eye shadows (including some of my favorites).  This just isn’t one of them.

Rating:  2 out of 5 stars 

Price:  approx. $5

Available at:  drug stores, mass merchandisers, Ulta,

Beauty Tip: Blush Basics

Blush can make your face look totally different.  Here are some ideas for making your blush work…

Better Blush:  Really cheap blush isn’t finely milled, so when you apply it, you get a “cakey” look that can make your skin look not-so-smooth.  If you buy lower quality blushes, use a brush with softer bristles (not the one that comes in the container) for better application.  I like EcoTools brushes – available at Target and Ulta.

Blush without the Brush: There are a lot of blush products out there that aren’t powder.  You can get cream or gel blushes (some of which double as lip gloss)  If you’re not wearing foundation, using these can be a way to brighten your face or make it look sun-kissed.

No Stripes:   Some people use a technique I refer to as “racing stripe” blush.  This effect is created when someone uses a super bright or super dark color and puts one solid line up each side of their face.  Not attractive.  Or flattering.  Think about how people look when they blush naturally.  It’s not in a solid, straight line.

Don’t Be Monochromatic:  Use a darker color for your regular blush.  Follow with a lighter color at a higher point to create a different look.  A shimmery pink blush applied to the highest part of your cheekbone in a (sort of) semi-circle going towards the corner of your eye gives you a more alluring/healthy look.

Change Your Face:  If you have a round face, don’t apply blush to the “sunken” part under your cheekbone.  Apply to the part where the bone starts to stick out.  It will make your face look less round.

Not Just for Cheeks:  A peachy or pinkish colored blush can be applied to any part of your face you want to highlight (think of a triangle on your face, and highlight the forehead, down the nose, and center of your chin).  Just make sure the color is subtle.  You don’t want to look like you’re getting ready for Carnivale.

Review: Benefit “They’re Real” Mascara

My very generous friend Amanda/Too Tall Fritz gave me her “travel” size version of this mascara that came with the set she bought.  I had been wanting to try this product, but didn’t want to spend $23 on it, especially since I already have like 5 different mascaras!  Here’s what I thought…

Pros:  Paraben-free.  Not clumpy.  Spiky plastic brush allows for separating and coating of lashes.  Covers lashes well. Lengthens.  Deeply-pigmented.  Right now, a “value set” is available, which contains the full-size mascara and a travel-size one (for the same price as the full-size alone).  Doesn’t smear/smudge when you’re putting it on.

Cons:  Contains sulfates.  Ingredients list not shown at any of the online retailers of this product (even the Benefit website says “check packaging” – thanks, that’s helpful!)  Not waterproof (and not available in a waterproof formula, if you need that).  Expensive.

In Summary:  I really like this mascara – and I’m glad I got to try it – but I don’t love it so much more than my current mascara that I’m willing to pay almost double what I’m spending now.  It’s more of a “separate and lengthen” mascara, and I prefer a “make my lashes look fuller” mascara.  This is just personal preference, though, and I think this mascara would be great for people with short and/or thin lashes.  I will be using this as a “base coat” (time to throw out some of my other ones, anyway!) to separate/lengthen and follow up with my “thickening” mascara.  Thanks again, Amanda!!!

Rating:  4 out of 5 stars 

Price:  $23  ($10 for “travel size”)

Available at:  Sephora, Ulta, Benefit Cosmetics, some department stores