Review: Almay Color + Care Liquid Lip Balm

This is one of many drugstore products I got for practically free using sales and coupons.  I wasn’t dying to try it or anything, but I love the color…

Pros: Inexpensive. Hypoallergenic. Sulfate and paraben-free.

Cons:  Not very long lasting.  Not as moisturizing as a regular balm. Contains a lot of synthetic ingredients.

In Summary:  Meh.  This isn’t great at being either a balm or a lip color product.  It’s definitely not a “best of both worlds” situation, which is what I was hoping for.  Still, I do love the color, and I don’t have anything else this color, so I’m going to keep using it.  I’m just going to have to remember to put it into my purse after applying, since it doesn’t last very long.

Rating:  2.5 out of 5 stars  2.5-stars

Price: Approx. $6 (USD)

Available at:  mass merchandisers, drug stores, Ulta, drugstore.com

Made in:  USA

almay colr and care liquid lip balm

Color: “Lilac Love”

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Thumbs-Down: Origins Modern Friction

I’ve been in an Origins store and had this “tested” on my hand but hadn’t been dying to try it or anything.  I have some scrubs I like and often just use loofah discs or a scratchy old towel to do the job.  But, Origins was doing a “free deluxe-sized sample” deal, so I stopped into one of the small stores that’s inside Macy’s and got my freebie…

Pros:  Contains natural ingredients.  Good amount of “scrubbiness” for average use. Paraben-free.

Cons:  Expensive.  Says “suitable for all skin types”, but it is NOT a good choice for oily skin.  If buying online, there’s no ingredients list to reference.  Contains sulfates – and lots of other bad stuff.

Ingredients:  I did some online research and here’s the list:  Water, Rosa Damascena (Rose) Flower Water, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Starch, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Glycerin, Cocamide MEA, Glycol Distearate, Acrylates Copolymer, Pentylene Glycol, Polysorbate 20, Citrus Aurantium Bergamia (Bergamot) Fruit Oil, Citrus Medica Limonum (Lemon) Peel Oil, Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Oil, Cinnamomum Camphora (Shiu/Camphor) Oil, Litsea Cubeba Oil, Citrus Aurantium Amara (Bitter Orange) Peel Oil, Ocimum Basilicum (Basil) Oil, Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) Oil,  Citral, Linalool, Benzyl Salicylate, Limonene, Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe) Leaf Juice, Scutellaria Baicalensis Root Extract, Pyrus Malus (Apple) Fruit Extract, Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Fruit Extract, Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate, Butylene Glycol, Hexylene Glycol, Sodium Cocoate, Caprylyl Glycol, Sodium Sulfate, Hydroxypropyl Methylcellulose, Sodium Chloride, Laureth-2, Tetradibutyl Pentaerithrityl Hydroxyhydrocinnamate, EDTA, Disodium EDTA, Trisodium HEDTA, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone, Sodium Benzoate, Phenoxyethanol, Titanium Dioxide

In Summary:  Since I didn’t have the instructions for this product, I guessed at how to use it and added to my dampened face.  Apparently, the instructions for “how to use” with “sensitive skin” say to add water.  Probably a good thing I used it in a way that diluted it, because the next day I had several tiny (white) blemishes on my face.  Yuck!  After finding the ingredients list, I can see why – glycerin.  My skin doesn’t like glycerin.  Curious about the rather long list of ingredients, I started researching some of the not-natural ones and now I’m unimpressed with Origins as a whole.  Several of these ingredients have been linked to ecotoxicology and negative side effects for consumers.  (Ironic, for a product calling itself “nature’s gentle dermabrasion” from a company that claims to have a commitment to the “well-being of our planet”.)  I would think that a company trying to build an image that insinuates  “natural” would work a little harder on finding ingredient alternatives.  At the very least, they shouldn’t be charging so much for their stuff.

Rating:  1.5 out of 5 stars  1.5-stars

Price:  $39.50 (USD) for 4 oz. tube

Available at:  Origins stores (some are inside Macy’s and Dillards), Sephora, beauty.com

Made in:  USA

origins modern friction

Review: L’Oreal EverStyle (“energizing”) Dry Shampoo

OK, I might have gotten a little out of control with my collection of dry shampoos.  When I picked this up, my daughter even said “How much dry shampoo do you need?!?!”  But, I do use dry shampoo quite a bit.  (It’s not that I don’t believe in cleaning my hair – I just have to straighten my hair now that it’s short, so I want to get a little more mileage out of my styling than half a day…)  Besides, this one was on clearance, there was a L’Oreal promotion at Target, AND I had a coupon, so it was basically free…

Note: Other dry shampoo reviews available:

Pros:  Nice fragrance – not too heavy.  Sulfate-free.  Not as white/powdery as others. Talc-free.

Cons:  Comes out “invisible”, so you might not think it’s working.  As a result, you might end up applying too much and getting a “powdered” look.

In Summary:  This is one of the better dry shampoos.  The bottle is a normal size you could throw into a gym bag or (large) purse if you needed to.  I hope it isn’t discontinued. (Maybe Target just had too much?)  I will definitely buy it again, especially since I often get coupons for L’Oreal products.

Price:  Approx. $6 (USD) for 3.4 oz bottle

Available at:  Target (maybe?), other mass merchandisers, drug stores, Ulta, drugstore.com

Made in:  USA

loreal dry shampoo

Review: Origins “Out of Trouble” Mask

Wanting to take advantage of some promotional offers I got from Origins, I stopped by one of the stores recently to pick up some samples.  I’ve been using their “Zero Oil” cleanser religiously for quite some time, and wanted to see what else they might have to offer for my hyper-oily/combination (bipolar!) skin…

Note:  On the Origins Facebook page, there’s an “offer” you can get that allows you to choose 3 samples and get a mini facial at the store.  It expires February 8th, 2014.

Pros:  Free of parabens, sulfates, synthetic fragrances, synthetic dyes, petrochemicals, phthalates, GMOs, and triclosan.  Leaves skin feeling clean and refreshed.

Cons:  Fragrance and “tingling” sensation might not appeal to some users.  Makes skin feel a little dry/tight.  Moderately expensive.

In Summary:  Although I don’t regularly use mask products, I like this one.  It reminded me of old-school Noxema, mostly because of the tingling and the camphor fragrance.  I did notice a slight improvement in the appearance of my pores.  That alone is enough for me to continue using it to see if I consistently like the results.  Since I didn’t apply this too heavily, I still have a good amount of the sample left, so I can use it a couple more times.

Rating:  4.5 out of 5 stars   4.5-stars

Price:  $24 (USD) for 3.4 oz container

Available at:  Sephora, Origins (also inside some department stores), beauty.com

Made in:  ???

origins out of trouble mask

Review: Maybelline Fit Me! Blush

I’ve been on the hunt for some decent blushes, since most of the ones I have are a bit old.  (OK, some are VERY old!)  I picked this one up recently at Ulta…

Pros: Oil-free.  Dermatologist tested.  Affordable.

Cons:  Not as smooth or deeply-pigmented as some blushes.  Contains parabens.  Color name doesn’t match the actual color, in the case of the one I bought. (would be a problem if I had been relying on the name and ordering online)  As with most drugstore beauty products, the included brush is not-so-great.

In Summary:  This is a decent blush, but it’s not so great that I’d buy it again.  I’m glad I had a coupon, because I just don’t love this particular product, especially since it contains parabens (forgot to read the label – AGAIN!).  I don’t have another blush in the color I bought, so I guess I’ll keep using it until I find something better.

Rating:  3 out of 5 stars  3-stars

Price:  Approx. $5 (USD)

Available at:  Ulta, drug stores, Target, and other mass merchandisers

Made in:  USA

Shown in the color I bought "Deep Mauve", which is much more of a brown/bronze color "in real life".

Shown in the color I bought (“Deep Mauve”), which is much more of a brown/bronze color “in real life”.

Really, Sephora?

For literally years, I’ve been waiting for Sephora to develop an Android app. (I was what you would call an “early adopter” to the concept of a smartphone – even before the invention of the iPhone and Android.)   The few times I’ve asked in this waiting period, the answer I got was the same: “We’re working on it.”  I was very excited to get an e-mail the other day telling me the Android app was available – finally!  Consider me un-excited…

Disclaimer:  I’m not going to engage in any iPhone vs Android discussion.  Android is better for me and my needs from a smartphone.  Some people swear by iPhones.  Regardless, both are valid options if you want the convenience of a smartphone.  Recognizing that many people have chosen Android, most companies develop apps for both types of phones.  Sephora is just behind the power curve. Way behind.  Onto the discussion about the actual app…

Lame:   This “app” is exactly the same as the mobile version of their website.  (I think it just links to their mobile site, actually.)  I’m not kidding.  There are zero differences – as far as I could tell.  So, why waste memory on my phone downloading the app?!?!

(actual images from my phone)

(actual images from my phone)

What the…?:  The iPhone version has actual features you’d expect from an app.   Example:  Promo code for free headphones with app download – which is advertised in the same e-mail I got telling me about the Android app but doesn’t show up on the Android app.  Also:  An option to receive notifications, leave app feedback, and a “contact us” feature.

(actual image from my daughter's iPhone)

(actual image from my daughter’s iPhone)

Insulting:  The impression I’m getting is that Sephora and/or its app developers don’t think Android users are tech-savvy enough to know how little effort they put into this “app”.

Long Story Short:  This is – by far – the most disappointing app I’ve ever downloaded.  I deleted it.  I can get as much convenience from “bookmarking” the Sephora website on my phone and navigating that way.  Here’s hoping Sephora makes an effort to create an actual app for Android users.

Review: göt2b Rockin’ It Dry Shampoo

A frequent user of dry shampoo, I recently saw this one while browsing the Ulta hair care aisle and wanted to give it a try.  I’ve liked the other göt2b products I’ve used (and I had a coupon!), so I was optimistic…

Pros:  Sulfate and paraben-free.  Smells nice.  Absorbs excess oil and works as well as others.  Affordable.

Cons: Fragrance is a little heavy.  (floral, perfume type)  If you have dark hair, it can be difficult to blend the white powder-y stuff in (as is the case with most dry shampoos).

In Summary:  I like this dry shampoo as well as a couple others I’ve tried, including Not Your Mother’s and Tigi (Rockaholic – Tigi has another one out now.)  However, the heavy perfume-y smell is a little overwhelming.  It’s so strong that I didn’t wear perfume the day I used it!  Since I get migraines, I will have to be careful when I use this and probably won’t be using it on a regular basis.

Rating:  3.5 out of 5 stars  3.5-stars

Note: Other dry shampoo reviews available:

Price: approx. $6 (USD) for 4.3 oz. aerosol bottle

Available at:  Drugstores, Ulta, mass merchandisers

Made in: Germany

got2b dry shampoo

Review: Make Up For Ever Aqua Seal

Desperate to find something to replace the long-discontinued and much-loved Benefit She-laq, I recently purchased this.  I needed a product to seal my eye brows, and haven’t had much luck with the Anastasia “Lash Genius” that was recommended by my local Sephora’s store associate. I wanted something liquid that could be applied with a small brush, because my brows are 75% drawn-on and a mascara-type brush just doesn’t work very well…

Pros: Alcohol, paraben, and sulfate-free.  “Eyedropper” type of bottle allows you to dispense a little bit at a time.  Doesn’t make eyebrows “crunchy”.  Keeps brows in place.  Can also be used to mix with eye shadows to create waterproof eye makeup.

Cons: Very expensive.  No brush included. 

Note:  I believe this product used to be called “Eye Seal”.

In Summary:  I still don’t like this product as much as I liked “She-laq”, which came in a pretty glass bottle with a brush attached to the lid.  The brush stayed in the container, so you didn’t have a crusty brush to clean afterwards.  Unfortunately, I’ve been unable to find a comparable brush. (I should have saved the bottle!!!)  Using the right brush makes all the difference.  If you use a brush that isn’t pliable enough or is too dense, you’ll end up wiping off your brow pencil.  I dried a “dabbing” type of motion with the brush I was using and ended up with a rather messy looking eyebrow.  (I had to fill it back in with my “cheat” – a brown eye shadow which matches my brow pencil.)  Even with all the negatives, this is working better for me than the Anastasia Lash Genius.  I will also be able to use it in the summer to make waterproof eye shadow, so that will be nice.  I still think it’s too expensive for what it is and will be trying some of the more budget-friendly options I’ve read about online.

Rating:  3.5 out of 5 stars  3.5-stars

Price: $21 (USD) for a tiny .40 fl. oz. bottle

Available at: Sephora

Made in:  France

MUFE aqua seal

Review: Make Up For Ever Wild & Chic Eye Shadow Palette

I used a little of my Christmas gift money to order this item, since Sephora was doing a promotion where sale items were an extra 20% off.  It’s my first-ever Make Up For Ever purchase (oddly, I ordered MUFE “Aqua Seal” at the same time – been wanting to try that – review coming soon!). 

Note:  This review is provided for reference only – the product is no longer available to buy at Sephora.com.  I’m reviewing it as a first-time Make Up For Ever purchaser and in case someone ends up finding it at a discount store, eBay, etc. 

Pros:  Paraben-free.  Cute, convenient packaging with a magnetic closure and large mirror.  No cheap eye shadow applicators wasting up space.  Quality is better than the average “drugstore brand”.  Eyeliner is deeply pigmented and stays in place.

Cons: The colors look a lot more “neutral” in the product image than they do “in real life”.  (Two of the colors are actually shades of green/olive I was expecting to be more brown.)  Eye shadow colors aren’t as deeply pigmented as other prestige brands, like Urban Decay.

MUFE wild & chic palette swatch2

Colors – left to right: 184, 123, 152, 17, 122, 126, eyeliner (black)

Random Info:  For some odd reason, the eye shadows aren’t in the same order in the kit as they are in the product image.

In Summary: While I may not love all the colors in this kit, it’s worth the $16 (after discounts and sales tax) I spent on it.  However, I don’t think it would have been a good buy at the $39 price point.  It’s a good kit for travel or throwing into a purse on the go.  At any rate, maybe I’ll experiment with some of the colors I don’t normally use/buy.

Rating:  4 out of 5 stars   4-stars

Price:  originally $39 (USD), was on sale for $19 (USD

Available at:  ???

Made in:  France (shadows) &  Germany (pencil)

MUFE wild & chic palette

Blog Changes for 2014

Just a quick note to let everyone know I’m implementing some changes for my blog posts:

1.  Adding “made in…” information, so you’ll know the country of origin for the products I review.  I personally prefer not to buy things made in China – because of safety concerns – but I’m often frustrated by trying to find out where things are made, especially for items sold online.

2.  “Price” information will still be in U.S. dollars, indicated with “(USD)”, but if you need to do a currency conversion for your country’s currency, you can click on the “USD” for a link to an online currency converter.

3.  (Hopefully) a new look.  This is something I’ve been wanting to do for a while, but haven’t gotten it done.  I’m trying to embrace change in 2014, and the blog would be a good place for it!

I hope these changes help anyone reading the blog – Happy New Year!!!