Thumbs-Down: Ulta Super Blender Sponge

I’ve been wanting to buy this item for a while.  I don’t want to spend what a Beauty Blender costs, but I want something more eco-friendly than the (often disappointing) cosmetic “wedge” sponges I generally use.  I’m really glad I didn’t buy this in every variety (they’re in my wishlist!) because WOW this is a disappointment…

Pros:  Inexpensive.  Nice contours that fit various face parts.

Cons:  Smells very chemical/plastic-y.  Made in China.  Doesn’t say latex-free, so I’m not sure if it is. (???)  Too hard/inflexible to do the job right.  Absorbs as much makeup as competitors (maybe even more).

In Summary:  The Earth Therapeutics makeup blending sponge is SOOOO much better than this one!  And it’s about the same price.  Seriously, buy that one instead.  I honestly feel like this was a waste of $5.  I don’t even want to bother cleaning it.  Maybe I can use it for craft projects…

Rating:  1 out of 5 stars  1-star

Price:  $4.99 (USD)

Available at: Ulta

Made in: China

ulta sponge





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,

Made in:  USA

origins modern friction

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.

Thumbs-Down: Rusk Deep Shine Dry Shampoo

I won this in a contest, and I feel a little bad bashing it (since I didn’t pay for it), but oh well.  I finally got around to using it the other day when I ran out of all my favorite dry shampoos.  Yes, I use dry shampoo a LOT – especially now that my hair is short.  I would have to style it every day, and I just don’t want to!  Plus, it’s winter. Anyway, there are tons of dry shampoo products out there (read my “quick rundown” reviews here: and full review of Batiste here:, so there are plenty to choose from.  Don’t choose this one…

Pros:  Talc-free.  Same “pros” as other dry shampoos – gives your hair a break from shampooing, saves time, etc.  Allegedly designed for color-treated hair.  Doesn’t leave a lot of white powder behind.

Cons:  Smells really bad.  It has added fragrance, but it still smells weird.  Contains parabens – and alcohol, which I doubt is good for your color.  Not as “dry” as other products in the category.  Expensive.

In Summary:   This isn’t a horrible product, but it’s not nearly as good as many other dry shampoos on the market, including several that are less expensive.  However, the smell of it was so strong (and unpleasant) that I literally put perfume in my hair to “camouflage” it.  I think they’re marketing it as a “color care” product because using dry shampoo is less damaging to your hair than actually washing it, but I’m not convinced this particular product is the best choice, since it contains alcohol.  If you regularly use dry shampoo, get something cheaper (and easier to find) like Not Your Mother’s brand.

Rating:  1 out of 5 stars  1-star

Price:  $15- $20 for 8 oz. bottle

Available at:  Various online retailers and salons

rusk deep shine dry shampoo

Thumbs-Down: Ulta Beauty Wedges

I must say that I’ve been using this product for quite a while now.  I’ve even recommended them.  The last time I reviewed them, they got 4.5 out of 5 stars.  I was running low on them recently, so I went to Ulta and picked up another package.  When I opened the package yesterday, I could tell they had changed…

Pros:  Made in USA.  Affordable. Latex-free.

Cons:  Formula has changed and they’re now more “spongy”, lightweight, and less durable.  Change in density causes “warping” of the sponge, making it harder to manage.

In Summary:  I no longer recommend this product.  The change to it results in more foundation (or other product) being absorbed into the sponge, which will end up costing you more money.  Maybe this was an intentional ploy by Ulta to try to get people to use more makeup.  Clever, but not cool.  (And annoying enough that I’ve left a negative review on the website!)  So, now I’m stuck with 95 more of these sponges.  They’ll probably end up in my crafting supplies like all the other beauty wedges I didn’t like…

Related Post:  Review of Up & Up Brand wedges:

Rating:  2 out of 5 stars  2-stars  (only because they’re made in USA)

Price:  $1.99 for 8 ct., $2.99 for 32ct., $6.99 for 96 ct.

Available at:  Ulta,

ulta beauty wedges

Thumbs-Down: Maybelline Color Show Nail Lacquer

I love nail polish.  OK, I hoard nail polish.  My collection verges on ridiculousness.  But it’s not all my fault.  My children are enablers.  They buy me nail polish for my birthday, Mother’s Day, and Christmas.  (Because they’re smart and they love me!)  I even feel a little bad about writing this post, because this nail polish happens to be one of the ones my daughter got me for my birthday.  But, I have to give an honest assessment – or I wouldn’t be able to claim to be “brutally honest”…

Pros:  Inexpensive.  Available at tons of stores.  Lots of color choices.

Cons:  Goes on unevenly.  Much more “sheer” than it looks in the bottle.  (Don’t let the fancy-sounding “lacquer” in the name trick you!)  Bad brush.  Bottle is significantly smaller than the average nail polish product.

In Summary:   Yet again, Maybelline disappoints me.  While they make a couple products I like (mascara), I generally think their stuff is cheaply-made.   Rimmel and Wet N Wild make nail polishes in the same price range that are far superior, and you get more for the money.

Rating:  1 out of 5 stars  1-star

Price:  approx. $4

Available at:  drugstores, mass merchandisers, Ulta

shown in Plum Paradise

shown in Plum Paradise

Thumbs-Down: Trader Joe’s “99% Pure” Aloe Vera Gel

I love shopping at Trader Joe’s.  It has a “hometown grocery store” kind of feel, as well as good prices on stuff I need/want.  I’m not a regular Trader Joe’s shopper by any stretch of the imagination (there isn’t one very close to my house), but I like their “store brand” products and buy them when it’s practical.  Knowing that aloe vera gel is good for sunburns, I bought a bottle of this stuff to keep around.  I’ve also heard it’s good to put under makeup in hot, humid climates – like the one where I live – so I was hoping to use it for that too.  Unfortunately, I got a patch of sunburn where I failed to re-apply sunscreen soon enough at an all-day, outdoor concert in 104 degree Texas heat.  So, out came the aloe vera gel…

Pros: Inexpensive.  Fragrance-free. Recyclable container.  Labeled “Cruelty-free” (not certified by Leaping Bunny or PETA) Not any different than any other aloe vera gels I’ve tried.

Cons:  Doesn’t have a country of origin.  Contains a HUGE ingredients list for something that’s labeled “99% pure”.  I guess they mean the aloe that’s in it is 99% pure.  Ingredients:  Water, aloe barbadensis leaf juice, butylene glycol, calendula officinalis flower extract, arnica Montana flower extract, tocophersolan, TEA-carbomer, methylparaben, diazolidinyl urea, DMDM hydantoin, trisodium, EDTA.   Um, yeah, not cool.

In Summary:  I should have read the package.  I trusted Trader Joe’s reputation.  Turns out their reputation is on the downslide for deceptively advertising use of non-GMO products, as well as being pretty dodgy when it comes to answering questions about their products.  (Read story here:  I’ve been trying really hard to avoid buying products that contain parabens.  Guess I need to shop around for another aloe vera gel…

Rating: 1 out of 5 stars  1-star

Price:  (don’t remember, but under $5)

Available at:  Trader Joe’s

trader joe aloe vera

Thumbs-Down: J.R. Watkins “Lotion Devotion” Set

On one of my regular trips to Target, I saw a too-hard-to-resist collection of travel-sized lotions on clearance, about half off. (5 different ones in a zip-top bag, which I can reuse for travel.) Because I never leave home without lotion – usually in my car AND in my purse – I thought these would be handy to have around.

Pros: Paraben-free. Made in USA. Natural ingredients. Convenient for travel.

Cons: Expensive if bought full-price. Inconvenient containers. (no flip-top) Fragrance is overpowered by other ingredients, so it smells like cheap lotion with added fragrance. Unimpressive moisturizing. Not very “creamy”.

In Summary:  I’m not too upset about the disappointing performance of these lotions, but only because I spent just $4.14 on them.  If they at least smelled better, I would be willing to keep using them. The ingredients are almost exactly the same on each of the 5 containers (the foot “cream” contains glycerine, which the others don’t), so I think they’re all the same quality and just come in different fragrances.  I don’t know if these are even worth “emergency” in-my-car use…

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars 2-stars

Price:  $8.29 at Target, $10.99 at manufacturer website (for five 1 oz.  containers in a zip-top bag)

Available at: Target,


Thumbs-Down: L’Oreal Telescopic Explosion Mascara (Waterproof)

I stopped buying L’Oreal mascaras years ago, because I had 2 different ones that irritated my eyes. I don’t have particularly sensitive eyes, but mascara seems to be the one thing that causes me issues. (Only the aforementioned L’Oreal products and one by Buxom.) Despite my history, I bought this mascara. I was intrigued by the unique brush, and you know the rest: I had a coupon AND it was on clearance.  Plus, I needed a waterproof mascara…

Pros: It seems to have been discontinued, so you don’t have to worry about accidentally buying it.  Made in USA.  “Suitable for sensitive eyes and contact lens wearers”, according to the manufacturer. Inexpensive.  Stays on pretty well.

Cons:  Contains parabens.  The wand part is horrible.  They were going for a “telescopic” look, so they didn’t pay attention to the fact that it’s too flexible to do its job properly.  The round brush is just weird.  It’s only convenient for outer eyelashes and pretty difficult to use on the rest – unless you like poking yourself in the eye. Mascara is just run-of-the-mill stuff, nothing special.

In Summary:  I’m not surprised this product has been discontinued.  If you happen to see it in a discount store and are tempted to buy it – don’t.  Seriously, save your money or spend it on a bottle of nail polish or something.  If you’re looking for a budget-friendly waterproof mascara, try Maybelline’s Colossal Volum’Express.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars  1.5-stars

Price: approx $9 (originally)

Available at:, maybe some discount stores and clearance aisles

l'oreal telescopic explosion mascara



Thumbs-Down: Ulta Extreme Wear Gel Eyeliner

Since Ulta was having a Buy One, Get One Free deal on their brand of products, I recently picked up the rather horrible Whipped Eye Shadow (read review here:  and this Gel Eyeliner.  As I often say: a good deal is only a good deal if you’re getting a good product…

Pros:  Made in USA.  Moderately inexpensive.  Has a nice “sparkle” to it.  Paraben-free. Stays on pretty well.

Cons:  Not deeply pigmented.  Formula is too thin.  Doesn’t go on smoothly.  To get a dark line, you have to “dab” it into place, which forces you to use a LOT of the product.

In Summary:  I gave this product two chances.  The first time, I was using a brush (angled eyeliner brush) that I had been using with black eye shadow, so I thought the powder leftover in the brush messed up the results.  The second time, I used a brand new brush, and got exactly the same results.  Both times, I ended up going over the gel eyeliner with black eye shadow to “fill in” the pale, streaky spots.  As with many other products I haven’t liked, this one got good reviews by other people.  Maybe I’m too picky.  Maybe I expect too much for $10.  Maybe I should stick with using black eye shadow to do my liner…

Suggestion:  If you like this type of eyeliner, you should try Stila Smudge Pots ($20) or L’Oreal’s HIP Cream Eyeliner ($10).  I’m also tempted by the L’Oreal Infallible Gel Lacquer Liner ($10), but I haven’t tried that one.  Maybe when I have a coupon, I’ll pick one up…

Rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars  1.5-stars

Price:  $10

Available at: Ulta stores and website

ulta gel eyeliner