My Reviews

Sephora Play! Six Month Review

Before I say anything else, know that this is the longest I have ever stuck with one subscription box. I’ve plowed through Birchbox, ipsy, and even boxycharm but never made it more than a few months before canceling the service. Six months in, the Sephora Play! box still has my undivided attention.

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If you’re not familiar with the box, it’s a $10 monthly subscription box that comes with six deluxe samples of products from brands sold at Sephora. Similar to Birchbox, your samples are chosen based on a profile you fill out. Each month your samples will arrive in a cute little drawstring bag accompanied with a fold out sheet describing each product. To top it off, each box comes with a Sephora card for 50 extra points on your next in-store purchase. While the box is not yet available everywhere, it’s expanding quite rapidly so don’t let a waitlist bum you out (it took me a few months to get my first one).

So what makes this box so much better than the rest? Probably the biggest factor is the choice of brands. Sephora stocks some of the coolest brands out there and they definitely do not skimp when it comes to putting the Play subscription together. I heard some grumbles that one box featured what was likely “leftovers” from last year’s birthday gift, but guess what? Last year’s birthday gift was a NARS lip pencil! Not exactly chump change for most of us. I’ve gotten products from Tarte, Korres, Atelier Cologne (one of my favorite perfume makers), Urban Decay, and even Bite Beauty. Even the scents have all been knockouts – there’s one in every box. I dreaded my unexpected samples from Birchbox, but Sephora’s choices are consistently pleasing and exciting across a variety of styles. So far, Sephora has crushed it each and every time – plus your monthly fragrance sample counts as an extra product, not a replacement for a bigger item.

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The other standout factor for me is the cost breakdown of each box. These things are worth well beyond the $10 they cost each month, even if a few products make their way to friends and family (makes me look pretty great too!)

To remain objective, I’ve decided not to rate any of the products I receive beyond pointing out a few of my overall favorites. Everyone’s preferences are different and it’s not up to me to tell you a product is bad because I personally didn’t like it. There’s something in there for everyone so here’s a look at the last six months of my Sephora Play subscription!

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My Hits & Misses

Tools of the Trade: Best Face & Eye Brushes

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Tools of the trade can often make or break a project, and makeup is no different. You don’t need to splash a lot of cash to get the good stuff, but a few key investments can really help you level up your skillset. If I tried to go through all of the 50+ brushes I own, we’d be here for the next week, so instead I thought I’d just share the key members of my brush family – the workhorses, the luxury buys that were totally worth it, and the guys I reach for just about every day.

As a side note, I have listed (to the best of my ability) whether the brushes are vegan, cruelty-free, natural hair, etc. If you prefer to only shop vegan/cruelty-free, this list from Logical Harmony is a great resource for cruelty-free brands.

Face Brushes

RealTechniques Duo-Fiber Face Brush (Amazon) – I had no idea how to use this when I first picked up the RT Duo-Fiber Collection (the colors were recently changed to align with the rest of the brand’s products), but it has become my absolute favorite brush for working with super pigmented blushes like NARS and Tarte. It’s so soft and pleasant on the skin, and picks up just the right amount of product for the easiest blending. I had such a hard time working with blush before and now it’s quickly become one of my favorite products. RealTechniques brushes are always cruelty-free.

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RealTechniques Setting Brush (Amazon) – The multi-tasker! This brush gets used so often that I actually have two of them; setting powder, highlight, contour, all over lid shade, you name it – this brush can do it. Right now its top two uses for me are picking up just the tiniest amount of HD powder to set my under eye concealer and giving me a perfectly blended out natural-looking contour. RealTechniques brushes are always cruelty-free.

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IT Cosmetics #103 Airbrush Blurring Concealer Brush (Ulta, $16.00) – For anyone that just cannot get the hang of the micro.mini beautyblender, this is hands down the best concealer brush I’ve tried. Specifically, under-eye concealer. It helps blend out product beautifully without disturbing the rest of my makeup or sheering out my foundation too much. With my current foundation, I’ve actually had better luck applying my concealer first and this brush really does give me an airbrush finish that is undetectable under or over my foundation. This brush is made with synthetic fibers.

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My Life

What’s in My Makeup Bag: Weekend Edition

Usually when it comes to travel, I do not mess around with my makeup. I bring anything and everything I want to make sure all my bases are covered, especially when it’s a long trip or weddings are involved (more often than you can imagine these past few years). This time however, we were just off for a weekend in Seattle to hang out with Nick’s brother so I thought this was a perfect opportunity to share a much more reasonable “weekend edition” of what’s in my makeup bag.

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For most “categories” of makeup, you should be able to get by with just one product. For me, that includes:

  • Face Primer – Just one here, the super moisturizing Too Faced Hangover RX to help prep skin and keep my makeup looking better, longer.
  • Eye Primer – My Holy Grail go-to, MAC Pro Longwear Paint Pot in Painterly, I love that it provides some coverage for any redness and veins on my eyelids (if you’re more warm-toned, the Soft Ochre shade is also really popular).
  • Foundation – I opted for the Chanel Vitalumiere Aqua this time, my “special occasion foundation”. It leaves a nice, natural finish on the skin and the bottle is plastic, so it’s perfect for travel. I use the shade BR12.
  • Concealer – I’ve been favoring my MAC Pro Longwear a lot lately, but the Mineralize Concealer is in a plastic tube (and has a brush applicator) so that’s what came along. I use the shade NW15.
  • Setting Powder – The usual, MAC Mineralize Skinfinish Natural in Light. It’s so finely milled that it doesn’t add any texture to my skin, and it doesn’t add any coverage either, just a sheer and light powder to prevent my makeup from creasing.
  • Contour – I don’t use it much, but it’s good to have on hand. Sometimes you just need to add a bit of dimension back to the face. I love the Sephora Collection Contour powder in Tranquil.
  • Mascara – Benefit’s They’re Real! Definitely in my top three all-time favorite mascaras, and the mini tube is perfect for travel. It’s volumizing, lengthening, and defining – an all-in-one that gets it all right.
  • Brow Product – Currently enjoying the ColourPop brow pencil in Dope TaupeIt’s small, affordable, easy to use, and has a built-in spoolie on the other end. (This “group” did get an extra in the form of brow gel – the packaging is so tiny that I brought along both Benefit’s Gimme Brow and a deluxe sample of the Anastasia Beverly Hills clear brow gel. I used them all.)
  • Setting Spray – MAC Fix+ always and forever, it helps meld all the products together so my skin looks natural, not cakey.

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My Hits & Misses

Favorite Affordable Products (under $15)

So I finally got my the-seasons-are-changing cold and wasn’t planning to post for a few days, but I didn’t want to keep putting it off. You can expect to see my updated skincare routine and fall haul soon, but for now – here are my favorite affordable products, for $15 or less.

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ColourPop is a fantastic choice if you are interested in trying some new things or experimenting with color as everything is $8 or less, plus it’s all cruelty-free and made in the USA. I am a huge fan of most of their products, especially the Ultra Matte liquid lipsticks ($6), Creme Gel eyeliners ($5), and highlighters ($8). Since I talk about the brand so much already, I’m not going to go too in-depth here, but I will recommend my favorite shade for each of the products mentioned: 1st Base, Best O, and Hippo (respectively).

sephoralipstickremover Sephora Collection Ultimate Oil-in-Gel Lipstick Remover ($9.50, on sale for $5) – This was a product recommendation from someone on Reddit and I am absolutely not disappointed. As someone who is a loyal user of oil-based cleansers, I wasn’t expecting anything overly special from this but for $5 (and 20% off of that), I had to try. Damn does this stuff cut through some liquid lipstick! It beats out both Lush‘s Ultrabland and the Ole Henriksen Pure Truth Melting Cleanser for removing my beloved liquid lipsticks. Seeing as how that is my preferred lipstick formula, I may be buying more of these soon.

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My Life

Makeup is Cool: A Cheesy Story

This is super cheesy and I didn’t really feel like I could share it with anyone directly, so it’s going here… I guess that’s what blogs are for. It’s about makeup.

Growing up, I was never particularly skinny or fat or pretty or ugly, I got picked on a lot for… I don’t really know. Being too average in the looks department I guess. I certainly wasn’t one of “those girls”. You know what I mean, flawless in the sixth grade with tan legs and perfect skin and eventually perfect makeup too, seemingly without a care in the world. I spent my whole life being jealous of girls like that, be it in magazines or in the hallways, in my yearbooks and in movies. I was never going to look like one of them – effortlessly flawless, clear skin glowing with confidence, and definitely looking like they have their shit together. That just isn’t me. Or at least, it wasn’t.

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