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.
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.
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!
It’s that time of year again when the sun starts setting a little earlier and those back to school lists start cropping up, but I’m not quite ready to let go of those long, warm days yet (or to go back to school next week for my last semester of grad school). Instead of jumping the gun for fall, here are my top ten favorite products that I turned to all summer long.
ANASTASIA BEVERLY HILLSBrow Wiz ($21.00/0.003oz) – Believe the hype. I avoided this little thing for ages because I couldn’t believe it was really any better than the other brow pencils I’d been using (MAC, ColourPop). Oh how wrong I was! This brow pencil is so fine, it’s nearly effortless to shape and fill in your brows with precision. The formula is fantastic as well, not too soft to make a mess and not so hard that it’s difficult to use either. I’m not sure there’s anything better on the market. I use the shade Medium Brown.
LUSHLet The Good Times Roll ($12.95/3.5oz) – An old favorite, I recently restocked on this polenta-based exfoliating cleanser and can’t remember why I ever stopped using it. It leaves my skin feeling so smooth, and it’s gentle enough to slough away dry patches without making any new ones. After cleansing to remove my makeup, I use a nickel-sized amount to gently scrub my face and neck. My makeup sits so much better on my skin after using it!
MAKE UP FOR EVERHD Powder ($20.00/0.14oz) – It took me ages to even test out the little samples I had of this loose powdered sorcery, it seemed so intimidating, but I will never look back. This microfinish powder is so finely milled and looks absolutely flawless on the skin. I use it to set my under eye concealer and around my nose where I’m prone to creasing to keep those areas looking perfected (and poreless). It’s super lightweight so it’ll never get cakey, which makes it an excellent choice for special occasions and photos. I like to apply with my RealTechniques setting brush.
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.
RealTechniquesDuo-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.
RealTechniquesSetting 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.
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.
So the thing with makeup & glasses is that it’s not really about the frames – it’s about the lenses. The lenses are what alter the look of your eyes: prescriptions for nearsightedness or astigmatism can make your eyes seem smaller, while those for farsightedness can often make the eyes appear much larger. The goal then is to tweak your makeup in a way that provides a balance – if your eyes look smaller behind your frames, you should take steps to help them look bigger/more open and vice versa. I’m focusing on nearsightedness and astigmatism here because that is what I have the most personal experience with, but there will be tips for those of you who are farsighted throughout the post as well!
Makeup is of course very personal and you should do what you want, but you should know this by now and I’m not going to take any more time for disclaimers or preemptive apologies.
Brighter/Wider: One of the best ways to make your eyes appear larger and brighter is by applying a nude or flesh-toned eyeliner to the waterline. Alternatively, if your lenses magnify your eyes, reach for deeper shades like black, brown, or even navy to pull everything back into proportion.
Neons & Drama: Some sources may discourage this, but I definitely do not. One of my favorite things about wearing glasses is that they kind of “minimize” any look you decide to go for. For me, that means I can raise hell with neons, brights, and otherwise dramatic eyeshadows that might otherwise be “too much” without the frames. If you have particularly “loud” frames, it helps to use shades that complement rather than clash, but with a color wheel as your guide you can go as bright or dark as you like. Glasses do not relegate you to neutrals-only eyeshadows!
Under Eye Correcting: Now this is a concern regardless of the types of lenses you wear. Glasses can often cast a shadow onto the lower part of your eyes, exaggerating any kind of darkness or discoloration in the under eye area. Concealer alone may not be enough to resolve this, but I’ve been really happy with the results of a peach toned color corrector. Don’t forget to set your under eye with a powder that prevents light reflection, this can bring more attention to the area.
It’s been a few months since my last Top 5 post, so I figured we were about due! You guys may have already seen a few of these in my spring haul posts recently (partI and partII), but I got some really great stuff so here it is again with a few other goodies I’ve been using non-stop.
NARSVelvet Matte Skin Tint in Terre-Neuve ($44.00/1.7oz) – This is a very very new addition to my makeup arsenal, but man I’m in love. I tried it a little while ago with mixed feelings, but decided to give it another shot because I just could not believe how nice my skin looked with this on. It’s the first foundation in my collection that isn’t just sheer coverage, which is surprising because that’s exactly how this is advertised. I find it to have more of a medium/buildable coverage that’s also super smoothing on the skin and looks absolutely flawless. It has an almost powder finish, but looks very natural and isn’t cakey at all. It’s also got SPF30 which I love, and there seems to be no flashback of any kind in photos which is even better. NARS products tends to run very warm/yellow, but the lightest shade in this range is a damn near perfect match for me and I am absolutely loving it. For best results, apply with a damp cosmetic sponge.
StilaAqua Glow Watercolor Blush in Rosewater ($26.00/0.21oz) – Also a new addition to my collection, this shade is stunning year-round. I fell in love with this formula last summer when I purchased the shade Water Blossom, but the iridescent blue-based pink is not always the most appropriate option. This neutral pink shade is gorgeous for more natural or professional looks, but still gives a very youthful dewy glow which makes it a perfect spring staple.