Belated September Birchbox

You know how sometimes you have a birthday party coming up, and a wedding, and an anniversary, and a brunch event, and someone has a baby, and your mom keeps calling you, and then it’s suddenly three weeks later?

Yeah, that happens to me a lot.  But here I am, back from God-knows-where, with a belated September Birchbox post.  In my defense, this box came super late in the month.. so late that my October box shipped less than two weeks after I got this one.

Again, I’m not super thrilled (as you can tell by the lagging post), but here’s what was inside:

SEPTEMBER BIRCHBOX

kate spade Twirl fragrance sample
I love the whole kate spade brand, but this doesn’t wow me.  It smells very “generic Elizabeth Arden grown-up perfume at JC Penney.” It’s nothing special, but I bet it’d make a little girl feel fancy as hell.

Color Club Birchbox Custom Polish in Insta-this
This polish is a gorgeous creamy opaque royal/indigo blue.  I gave away my last Color Club nail polish because it was too similar to my Essie Turquoise & Caicos, but it looked fantastic on my sister.  If “Insta-this” has the same kind of color intensity, it’s going to be a favorite in my collection.

Skin, An Apothecary Soy Body Whip in Poppy
I’d give the scent a 7/10.  It smells bright, soapy, and fresh, but there are manly, cologne-like undertones.  The texture is very fun – somewhere between whipped cream and pudding with a non-greasy, non-sticky feel.  It absorbs quickly and easily without leaving a trace (except for that overly strong scent.)  In a fragrance-free world, I’d be a fan.

twistband Birchbox custom hair tie
It was hard for me to leave this in the box long enough to take a picture.  I’ve heard so much about these non-crease comfy ties, and this one is fantastic.  No weird bumps when I take my hair down!  It looks cute on my wrist, too, unlike my standard black ouchless bands.  There are a few flaws, though – after wearing it daily for about a week, the lace print faded significantly, and the band stretched out.  It got really mangy really fast, and at a retail price of $11 for four ties, I couldn’t justify buying more.  It’s a knotted piece of elastic.  Luckily, my broke ass found a way to DIY these.  The material is called Fold Over Elastic, and it’s available in all kinds of colors and prints online.  I ordered a few yards (YARDS!) here for less than $10.

Jouer Matte Moisture Tint in hazel
I’ve never heard of Jouer, and this wimpy little sample (notice the tiny black tube next to a mini polish and a hair tie) doesn’t encourage me look the brand up.  I tried a little on my hand, and it’s too dark and orange for my NC35 skin.. so, essentially, useless.

Hollywood Fashion Secrets Fashion Tape
As thrilled as I am to be let in on these “Hollywood Fashion Secrets,”  I’m afraid they’re a little too covert.  In the fashion tape envelope, I received four small pieces of tape – a quarter-sized circle, a rounded arc, a 1/2″ strip, and a 3/4″ strip.  No instructions or anything.   There’s a subtle clue on the package, “Includes One of Each: Hollywood Fashion Tape, Special Occasion Tape, Accessory Dots, Temporary Hem Tape.”  The back of the envelope tells me I can use these to eliminate blouse gaps, hold accessories, adjust jean length and secure plunging necklines, and even with a bachelor’s degree in apparel design and years of sewing experience, I can’t visualize how this set works.  Hollywood Fashion Secrets are beyond my realm!

Birchbox offered two options for October’s box – the standard selection, or a goop-curated box.  I’m not especially a Gwyneth Paltrow fan, but I have no hard feelings toward her, and I’m inclined to think she can do better than a miniscule tube of dark orange Jouer.

I chose the goop.

M

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Best Stuff: Kat Von D High Voltage Eye Primer in Smoky

I can’t believe I’ve been holding out on you with this product.  I’m sorry.

Kat Von D’s makeup line has consistently wowed me (with the exception of her Foiled Love lipstick in Forever & Never, but that was just a color issue.)  I have never been in love with Urban Decay’s Primer Potion, but it’s better than nothing, so I use it.  When Kat Von D’s smoky eye primer went on sale (now $7 at Sephora), I branched out… and I’m glad I did.

At first glance, this is a little intimidating.  The formula is dark charcoal grey, super thick and creamy.  Also, the amount pulled out on the wand is way too much for one application.  I usually smudge a bit on my hand and paint it onto my eye lids with a cream shadow brush.  I’ve tried using my finger, but the result is smoother and more even with a nice brush.

I usually don’t spread this above the crease too much because it’s very visible, unlike a skin-colored primer.  For the crease to brow area, I stick with Urban Decay Primer Potion.

I think Kat Von D’s formula is overall better than Urban Decay’s because it’s thicker, stickier, and longer lasting (look forward to a few extra minutes scrubbing raccoon eyes off before bed.)  The grey base color really backs up dark shadows, maximizing the pigment without layers of eye shadow.  My absolute favorite thing about this primer is that it makes a smoky eye look unbelievably easy and fast.  It saves me a solid 30 minutes of building up, blending, and wiping off fall-out particles.


In this picture, I swatched two layers of Gunmetal and Creep from the Naked palette on bare skin, over UDPP original, and over the Kat Von D primer.  Check out the COLOR!

I completely love this product and I’d buy a back-up, but with so little needed each time, I know this tube is going to last me well over a year.  At $7, this is a major steal and a total time-saver!

You and me forever, KVD.

M

Butter at Coterie

I know I’m not the first blogger to rave about the new beauty flash sale site Coterie, but it’s rocking my world with a Butter London sale, so I need to share.

Coterie.com is a members only site that is currently running sales on Butter, Mor, and Kevyn Aucoin, but promises more brands like Stila and Perricone in the future.  I know I just hoarded a few Butter polishes for the holidays, but I couldn’t resist this sale (what buying ban??  Shameful.)  It’s never too early to get the gift list whittled down, though, and when the price is right I stock up.

Anyway, here’s the sweet deal on Butter London: 3 shades of polish (pick from Pillar Box Red, West End Wonderland, Wallis, All Hail The Queen, Bluey and Knackered)  plus their Hardwear top coat for $36.  Combined with a $25 off code (ZOEREPORT), you’ll get the set for $11 plus shipping.  Now you know why I broke the rules.

M

The Naturals VoxBox

My first Influenster VoxBox came a few days ago, and the theme is Naturals!  While I don’t always write about my “green” lifestyle in this blog, I do make it a priority to live as responsibly and sustainably as I can.  I do my best to stay informed about environmental issues, and to use products and practices that support a greener earth.  That’s why I’m particularly excited about this VoxBox – these samples have introduced me to a few new eco-friendly brands and products, and I’m glad to share!

Here’s the loot:

First off, I received GEODEO Deodorant in Island
Typically, I don’t ask much of a deodorant – a little sweat protection, not too much residue on my clothes, and a nice scent (no “powder fresh” or “spring rain” here.)  As far as the scent goes, I couldn’t love this more!  Geodeo Island smells like a super juicy pear, fruity, simple and awesome.  The texture is smooth – not chalky at all – and completely clear.  Like, unbelievably clear.  I even tried rubbing the stick directly onto my black tank top – no white marks!  That’s an absolute first for me.   Geodeo doesn’t last as long as my usual stick (Secret deodorant in Va Va Vanilla), but I get about 4-5 good hours out of one swipe.  And I’m alright with re-applying, especially if it means I’m absorbing fewer toxins.
Geodeo’s bragging rights include no animal testing, sulfates, parabens, or phthalates, and the packaging is recyclable.  There’s a lot to like!  Try it out for $4.99 from Drugstore.com.

Next is LypSyl Intense Protection LypMoisturizer.  Check out this adorable tube!


I actually love this balm.  I’m a sucker for cool packaging – so the oversized oval tube with it’s cute little bee push-up switch is right up my alley.  I’ve mentioned that in the past, I loved Burt’s Bees, but noticed their balm seems harder and more waxy  in recent years.  LypSyl balm reminds me of my first tube of Burt’s Bees – super smooth and buttery with a minty tingle and scent.  In a way,  I’d say LypSyl even trumps old Burt by moisturizing my lips without a detectable layer of product.  This balm has earned a coveted place in my everyday purse, and I will definitely buy another when it’s out!  You can find it at Walmart for $2.82.

CleanWell Individual Hand Sanitizer Wipes
I’m actually very familiar with this brand, and I keep the sprays in my car and purse.  I love that they’re alcohol and triclosan free – very rare in sanitizers.  I’m a little bit of a germaphobe, but I hate dry, cracked hands and I’ve read a lot about how triclosan interferes with hormones.  CleanWell is a staple for my family, and these handy wipes are welcome in my arsenal.  I found mine at Trader Joe’s, but you can also get them online at GNC, $3.49 for a pack of 10.

Desert Essence Coconut Shine & Refine Hair Lotion
Hair Lotion?!  The bottle and the product look like your average body lotion and I read this carefully, front and back, to be sure of its purpose.  It IS for hair, and it’s pretty lovely.  The scent is awesome – very strong, sweet coconut.  The texture is that of a light, smooth body lotion.. not a heavy pomade or cream, but not as runny as a serum.  The instructions recommend applying a dime size amount to the ends, and distributing it evenly.  Being overly enthusiastic, I squeezed almost a tablespoon into my palms and rubbed it generously over the ends of my hair.  Even with my super-sized dose, Desert Essence added softness and shine without an oily wet look or chunky separation.  I’ve been known to overdo it with leave-in conditioners (leading to last-minute greasy updos), but it’s safe to say this hair lotion is nearly fail-proof.  If you’re looking for soft, manageable hair with a Malibu Barbie scent, check this out for $9.99 at Desert Essence.

EBOOST Natural Energy in Orange
If you’re familiar with Emergen-C, you’ve got an idea of what EBoost is all about.  Little packets of citrus flavored vitamin powder mix with water for an energy and immunity boost on the go.  I’m not a huge fan of Emergen-C, but EBoost is a step up.  It foams up quickly and easily, and tastes like orange soda at the first sip.  The aftertaste is decidedly vitamin-y, and I’m not crazy about that.  Overall, I’ll skip the powder packets in favor of trusty, taste-free vitamin pills.  If you’re good with vitamin drinks, and you want a tastier option, EBoost is $23.99 for 20 pouches on Amazon and it comes in Orange, Superberry, Pink Lemonade and Acai Pomegranate.

Then there’s The Original Dish Drying Mat
It doesn’t sound like the most exciting product in the world, I know, but I really like having this mat around.  Even though most of us have dishwashers, there’s always a cocktail glass, wooden spoon, or coffee pot that can’t handle the rigors of machine washing.  I hand wash a decent number of dishes every night, and end up perching them on my stove or leaving them strewn over a dish towel.  It’s not ideal for drying, and it wouldn’t make Martha Stewart very proud.  With The Original Dish Drying Mat (yes, I’m going to use its whole name whenever I can), I have a set area for my hand-washed dishes.  They dry faster, they’re safely cushioned, and my kitchen doesn’t look like a junkyard.  Its pretty cream color won’t last long in my house, but luckily, it’s machine washable.  The Original Dish Drying Mat is available for $4.99 at Bed Bath & Beyond.

NECTRESSE Sweetener
Nectresse is a zero-calorie monk fruit sweetener from the makers of Splenda.  The package says monk fruit extract is at least 150x sweeter than sugar, and I believe it.  Nectresse looks a lot like standard granulated sugar, but it smells a little more like maple syrup.  I put a tiny bit in my coffee, and it was pretty sweet.  Out of curiosity, I poured some straight into my mouth (don’t tell my dentist), and it was really sweet.  If you’ve had Truvia, you’ll know what I mean.  I have no problems with monk fruit or Nectresse, but I’ll be using this sparingly since a little goes a long way.  You can score a free sample at Nectresse.com.

M

Disclaimer: I received these products in a complimentary VoxBox, for testing purposes, from Influenster.

Color Club & e.l.f. at Hautelook

Another sale post?  I know, I’m sorry, but my buying ban has somehow heightened my sale sense and since I can’t shop, I have to at least share the opportunity!


Color Club nail polish is on at Hautelook today until Monday with single bottles priced at $5 and duo sets for $8!  There are also a few mini sets that would make great gifts.  Each bottle is normally around $8, so it’s a decent deal.  I haven’t used Color Club personally, but I did receive a bottle in my August Birchbox and the color looked great!  I had a similar shade, so I gave it to my sister.  I noticed it on her nails recently and loved it – the color is a lot brighter and more saturated than it looks in the bottle.

e.l.f. cosmetics go up tomorrow, and I don’t know what kind of products they’ll feature, but I’m astounded they’re even doing a flash sale!  Could they BE any less expensive?  I’m not the hugest fan of e.l.f.’s makeup, but I do like their brush shampoo and facial whips (creamy highlighters that look beautiful mixed with body lotion).  It won’t break my heart to miss this one, since the brand is so affordable already.

Bargains all around.

M

Alterna at Hautelook til Friday!

Hey friends: more beauty sales this week!

An Alterna hair care flash sale starts today on Hautelook (you have to be a member to shop, but membership is free and sign-up is way easy).  I picked a few things up at the last flash sale, and I’m loving them.  (You can click over to reviews of the Hemp Repair Gloss and Overnight Hair Rescue here.)

The discounts are pretty substantial, and I’d love to try more of their organic, sulfate-free products.  If I were in spending mode right now I’d go for the Caviar Brunette Conditioner, Life Solutions Volume Restore Conditioner, and the Hemp with Organics Volume Lock Hairspray.

If you decide to give Alterna a try, let me know how you like it!

M

Butter London BOGO at Ulta!

I may be a little late in reporting this, but if you haven’t heard the internet-wide shrieks of delight, there’s a huge Buy One, Get One free sale on Butter London nail lacquers at Ulta!

I am completely ashamed to admit it, but I broke my buying ban for this sale.  I DO, however, have the best intentions – I’ll be stashing these away for holiday gifts in a couple of months!  (Am I still considered a rule-breaker if the makeup isn’t for personal use?)  While these polishes are normally $14 each, the BOGO sale means each bottle ends up being about $7 – less expensive than Essie!

I haven’t tried Butter nail polish yet, but I’ve heard great things about it and I’d be thrilled to get one as a gift… so my friends and fam are lucky this year.

Haul away, fellow polish fiends!

M

The Daily Sample: Perfekt Lash Perfection Gel

I got this Perfekt Lash Perfection Gel sample not knowing what to expect.  The description is completely nebulous – “A silky smooth color gel that “per-fekts” and enhances the appearance of the lashes offering an easy alternative to traditional mascara, lash primer, lash treatment, conditioner, and enhancer.”  What the hell is this miracle goo?

I wasn’t sure if it’s supposed to be colored or clear, but it seems to be a pretty standard black mascara.  I figured I’d try it alone, so I applied it over clean, curled lashes.  It coated them lightly, making them appear a little longer and darker, but not thicker at all.  Even weirder – it seemed to straighten out the curl in my lashes.  To rescue my stick-straight long black lashes, I re-curled and layered on some Benefit They’re Real mascara.  The result was a 1-and-a-half-coats-of-mascara look – not the drama and chunk potential of two coats, but not really a one coat natural look either.

Perfekt lash gel worked (decently) as a light first coat, but I can’t imagine using it for much else.  “Lash primer” makes sense.  “Lash treatment, conditioner and enhancer”… I’m not so sure about that.  On the plus side, it doesn’t flake or smudge too badly – but that may be since it’s barely there at all.

Lengthening Power: 3/5
Thickening Power: 0/5
Color: 5/5
Hold: 3/5
Longevity: 5/5
Price: $28.50 at Sephora
Value: 1/5

M

Sample Overload

In the past, I may have mentioned that I’ve collected a lot of samples over time.. you might not have realized I meant a lot A LOT:

(Of course I realized this picture was blurry only after I spread everything out, clicked a few shots, and uploaded.)

You could call it a boatload.

With the spending freeze under way, I have plenty of time to try these out and share reviews, so that’s exactly what I’m doing.  I don’t like trying more than one product at once because it’s harder for me to pinpoint the effect each product had.. so I’ll be doing a sample a day.

Starting with… Brazilian Peel Clear!  (It’s the little blue and white syringe-looking thing.)  I chose it specifically for the fun-looking packaging, and it didn’t disappoint.  The tip twists and pulls off, exposing an opening for both tubes (there’s a clear gel and a creamy liquid).  According to instructions, you push the end in like a syringe to squeeze both fluids into your hand, and then mix it up until it’s warm.  My fluids went from room temp to HOT in a matter of seconds, and I was a little hesitant to rub it on my face.

It went on clear, like a gel, and stung a little upon application.  I’ve had lactic, salicylic and glycolic acid facial peels, though, and Brazilian Peel was pretty mild, comparatively.  I left it on for 10 minutes per instructions without any stinging or burning (just a generally warm sensation), and then rinsed it with cool water.  My skin looked… the same.  Slightly smaller pores if anything, but not my typical post-peel blush and glow.

I felt bad for putting my skin through the heat blast for limited results, so I treated it to a thick coating of Clinique Moisture Surge Extended Thirst Relief.  It’s a thick moisturizer that leaves my skin shiny (but not greasy) – so I only use it when I’m not planning to wear makeup on top.

I’m keeping an open mind, knowing that some peels improve skin in the following days and not immediately, but Brazilian Peel sells at Sephora for $78 for a set of 4 syringes – and for that price, I’m saying helllll no!  I could get a good facial with a proper peel for just a little more than that.

Fun packaging, you can’t trick me.

M

Overnight Success

It’s great waking up to pretty skin.  Most days, it’s just my foggy vision blurring my face into evenly toned, pore-free gorgeousness – but I do have an arsenal of no-fail products for days I need to wake up looking like a Disney princess.


For smooth, ready-to-go morning hair, I start with a good blow dry (either left over from my day, or after a night shower).  Sleeping on wet hair has never done me any favors.  Before heading to bed, I rub a few pumps of Alterna Caviar Anti-Aging Overnight Hair Rescue $38, on my palms and coat my hair from the middle to the ends.  A quick pass with a wide tooth comb, and it’s good to go.  In the morning, I have freshly conditioned, pretty-scented, silky hair that’s ready to walk out the door.  My only word of caution is to err on the side of too little product – too much looks greasy.


For my face, I can’t forsake my old stand-by: Alba Even Advanced Night Cream $15.  It really evens my skin tone and makes my pores less noticeable.. but for can’t-risk-it days (weddings, brunches, and DRIVER’S LICENSE PHOTOS) I turn to AMOREPACIFIC Moisture Bound Vitalizing Masque $60.  After cleansing with my Clarisonic brush and finishing off with Clinique Clarifying Lotion, I apply the “masque” generously all over my face and neck.  It feels like a moisturizer, but takes a little longer to soak in.  It’s miraculously not greasy, sticky, or chalky, so my compliments to the chef.
In the morning, my face is plump (in a good way), smooth, soft, and even.  After a quick rinse, I have the perfect canvas for Big Day makeup.


Lastly, there are the eyes.  One big problem with my “need to look good tomorrow” nights is that my sleep is often compromised, and the eye bags give it away.  I don’t typically have issues with redness or puffiness, but when I do, it’s on an important day.  I’ve found out, though, that I can usually nip the problem in the bud with Clinique All About Eyes Serum De-Puffing Eye Massage $28.  It’s an eye serum with a metal roller ball applicator – which I always found a little gimmicky until this.  I rub the cold metal under my eyes and over my lids before bed, and by morning – normal eyes with normal eyelids.  I couldn’t ask for more.  It doesn’t do the miracle work of my everyday eye cream, but I can easily tap that on in the morning to take care of fine lines, dryness and circles.
These three products are my best shot at overnight success.  But I’ve also heard amazing things about Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery and I’m kind of dying to try it when my buying ban is up.

Do you have a no-fail night routine?

M