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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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

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

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

Birchboxes – August & July

TA-DA!  I found my July Birchbox photo.  I’m overwhelmed with pride.

So let’s talk about what’s in these babies:

JULY BIRCHBOX

Color Club Mini Nail Lacquer in Blu-Ming
I love this color, but it’s too similar to Essie’s Turquoise and Caicos, a staple in my polish collection – so I handed it off to my sister.

Eyeko Skinny Liquid Eyeliner in Black
It’s “fine.”  A felt-tip black eyeliner, very similar to the tokidoki Perfetto liner I have in Sabo-chan.  The formula is a little more consistent than tokidoki’s – it goes on smoothly, like writing on my face with a fresh new fine-tipped Sharpie.  I like it, and I always have room for another black liquid liner.

Harvey Prince Eau Flirt
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m pretty monogamous about perfumes.  I don’t feel like I need to mix up the way I smell, but when I get samples, I’ll give them a whirl.  I brushed off Eau Flirt at first sniff – it’s girly, sweet, and fruity.. not something I’m especially fond of.  I dabbed it on anyway, and noticed a little more depth once it had absorbed.  It’s slightly more sophisticated than a high school sophomore’s locker stash of body spray… but only slightly.

Supergoop City Serum Sunscreen
I actually have this already, and I dig it.  It’s a nice alternative to scented, sticky, oily sunscreens.  It’s an SPF product that feels like a nice facial moisturizer.  These little sample packs will be great to throw in a purse or for short airplane trips when I don’t want to check luggage.

Tea Forte minteas in Ginger Pear
Odd in a good way, these tea-flavored mints are shaped like little leaves.  They’re definitely more tea than mint, and the taste is unusual, but it grew on me.  I can’t say they actually help me “focus” like it says on the tin, though.

Birchbox neon ear buds
I don’t use ear buds and if I did, I wouldn’t use these ones (ouch, sorry B-Box).  I don’t like the way they feel in my ears, and this gaudy color combo didn’t help anything.  These suckers were a total waste.

AUGUST BIRCHBOX

EYE ROCK Designer Stick-on Liner
These are the most interesting things in the box – four styles of stick-on cat eye liner.  I’m a little scared about trying these out, and I don’t expect it to end well.  At least it’ll be hilarious, and I can use the extras to put fake eyebrows on my Halloween jack-o-lantern.

Juicy Couture Viva la Juicy La Fleur
The name alone is a whole lot of fancy.  Juicy Couture, in my opinion, often walks a very thin line between cute and tacky.. and what’s adorable on a teenager can be horrifyingly awkward on me.  A spritz of this perfume smells like grapefruit and sugar-covered daisies.  It’s sweet enough to entice the varsity quarterback, but that’s reaaallly not on my agenda nowadays.

theBalm Stainiac in Beauty Queen
I’m actually really liking this stain!  It’s thick, red and gelatinous in the tube (not the first thing I want to slather on my face), but the result is a soft raspberry color.  On my cheeks, it takes a few carefully blended layers to show up, but that’s preferable to a sudden blob of color.  As a lip color, it soaks in quickly and doesn’t dry me out, so I approve.

Yu-Be Moisturizing Skin Cream
This tiny tube (smaller than a super glue, much smaller than travel toothpaste) makes me feel like Yu-Be could’ve been a bit more generous.  I hate stingy samples because I can’t get a good feel for 0.1 oz of skin cream.  I guess my knee caps are adequately softened.  Yu-Be seems like a decent lotion, but nothing special, and the strong medicinal scent is very nursing home.  No, thank you.

Schick Hydro Silk Razor
One of my full-sized perks in this box was a razor.  I know shaving is technically part of a beauty routine, but it feels like a stretch for a beauty box.  At least it’s a crazy 5-blade mega razor, and it came with a couple of coupons (for more razors).  I don’t know what more to say.

Beauty School pamphlet
This is a cute idea – a fold out pamphlet that talks a bit about brushes, how to read product labels, shaving tips (again with that?) and makeup quick fixes.  Helpful little hints, but if you’re a makeup junkie, it’s nothing you haven’t heard before.

I’m holding out for a Birchbox that makes this subscription worth it.  Two months in, I’m fearing the worst.  On average, I place 2-4 orders a month (eek) to online makeup retailers, meaning I’m getting handfuls of samples and full-size products that I love delivered to my door.  I’m a sucker for surprises of any kind, so Birchbox reeled me in with the novelty aspect, but I’ve yet to receive a sample better than Sephora’s freebies.

My fate is in your hands, Birchbox.  Hook a girl up!  (and not with a drugstore razor!)

M

Essie Mirror Metallics

I posted my polish picks for August yesterday, and mentioned Essie’s Penny Talk from the Mirror Metallic collection.  This is a great color, and no photos can do it justice.  The finish is uniquely metallic – the most mirror-like lacquer I’ve ever tried!  But it took me some serious trial and error to get a good mani, this is a really different formula than most.

The mirror metallics are super tricky, because they dry really quickly, and they show every imperfection on your nail surface.  It’s a very unforgiving polish, and I had to restart three times to get a finish I was happy wearing.  It’s a daunting task, but hopefully I can help you out with my experience.

  • First, start with squeaky clean, absolutely polish-free nails.  Any residue will show up as bumps and bubbles.
  • Buff the surface of your nails with a very fine buffer block.. the smoother, the better.
  • Start with a good base coat (or a top coat AS a base coat – more on that later), painted on as evenly as possible.  I used Essie’s Feed Me, after Orly Bonder caused problems.  (I think the sticky base was holding the polish too strongly.)
  • Paint from one edge to the next, with full strokes from the cuticle to the tip.  I normally polish in little half-strokes, starting in the middle and working outward.  This polish will SHOW if you have any short strokes.  It dries so quickly, there’s very little time to blend brush strokes together.. so they build up into unsightly little dunes.
  • Be FAST!  If you hesitate or go back to the bottle for a dip, your brush will pull at the existing polish and leave gaps.
  • Don’t use a top coat.  As soon as I added Polishield (usually a lifesaver) to my manicure, I knew it was a mistake.  It somehow deflected the light, and rather than blending the polish, it emphasized brush strokes and imperfections.  BUT Polishield smoothes surfaces like a dream – which gave me the perfect canvas for one last layer of Penny Talk.

All-in-all, one layer of basecoat (although next time I’ll probably start with Polishield), two coats of Penny Talk.. and if there are any uglies, another coat of Polishield followed by polish.  It sounds like a hassle, but the finished look is totally awesome – and worth it.

M

August Polish Picks

August Polish Picks

Left to Right:

August is a tricky summer/fall month – I can’t get into jewel tones and dark polishes just yet, but neons don’t seem right either.  Right now, I’m totally feeling neutral blush and copper colors.. rich, grown-up and unbeatably easy to wear.  I also love a matte finish (especially over a metallic polish) – it’s unexpected but not outrageous.   And if I start feeling old and boring, I stick on a couple of back-to-school decals.  Nerdy cute, these look great over clear polish or Decades of Dysfunction.  (And for my noncommittal ladies, they peel right off for unexpected business meetings.)  The Hello Kitty nail stickers aren’t the highest quality I’ve used – they tear pretty easily – but use tweezers and some extra caution, and you’ll be fine.

M

Battle of the Topcoats: Kensington Caviar vs. Polishield

It’s no secret that I’m faithfully committed to Orly Polishield top coat ($10), but I recently caught wind of an intriguing new neighbor in the polish department.  Nails Inc. Kensington Caviar top coat (also $10) has a solid 5-star rating on Sephora, and I had to see if I was missing out.

I gave into temptation and Kensington Caviar came home with me.  We had a few good runs, but it just wasn’t the same.  It didn’t last as long as Polishield, and while it’s a decent contender, it just doesn’t wow me.

Here’s how I’d rate these two:

Nails Inc. Kensington Caviar
Packaging: 5/5
Consistency: 4/5
Strength: 3/5
Shine: 5/5
Durability: 4/5
Value: 3/5

Overall: Kensington Caviar is the same price as Polishield, but the bottle is smaller.  The plus is that the brush reaches close to the bottom, and I’d be able to use more of the product.  By contrast, Polishield’s big bottle usually means I can’t use the last 1/3 without some serious bottle and brush maneuvers.  K.C. isn’t as strong as Polishield, though – I had surface chips and scratches the day after my manicure – seriously disappointing.  It’s also not too durable, and my tips had chipped off completely in about three days.

Orly Polishield
Packaging: 3/5
Consistency: 5/5
Strength: 5/5
Shine: 5/5
Durability: 5/5
Value: 4/5

Overall: Polishield is my main squeeze (I’m so sorry I strayed!)  It’s magical melding formula can’t be matched and it lasts a good 5-6 days without chipping.  My only gripe is that the big bottle combined with the thick, syrupy formula, makes it impossible to use all of the product.  For $10, though, I get months of flawless manicures, and I’m totally satisfied with that.  U + Me = Us.


M

Orly, Supergoop and Alterna at Hautelook

Heads up – it’s a beauty extravaganza over at Hautelook!

If you’re not familiar with Hautelook.com, it’s a great flash sale site, similar to Gilt.  Right now (and I mean RIGHT now, these sales will be over in the next two days), their beauty section is killer – Alterna hair products, Supergoop sun protection, Tweezerman tools and Orly nails.

Orly polishes are on sale for $4.50 each, marked down from the usual $8-$8.50.  It’s a good time to try out the brand, if you haven’t, and experiment with new colors at about half the price!

Alterna hair products are going for 50-70% off, and Supergoop’s not too shabby at 30-40% off retail prices.  I haven’t tried either brand yet, but I’ve read great reviews, so I picked up a couple of things on the cheap.

I’m excited to share my haul when it gets here.

M

In-Store Haul

Planning an upcoming trip to Vegas, I realized I am dangerously low on bronzer and couldn’t order a new one in time.  I drove to my nearest Sephora with a shopping list in hand to keep me from straying.  Once I’m in a makeup store, I’m stuck for a good hour, and will likely come out with a number of things I “never knew I needed”.  I’m proud to say I made it out this week with only one impulse buy, and I’d say it’s a good one.

Here’s my haul:


Nails Inc. Kensington Caviar base coat
.  I grabbed it on my way to the register without looking closely.  I meant to get the top coat, I’ve heard wondrous things about its wet look and I’m a little low on Polishield… but I’m hoping this base polish will be a happy mistake, because I’m basically too lazy to return it.

Too Faced Powder Pouf Brush.  My previous powder brush has been with me for years, so long the branding has worn off and I don’t even remember where I got it.  It’s been a real trooper, but it’s starting to get a little scratchy and it’s losing some hair.. so in with the new.

Too Faced Starry-Eyed Liquid Glitter Eyeliner in Mad Mad Love – this was my in-store must-have!  I grabbed for the powder brush and my eyes stuck to four little tubes of glitter eyeliner.  Normally I can breeze past it, but I have Vegas on the mind, so

Tarte Mineral Bronzer in Park Ave. Princess.  My irreplaceable everyday bronze – there just isn’t one as golden, neutral, and with just the right amount of shimmer..  This is a long-term relationship for sure.

Bumble & Bumble Defrizz Mini.  I’ve had a little issue with flyaways for a while, but LA’s dry summers don’t exactly help.  I tried some of this in the store (and more when I got home) and it seems to tame the frizz layer without any greasiness.  I tentatively dig this.

Bumble & Bumble Styling Creme Mini – honestly, kind of an impulse buy also.  It was $7 and my B&B Defrizz said I could mix it with Styling Creme “for a humidity-proof polish.”  I don’t know, I trusted the bottle.

Along with these lovelies, I got a couple of Burberry Brit Sheer samples that I promptly rubbed all over my forearms.  I’m liking it – it’s definitely the summer version of my old faithful Burberry Brit.  It’s like running a Burberry Brit-spritzed tee through the dryer with fabric softener.

Looking forward to smooth hair and glittering eyes in Vegas!

M