Moisturizers -Neutrogena - Visibly Clear Pink Grapefruit Oil-Free Moisturiser
mg1013 3/10/2013 12:29:00 PM
Although some of Neutrogena's skin-clearing products are really drying, this is one of the best-behaving moisturizers I've ever tried so far! I think it really is clearing up my skin somewhat -- I used to develop blemishes over the course of the day at work, but that has pretty much stopped. Neither does this mess up the look of my makeup; it doesn't cause foundation to melt off in a few hours like some other drugstore brands do. It also sinks in much more quickly than other daytime moisturizers I've used. It has a clean, fresh citrus fragrance. This doesn't linger for more than about a minute, but it could be troublesome if you have really sensitive skin. The product packaging is really hygienic, which I appreciate in a face product. The one annoying thing about it is that it comes in a really thin but wide tube, which falls over a lot! That's only a minor annoyance -- just something you will notice if you are highly order-oriented. I usually flit from one moisturizer to the next as soon as I run out, but I think I will actually repurchase this time. Especially since it's nicely affordable and outperforms Neutrogena's combination skin moisturizer.
Lipstick -Boots - No 7 Stay Perfect Lipstick in Classic Rose
mg1013 12/28/2012 9:48:00 AM
Classic Rose is the perfect name for this shade, as it delivers exactly the color you'd expect. This is definitely a good color for a classy but not overdone look. However, it's not as comfortable to wear as the advertising would have you believe (shocking, I know). It's moderately drying -- not as much as other drugstore lipsticks, sure, but I wouldn't go so far as to call it "hydrating" as Boots does. The pigment also fades unevenly even when you take care to apply it and avoid touching or licking your lips. It lasts evenly for about 3 hours, but if you don't reapply, the lipstick pretty much vanishes from the center of your lips while leaving the outer corners still brightly colored in a jarring sort of nineties "LOOK AT MY LIP LINER. LOOK AT IT GODDAMN YOU" way. Speaking of which, you might actually be able to negate all these problems by using a lip liner before applying Classic Rose . . . but that's a little more high maintenance than I want my drugstore lipsticks to be! Because this is a highly dupeable shade with some wear problems, I'm not sure whether I'd buy another tube in the future. Then again, it's currently free in the Deco Darling gift box at Boots, so if you wind up getting a tube for free, it's definitely worth a shot!
Mascara -Boots - No. 7 Exceptional Definition Nutrient Enriched Mascara
mg1013 12/28/2012 9:42:00 AM
I got this mascara for free in the Deco Darling gift box from Boots when I bought foundation last week. Now, I usually have good luck with Boots products, but either this tube is from a bad batch of mascara or this formulation is just a dud. It sheds little black particles all over my face after just an hour of wear, and embrittles my lashes to the point where some BREAK when I try to take off the rest of the product with makeup remover! This is horrifying!! I have never had a mascara do this to me before, not even the cheapest CoverGirl or Maybelline tube. Even though this was free, I'm thinking of bringing it back to the store or emailing corporate just so they're aware of the problem. Incidentally, the brush is good, and the mascara really doesn't clump. However, that's not of primary importance when the product has such serious issues elsewhere. I was under the impression that most mascaras were pretty much the same, but this is clearly not the case. I'm going back to Maybelline, which might smudge, but at least it doesn't make me look like I lost a fight with a chimney sweep.
Guess what? I'm soul-crushingly bad at applying eyeliner, yet Milani's Eye Tech is somehow awesome enough to transform a total klutz into a cat-eyed Amazon goddess (or at least it makes me feel like it, which is good enough for me). Yes, this is the one drugstore eyeliner you MUST have if you're at the end of your rope, because it is a total game changer. The applicator is soft enough not to drag at your eyelid, and deposits color with perfect evenness and a lovely fine line. Yet it's not so soft that the brush squishes and gets pigment all over the place. I think it's the perfect length for comfort as well (that's what SHE said...). In fact, I have yet to poke myself in the eye with this, which is really rare for me! I tried Prestige's liquid liner before this, since everyone always says it's the best drugstore liquid liner, but I could never get a line with it that wasn't wobbly. I think the big differentiator here is in the shape and comfort of the brush or 'pen' you hold to apply the product. The Milani pen is, well, shaped like any other long pen, and it's easy to hold in the awkward position that applying eyeliner necessitates. In contrast, the Prestige pen is some kind of weird mutant alien cone shape. I'm sure makeup pros can use it with ease, but I cannot, and therefore I am sticking with Milani from now on! In comparison to the much-touted Milani Liquif'eye pencil liner, it's easier to get a precise line with Eye Tech Extreme. Eye Tech bleeds less at the *corner* of your eye than Liquif'eye, and transfers less color down under your eye over the day. Liquif'eye smudges more easily when touched directly, and is so soft that you sometimes leave crumbly bits of product on your eyelid/lashes when applying. There is also less loss of product with Eye Tech since you don't have to sharpen it. They're both tough to remove, but Vaseline normally works when all else has failed. Overall, I think Liquif'eye is better if you want a smudgy kohl look, and Eye Tech Extreme is better if you want a precise line. As usual, Milani delivers incredible value for their price. I don't know how they do it, but I really hope they don't stop. I can find Milani at some Walgreens and CVS locations, so they are probably in some Duane Reade stores as well. I think they also sell online. Unfortunately, I have never seen this brand while traveling outside the US.
Garconne is the red lipstick ne plus ultra. I don't need to use a lip liner or primer or any of that jazz when applying Garconne -- I just brush it on with a lip pencil, and I'm good to go for hours. I'm talking about eating and drinking like a pig, folks . . . Garconne just does not budge! I'm not even leaving lip prints on coffee mugs! I'm in love with the color and the formula; this is the most high-end lipstick I've ever used, and this product both feels and performs like it. It's less drying than any other lipcolor I've ever used, except for the Revlon lip butters. The product has no scent to it that I can discern. I think Guerlain made this out of baby unicorn tears or something. I don't even care. Some may look at the color and think "wow, that is just too red, I will look like a clown," but Garconne is surprisingly wearable! Somehow, the shade is both bold and well-balanced. It doesn't seem to clash with anything in my closet, so it's fairly versatile. I pair it with neutral/natural makeup if I want to look chic and sophisticated, and I pair it with a smokey eye if I want to look capable of killing you in your sleep and getting away with it. (I opt for the latter, perhaps, more than I should. I don't even care. You can't stop me. I am wearing The Red.) The obvious downside is the price. This is the most expensive lipstick I will ever, ever own. However, you can rest assured that I DID look for drugstore alternatives, and found none. (Some colors are similar at first look, but they all wear much differently. The formulas are all deeply inferior in comparison, and many of them have weird synthetic smells.) In this case, you actually do get what you pay for. In this case, I paid to look like a murderous pin-up girl, and I REGRET NOTHING.
Lips -Sephora - Ultra Vinyl Lip Pencil - Miami Pink
mg1013 7/22/2012 4:04:00 PM
Miami Pink is a great color -- a creamy yet vibrant, almost neon, shade of candy pink. It wears fairly well (albeit not as long as Sephora advertises) but feels a little waxy on your lips. I was really excited about this pencil when I bought it, but after only a month or so, I find myself hardly ever reaching for it. The first major downside is that the formula is extremely drying, so applying a gloss or balm afterwards (if you're not using a lipstick) is absolutely necessary unless you want to walk around looking like a lizard shedding its skin. A well-groomed lizard, perhaps, but it's still deeply unattractive. Also, this pencil will migrate into any cracks or flakes you might have on your lips, so you really do have to exfoliate them before application. Don't go crazy or buy anything fancy -- you can leave Vaseline on your lips for a few minutes, then gently rub your lips in circles with a wet facecloth, and you're set. But you absolutely cannot skip this step, or it will look just awful; the product emphasizes all the fine lines on your lips regardless, and will throw any imperfections into drastic relief! Secondly, the packaging of any lip pencil, including this one, is liable to get mid- to low-ranging marks due to the inevitable waste of product that occurs when you sharpen it. Besides that, you should also know that the pencil itself is of a VERY hard consistency that makes it difficult to use in lower-end drugstore sharpeners . . . I have to use my Urban Decay Grindhouse sharpener to even make a dent in it! Of course, this means you don't have to put this lip pencil in the fridge before applying or sharpening it, but you *will* waste a lot of product -- and possibly a couple cheap sharpeners -- in between uses. All in all, I find that the inconveniences of using this pencil outweigh its aesthetic benefits. Clinique Chubby Sticks have a much better formula, and they are automatic, meaning that you don't have to go through the hassle of sharpening them. They are $16 each, compared to $12 for the Ultra Vinyl Lip Pencils, BUT you are guaranteed less product waste as well as superior hydration. At the end of the day, I think those are a much better value. And if long-lasting pigmentation is what you're after, buckle up honey, because you might have to spring for NARS. On the lower end of the price spectrum, you have the new Revlon balm stains, which are about $10 and seem to have pretty decent reviews too.
Moisturizers -The Body Shop - Seaweed mattifying moisture lotion SPF 15
mg1013 7/8/2012 3:02:00 PM
Cons: Makes me look oilier than its marketing would suggest, fails to hydrate my dry patches, and aggravates problem spots. I applied this moisturizer as a breakout on my face was winding down into relative obscurity, and it actually caused the blemishes to flare up again! Pros: The Body Shop has a risk-free return policy. It honestly gives me no pleasure to jump on board the hate train for this product (no, really), but I have to do it because you can find better products for reactive skin at CVS or Walgreens, for a much better price point (e.g. Aveeno, Neutrogena, or even Olay). I'm willing to pay a higher price for a product that is actually superior to others in terms of quality, but I just don't see the benefit here. Of course, I'm also just kind of bitter because this was NOT a good time for my skin to freak out. Let that to be a lesson to you all: Never ever change your routine right before you must get an official photo taken! Or before an event! Even if you think it might be that one magical product that makes you 10x prettier overnight. Anyway, I am willing to give the Body Shop the benefit of the doubt and say that this might be a better moisturizer for someone with a different skin situation / chemistry than I have. However, the sales associate in their store did actually steer me to this product after I described my skin problems, and I know this moisturizer is marketed towards combo skin. Either way, it's a letdown.
Shampoo -Unlisted Brand - Home Health Everclean Antidandruff Shampoo
mg1013 7/4/2012 2:24:00 PM
Everclean is cheaper than Neutrogena's T-Gel and works a lot better, in my opinion; the only downside is that it smells like a lumberjack's sock drawer. Also please note that this product is vegan, and is *much* less expensive than a lot of the other vegan-friendly shampoos out there! Do not be fooled by the appearance of "horsetail extract" in the ingredients list; that's just a type of plant that looks sort of like a horse's tail, hence the name (yeah, I googled it). Still vegan. I have seborrheic dermatitis on my scalp, and T-Gel actually stopped working for me after a couple uses. I tried replacing it with a store brand version of T-Gel, but that did even less for me than the T-Gel did, and dried out my hair into a frizzy mess. I noticed that sulfates were really high on the ingredients list, and this led to me shopping around for products with a lower amount of sulfates/parabens/etc. and a higher amount of more natural ingredients. Everclean does list sodium myreth sulfate and TEA-laurel sulfate among its ingredients, but this is in in a much lower concentration than any other anti-dandruff shampoo I could find. They're at the bottom of the list, as opposed to being the second and third ingredients. I think this is probably as good as it gets. So I picked up Everclean in the Vitamin Shoppe -- which I'm normally shallow enough to avoid just because of the gratuitously weird spelling of their name -- and I am really glad I did! For a shampoo, it's remarkably moisturizing, and after a couple weeks of use, the seborrhea is actually under control. I haven't noticed any drop-off of efficacy like I did with the T-Gel. Nor has the formula messed around with my curls, which is a huge point in its favor. But oh my god, the smell. I understand that any product containing pine tar (the agent that cleanses away your flakes) is going to smell a little bit like one of those pine tree air fresheners people put in their car, but . . . yikes, this is strong! The good news is that you can eventually rinse the smell out of your hair, most of the time; the bad news is that this takes a while, and *sometimes* a bit of the smell actually lingers for about an hour after you get out of the shower. It's possible that a guy might actually like this scent . . . it's kind of manly, in a very dated "wood paneling, shag carpet, handlebar mustache, pipe-smoking" way. Alas, I am a lady, and this is not one of my preferred personal scents. In my opinion, the only way this shampoo could improve would be to do something to negate this effect, but I don't know if that's realistic given the ingredients list. Although I would highly recommend this based on my own experience, it's possible that other people's scalp chemistry won't react the same way. I suggest buying smaller sizes of related products just to experiment and see what works best for you. Everclean in particular is a really solid choice, both in terms of price and efficacy, especially if you find most dandruff shampoos to be too harsh on your hair. On a different note, the actual quality/effectiveness of the packaging is much better than that of other shampoos, if only because you don't have to cut open the entire dang bottle to get the last bit of product. I appreciate this because I always come pretty close to sawing off my own hand whenever I try to finish one of those bottles!
The name of this shade makes me laugh, but in all honesty, this is one of the best drugstore polishes you're going to find for $3-$5. (It's a step down from Spoiled, but definitely far better than NYC or Confetti.) Milani's a great brand, in my opinion; they carry a LOT of dupes for high-end brands (check Temptalia if you don't believe me), but even besides that, I think they're just really very solid all on their own. I just wish they were more readily available! I can only find a Milani stand at maybe 1 out of 3 CVS locations I visit. They do sell online, but who wants to pay for shipping? Not me. Hipster Plum (ha!!) itself is a nice basic deep purple. I think it may qualify as an eggplant purple, but it doesn't have the gray undertones or the muddiness that you sometimes get from polishes that shade; here, the color you get on your nails is completely true to what you see in the bottle. My one and only problem with the formula is that it's a little watery, leading to uneven application on the first coat, but things always even out with the second coat. Now, I'm not going to say this is as rich as, say, a NARS polish, but the quality is exactly the same as what you'd expect from an $8 salon polish. Overall, Milani polishes are a great choice, and I think Hipster Plum (ha!! again) in particular is a wonderful shade that can flatter a wide variety of skin tones.
BB Cream -L'Oreal - Revitalift Total Repair 10 BB Cream
mg1013 7/1/2012 5:40:00 PM
tl;dr: This is marketed as "light," when in reality it is "orange." Exercise extreme caution. I tested this cream on the inside of my wrist, which is paler than salt cod (sorry for that delightful visual; I only mention this because I picked out the shade that seemed most likely to match my skin tone). A lot of product comes out of the container with one pump, so be careful! It does spread easily, despite the scary-looking dark balls of . . . something . . . that are suspended in it. These spheres do dissolve quickly; that's not the problem. Within the first few seconds, the product had oxidized from "milky white" to "Oompa Loompa with a sunburn." Since it was marketed as "light," I really was expecting something in the middle of those two shades! L'Oreal itself has pretty decent products, in my experience. I think the problem here is just that the shade that appears on the label of this product's package is not actually the same color as what the product itself turns into. The product itself is probably perfectly fine as far as tinted moisturizers go . . . but what you see on the packaging is NOT what you get, so it's completely useless to me.
Koliary is a bright creamy blue polish from NARS' summer 2012 collaborative line with Thakoon. NARS classifies Koliary as a cyan, and like the others in this line, it's so bright it's almost neon! This is a very, very summery shade, but you might find it overwhelming; if that's the case, I suggest adding metallic accents to augment its attitude. This is not your classic Tiffany blue, which I personally think is a good thing, but it goes just as well with gold. Please note that Koliary looks much lighter in color on the NARS website than it is in person. The picture I uploaded is a little blurry (sorry!) but it should help you get the drift -- this is a medium blue, albeit a bright one. If you want the lighter shade of blue in this line, go for Kutki instead. The formula is pretty clearly top-end. Very richly pigmented, with relatively easy application; basically opaque with one coat, but I'd still recommend two. The formula just *feels* expensive when you put it on; it's very even and streak-free. I embarked on a manual labor spree shortly after my nails were dry, and Koliary endured a solid 8 hours of heavy-duty vacuuming, dusting, and heavy lifting with only ONE small chip on my thumbnail. That is unprecedented for me. I gave Koliary 4 rather than 5 stars for two reasons: First, the cap is a large and somewhat unwieldy rubber rectangle, making application a little tougher than it has to be; and second . . . $18 for a bottle? Pretty dang steep! I actually got my bottle of Koliary as a present, and I have to say I never would have thought to spend almost $20 on 0.5 fluid ounces of product myself, BUT . . . this nail polish is so good that when I run out, I might just have to shell out for it anyway. And thus NARS finds another reluctant convert!
Vanilla Blackberry smells like cheap sangria. Overpoweringly so. Buy this if you want to smell like a well-dressed wino. I'm honestly kind of surprised . . . all of Lavanila's other scents are just flat-out gorgeous, but I guess statistically there have to be a couple duds in every company's lineup!
Polishes -New York Color - Long Wearing Nail Enamel - Plaza Plumberry 139
mg1013 6/20/2012 8:56:00 PM
NYC has really hit-or-miss nail polish formulas, and I have definitely been burned by them before, but Plaza Plumberry is a really good find! What really surprised me is that while Plaza Plumberry is very similar to Essie's Carry On when the two bottles are viewed side by side, it somehow has more depth and interest after 2 coats than Carry On does. Carry On gets muddy and turns almost black, whereas Plaza Plumberry stays, well, plum. Its consistency seems much thicker than that of other NYC polishes, which in this case is a very good thing, trust me! There's no streakiness here, unlike some of their other offerings. I don't get the near-eternal wear time that some other reviewers have reported, but hey, at 99¢, I could do much worse! Especially since its pigmentation is coming out ahead of an Essie polish. At the end of the day, Plaza Plumberry is a really solid nail polish. If you're going to impulse-buy any NYC product on your way out of the store, make it Plaza Plumberry and not French White Tip.
Polishes -New York Color - Long Wearing Nail Enamel - French White Tip 134
mg1013 6/20/2012 8:50:00 PM
NYC is really hit-or-miss with their formulas, which I guess is inevitable when the price point is 99¢. So in case you were wondering, French White Tip is a miss. Not worth 99¢. An ex-parrot. The formula is streaky, runny, and uneven. It's pretty much impossible to get a solid white color payoff from this shade, so it's particularly unfortunate that it's advertised as ideal for doing your tips! Even White-Out would be a better choice. My advice to you is . . . don't. Just don't. Learn from my mistakes.
Everyone else has covered the scent angle here, so I'd like to address the packaging quality first, since that's something I often take into consideration when looking at perfumes. The main benefit to using a rollerball format is a decrease in product loss, and yet many companies choose to save a couple pennies by opting for a cheap applicator that ultimately results in equal, if not greater, wastage. Lavanila seems to have chosen a good design. The amount of product that comes out with one swipe is pretty sizeable -- it doesn't flood out of the bottle by any means, but you don't have to press hard for payoff. The rollerball will not pinch your skin, nor does it drag across your skin like cheap eyeliner (another problem with some designs I have encountered in the past). The base of the glass container is nicely weighted so that despite its skinniness, the bottle will not fall over -- unless you try putting it down at something like a 45º angle, which . . . really? It's a perfume bottle, not a Weeble. In any case, this bottle is much more stable than some other tall rollerballs that are out there. So no, it's not as delicate as it looks. As for the scent itself, well, it's delicious on me, but perfume is pretty notorious for smelling different according to individual body chemistries, so try before you buy! Personally, I picked up Pure Vanilla as a substitute for BPAL's Antique Lace, since that was discontinued and my old bottle just ran out. Pure Vanilla is not as floral as Antique Lace, and it's not as soft, but I still really like it. Also, the scent does manage to avoid that overwhelming cheap "I just chugged a bottle of vanilla extract behind the 7-11" smell you get from some other vanilla perfumes, so if that has been a problem for you in the past, don't worry! The good-quality ingredients and formula of Pure Vanilla shine through very well, and the wear is extensive, unlike those weird eaus de toilette you pick up at Anthropologie and immediately regret. (Not that I'm holding a grudge . . . no, not me . . .) I don't mean to damn the product with faint praise, but really, Pure Vanilla does exactly what it says on the tin; it's a very reliable, no-fuss vanilla, and I recommend it.