Five Favorite Beauty Products

Inspired by a writing friend’s post on her beauty blog, here are my five favorite beauty products. Leave a comment sharing your own (or a link to your blog post!).
 
five favorites

The Favorites: Can’t Live Without ‘Em, Daily Use Products

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Tarte Amazonian Clay 12-Hour Full Coverage Foundation SPF 15

I know, what a name. But this foundation is fabulous. I wear the light-medium honey shade, using this foundation brush for application. The foundation goes on smooth, and you don’t need a lot for coverage. It’s the perfect dewy, fresh finish that makes me look put-together without feeling overdone.

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Benefit Fake Up Concealer

It’s taken me years to find an undereye concealer I truly love. I received a sample through Birchbox and purchased the full size after it ran out.  It’s a great product for a natural beauty look, and it covers my dark circles well.

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Tarte’s Gifted Amazonian Clay Smart Mascara

This Amazonian clay mascara is the perfect formula for me; it adds length and volume and wears well all day long. It looks great if I don’t curl my eyelashes, too – making it a perfect option to emphasize my eyes when I don’t have a ton of time or want a more relaxed, natural look.

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SEPHORA COLLECTION Brow Kit

Note: Sephora no longer sells this exact product. It’s my favorite brow powder, and it pulls together my look (even if I’m only wearing concealer and mascara!). It also came with some brow tools and stencils for that perfect arch, but I only wear the powder now – and I think this is the “improved” version of my kit. Okay then.

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ALTERNA Bamboo Plumping Strand Expand

A styling product that’s great for fine hair without weighing down your look. A must for those wanting thicker hair.

Honorable Mentions:

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Butter London’s British Racing Green & Fash Pack

When I thought about this post, BL’s polish was the first product that came to my mind. British Racing Green and Fash Pack are my hands-down favorite shades. British Racing Green is a beautiful, deep green that works as a mani or pedi color. Fash Pack is my workhorse neutral: dark enough to make a statement, but still a nude shade perfect for the office.

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Coastal Scents Revealed & Revealed 2 Eyeshadow Palettes

Great quality and coverage for a very reasonable price. I don’t wear as much eye makeup in the summer, so I’m really looking forward to playing around with different looks this fall and getting more mileage out of these palettes. Between the two, I don’t need any more eyeshadow!

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Tarte Blush

I have three different shades (one of which came in a palette) and love them all. They go on so smooth and build for the perfect look. My favorite right now is the palette shade – perfect for summer/fall!

What are your five favorite beauty products? Share in the comments!

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Ipsy Review | May Bag

Ipsy sends out 4-5 higher end samples and a unique bag each month. Like Birchbox, Ipsy is a $10/month subscription box. Bonus-wise, you get 10 points for each product review and 250 points for each referral. You can use these to select bonus items for upcoming Glam Bags. The ones displaying right now appear to be full-size, higher end products; several are palettes/kits. I think this is an important distinction for someone used to Sephora’s free bonus items or the Birchbox bonus shop. Another key point: there’s not an online store where you can buy full-size products. Instead, you are redirected to product’s company website and given an Ipsy-specific coupon code to use when checking out.

My May bag featured the following:

  • Hang Ten | Classic Sport SPF50
  • Pacifica | Mineral Eyeshadow Duo
  • Nailtini | Straight Up Color Nail Lacquer in Caviar Cocktail
  • Pur~lisse | pur~moist hydra balance moisturizer
  • Crown Brush | Pro Blending Fluff Brush

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Hang Ten | Classic Sport SPF50
This was one of my “skip it” products. I usually toss sunblock in my samples drawer to grab for hiking trips or impromptu outdoor outings.

Pacifica | Mineral Eyeshadow Duo
These have a more subtle color pay-off than other eyeshadows I own. Since I own a lot of neutral/purple shades, that’s actually a good thing – these colors can be as subdued or as bold as needed.

Nailtini | Straight Up Color Nail Lacquer in Caviar Cocktail
This is a great sheer layering color…and perfect for any season. With all the light neutrals and vivids, I really wanted to try a dark manicure. I paired this over a dark matte suede polish by Julep and got a beautiful, copper shade. I didn’t clean up my nails, so you can see the lighter shade on my ring and pinky fingers.

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Pur~lisse | pur~moist hydra balance moisturizer
Unfortunately this moisturizer was the normal/dry skin formula. I hesitated to try it with a lot of oiliness. Giveaway box-bound!

Crown Brush | Pro Blending Fluff Brush
The bristles were a little stiff for my taste, but I am always happy to have an extra eye makeup brush around.

Not the best bag I’ve received, but still pretty darn good. I do like being able to give feedback on each item, which is used to tailor the items in my future bags (as much as possible). In theory, this should mean that I won’t get as many sunscreen samples as I tend to get from other boxes…

Disclosure: I am not sponsored by or compensated by Ipsy, but I do get a referral credit if you click on the links above.

Any other Ipsy subscribers out there? What did you think of the May bag?

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Julep Review | May Box

Julep is my only nails/nail care beauty box subscription. The basic “Maven” box is $19.99/month to feed my manicure problem. Each month you can preview the different boxes and products options. While you have a beauty “style,” it’s very customizable so you can pick the colors/products you want. 

My May Maven box featured the following Classic with a Twist products:

  • Maddy nail polish
  • Ramona nail polish
  • The infamous Plié wand

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Maddy was a fairly close dupe for Queen Vic, I polish I adored but managed to break when moving. It’s a color I know I like and will end up wearing more in the fall, because I’m strange like that.

Ramona was somewhat disappointing. I loved the color in the online preview – just plain gorgeous lavender. My skin tone didn’t do the polish any favors. It looked…sickly. I figure I can use some of my more sheer polishes over it or finagle some nail art pattern to make it usable in my manicure collection.

The Plié wand was weird. I did not enjoy using it. I don’t have a ton of problems painting my nails, but I did with this. Also, I (for some reason) thought the wand was more rubbery and would form to my hand wherever I chose to bend it. I nearly broke the hard plastic in half – oops! I’m putting this tool on the shelf, so to speak.

I also opted to add on the following for a reduced cost:

  • Kam nail polish
  • Laree nail polish
  • Freedom to Go top coat duo

I kicked myself for doing a great manicure with Kam and forgetting to take a picture before heading to the gym the next day. Turns out these polishes do not stand up to chlorine (from the pool), the steam room, and a shower. I saw online a few people describe this as “hospital green,” but I think it may depend on skin tone. It was a pretty gray/green for me.

Much like April’s bright pink Caitlin, Laree is my new go-to pedicure color. It’s just so happy! It’s a stellar cross of pink and orange, and it goes on smooth. I found myself reapplying whenever there was the slightest hint of wear. Normally I just let the polish chip away until I pick something else out.

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Overall, a solid box that will add to my collection. Keep it up, Julep!

Any other Julep subscribers out there? What did you pick for your May box?

Disclosure: I am not sponsored by or compensated by Julep, but I do get a referral credit if you click on the links above.

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Birchbox Review | April Box

For those who haven’t heard of it, Birchbox is a monthly subscription box service for women and men. The cost is $10/month for the women’s box and $20/month for the men’s box. You fill out a survey and the company sends you products that pair well with your results. Product sizes may vary – many are smaller samples, but a full-size product or bonus item slips in now and then. Each order nets ten points, and you earn more points with reviews for the box products. You also earn points when you make a purchase from the store or refer someone to the service. Every 100 points is $10 to spend on goodies.

My April box featured the following:

  • Cynthia Rowley Beauty Eyeliner
  • KIND Healthy Grain Bars
  • Color Club Art Duo Pens
  • Madison Reed Nourishing Color-Enhancing Shampoo
  • Madison Reed Nourishing Color-Enhancing Conditioner

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Cynthia Rowley Beauty Eyeliner
The standout product of the box. The silver shade is amazing. I swatched it twice below so you can see how it looks with immediate smudging and after about 10 minutes. If you wanted to play around with the smudged eyeliner look, you’ll need to start blending ASAP (you can barely see the smudged squiggle on the left). After 10 minutes, this eyeliner barely budges.

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I can see this being my new favorite edgy color, and I can’t wait to pair it with a smoky eye and some of my favorite plum/rose gold looks.

KIND Healthy Grain Bars
At first I thought, “who puts a granola bar in a beauty box?” But…it’s Birchbox, known in the blogging community for the random lifestyle extras. This was one of the rare wins; I really liked the bar (it hit the spot as a mid-morning work snack this week), and I will try other flavors.

Color Club Art Duo Pens
This product disappointed me. I got two samples, both black (not sure if that was a mistake…), but the packaging was so cheap. I always do a polish test on a piece of paper, and the pen applicator was so scratchy and inconsistent that I didn’t even try it on my nails. It either had no polish or was really goopy. The stippling brush pulled so much polish that you couldn’t tell it was a mini version. So…pass. Which was a bummer, because I was really excited about trying this.

Madison Reed Nourishing Color-Enhancing Shampoo & Madison Reed Nourishing Color-Enhancing Conditioner
I liked this. Not enough to buy the full-sized products, but enough to squirrel it away for rainy days. Given the box’s “rainy day” theme, I find this use appropriate.

You’ll also note there is a rainy day tip in the top right corner. All I’ll say is: read the BBITB review and comments section.

Overall, Birchbox was slightly better than usual. There were more hits than misses, and several products I will get multiple uses from. I still stand by my statement that I’m really keeping the subscription for the bonus points and the extensive online shop.

Disclosure: I am not sponsored by or compensated by Birchbox, but I do get a referral credit if you sign up using the links above.

Any other Birchbox subscribers out there? What experience did you have with the April box?

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GLOSSYBOX Review | March Box

GLOSSYBOX is a higher end beauty box. Offered at $21/month, it tends to have a better quality, larger sample size, and brand variety beyond your typical Birchbox fare. There is a beauty profile feature, which seems pretty standard across the board.

Bonus-wise, you get 20 points for each review and 200 points for each referral. Annoying thing? I can’t find a referral link! Turns out you have to manually link up social media or personally invite friends. I don’t want to spam folks, so I guess this one’s a freebie. If you really feel strongly about helping me earn points, just comment on this post and I’ll reach out to you with an invite email.

And with that out of the way, on to the good stuff! My March box featured the following:

  • Alex and Ani | Scent 7 Body Mist
  • Alterna Haircare | BAMBOO Volume Plumping Strand Expand
  • Etre Belle Cosmetics | Liplift Peel
  • Nails Inc | Brook Street Nail Polish
  • Sisley Paris | Black Rose Cream Mask
  • Bonus Item: Alex and Ani | Charm bangle

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Typically, I would include a review of each sample. That’s going to be pretty hard, because I didn’t really sample most of my products.

I automatically put the body mist and cream mask in my giveaway pile – I’m not a perfume/body mist person, so those types of samples never do anything for me. With the awful breakouts I’ve been having lately I didn’t want to risk using the cream mask.

I did a quick check on the liplift peel – and when I saw it had a creamy, heavy consistency, I added it to the pile. Those types of products tend to irritate the skin around my lips.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the polish swatch, either. And the bangle is…a bangle?

The hair product was pretty great, though. It’s going to replace my current thickening product and I will absolutely buy the full-size product.

Honestly, so far this has been the most disappointing of my beauty box subscriptions, and with a $21 price each month it has to be nearly perfect to justify it. I’ll give April a shot, but I’m strongly considering canceling. The products may be great for some people, but I don’t think I’m in that demographic.

Any other GLOSSYBOX subscribers out there? What kind of luck have you had with the March box?

Disclosure: I am not sponsored by or compensated by GLOSSYBOX, but I do get a referral credit if you send me an engraved invitation requesting a link.

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Julep Review | April Box

Julep is my only nails/nail care beauty box subscription. The basic “Maven” box is $19.99/month to feed my manicure problem. Each month you can preview the different boxes and products options. While you have a beauty “style,” it’s very customizable so you can pick the colors/products you want. 

My April Maven box featured the following Classic with a Twist products:

  • Mariska nail polish
  • Caitlin nail polish
  • Peach Bellini Glow Pore Minimizing Blush
  • Candy

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I also opted to add one three more polishes for a reduced cost:

  • Flora nail polish
  • Phoebe nail polish
  • Kayla nail polish

Surprisingly, my favorite product has been the blush. I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of it so far. I think this will be my new standby cheek color.

(Yes, that’s a plastic sheet on top of the blush, but that design is stellar.)

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The polishes aren’t terrible, but I haven’t tried them as much. They are incredibly bright – possibly a little too bold for some, to be honest.

Top to bottom: Caitlin, Mariska, Phoebe, Kayla, Flora

Top to bottom: Caitlin, Mariska, Phoebe, Kayla, Flora

But with something called “The Vivid Collection,” what would you expect?

Left to right: Caitlin, Mariska, Phoebe, Kayla, Flora

Left to right: Caitlin, Mariska, Phoebe, Kayla, Flora

Another bonus with Julep polishes: those swatch caps. It really opens up your storage options.

Caitlin has been a great pedicure color. After a week with very long days in the office, it’s been an unexpected treat to kick off my shoes and see that bright pink. It’s the little things, you know?

Kayla is probably my least favorite color of the bunch – too sheer for me.

I’m thinking Phoebe or Mariska will be the next ones I try out, but almost all of these will get plenty of wear this summer.

Any other Julep subscribers out there? What did you pick for your April box?

Disclosure: I am not sponsored by or compensated by Julep, but I do get a referral credit if you click on the links above.

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Julep Review | March Box

Julep is more on the nails/nail care side for beauty boxes. They do have beauty products, but the monthly boxes tend to fall into nail polish and treatments for a basic box. You do have the option of upgrading for more products each month, though I don’t know how frequently I’ll do that since the basic “Maven” box is $19.99/month and I’m primarily interested in the nail products.

One thing that I like about Julep is that each month they preview the different boxes and products options. While you have a beauty style, it’s very customizable so you can pick the colors/products you want. My style is “Classic with a Twist” (because of course it is), but I like the trendier shades of It Girl and the earthy/edgy Boho Glam colors – I have a feeling I’ll give those a try at some point!

I haven’t quite figured out the points system yet, but I did see there’s a substantial online shop with lots of well-priced products. I have my eye on a few different $3 polishes!

My intro box featured the following Classic with a Twist products:

  • Myrtle nail polish
  • Zora nail polish
  • Mighty Nail & Cuticle Serum
  • Emery blocks

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Myrtle
This is a bold red color – your standard statement red. I have more than my fair share of these, but I wanted to see how this brand stacked up. Turns out this is an almost dupe for butter LONDON’s Come to Bed Red!

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Zora
Zora is an iridescent, pearly pink color. It’s a proper neutral that I can see as a good base layer or contrast shade for nail art.

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Mighty Nail & Cuticle Serum
I needed a new cuticle treatment, preferably one that wasn’t super oily and messy. The applicator is great – very similar to Stila lip glosses, so essentially a pen with a brush attached to the top.

Overall, I really like these polishes. They tend to chip a little more, but it could be because I was rushing the polish jobs and being super brutal on my nails. I’m excited for my next order, as it will have a few polish add-ons and more vibrant, out-there colors. I foresee some kind of French manicure with Zora…

Any other Julep subscribers out there? What did you pick for your March box?

Disclosure: I am not sponsored by or compensated by Julep, but I do get a referral credit if you click on the links above.

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Ipsy Review | March Bag

When I began evaluating new beauty box options, Ipsy stood out as being a mix between Birchbox and GLOSSYBOX. Like GLOSSYBOX, it seemed to have consistent favorable reviews. Like GLOSSYBOX, it also appealed to me based on the quality of the products, volume/size of the samples, and variety of the brands. There is a beauty profile feature, which seems pretty standard across the board.

Even though Ipsy sends out higher end brands, it does not have the same price point as GLOSSYBOX. Ipsy is another $10/month subscription box, and it sends 4-5 products each month in a unique bag. Yep, they actually send a glam bag out, and it matches the theme.

Bonus-wise, you get 10 points for each product review and 250 points for each referral. You can use these to select bonus items for upcoming Glam Bags. The ones displaying right now appear to be full-size, higher end products; several are palettes/kits. I think this is an important distinction for someone used to Sephora’s free bonus items or the Birchbox bonus shop.

A couple of things that make Ipsy stand out, right off the bat:

  • There’s a large online community sharing and connecting over social media. When I log in, I’m greeted by a picture of the March glam bag and then a whole slew of reviews/looks created by other subscribers (including pictures). It creates a more personal connection and doesn’t feel like just another beauty website…
  • …because it isn’t one. There’s not an online store where you can buy full-size products. Instead, you are redirected to product’s company website and given an Ipsy-specific coupon code to use when checking out. This might be annoying for some people who just want to go to a site and order their chosen products in one fell swoop. However, it gives Ipsy a lot more flexibility to connect with new retailers who may not want their products sold online through a middleman like Birchbox. It also ensures the consumer will be exposed to the full product line, rather than just a few selected products (I’m not aware of any company whose entire product line is available through, say, Birchbox).

And with that out of the way, on to the good stuff! My March bag featured the following:

  • bareMinerals | Marvelous Moxie™ Lipstick in Get Ready
  • Nicole by OPI | Roughles in On What Grounds?
  • Be a Bombshell | Bora Bora Eyeshadow Quad
  • Pixi Beauty | Flawless Beauty Primer

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bareMinerals | Marvelous Moxie™ Lipstick in Get Ready
I loved this color. It’s the type of color that wouldn’t draw my eye in a store because it seems pretty basic; I tend to pick bolder colors. This lipstick has a smooth, creamy formula that isn’t drying. Unfortunately, it also wore off pretty fast and didn’t have much staying power. This will be a good one to throw in my bag, but I don’t see it becoming part of my regular beauty routine.

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Nicole by OPI | Roughles in On What Grounds?
I love nail polish, but the idea of having sandpaper-covered nails does not appeal to me. These felt very gritty and just plain weird on my nails. I layered it over another polish because I hoped that would help it come off later; I worried the texture would lend to scrubbing my nails down with polish remover. I don’t think the color helped much. The blue looked like it had gravel/coffee grounds mixed in. I found the purple a little more appealing.

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Check out that texture – and my unpainted toes down below.

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Be a Bombshell | Bora Bora Eyeshadow Quad
I love eyeshadow palettes. I’ve never tried anything from Be a Bombshell, but I had high expectations from beauty blogs. I was impressed by the quality of the powder and the coverage. I wouldn’t have picked out these shades myself, but that just makes them more unique. I have a feeling this quad will get a lot of use in spring and summer.

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Pixi Beauty | Flawless Beauty Primer
This is a primer. I’m really just getting into primers, so I don’t have much to say other than this had golden peach undertones and seemed to do its job.

Overall, I’m pretty darn impressed by Ipsy. This is my new favorite box – after just one shipment.

Any other Ipsy subscribers out there? What did you think of the March bag?

Disclosure: I am not sponsored by or compensated by Ipsy, but I do get a referral credit if you click on the links above.

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GLOSSYBOX Review | February Box

I decided to try out some new beauty subscription boxes. Most of these I discovered through beauty blogs I follow. GLOSSYBOX seemed to have consistent favorable reviews. Although it’s a higher price point ($21), I thought I would give it a try based on the quality of the products, volume/size of the samples, and variety of the brands. There is a beauty profile feature, which seems pretty standard across the board.

Bonus-wise, you get 20 points for each review and 200 points for each referral. Annoying thing? I can’t find a referral link! Turns out you have to manually link up Twitter/Facebook/GMail or invite friends. I don’t want to spam folks, so I guess this one’s a freebie. If you really feel strongly about helping me earn points, just comment on this post and I’ll reach out to you with an invite email.

And with that out of the way, on to the good stuff! My February box featured the following:

  • Anatomicals | Puffy the Eye Bag Slayer Wake Up Under Eye Patches
  • Lauren B. Beauty | Nail Couture in City of Angels
  • Pureology Serious Colour Care | Colour Fanatic
  • Skin&Co Roma | Truffle Therapy Serum Plus
  • Sumita Beauty | Kala Color Intense Eye Pencil

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Anatomicals | Puffy the Eye Bag Slayer Wake Up Under Eye Patches
Alas, no review here. I have super sensitive skin around my eyes, and the one patch I lightly placed on my face started burning within about five seconds. Sadly, “immediate burning sensation” is a side effect of about 90% of the eye treatments I’ve tried, so if this sounds like your cup of tea, try it. I mean, I still have two unopened samples…

Lauren B. Beauty | Nail Couture in City of Angels
I was pleasantly surprised; having never tried the (brand new) company, I thought it would be just another Essie pink. Wrong – this was a great color, which somehow looked chic but modern. It really complimented my skin tone and was perfect for a professional manicure. Amp up the edge factor with a bold reverse French style.

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Pureology Serious Colour Care | Colour Fanatic
My new approach to hair products is to use them once on their own and once as part of my regular hair styling. Sometimes I get a little lazy in the morning and the second trial doesn’t happen immediately. Oops. Anyway, this is a primer/protector for color-treated hair. Because I have a phenomenal hair stylist who knows a thing (or a million) about hair coloring, I don’t see a ton of awful fading. I guess this does its job and will be a good travel product. Unexpected bonus? My hair was really soft after I used it.

Skin&Co Roma | Truffle Therapy Serum Plus
I do not understand the point of a serum. They seem to be kind of pointless. On the plus side, this one had a nice smell and didn’t seem to make me break out as soon as it was applied to my face (a result of a product from one of my unposted Birchbox reviews). So if serums are your thing, maybe try this one? I don’t know.

Sumita Beauty | Kala Color Intense Eye Pencil
I was really excited about this product, but it was frustrating. It’s the first marker-style eyeliner I’ve ever tried, so it’s probably user error more than anything else, but damn. This stuff does not come off. I mean, I wore it for an event on a Friday night and after several rounds of makeup remover, face washes, and showers, there was still eyeliner residue smeared around my eyes.

Overall, GLOSSYBOX shows promise. I didn’t love everything I got, but it had several solid products that I will continue using.

Any other GLOSSYBOX subscribers out there? What kind of luck have you had with the February box?

Disclosure: I am not sponsored by or compensated by GLOSSYBOX, but I do get a referral credit if you send me an engraved invitation requesting a link.

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Pin It to Win It | Layered Nail Art

For my second Pin It to Win It (PITWI), I was pinspired by a cool nail art tutorial from The Beauty Department, one of my favorite beauty blogs.

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Here’s the gist: use reinforcement stickers to create a heart-shaped pattern on your nails, then repeat. You’ll get a cool triple-layer design that looks great with a variety of color schemes (coordinating, contrasting, etc).

Tools:

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Instructions:

  1. Paint a light layer of your first color. Do not paint the entire nail – you’ll end up with way too many thick layers at the end.
  2. Place your reinforcement stickers on your nails. I found it was easier to do one hand at a time. Also, you’ll want to space the stickers out pretty far to get the heart shape.
  3. Paint your second layer of color, wait about ninety seconds, and remove the stickers. It’s best to wait a while before proceeding (I gave it ten minutes to be on the safe side).
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 with your third color.
  5. Add a clear top coat.
  6. Clean up inadvertent errors with nail polish remover and brush.

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I went with a neutral to black progression, but how fun would a color palette be? Or primary colors? A holiday theme could be fun, too.

Got other ideas? Leave them in the comments!