Makeup I Traveled with and Purchased in Germany

I love “What’s in My Travel Makeup Bag?” type of posts for only one reason: wanting to see which products someone couldn’t be without. The products I took with me traveling were chosen for so many other reasons besides that one, so I reconsidered making this post. However, I thought about how I was able to pack the least amount of products for the longest trip I’ve been on and realized this could be useful to those wanting ideas of what to take with them and things to consider for extended stays. I will also discuss what I learned about shopping for makeup in Germany and I’ll review the items I purchased while there.


Anything Will Do

When it comes to lips, brows, and face primers, I find that pretty much any products in those categories will get the job done. They all work well, but I could have replaced them with any others in my collection. I chose the 15ml travel size of the Good Molecules Silicone-Free Priming Moisturizer because it can double as a primer and moisturizer, which saves space with its compact form and from having to bring a second item. The ELF Instant Lift Brow Pencil could have been swapped out for my Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Wiz or the Benefit Precisely My Brow pencil, but the $3 price made it ideal so that if I misplaced it, it wouldn’t be much of a financial loss. The Tower28 Gloss was chosen because I am on an unofficial project pan and want to see if I can use it up within a year. Otherwise, I would have taken the Fenty Gloss Bomb or my other mini glosses with me instead. I did a lip declutter earlier this year, so any lip pencil in my current collection could have replaced the Mented Nude La La Lip Pencil, but I chose it because it’s the one I’ve used the least, is a shade I could use all over the lip and not just as a liner, plus it doesn’t require a sharpener.

Backups/Replaceable Items

Choosing the Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner was an easy decision because it was my holy grail eyeliner for a long time, it will last through different changes in weather, and I have multiples of them in my collection because I always get them at half price during Ulta’s 21 Days of Beauty sales or during the holidays. I knew I would be going back to Germany this year, so I didn’t want to bring a used eyeliner and have to worry that when I went back it would be dried up or run out on me. I also recently became reacquainted with my old holy grail lip balm, the Nuxe Reve de Miel, and went overboard buying three jars in total when they only have a 6 month shelf life once opened. So, I figured I could keep a spare in Germany as well. As for the brown mini lipgloss tube in the initial post photo at the top, I decided that I could use one of the empty tubes I had from my days of making custom products to store foundation in there. The tiny gift with purchase sample I had of the Nars Soft Matte Complete Foundation lasted me six months, so I knew the amount I squeezed in there would last through multiple trips. If you have a foundation in a glass bottle, it’s a great idea to store some in a small squeeze tube that helps limit the exposure of the foundation to air, has a small enough hole so that you won’t squeeze too much product out at once, and is of course more compact and won’t break during travel.

Speaking of broken things, I contemplated what to do with my repressed pan of Huda GloWish Soft Radiance Bronzing Powder in the shade 04 Tan since I was sent a replacement item. Although I got too dark on the trip to be able to use it, I figured I could keep the spare in Germany. Lastly, I only have one MAC Studio Fix Soft Matte Foundation Stick, but this item is replaceable in the sense that my holy grail eyeshadow primer is the MAC Paint Pot. This performs similarly to the Paint Pot but works better specifically with the Hindash Beautopsy palette I planned to bring with me. Also unlike the Paint Pot, it’s not in a breakable glass pot. Plus, I could use it as concealer in a pinch, though it isn’t dark enough for me to use as actual foundation. But if someone else traveling wanted to really pack minimally, the Foundation Stick could be used for all of those tasks.

Must Haves

If I wasn’t the type that loves having a variety to choose from, even on trips, I could have skipped bringing an eyeliner, brow pencil, blushes, and bronzers entirely because I took the Hindash Beautopsy Palette with me. I did skip bringing a contour and setting powder because I had this available. I use Beautopsy for so much more than eyeshadows and I’ve been raving about this palette for good reason. It could be a bit nerve wracking to take such an expensive product, but the packaging is intended for makeup artists, which means it should be durable enough to travel with anywhere. This is a must have for minimalists, but I took this because it’s such a staple in my makeup routine now that I didn’t want to be without it. Especially considering the fact that I got a little darker on the trip, my ability to customize the depth of shades came in handy and I used it more than all the bronzers I had with me. The only area which the Beautopsy palette lacks is having no shimmer options. I knew I would miss having shimmer shadows, so I used a custom magnetic palette to store my Devinah Cosmetics Eyeshadows. When selecting the colors, I wanted shades that would pair well with each other, could be used in subtle daytime looks or dramatic nighttime looks, as well as giving me neutral and colorful options. Of course it was tempting to want to bring my absolute favorite Clionadh shadows, but Devinah makes extremely similar quality of products with the added bonus of being made in the US with quicker restocks. This means that if for some reason my shadows broke irreparably (like the particles got mixed with each other and could not be separated), I’d probably have a replacement in weeks up to 2 months, as opposed to 1-6 months or more. Devinah shadows are also slightly lower cost per shadow with cheaper shipping for me. This choice was a combination of wanting my favorite eyeshadow quality while factoring the travel element. Of course, when using special shadows, the Nyx Glitter Primer is essential for keeping them in place and helping the shades pop. I always have replacement tubes (which is a good thing because my tubes keep busting at the top) so I brought this along as a necessity that happens to be inexpensive and replaceable.
What is definitely not inexpensive is the Dior Backstage Face & Body Powder-No Powder, but I absolutely had to bring it with me. I discovered that this powder is so fantastic for smoothing out the skin and blurring imperfections, which was crucial to have for this trip. The lighting at my boyfriend’s place was extremely tricky to see what I was doing while applying makeup. The lighting was either dim or yellow, which showed things differently than the LED lights in the main room’s 9-foot high ceiling, also different than the highly fluctuating natural light peeking out from grey and dark clouds most of the time I was there. Depending on the light, I could look like I had no bronzer or too deep of bronzer, no blush or looking like a flat out clown. When on a trip, you’re often in a time crunch, and I couldn’t keep waiting for the natural light to be sunny enough to complete my makeup. Having the Dior powder gave me confidence that the end result looked nice and fixed anything that needed fixing, even if the resulting look was more subtle than intended.

This may seem a bit extra, but I took two mascara tubes with me. Rather than just relying solely on a mini size for the trip, I needed a mascara like the Essence Volume Stylist 18 hr Lash Extension Mascara that would give me a false lash effect because there was no way I was going to bring falsies traveling. This is a very affordable mascara, so I could leave it in Germany and it will still hopefully be good when I get back. With a mini, I had no idea how many uses I could get out of it (considering I was there for three weeks), but it’s a good option to consider for those packing lightly. I happened to have a sample of the Benefit Bad Gal Bang mascara and I brought it with me because I remembered liking the original Bad Gal Lash mascara and hoped it would be good. The Bang version is even better! I love that it darkens and lengthens my lashes easily and without leaving any clumps. The brush also makes it so the lashes are separated and fanned out like a doll. I can also build up a little volume. It’s not as dramatic as the Essence mascara, but it’s enough to look like I’m naturally blessed with long lashes.

I have to name the Nabla Skin Glazing Highlighter in Amnesia as an honorable mention for a “must have” product on a trip, even though I didn’t bring it this time. I have taken that highlighter on all other trips since I first purchased it. It’s on the lighter side for me, but it still works beautifully on my skin tone to give me a subtle highlight or an intense one. It also matches both warm and cool toned makeup looks. The only reason I left it behind was because I ordered the Hatice Schmidt Labs highlighter in the Medium shade, which looked like a very close dupe and I did not want to have two nearly identical products on the trip, especially as I already had a usable highlighter in the Kaja Bento box I brought with me. Now that I have two similar products, I will likely bring the HSL on trips from now on because it’s slightly darker, slightly warmer, and with a slightly more transparent base which makes it that much more suited to my skin tone. It also has a mirror, which was helpful in the moments I was running around trying to see how my makeup was looking in alternate light sources. If I was more concerned about the weight of the products or the price of the products, the Nabla Skin Glazing would be a better choice. However, if something happens to my HSL product, I wouldn’t feel as upset knowing that I have the Nabla as my backup.

Made To Be On-The-Go

I could have put several of the products mentioned above in this category, but the ones I’m discussing here don’t really fit in any other category. For example, the Tarte Shape Tape Concealer is my holy grail concealer, so I purchased the travel size for the trip. It was ideal for it’s compact size (though at one tenth of the size of the larger one, it’s certainly not cost effective) and the assumption it would last me two trips. However, I suspect that the formula in the mini is not as full coverage as the full size tube. I had to use a lot more product to get the coverage I needed. Perhaps this is another situation of the lighting being an issue. I also brought a mini of a lighter shade in order to mix my perfect color, like usual, but there was no need to this time as Deep didn’t look as dark as the full size either. That’s why this is in the “made to be on-the-go” section instead of “must haves.” I have also mentioned that I like mixing the Shape Tape with Pat Mcgrath’s concealer, but that one is in a glass tube which I did not want to bring with me. In the future, I’ll just carry my regular full size Shape Tape on trips, especially since I also get them for half off during Ulta’s 21 Days of Beauty. In a past review of the Kaja Play Bento Sculpting Trio, I mentioned that this product was ideal for traveling, so I felt obligated to bring it. Honestly, the fact that I have the Beautopsy palette though makes it pretty redundant as I can make a bronzer out of that palette and create a similar blush shade. I love the cream bronzer, but I don’t trust wearing a cream product while on a trip for fear of transfer onto clothing or sweat. The highlighter is nice, but I will always want a more intense option too. I took this traveling with me because I wanted to test the durability, as well as having those other options, but I only used it once during the three weeks (besides keeping it in my small purse as a mirror). However, if someone doesn’t have a face palette or wants something more affordable, lightweight, compact, and travel friendly, this is still a good option.

In my photo at the top of the post, I have a mini bottle of the Koh Gen Do Cleansing Spa Water, but it’s actually filled with Bioderma Sensibio H2O Micellar Water. They make a mini version, but I didn’t want to buy one when I could just reuse a smaller thinner bottle in my possession by transferring it in from one of my many larger size bottles. I also have mini versions of the Original Makeup Eraser Cloth, but I brought a full size one with me on the trip. I also filled an empty package of SkinFood Rice Cleansing Wipes with some from a larger package. That way I could use a makeup wipe on a heavier makeup day that I was too tired to double-cleanse and also not carry a whole heavy package which has 80 wipes in there.

Lastly for this section is sunscreen. It’s not makeup, but it’s essential. I brought what I thought was a mini size of the Round Lab Birch Juice Moisturizing Sun Cream which came in the box with the full size sunscreen I bought. It turned out that the mini was the non-SPF version and I didn’t figure it out until I was back in the US. Since I was testing it out for the first time, I also brought my usual Neutrogena Ultra Sheer 70 SPF Liquid Sunscreen too. The Ultra Sheer is small enough that it doesn’t take up much room in my carry-on bag and is airport compliant at 40 mL out of 100 mL. I have since used the actual SPF version of the Round Lab and I like that it doesn’t leave a cast. It makes my skin look a little dull on the darker spots of my face with hyperpigmentation, but it’s barely noticeable on my bare face and it’s definitely not an issue under makeup. The Round Lab is twice the price at only 10 ml more, so I would have continued to purchase the one from Neutrogena if it sadly hadn’t just been discontinued a few months ago. I had been using it for seven years and was quite sad to learn it was gone before I could purchase one final backup. Since I haven’t even tested the Round Lab during a true Florida summer, I’m not ready to recommend it yet. When it comes to something as important as sunscreen, I wouldn’t feel comfortable recommending it unless I’d tested it through at least two summers.

The Ultra Sheer Liquid Sunscreen in the Sensitive version is not the same since it’s a mineral sunscreen which relies heavily on titanium dioxide, which is the main culprit that leaves a cast on dark skin. The Dry-Touch version of Ultra Sheer is definitely not the same (leaves a white cast on me), as well as other sunscreens from Neutrogena. I picked up several trial packets and sunscreen minis recently, so I will be checking to see if I can find anything that’s as lightweight and doesn’t leave a cast while also thoroughly protecting me from the sun. So far, the Round Lab is the best I currently own.

Additional Tips

When I was deciding what to pack, the first thing I did was write a list of all the makeup categories I could think of and filled out which products I would want to bring most. Then, in order to condense the list, I went back over my answers and thought about what things I owned that could accomplish more than one task to reduce the number of products I had to bring. I thought about which things I owned or could buy in mini sizes to save space and decrease the weight of what I’d have to carry. I kept in mind which items were easily breakable, replaceable, and what I would miss too much if I didn’t have it. I also debated about what items I could just skip bringing entirely and buy while abroad. One thing I forgot to consider was that even though I was leaving a lot of makeup behind in Germany, all the new products I purchased weighed so much more than what I initially took with me, so my makeup bag was heavier coming back. I could have skipped bringing the Kaja Bento as a backup if I thought about the fact that I was going to buy a highlighter and three blushes.
I also made the decision to skip bringing cream products. Although I knew it wasn’t likely to be hot in Germany, I was required to walk a lot more and figured I would probably work up a sweat. I intended to do a lot of hugging as well, so I didn’t want to risk taking anything that could transfer or sweat off. It was also windy at times and I wore my hair down a bit more than usual. Balmy products on the skin that don’t dry down would have been a bad idea. Thinking about how the makeup items will be affected by the weather and the activities on the trip is something to consider. Nothing I brought with me needed a setting spray and none of them (besides my eyeliner) were waterproof, but that might be necessary for someone else to pack.

Here is a sample list of the categories of makeup to think about when packing:

  • Face Primer –
  • Eye shadow Primer –
  • Foundation –
  • Concealer –
  • Color Corrector –
  • Eye shadows –
  • Brow Product –
  • Eyeliner –
  • Mascara –
  • False Lashes and Lash Glue –
  • Setting Powder and/or Finishing Powder –
  • Setting Spray (keep TSA requirements in mind) –
  • Blush –
  • Bronzer –
  • Contour –
  • Highlighter –
  • Lip Balm/Gloss/Stick/Liner/Stain/Plumper –

One other thing I wanted to mention is that I was paranoid about the possibility of having lost luggage, so I packed some of my makeup products separately. The more fragile items, such as eyeshadows and pressed powders, I kept in my carry-on. My eyeliner, the full size mascara, the lighter concealer, etc were kept in my suitcase.

Douglas and Got2B Makeup

When I was shopping for makeup in Münster, I expected to discover plenty of German founded cosmetic brands that I hadn’t seen before. Perhaps this exists online, but when it comes to makeup at retail shops, the brands under the umbrella of major parent companies like L’Oréal, Estée Lauder, and LVMH dominate worldwide. It’s one thing to always hear that and quite another to actually see it for myself.
When I stopped in the Douglas shop, ARTDECO Beauty and ANNAYAKE (as well as the actual Douglas brand of makeup) were the only ones I hadn’t seen in the US. It was the same for drugstores, that only the actual store’s brand of makeup (such as dm of dm-drogerie markt) is unavailable in the US.

Of those unfamiliar brands, my purchasing options were limited to universal products like eyeliners and mascaras, as the complexion ones weren’t deep enough for me. I did snag a blush from Got2B. I was familiar with the brand’s hair products, but I had no clue until that moment that they made makeup as well! I tried to find out when they launched the cosmetics, and I believe it was in July 2021, so just a month before I got there, but I don’t know for certain. The ARTDECO products didn’t appeal to me, so I decided to try the Douglas brand of makeup as well, which is of similar quality to the Sephora Collection brand of makeup.

Douglas Cosmetics Caramel Nudes Eyeshadow Palette mini

The full size Caramel Nudes palette reminds me of the Anastasia Beverly Hills Soft Glam palette. I didn’t see it available in-store, but the mini was there, which I thought was perfect to try out the quality of Douglas shadows without making a big price commitment. The eyeshadows swatched evenly on my arm and clearly looks pigmented on those with a lighter skin tone. I find the shadows to be on the thin side and I found myself craving a little more impact from the shimmers. The mattes blended nicely and were opaque with a satisfactory amount of pigmentation. I was also glad that the cream shade did not look ashy like some lighter shades can appear on darker skin. This palette lacks a color that can add depth for me if used on its own. This is more of a one and done type of palette. I did not use the tiny dual ended brush it came with, which is a miniature version of the brush that’s in the full-size palette. Overall, the quality is decent and I could see myself actually using this palette every so often if I’m in the mood for a soft look.

Douglas Cheek Me Up Cream-Like Powder Blushes in 02 Rosa Carolina and 07 Hollyhocks

I chose these blushes with the help of the staff at Douglas. They were very friendly and polite. Even though my boyfriend was there to translate, they didn’t solely rely on him for help and tried to speak as much English to me as possible. I also appreciated the fact that they didn’t try to sell me anything that clearly would not work for my skin tone, just to make a sale, as has happened to me in the past at other retail shops in the US. They were upfront about which lines they carried that had options for my skin tone. The two shades they picked for me were the ones I would have chosen for myself, and as a bonus they were heavily discounted, so even though they were similar shades, I decided to just get them both.

I used Hollyhocks quite a bit on the trip and figured it would be my preferred shade because I like brownish-pink type of blushes that look more natural on my cheeks. However, I still like the bright flush Rosa Carolina gives to my cheeks and how just two dips with my brush gives me easy color payoff. As I started to get darker, I began to favor Rosa Carolina more because it was easier to see on my skin, though they both show well on me and are easy to blend. They’re decent blushes that get the job done, and at 4 euros each, they’re some of the least expensive blushes I own. I have so many wonderful blushes though, that as nice as they are, they’d still rank in the lower middle of my collection.

Shoutout to my boyfriend for being my light arm model! Not that he volunteered. I swatched shades on him while he played World of Warcraft, haha.

Got2b Cheeky Bloom Blush Powder in Pink Velvet

The inner pink circle is a slightly shimmery pale pink that I can use as a highlighter/blush topper. The outer bright pink ring of blush is what I try to pick up with my brush to use all over the cheeks. I like how soft the powder is and that there isn’t much kickup in the pan, but it still feels and smells powdery when I apply it to my cheeks. It’s definitely lower quality than I’m used to, which is a shame since it was 8 euros, but it’s not terrible. And because it has slightly more sheen than the matte Douglas blushes, it’s more flattering on my dry skin. It still looks nice on my cheeks, lasts as long as I need it to, is as lightweight as it’s described on the packaging, and contains nourishing ingredients like Macadamia Oil and Vitamin E, though I don’t know in what amounts. I’m still intrigued by other products from the brand, but for now my curiosity is quenched.

That’s all for today! I appreciate so much anyone who has taken the time to stop by and read my posts. Thank you. I hope this has been helpful!

Also, I wrote nearly all of this post months ago, but I kept pushing the publish date back because of new exciting makeup I wanted to review as soon as possible. I’m actually going back to Germany in a few days and won’t return to the US until the end of January, but I’m not sure if I will even be back home until sometime in February. For now, I am still on track to continue with regularly scheduled weekly posts, but if at any point this changes, the next eventual post will be on a Monday.

– Lili

Products I Changed My Mind About (for better or worse)!

If I have a strong negative or positive opinion about something, you can expect that to stay the same. This post will mainly center around the items I had mixed or indifferent feelings about in my reviews, but I’m now definitively on one side.

Dior Backstage Face and Body Powder No Powder

I remember saying that for my personal needs, I wasn’t certain if this powder was worth $40. I initially didn’t notice that much of a blurring effect because if I take my time blending and concealing all my problem areas, the powder doesn’t make much of a difference except adding a flattering sheen. However, it’s when I’ve been in a rush to put on makeup that I have noticed a dramatic difference! The blurring effect is so much more noticeable from blending out harsher lines of bronzer or contour, toning down a blush, adding some life to a look that’s too flat or dry looking. This has saved me so many times from having to restart a makeup look. I’ve grown to love this powder so much and wholeheartedly recommend it now because I think everyone has those moments when we just don’t have time to make things as smooth as possible, which this powder helps with, assuming it works with your skin type.

All foundations eventually settle into the smile line on the right side of my mouth. This powder fills and smooths it over so that you can’t even see it! After several hours it starts to be visible again, but the fact that it can make this dramatic of a difference at all is amazing to me!

The left side of the photo shows my mouth area after six hours of wearing the Becca Dewing Skin Tint as foundation. It had not been set with powder all day. The right half of the photo shows what the area looked like after I applied the Dior Powder-No-Powder to that spot. It completely freshened up the area.

Rituel de Fille

I was already at a disadvantage with this brand because of my sensitivity to lanolin (which so many of their products contain). When I discovered mold growing around the outer rim of one of the Nectar Balms, I decided that I am no longer interested in any products from this brand that are not powder based. That eliminates practically everything they sell. That Nectar Balm was only 8 months old and I only used it a few times. Then 6 of those 8 months it remained clasped shut and inside a resealable pouch. So, I do not trust how the brand preserves ingredients (it’s supposed to last 12 months after opening), on top of the lanolin issue and the waxiness of other products and certain items being overpriced.

Kaleidos Space Age Highlighters

These were on the cusp of me liking them, as having visible glitter particles is not my preference, but they weren’t so sparse for me to stop using them altogether. However, I’ve embraced my highlighter preference as there are so many reflective illuminating smooth products that suit me, so I decluttered all three of them. If the glitter/shimmer in a highlighter isn’t fine enough, I will just not continue to use them. I have decluttered other highlighters that don’t fit my style such as Fenty’s Trophy Wife Killawatt Highlighter and the Oden’s Eye Solmane Palette.

Tarte Shape Tape Ultra Creamy Concealer

Other than this Instagram post, I haven’t shared my finalized thoughts about this concealer until now. Unfortunately, I really do not like it. I decluttered both from my collection. My love of the original Shape Tape runs pretty deep because I practically need Spackle to cover my dark under eye circles. The main downside to Shape Tape is that it can look dry, so the Ultra Creamy version seemed like the perfect remedy. The finish is nice, but it provides way less coverage than the original, creases significantly, and is not long-lasting. The only thing I find similar about them is the packaging. Even the original 53N Deep and Ultra Creamy 53N Deep have different undertones despite them both being labeled neutral. The original leans golden, which I like, but the ultra creamy leans pink.

Mixing the new and original concealers together improves the performance, but the combo is still worse than if I used the original on its own. Even in reviews I watched where people said they liked it, to me, their under eyes did not look as nice as usual. So, I definitely don’t recommend it.

Final Thoughts

It would have been nice to end this post with a list of five products in total, as five is a nice number, but I could only think of these four. There still a few things I haven’t made up my mind about, such as Makeup Geek eyeshadows (which I will officially review at some point this year), and Viseart shadows after being unimpressed by the Dark Mattes Edit Palette in my last Viseart purchase, but I need a bit more time with them in order to decide.

As a sort of honorable mention, I can say that the ELF Instant Lift Brow Pencil has reclaimed the top spot as my favorite brow product over the ELF Ultra Precise Brow Pencil. I liked how thin and easy it was to draw those realistic brow hairs, but I still missed the Instant Lift after I used it up. Then one day, when I went to use the Ultra Precise, I don’t know if it dried out but the whole product just slid right out. It was unusable at that point. I don’t know if it was just a fluke or if that tends to happen with the Ultra precise, but since I loved the Instant Lift anyway (and it’s cheaper and I know I can use up the entire pencil without issue), I decided the Instant Lift deserves the crown and I’m now on brow pencil #2.

That is all for today!

I have one review scheduled for next week, but my consistent return to Monday postings will not begin until September 13th. I hope you all are doing well!

Thank you for reading!

-Lili

Secrets to Saving Money on Beauty

I’m a bloodhound when it comes to finding a good deal. I get such a rush out of it that I think even if I was wealthy, I would still try to avoid paying full price for anything online. Today, I’ll discuss the different ways I’ve been able to save money over the past seven years. All it takes is a little time (which is admittedly precious), patience, and consistency.

I don’t know if the websites I use are restricted to US-residents only, but there may be similar versions of cashback, discounted gift card, and promo code sites for other countries.

RAISE

I’m starting with the one that I have rarely heard anyone talk about. Raise is a website/app for buying and selling gift cards. I use the website to purchase discounted Ulta and Sephora gift cards, which are typically around 5% off, but occasionally there are sellers who are eager for the cash and will sell upwards of a 20% discount. This means a gift card worth $25 at Sephora would only cost $20 to buy. In addition, Sephora allows customers to use up to two gift cards per order. So, if I have an order that will cost me a total of $50 and I happen to have two $25 gift cards that I paid $20 each for, that means I would have only paid $40 out of pocket for that order!

How it works is that I purchase the gift card I want to buy. After my payment is processed and finalized, Raise emails me the link (it will also show on the account details page) with the gift card number and pin.

When I’m checking out at Sephora, I input the gift card details in the “Payment Method” section. If my subtotal exceeds the amount on the gift card, I can still add a second form of payment to cover the rest. If my subtotal is less than the amount on the card, I can use what’s leftover again later. That’s it!

Email links usually come quickly for me. I think the longest I’ve had to wait was a few hours. I’ve also never had an issue with the gift card amount being less than specified, or having leftover funds on the card go missing later.

According to my Raise history, I’ve saved $211.31 to date. It may only be a few dollars off at a time, but it adds up. Periodically, Raise will release promo codes that knock an additional 5 or more percent off a Raise purchase. So, that 20% discount from one seller could turn into 25% off with a promo code. There are other kinds of deals that Raise offers, such as Raise Cash, but that gets a little more complicated and it’s best to learn about those avenues directly from them. Also, I believe all Sephora and Ulta cards are for electronic delivery, but Raise also offers physical cards for stores that only allow gift cards for in-store purchases, so always check that before paying.

Using a discounted gift card is just the start of how I stack up savings. I believe there are other websites that sell discounted gift cards, but I only have experience using Raise. MyGiftCardsPlus is another place I buy gift cards sometimes, but it works differently.

Rakuten, Swagbucks, and MyGiftCardsPlus

I’ll start first with Rakuten, formerly known as Ebates. Rakuten is a cashback website/app, meaning you get a certain percentage of money back with every purchase. I think of it as though Rakuten is an Influencer who companies have paid to entice me to make a purchase, which Rakuten then gives me a portion of that back.

The cashback rate from specific makeup brands tends to stay the same, but Sephora and Ulta fluctuate more frequently, generally between 2-6%. Rakuten also has random days when hundreds of websites get a boost in the percentage of cashback, along with designated times for “15% off week,” like for their site anniversary and holidays. There are plenty of websites that offer this kind of service like Mr. Rebates and Ibotta, but I haven’t looked into them because managing two is plenty. I don’t want more than what I currently use. And yes, they do require some monitoring.

I find it easiest to use browser extensions for cashback purposes because if you linger too long on a website, it can deactivate, which you wouldn’t know if you merely used the cashback link. Sometimes during the payment process, if the website has a hiccup in loading, it can also cause deactivation or it not going through as having used Rakuten (or Swagbucks). So, I tend to check the list of store visits to make sure it went through, otherwise you have to contact customer service to get it fixed. It’s easy to contact them via Rakuten (though I haven’t had to do that since they used to be Ebates, so I don’t know if this is still the case), but Swagbucks is a bit of a pain. Their customer service sends general responses without even reading the details of the case half the time and it makes me wonder if it’s worth the few dollars, but I’m stubborn about certain things and this is one of them.

So, how it works is if I go on any website belonging to an affiliate of Rakuten, the browser extension will notify me. I just click to activate cash back and it will redirect the page. I know it worked when the icon becomes blue and says it’s activated. With Swagbucks, the symbol with a yellow circle turns into a green circle. You cannot have more than one cashback site activated at a time. The browser extensions also show promo codes that can be used at checkout, as well as list different products on sale. Raise is actually affiliated with Rakuten (and sometimes Swagbucks), so you can get a little cashback (I’ve only ever seen 1%) when buying a gift card from Raise!

I’ve gotten $654 from Rakuten since signing up in August 2015. They have a referral program for everyone and an ambassador program for influencers, but my savings total is purely from my own cashback spending. They’ve had different sign up bonuses over the years and the photo below shows the current one. I know how referral programs work, in theory, but I don’t have any first hand experience with them.

An important thing to know about Rakuten is that you only get paid 4 times a year (every 3 months). You can choose to have the money sent in the form of a check that will be mailed to your home address or via PayPal.

Swagbucks works like Rakuten regarding the cashback process of making a purchase through an activated link and getting credit for it. However, Swagbucks only pays in the form of gift cards, not cash, though a PayPal gift card is also an option.
Everything is listed in SB. Every 100 SB is worth $1, and I can claim a gift card technically at any time, but gift card redemptions start at $5 or more, depending on which one I try to get. It can also take minutes to several days for the gift card link to be emailed, though it’s usually a day or two.

The cashback process from Swagbucks is a small part of what they do. They offer surveys for SB, viewing videos/ads/websites for SB, playing games for SB, in-store purchases, bonuses for downloading certain apps or signing up for different subscriptions, using their search engine instead of search engines like Google and Mozilla Firefox, entering codes found via their social media, a daily poll for 1 SB, different team events, raffles, etc. Over the years, the different ways to rack up SB have gotten to be so overwhelming that there’s plenty I still don’t even know about, even though I’ve been using Swagbucks longer than Rakuten. The site has gotten more complicated to use as well. For quite a few years now, I’ve basically just claimed my daily SB and used the cashback feature if it’s significantly higher than what Rakuten is offering. All the other avenues are just too much effort to be worth the time for me.

One other way I gain additional SB is when buying a gift card via MyGiftCardsPlus, which was started by Prodege LLC, the company behind Swagbucks. If I know there’s an event coming up that I’m likely to spend a decent amount of money on, such as the Sephora VIB sale or Ulta’s 21 Days of Beauty or some upcoming holiday event, I will sometimes purchase a gift card ahead of time. Unlike Raise where I spend less money for the gift card, with MyGiftCardsPlus I’m buying the gift card at full value, but I get SB added to my account. This can sometimes be the boost to being able to then redeem another gift card from Swagbucks, if for instance, I currently have 700 SB and the MGCP purchase would give me 300 SB added to my account. Then I would have 1000 SB and be able to claim a $10 Sephora Gift Card. Gift Cards purchased from MGCP have taken minutes to days to be emailed to me, though mostly minutes to an hour.

But as I said before, this is only if I know I’m going to be spending money soon. I’m not saving money if I buy a gift card just because it gives an extra few cents bonus or there’s suddenly 3% more cashback at a retailer. Because if I do that, I’m likely going to buy things I normally wouldn’t. If I know I want to place an order and then activate cashback or buy a gift card prior to completing that order, that’s when I’m actually using these sites to my advantage rather than being tempted into extra unnecessary purchases. I know I personally have to be careful not the be tempted by any and every sale or discount that comes my way.

RetailmeNot and other Promo Code Websites

RetailmeNot is a promo code browser extension/website like Honey and Karma (Karma was previously named Shoptagr) that cycles through their list of company and user submitted promo codes to check if you can save any additional money off your purchase and/or if there is a better promo code than whatever you entered on the website.

I always check for promo codes and in the past I’ve saved up to 40% off on deals I didn’t realize were going on and wasn’t informed about despite being on different brands’ email lists. I’ve gotten free shipping, free items, bonus reward program points, etc. Promo codes have saved me a ton of money over the years and it’s actually shocking to me when I’m unable to find one at all.

RetailmeNot used to be my #1 source in the past, but since I’m buying more from indie brands and less from mainstream ones, I don’t use it as often. Plus, the promo codes listed via Rakuten tend to be satisfactory to me. I’ve noticed that Karma tends to have more indie brand promo codes than the others, which is especially useful since it’s mainly mainstream brands and huge companies that are associated with cashback sites, so it’s nice to still get a discount in those instances.

I used to have Karma in order to build a wishlist and get notified as soon as the item on my list changed in price. However, I’ve been unable to get that feature to work properly after I disabled and re-enabled that browser extension. In addition, Karma started to get very annoying, like whenever I clicked the button to close it and it would reopen the site in another browser tab (as if activating its cashback feature despite me trying to use Rakuten or Swagbucks), so I changed the settings so I have to manually click the extension icon in order for it to pop up. I am much happier with it now.

If all else fails, I do a general google search to see if any other coupon site has a valid promo code. Sometimes I get lucky, but usually if it’s not on RetailMeNot or Karma, I won’t be able to find one elsewhere.

Remembering Common Sale Dates

Oh, how it drives me nuts when I pay for an item and then just days later there’s a sale. It has happened enough times for me to start paying attention to when all businesses will likely have a sale, like Black Friday or specific holidays. I also try to keep track of when specific retailers and brands have their friends and family sales or anniversary sales.
Ulta’s Platinum/Diamond tier Appreciation Day tends to be in August or September. The 21 Days of Beauty starts at some point in mid March and again in early September.
Sephora tends to have their Spring sale in either March or April, as well as an end of Summer Sale in August. Occasionally they also have a “Sale on Sale” when items in their sale section get an additional 20% off.

There also tends to be great deals during one’s birthday month. Knowing these kinds of dates enables me to estimate if I should get something or wait a few weeks, provided the item I want isn’t likely to sell out. However, it’s not uncommon for certain items from Sephora to suddenly go “out of stock” just before a big sale and end up returning during the last few days of the sale. When that happens, make sure to select the option to be notified when the product is back in stock.

The absolute ultimate money savings combo is when I buy a discounted gift card, activate cashback, use a promo code for additional savings, and top it all off with an additional price deduction when using a company’s reward program. Plus, if you get cashback or rewards automatically on your credit card purchases via your credit card company, that’s an extra win! This has happened to me a few times, though I can’t remember which orders were the best ones at the top of my head, but here is an example. Some of the products in my order were deeply discounted because Ulta wasn’t going to carry them anymore, plus I used a promo code, I activated cashback, and I redeemed 2000 points. I paid about $36 for $170 worth of products at the sale price, not even including what the total would be at full retail.

Anticipating when to wait for a sale is helpful, but sometimes brands spring them on us without warning. In order for me to not miss a sale going on, I periodically check the Featured Deals at the top of Temptalia’s blog. I also follow beauty deal Instagram accounts like BeautyDealsBff and TrendMoodDeals. There’s an ongoing Sephora forum thread keeping track of deals as well, called “Deals Too Good to Pass Up” that I used to check a lot until I followed those IG accounts. Here is the current iteration as of today.

Another more recent example of utilizing a combination of money savings and perks of reward programs is when BeautyDealsBFF posted about the Nars Cheek Quad that was released early for Platinum and Diamond Tier Members at Ulta. There was a 20% off influencer promo code going on that would bring it down to nearly the same price as a single blush (which I almost purchased the day before). Each blush in the quad is nearly the same size as a full-size pan too. All four shades in the quad were colors I debated purchasing at one time or another, so I jumped on the opportunity.

First, I went to Raise and saw they had a “Black Friday in July” 5% savings bonus using the code JULYBF. So I paid $22.40 to get a $25 Ulta gift card.

Then I went to Ulta and added the items to my cart (including the current Ulta Nars Free Gift with Purchase).

Overall, the total would have been $41.18 with tax included. The promo code BeautydealsBFF shared brought it down to $33.38. For the remainder of the balance, I paid it with the $25 Raise gift card and $8.38 leftover was paid via a VISA gift card that I got from my credit card company as part of the credit card reward program. I didn’t pay that Raise gift card in full so, I essentially spent $22.40 out of pocket to get the Nars Quad, three Nars minis, and because I activated the 1% cashback for Raise and 3% cashback for Ulta via Rakuten, I’m getting cashback for those as well. And as Diamond Tier at Ulta, I get free shipping on orders over $25 so I didn’t have to pay for that either.

Utilizing Point Systems/Reward Programs

I could talk about different reward programs for ages. Some are better than others. For instance, one that bugs me is that Coloured Raine’s program allows you to exchange points for a coupon of $5 off a $30 purchase, $10 off a $40 purchase, or $15 off a $75 purchase. If you claim this coupon, you have to use it in place of a promo code. Coloured Raine’s sales are usually between 30-50% off, but instead of marking down everything on the site, you have to enter the sale code in the promo code spot, which is always going to give a higher discount than the reward program coupon will give. This means that the reward program coupon is only good for full price items, but why even bother using the coupon when you know you can get the item for even less money during the next sale? It’s nearly pointless except for new launches, which are few and far between with Coloured Raine. Puritan’s Pride is a health site, but I like that when I get enough points to redeem a discount, I can do it and still use a promo code.

My favorite kind of reward programs are the ones where I can exchange points for a certain amount of money off my order total. I don’t think anyone does it better than Ulta with their periodic 5-10x points events, offers to add a certain number of points to your account if you spend a specific amount of money, etc. I’ve talked about Ulta’s Reward Program before, and how you get the most money for the points at the 1000 ($50) and 2000 ($125) marks. I try my best to save up to 2000 points, but in the event that I really want something but am over budget, that’s when I will redeem 1000 points.

Ulta’s success forced Sephora to completely revamp their reward program and allow point for cash options too. However, it’s much harder to accrue points at Sephora since they don’t have point multiplier events above 4x and it’s usually on skincare or perfume, not makeup. 2000 points at Ulta could only take $200 on a 10x day, but 2000 points at Sephora really is closer to having spent $2000 (or I guess $500 if you really love skincare and expensive perfumes).
2000 points at Ulta gives $125 and could take $200-$2000 spending to accumulate.
2000 points at Sephora gives $100 and could take $500-$2500 spending to accumulate.
We can clearly see which program is better. At Sephora, the value is worse at the more achievable level of getting $10 off a purchase in exchange for 500 points, but you’re not even allowed to do that during a VIB sale. I know because I’ve tried. Ulta hasn’t been giving out 20% off coupons like they used to, but in the past I would wait for that coupon and then use my reward points. Oh, how my wallet thanked me.

Even though the 2500 point option at Sephora is better than the 500 point one, I’m not waiting an eternity for that to happen. So, I have redeemed the $10 off several times since it’s so rare that anything in the reward section is of interest to me or attainable. Here is an example of when I put it to decent use. When I ordered The Pat Mcgrath Paradise Venus blush, I activated cashback, exchanged the 500 points for a $10 discount, and used a gift card that I got from Raise which was a promotional deal that I spent $3 to obtain a $15 gift card. So, I paid $18 out of pocket for the $38 blush.

It cannot be forgotten that reward programs aren’t free money. I still spent money in order to gain a little back, so I have to be careful not to buy things just to earn more points. Spending less will always be the best way to save the most money, but if I’m going to make a purchase, at least I can do all I can to make it count!

*DISCLAIMER: This post was not created to endorse any of the money saving websites discussed. I don’t know what (if any) ramifications there could be by filling out a survey with semi-private information or having browser extensions that keep track of every online store I visit and every purchase I make. I am just sharing the strategies and resources I found to spend less on my online purchases; they’re resources I’ve used for many years with little to no issues.
Also, the links in this post are normal non-affiliated links. Everyone who signs up to websites like Rakuten, Raise, and Swagbucks, automatically get referral links generated for their accounts. I did not link mine because that is not the purpose of this post. I shared my tips solely to be helpful.
Also, I did my best to explain how to use these websites, but reading the FAQ and/or TOS of each site will ensure you know anything I may have forgotten to mention.

That’s all for today! I wanted to post this before August because a lot of the big sales start from August onward, but I will be out of the country by that point. Thank you for reading!

-Lili

Beautylish XL Lucky Bag 2020 Review

What It Is

The online retailer, Beautylish, offers package deals on mystery beauty products the day after Christmas and ships them out in the following New Year to celebrate the Japanese fukubukuro tradition. Although the items in each bag are “chosen at random,” the only thing we know for certain is that foundations and concealers are excluded.

This is my third year reviewing these lucky bags. You can click these links if you’d like to see what I received in 2016 and 2018. Some differences I noticed between my previous review and this one is that shipping fees have increased on the Original Bags from $7 to $10. Beautylish also included a Buy one, Give one bag. If you choose that option, you will spend $150 to receive an Original bag with at least $150 worth of products, and another Original bag with a minimum of $150 worth of products will also be donated to Alternative Family Services. In looking at previous screenshots, I also see the XL bags were once guaranteed to have $350 worth of product instead of the $300 now. I should have taken that as a hint…

How To Get One

You’ll want to sign-up here to be on the email list for 2021.

Unlike 2018, where the XL boxes sold out during priority access (given to customers who spent at least $1000 that year), Beautylish did away with that and just kept early access. This gave everyone an equal opportunity to buy the bag of their choice. I like this change!

Customers across social media can confirm the XL bags still sold out between 9:02 a.m. and 9:03 a.m. PST. This is just minutes after the options became available! I believe the Dark-Deep Original bags sold out within the early access hour and the remaining bags sold out within the day.

As I happened to be one of the people who snagged an XL bag, I’ll share my tips here:

1) Have your payment details saved on your Beautylish account prior to the lucky bag launch. This will save you precious time when checking out. Between me clicking on the XL bag and checking out of my cart, it took perhaps 10 seconds. If you don’t want to keep your card or PayPal info stored, you can always delete it off your account afterward.

2) Be on the website at least a minute prior to the launch but preferably 5-10 minutes ahead of time. The early access emails are released staggered and not all at once. Some customers report getting them at 9:01 (like I did) or as comparatively late as 9:07. Some did not receive an email at all. I can confirm that the other email address I signed up with did not get the early access email, but I did get a reminder that only a few bags were left later that day.

I was on the early access page before 9:00. When I continued refreshing at the launch time, I noticed the message changed to include a link. Because I couldn’t actually click it and had to copy and paste the web address in another browser tab, I’m not certain if that was meant to happen or not.

I finished checking out just seconds before my early access email came. And I received my order confirmation at 9:02.

3) Don’t forget to do that early access sign-up! Even if you end up not buying a bag next year, at least the option will be available to you.

4) Already know which bag you want ahead of time so that you can immediately make your purchase without having to spend time thinking about it or second-guessing yourself. It’s not a fun feeling to have an item sell out while in your cart!

5) Going along with the previous tip, remember you can only buy one bag. It’s one bag per customer (account), the form of payment, and address. If you try to buy a second bag with any of the same information, they will cancel your second order. So, know which ones you want ahead of time!

What Was Inside

Ordinarily, I would give a brief review of every product. However, there were so few items I wanted that I didn’t swatch or use any of it. I kept 2 and traded everything else for the item I hoped I would get the most.

NATASHA DENONA Diamond & Blush Palette in 01 Darya $89. I’ve seen this for $53.40 on ND’s official website on Black Friday. Beautylish also had 30% off ND items during their one and only sale (that I’ve ever seen). This palette is beautiful, but I don’t use shimmery blushes and considering this was the highest value item in my bag, I didn’t want to swatch this and saved it instead to sell or trade.

CHARLOTTE TILBURY Starry Eyes to Hypnotise $75. The green shade was calling out to me, but I did not keep this either. After not being the biggest fan of CT’s eyeshadow formula from the quad I received in my 2016 box, I decided I didn’t want to risk trying it and being disappointed again.

HOLIFROG Kissimmee Vitamin F Therapy Balmy Wash $42. I didn’t mind receiving this item and would have tried it if I didn’t need it for the trade.

SOL DE JANEIRO Copacabana Bronzing Glow Oil $35. This type of product isn’t intended for already dark skin. Lol. Regardless, I’m not into shimmery body products.

BECCA Hydra-Mist Set & Refresh Powder $39. I’ve seen this sold for $19.50 multiple times during Ulta’s 21 days style events. I have a deluxe sized sample of this powder that I still haven’t used yet, so it made no sense to hold onto the full size.

SONIA G. Builder Three $32. Although this wasn’t on my list of Sonia G brushes I wanted to try, I was happy to have at least something from her line.

JOUER COSMETICS Long-Wear Lip Crème in Guava $18. I didn’t try this since I’ve been mainly wearing lip glosses and lip balms for the past two years. I still never even used the Jouer Lippie from my 2018 Lucky Bag.

GOOD MOLECULES Niacinamide Brightening Toner $14. This and the Sonia G brush are the only two items I kept. I’ve been using the Good Molecules Discoloration Correcting Serum, which I think has been helping in certain areas, so I’m happy to try this out.

Final Thoughts

Total Retail Price of items in my XL Lucky Bag – $344

Total at Discounted Pricing – $256.9

Practical Savings (Cost of items I would actually buy $46 – $165 that I paid) – Loss of $119 without selling or trading.

This ended up being my real Lucky Bag this year. Thankfully, I found a trustworthy person willing to take my up-for-trade items worth $298 retail for a $129 Natasha Denona Metropolis Palette shipped directly from Beautylish. I don’t care about the price discrepancy because products are only worth as much as you’re willing to pay for them. I did not want to keep items I wouldn’t get enough use out of. I paid an extra $17 for shipping out of pocket, but it was worth it to me. Plus, it made someone else happy in the process.

Total Retail Value of My Revised Lucky Bag – $175

*Final Practical Savings – Loss of $7

* In this case, the practical savings is the retail price of the items in my new bag I would buy ($175) minus what I paid originally ($165). That gives me a surplus of $10. However, I paid $17 to ship the trade items, which leaves me with the $7 loss. Much better than before. I’m happy with that. But do I want to go through this process again? Absolutely not.

2019 saw a rise in anti-consumerism/pro-minimalism, reducing excessive product purchasing for environmental reasons, No buys, Low buys, Project Pans, and Anti-Hauls. I saw the most sales ever from Ulta, Sephora, Macy’s, etc. These sales (beyond their annual ones) are an indication that people weren’t buying as much in 2019. I was able to get pretty much everything I wanted for much lower prices, which means there wasn’t as much wiggle room for being pleased with the items in my bag. However, past XL Lucky Bags always (with rare exceptions) had an eyeshadow palette valued at over $100 in each box. That’s why I was willing to get this again, thinking that at the very least I would need to sell only one or two items to outright buy what I want. I knew they wouldn’t put the large ND 28 pan palettes in the bags for the 4th year in a row, however, I don’t own a majority of her $100+ palettes, nor any of the Viseart Grand Pro palettes. With those things in mind, it appeared to be a safe bet getting another XL bag this year.

But this year, they didn’t do things the same way. I scoured Instagram and Youtube daily, seeing everything people received in their XL bags. About 10% of what I saw were Viseart Grand Pro 3 (mainly in the XL bags that shipped out first 🤔). 10% Natasha Denona Metropolis. Perhaps 5% received the ND Gold Palette. The remaining 75% had items I’d expect to see as the big item in the regular bags: Jeffrey Star/Shane Dawson Conspiracy Palette, Charlotte Tilbury Starry Eyes to Hypnotise + ND Diamond and Blush or one of the Dominique Cosmetics Palettes, etc. There were also more skincare items this year than ever before. Some XL bags had an eyeshadow palette in the $40 range paired with the Sulwhasoo Time Treasure Renovating Cream, Oribe Gold Shampoo, or Uma Oil as their high-value item.

This year’s lucky bag is also not as “random” as they lead us to believe. I’ve seen maybe 10-20 different combinations of the same products. Some being higher valued than others. The ones that appeared to be “extra lucky” would have been considered normal in previous years.

The bag I received did not have bad items, they just weren’t popular ones. I’ve always praised Beautylish for not doing what all other companies do with grab bags: only include old or hard to sell inventory. Beautylish still did that with a few items in the past, but not to this degree! The going rate for the items in my bag on selling apps and sites would have required me to sell 3 items for a discounted high-value palette that I could only hope was authentic. Or sell nearly everything to get it from an authorized retailer. I didn’t anticipate this happening for an XL bag, and this new precedent is why I decided to no longer get them in the future. Without that “big ticket” guarantee, it’s too risky.

I honestly don’t consider my bag variation to be the worst one. But as I am trying to only buy products I will use and love, I won’t be getting regular lucky bags in the future either. Mystery boxes don’t guarantee a happy result, and I don’t want to either waste my money or go through the hassle of buying/trading again. So, this ends my every-other-year Lucky Bag tradition! I tried to balance my disappointment with positives in this review, but… the majority of 2020 XL Lucky Bags were duds!

Lili

XL Beautylish Lucky Bag 2018 Comprehensive Review

What is it?

This is the annual New Year mystery boxes modeled after the fukubukuro tradition from the online retailer Beautylish. The purchasing options have changed since my previous post on this topic. In 2017, they introduced the XL bags which are $165 (shipping included) for $350+ of products. The price of the regular bags are the same $82 (including shipping) for $150+ of products, however they’ve added two complexion choices: Fair-Medium and Dark-Deep. Customers have been asking for this change for years since products like bronzers, contour powders, blushes, and even lipstick shades can be unflattering depending on the skin tone. Beautylish does not put foundations or concealers in the bags, so if properly executed it could increase the likelihood of getting usable products.

How do you get one?

The 2018 Lucky Bags are no longer available but the 2019 notification list can be found here.

On December 23rd, Beautylish sent an email explaining that customers who spent $1,000+ in 2017 would get priority access on December 26th 9am PST. Everyone else who signed up for early access would get the sale page link on that same day at 11am PST and everyone else could order at 3pm PST.

What actually happened was that early access began at 10:00 am instead of 11:00 am. I clicked my email link at 10:04 and saw that no XL bags were available, so I think those bags sold out during the priority access time slot.

I remembered that in my earliest experiences with Beautylish I had a beauty rep, so I decided to reach out to them and was informed that the XL bags would be restocked in limited quantities at the original early access start time (11 PST). The restock sold out just as quickly, so huge thanks to the Beautylish customer service team! I would not have been able to get the XL bag otherwise.

Regular bags were delivered to those closest to Beautylish (San Francisco) on January 11th so there were already posts popping up on IG, Twitter, and Youtube but none of the XL bags shipped until the next day. My package was delayed due to weather conditions and arrived January 19th.

What did you get?

Sulwhasoo First Care Activating Mask  – $12, if priced individually.

I’ve looked at hundreds of photos of unboxed lucky bags via #luckybag2018 and #beautylishluckybag2018 on Instagram and 90% of the regular and XL bags I saw contained 1 of 2 possible Sulwhasoo masks.

Wayne Goss #19 Precision Blending Brush – $23.

This brush has been on my wishlist for months! Funny thing is that now that I have it, I realized I’ve had an identical brush all along: the Hakuhodo J146.

With this in mind, I’m still very happy to have what is essentially a backup of my Hakuhodo brush. I’ve been wanting to get additional smaller sized eye brushes so this is perfect.

Oribe Travel Essentials Collection– $98 ($124 if each item was purchased individually).

This set contains the travel size Gold Lust Dry Shampoo, travel sized Gold Lust Shampoo and Conditioner, the Rollerball Perfume, and the full size Balmessence Lip Treatment. The balm was another thing I wanted to try but not for full price, especially since I’ve learned how to make them myself. In fact, the texture is very similar to the first one I ever made. Mine contains yellow beeswax so it’s the slightly yellow one on the left and the Oribe balm is on the right.

I’ve had the chance to test the balm over the past 24 hours and I can say it has a hard wax-like texture that takes a little warming up with the finger to become usable. It feels like a lightweight and less greasy version of Vaseline. It doesn’t have much of a smell, which is fine by me. It creates a thin moisturizing barrier that I can feel when I touch my lips but I wouldn’t call it tacky/sticky. It helped soothe my dry lips but it has an average wear time. I wouldn’t spend $35 on it when my less expensive jar of Nuxe Reve de Miel works better. I intend to try the shampoo and conditioner at a later date and I’ll give the dry shampoo and perfume to a friend. For anyone who wants to try a set like this but not spend $100, just know that there’s an Oribe Gold Lust Set from Birchbox that’s $55 and contains the same size shampoo, conditioner, and lip balm. It doesn’t have the perfume or dry shampoo but it does have the Gold Lust Transformative Masque instead. *The links in this blog post are not affiliate links and not sponsored.

Skindinavia Makeup Finishing Spray – $29.

I haven’t tried this yet but I’m looking forward to comparing it to the Urban Decay All Nighter. Since Skindinavia produces both products, I’d love to see for myself if there’s a noticeable difference between the two.

Jouer Skinny Dip Lip Topper – St. Tropez $16.

This looks really pretty in the tube but I’m not going to swatch it. I’ll be giving it to a friend. I like shiny lips but not shimmer/glitter on myself.

Bioderma Cleanser – $6.90.

I’m keeping it in the bubble wrap because I’ll be giving it to a friend as well. I love bioderma, and they sent me the version that I can actually use, but I already have the full size.

Natasha Denona 28 Pan Eyeshadow Palette – Purple Blue $239.

This was the last item I pulled out of my box and I was ecstatic! I had an NP 5 Pan Palette in the past but I gave it up (which I regretted shortly after) because I barely used it. I’m so happy to have ND eyeshadows again! I’d forgotten how smooth the metallic shades were and the color selection of this palette is amazing! For the past few months I’ve been experimenting with different formulas/color combinations for making my own pressed eyeshadows. The purples and blues in this palette are exactly what I’ve been trying to create for myself because so few palettes have the colors I want!

Here’s an example of some of my works in progress for anyone curious.

The photo below depicts finger swatches without primer and in different lighting.

Creating my own eyeshadows has given me a bigger appreciation for the work that goes into a palette like this. Purples truly are a pain to get right, so seeing completed purples that work this well is #goals!

I’ll do a swatch post in a few months (I’m being realistic with my posting schedule, haha) and an updated review, but swatching these reminded me how much the metallics are above reproach but some of the pearls and mattes are problematic.

Final Thoughts

Maximum (individual pricing) Retail Value – $450

Actual Retail Value – $423.90

Actual Savings – $258.90

Practical Savings (price of items I like minus what I paid) –  $161

Even without the monetary aspect, I feel like my bag was a winner! I technically didn’t get anything that I already own. As far as I know, none of the items in my bag have been heavily discounted at other retailers, unlike the ABH, Becca, Kevyn Aucoin, By Terry products that were among the most common items in the boxes. I didn’t get anything complexion based, which was a fear of mine, and I also didn’t get products from controversial brands. That seems pretty lucky to me!

I did notice several changes between this year and past boxes. There were more skincare products this time. There were also more duplicates. About 10% of the boxes I saw didn’t come with an eyeshadow palette, which was quite shocking to see since so many of us expected that to be a guarantee. There were quite a number of items from last year that popped up again this year. Every XL bag last year had one of the ND 28 palettes so most customers were expecting a different large eyeshadow palette as the “big ticket item.”

With the deep-dark boxes, I was shocked to see so many Jeffree Star liquid lipsticks. Yes, it was in a flattering orange color and JS did apologize for his past racist remarks, but that doesn’t mean everyone has forgiven him and to have so many JS products in the deep-dark regular boxes was hugely disappointing to quite a few people. I was also surprised to see the By Terry Sun Designer Palettes and Charlotte Tilbury Face in a Look palettes which are advertised as being able to work for a wide range of skin tones but come now… how do you sculpt with a powder that’s lighter than your skin tone or smoke with a shade that is practically invisible?

Whether a bag is “good” or “bad” is subjective, but I saw a deep-dark bag that had a natasha denona body glow in medium. It’s the equivalent of giving someone with chronically dry lips a very drying ultra matte liquid lipstick. Anyone can literally put any makeup product on but it doesn’t mean it will look good.

I still think Beautylish’s lucky bags are by far the best mystery boxes on the US market (XL bags only ship to the US but regular bags are open internationally). However, I think I’ll continue the pattern of purchasing a bag every other year. 2020, here I come!

Thanks for reading.

– Lili

Ulta Expanding Their Reward Tiers

*Updated 01/02/18 at the end of this post.

What are Diamond Ultamate Rewards?

As I was checking my email this morning I noticed this portion which was a link to a countdown.

Upon clicking it, I saw “Diamond Ultamate Rewards” as the banner name.

At the time that I’m writing this, Ulta has yet to make an official announcement and no media outlets have posted but I believe Ulta is adding an additional tier to their reward program! Diamonds fit the “sparkly” hint and the countdown goes to January 1st which is when the year to date spending gets reset for everyone.

Their current Platinum tier is fantastic. I frequently get set 20% off coupons, there are days when certain brand items go for 5x or 10x the points, sometimes those even stack with other platinum multipliers or specific item multipliers like the one I received today:

For spending $450 in a calendar year you get these perks plus special platinum only deals, early access to certain product releases, an automatic .25 extra points per dollar in their reward program, etc.

Their points can be redeemed for the equivalent of store/online credit and they are worth more as you save more (especially at the 1000 and 2000 point levels). Plus, when you redeem points you can combine them with 20% off coupons for even more savings!

What could Diamond Status mean for customers?

The biggest thing customers have been asking for is free shipping (beyond their current $50 purchase minimum or sometimes $35 minimum). Other possibilities could be increased percentages on prestige coupons, even earlier access to products, more point multipliers, etc. There is no way to tell until they announce it but this is already such exciting news!

I can also only guess that it might take $750 or $1,000 in a calendar year to reach Diamond Status. I will certainly update this post once the full details have been officially announced. My biggest hope though is that the current Platinum Status won’t change and that Ulta won’t take away perks from Platinum and transfer them onto the higher Diamond Tier. It would be great to see the new Diamond Status only add to the amazing perks Ulta has to offer.

UPDATE: JANUARY 2, 2018 – Ulta has confirmed their new Diamond Tier and it’s much higher than I anticipated for less perks than expected. $1,200 gets customers 0.25 more points per dollar than platinum and daily free shipping with $25+ purchases.

UltDia1

UltDia2

I think I’d rather buy myself an actual diamond.

Lili

 

Moschino x Sephora Limited Edition Makeup Collection

These beauties look like they came straight out of a build-a-bear shop! Amidst the drama, both positive and negative surrounding this collection, I expected someone else to have noticed the similarities between the B-A-B store colors and the packaging of these bears, but I may be alone on that!

Worst Launch Ever or Clever Business Tactic?

*Note: Feel free to skip this section if you’re just looking for the product review further down below!

Sophie Shab aka Trendmood generated a ton of buzz when she released sneak peeks of this collection. Moschino fans and makeup lovers were particularly excited by the chance to obtain Jeremy Scott’s creations at relatively affordable prices via the company’s collaboration with Sephora.

The initial US release date was Aug 11th but only the bear mask was made available that day. It was rumored that Sephora employees had a temporary 50% off discount on all Sephora Collections, so the beauty giant allegedly pushed the launch date to the 18th when the promotion ended. I’m not a Sephora employee so I can’t confirm whether or not this is true, but I’m more inclined to believe that a shipment was delayed. Some would call it another indication of delay and scarcity tactics being used on consumers.

On August 17th at approximately 11:50 pm PST the complete collection was released online. The large bear palette and highlighter duo had the ‘sold out’ banner within the first 30 minutes, but the status continued to fluctuate at random between ‘sold out’ and ‘only a few left’ for the next 12 hours. The following day I saw them become available again for a maximum of 90 seconds before going out of stock again.

The first error I got was a red ‘add to cart’ button which once clicked would then read “sorry this item is out of stock.” I had no issues obtaining the brushes and lip glosses but my biggest challenge was checking out fast enough to complete the highlighter order before it could sell out whilst in my cart.

8/18 11:29 AM EST

8/18 3:50 PM EST

8/20 7:53 pm EST

Everyone who refreshed the pages long enough throughout the day noticed that at least once every hour the items would come back in stock. I’m not sure if that was purposely done on Sephora’s part to combat resellers. If it was, I doubt they would ever admit it considering the amount of frustration some people felt over this method.

I find it interesting as well that the “notify when in stock” button was removed. It was available when the web page was first created before the launch, but by the 18th it was removed. Considering available online stock was being released in trickles, I’m sure people would be even more annoyed if they received email notifications only to find it out of stock again by the time they clicked onto the page.

Part of the added frenzy was the fact that although the collection became available in stores on Aug 24th (Aug 25th for Canadians), Sephora JcPenney stores are not carrying the collection, which is a huge problem for people who don’t live in or near metropolitan areas. My nearest standalone store is 45 miles away and many other people have standalone stores even farther away than that.

I thought the ordering issues would deter customers but somehow it fueled the frenzy! The situation was very reminiscent of the Epic Fail and Extraordinary Reward point redemption events, but this takes the cake as the strangest collection release to date!

MOSCHINO + SEPHORA Bear Brush Set

Price: $54

*Note: I will be comparing this set to the previous limited edition brush set I purchased from Sephora.

All-Over Face Brush – blend and buff pressed powders or powder foundations

Cheek Brush: blend blush

Highlight Brush: precision highlighter application and blending

All-over Shadow Brush: apply and blend eyeshadow

There was an extra long hair on this one!

Crease Brush: apply and blend eyeshadow into the crease

I was surprised to discover that, just like the ferrules, the bear heads/entire handles are made of metal! They aren’t plastic like Tarte’s Make Believe In Yourself Collection nor did they have an odd holographic spot nor threads poking along the ridge between the handle and ferrule from being improperly glued. I regret buying that set, even though I didn’t pay full price for it. The Moschino brush set is much better quality but also $14 higher in price.

The bristles in the Moschino collection are definitely not loosely packed but they aren’t very dense either and tend to splay/flop under pressure around the outer edges a bit more than I’d like. A careful read in the “what it does” section on Sephora’s website confirms that these are “semi-dense synthetic fibers.”

If you want to get this set to display the cute handles on your vanity, just remember that if you store them with heads up then your bristles will get crushed on the bottom of your container. However, if you intend to have the bristles upright then the bear heads won’t be seen unless you lay them flat, keep them in a brush tree, or house them in a clear storage container without beads/sequins/objects. The bristles are soft but there’s nothing super special or innovative about them. E.L.F and Real Techniques are just a few examples of brands that make brushes that perform the same way for a much better price. When buying this collection you’re essentially paying for the designer name and handles, which is perfectly fine, but just something consumers should be mindful of and acknowledge. That being said, I like them and I think the price is fair.

MOSCHINO + SEPHORA Bear Lip Gloss Chain

$32

The chain is relatively light but the bear attached is HEAVY. I get neck pain, due to a past injury, and there is no way I would be able to wear this on a night out. It’s so heavy that I have a hard time imagining anyone else wearing it for an extended period of time either. That being said, the bear is adorable and I bought it mainly for decorative purposes so there’s no way I’m parting with it! I like that I can put a lip gloss in its head, and once done, it looks like a bear honey bottle. The chain is 24k plated gold, which is a nice bonus, but it’s not detachable from the bear. The bear’s left ear has a soldered on ring from which the entire weight of the chain hangs. Because it’s not connected evenly from both ears, the bear sits tilted unless the chain is placed in a specific ways to counterbalance the weight.

The lip glosses are 0.049 oz / 1.4 grams each. That’s a bit on the small side considering a Buxom deluxe sample from Sephora’s Reward Bazaar is 0.07 oz and the Sephora x Disney collection had five 0.1 oz each lip stains; although the Minnie collection didn’t come with a hefty accessory.

I can tell by looking at the vials that three of the six glosses are not my kind of shades, so I won’t be trying on Malibu (pink-nude), Paris Pink (true pink), and Miami (hot pink). I’ll find homes for them with someone else.

Soho

This is my favorite shade in the collection. It’s a beautiful burgundy color which I find super flattering and it’s highly opaque for a lip gloss. The foot of the applicator could have benefited from being a little smaller but the initial dip from the tube is more than enough to cover the entire lip. These photos are single-dip lip swatches. I wanted to show how pigmented they are from using the bare minimum.

Milano

I consider this type of red to be universal even though it has a tinge of fuchsia to it. The shade isn’t too cool toned as to be unwearable for those of us with yellow undertones. In fact, it looks just a touch orange in the wrist swatch photo below (I think it’s my lights) but it’s a true red shade. I really like it!

Hollywood

I love the look of glitter but the side effect of having loose glitter particles that stick on the skin all day, despite washing the area, is a pet peeve of mine. This shade is stunning but upon my first time wearing it I discovered that removing a glitter lipgloss in a room with a fan is a bad idea! Once the emollient layer was gone the glitter particles started spreading across my face! I learned my lesson and my second time wearing and removing this gloss was not an issue. Soho has some shimmer in it but the glitter is bigger in Hollywood and I’d consider that a negative. It’s also less pigmented than the other two but still impressive for a gloss.

All three of these feel hydrating, buildable, and spreadable but they’re also easy to transfer and cause color-bleeding/feathering the longer they’re worn, especially if extra layers are added. I can feel the oil when I put it on but I wouldn’t go as far as to call it oily. At the same time they also feel and smell waxy. It’s very confusing to see it partly spread and partly stick to the lips. Soho and Milano passed the meal test but those two stain the lips so perhaps they produced an illusion of potential staying power. I will be trying out Soho and Milano again to see if there is a better way to wear them (perhaps over a lip primer, lip liner, or lipstick).

Also noteworthy is the fact that these share similar ingredients with other Sephora branded glosses but the arrangement is different enough that they can’t be called the same formula. Based on the amount of product in the tubes, I’m getting the equivalent of 1-2 full size lip glosses plus the bear necklace for the $34. I consider that a good price!

MOSCHINO + SEPHORA Bear Highlighter

Price: $22

Since this is a gift for my friend, I won’t be swatching it. Quite a few photos of broken highlighters have surfaced, so be aware that these highlighters are a soft formula. I was lucky mine arrived intact but the inconsistencies around the edges (and even that small dip on the bottom) hint at a possible pressing issue during production. This product looks like it would be too dark as highlighter for very fair skin tones (although it could make a nice shimmery blush) but I think those with light to dark skin tones will really like this. I appreciate seeing a limited edition product that can compliment as large a variety of complexions like this one.

Anti-Haul (The YT Trend Started by Kimberly Clark)

I decided not to get the incredibly adorable Bear Palette because I have all those colors in my collection and some of them are extremely similar to each other within the palette as shown on Trendmood’s instagram.

The other reason I decided to skip this is because the palette is too large to be kept flat in the drawer and would look bulky even if stood vertically on my vanity. I have very little vanity space to begin with!

Of the remaining items, I think the mask is overpriced whereas the shopping bag eyeshadow palette and compact mirror weren’t unique enough to catch my attention, especially the compact because $4 more gets a gold bear instead of a brown one and actual makeup with a mirror instead of just two mirrors.

Moschino and Sephora created something truly eye-catching that succeeded in drawing me in far more than I intended or expected. As I was about to post I noticed this from a moderator on Sephora’s Community forum.

I hope my review has helped you if you plan to purchase in-store or if you couldn’t get your hands on it I hope the anti-haul portion helped make the fomo (fear of missing out) much less.

❤ Lili

UPDATE: As of December 8th, 2017 Sephora has restocked the entire collection (perfumes included) online only.

Reusing Birchboxes (DIY Z-Palette Alternative)

birchtowerIt’s been almost a year since my last post and during that time away from this blog I’ve been searching for ways to utilize and organize the mass of beauty products I’ve accumulated. I began to delve into the world of “upcycling” and although I no longer subscribe to Birchbox, I still have a gigantic collection of their pretty boxes that I don’t want to just throw away (in the recycling bin of course). I’ve always used them as gift boxes but most of the presents I give are too large to fit. I also use them as drawer dividers/organizers but I still have a tower of them left. So below are a few additional ways I’ve put my boxes to use:

Wall Art

birchwallThis one is straightforward. All you need are push-pins and a ruler to evenly space out your boxes along the wall. Although my design is different, credit for the idea goes to Tiffany Johnson on Youtube. I would not have thought of it otherwise.

Another great thing about it is that they can be interchanged as often as I like! I could have a day when I want to hang all the blue birchboxes or all the purple ones or only the geometics, only the flowered ones, etc.

Empty Magnetic Palettes

diybirchZ-palettes are a huge deal in the beauty industry and before their recent (now deleted) Instagram rampage on customers…

worstzpalette…I was already planning a way to create my own. When you really think about it, Z-palettes are just slim cardboard boxes with colored paper around it, magnetic sheets, and a thin acrylic lid. They can be easily duplicated and many cosmetic companies already have their own custom palettes. You can get them in metal or hard plastic instead of cardboard. Some versions have a mirror on the inside instead of a clear lid. You can also find some very inexpensive ones on ebay and amazon. That being said, none have the cute prints that are on Birchboxes and I still wanted to make my own. The only thing I had to actually buy was the magnetic sheet from Michael’s which cost me $2.99 without a coupon.needbirchdiyITEMS USED:

  • 1 Birchbox or any sturdy box
  • 1 cutting tool (scissors and/or x-acto knife or even a regular knife)
  • Tape (preferably clear and durable) or glue
  • 1 pencil
  • 1 magnetic sheet (strong enough to hold the weight of the eyeshadows)

ADDITIONAL ITEMS:

  • 1 ruler (I didn’t end up using it but it helps to create an even square on the lid)
  • glue (any strong bond type of glue will work)
  • 1 foam sheet (to add an additional layer of padding to the palette)
  • 1 piece of cardboard (for the additional layer of padding)
  • 1 sheet of plastic (doesn’t have to be acrylic but it should be thick, unwrinkled, and easy to clean/not stain)

*The foam I’ve had from multiple subscription boxes and mailed packages. The sheet of plastic I used came from hosiery packaging but additional household sources can be the plastic around products like my hot glue gun, markers, insoles, the plastic cover on bakery boxes, etc. It took me only a few minutes to find supplies around the house.

plasticsPart 1 (skip this step if you don’t want the added protective layer)birchbotsMake sure the piece of foam fits the dimensions of the box. Then use it to trace around the cardboard and magnetic sheet and cut those so they all are the same size. Then glue the foam to the bottom of the birchbox, making sure to spread an even layer (paying extra attention to the four corners).

zgluePeel off the backing of the magnet and attach the magnet sticky-side down to the cardboard. Use a little glue if necessary for extra adhesion power. Then apply glue to the other side of the brown cardboard in order to attach it to the foam layer already inside the birchbox. Now your custom palette has extra protection!

zstandPart 2

If you skipped part 1, cut the magnetic sheet to fit the dimensions of the bottom of the birchbox. Remove the paper backing and attach it to the bottom, adding extra glue if needed.

Now we’re moving onto the lid. In my example, I followed the pattern of the print but you can use a ruler and pencil to trace a rectangle underneath the lid and then cut it out to form a hole in the cover.

birchtopsCut the sheet of plastic to fit on the underside of the Birchbox lid. It should be large enough to cover the hole with a little extra room. When you tape or glue the edges of the plastic to the box, you don’t want tape lines to be visible once the lid is flipped over.

birchxAnd that’s it! I like how sturdy this feels (it can even be stored upward but give the glue a day to dry before use). If you find this to be too bulky you can always cut the edges of the lid and base by half and then line it all with colorful tape to hide any jagged edges. In fact, next time I will line the edges around the lid hole with solid colored washi tape before I tape the clear plastic underneath. birchzfinzstandsideThis has room for a minimum of 24 MAC sized eyeshadow pans.

24shadI have SO many Birchboxes left that I should start gifting these to my eyeshadow loving friends. And with all the different Birchbox tops just imagine the number of unique magnetic palettes you could create too!otherbirch

But really this could be done with any cardboard box, magnetic sheets, plus cutting and pasting tools. An ordinary box can be easily spruced up with printed paper or washi tape. 🙂

-Lili

Arrow, a New Beauty Brand

birstufYou may have heard of Birchbox’s first cosmetics line called LOC (Love of Color) which launched in 2015. They partnered with Tati the GlamLifeGuru in their initial release of lip crayons and eyeshadow sticks. This year, Birchbox created their second brand called Arrow, which has nothing to do with the CW Television show or DC comics.

arrowmemeWhat makes this one so special is that all the products in the line are vegan, paraben-free, cruelty-free, and gluten-free.

I purchased the starter kit as soon as it was available on the Birchbox website. Everyone received a $10 off promo code from their December Birchbox and I had 100 points on my account. That means I received this kit plus the mystery pack for only $16!

 ARROW BOOST Color Enhancing Lip Balm

lip1Price: $14

In my early high school years, I was obsessed with mark Glossblossom Ripening Lip Tint. A clear gloss came out of the tube but turned pink on contact with the lips. The ARROW balm brings me the same joy but is prettier and has much better ingredients. To quote the product page, “Formulated to adjust to your unique pH, it enhances each wearer’s natural lip color to create the perfect, just-for-you hue. Nourishing ingredients like mango seed butter hydrate and protect lips, and the lightweight, subtle formulation allows it to go wherever you do…”

I put this on and went about my day, which involved eating, drinking, and licking my lips (the lippie isn’t flavored). The actual balm wore away after a few hours but the color stayed put for the rest of the night! And since my lips weren’t dried out, I didn’t feel the need to reapply. I was very impressed by the performance of this balm and it has become a new favorite! It brings out the natural pink in my lips!

drylip

ARROW REVIVE Cooling Cheek Tint

cheek3Price: $18

This line caters to people on the go, and this is why the creators decided to put this cheek stain in a clickable pen with a brush. The concept is smart but the packaging…

Pros: The actual cheek stain is fantastic quality. It glides over the skin, is buildable, and long lasting. The formula isn’t sticky. It comes in two colors: Pink Punch and Berry Flush. The one I bought is Berry Flush. It can be used under the ARROW lip balm for a bolder lip shade. It does feel comfortably cool on the skin. When it comes to the actual stain, I love it!

Cons: On the first day I used this, I only clicked until a tiny dot was visible on the brush.

noclickclickThat tiny dot grew to the size of a nickel which is way more product than necessary. Part of my Instagram photo (pictured above where I listed the price) shows how much came out from holding it upside down for just a few seconds. I chalked it up to first time use, wiped the tip of the brush until it was clean, then put it in my blush drawer.

The next day I opened the cap to find this.

insideAgain, I thought it was a fluke and wiped the top but I noticed it continued to pump out gel without any clicks at all. I put it on the counter in the upright position and it continued to come out. That’s when I realized there must be a problem with the inner mechanism of my product. I don’t know if it happens to be just my pen, or if all the cheek tints are like this.

I continued wiping until the pen went a solid ten minutes without leaking. That’s when I tried my last test. Whereas my other pen products only require 2-3 clicks, this one needs at least 6 before it starts to drip. And it drips at a snail’s pace. The drip is far too slow to be practical. So then it takes an additional 3 or more to get a tiny dot. By that point, the same overflow issue happened again. I took a five minute video to show the progression of the leak. Some stills are below.

zoom1zoom2zoom3zoom4zoom5This is a very big issue for someone on-the-go to deal with a cap full of blush stain. Where should they put the excess product? That style of brush is good for packing on color, which isn’t what most would want to do with a stain. So the packaging is a fail but the actual gel was worth saving for me. So I took one of my sample jars and clicked out all the remaining product.

fullstainI don’t know how long my little jar will last me before it potentially dries out but if I kept it in the pen, I wouldn’t use it anyway. Now, it’s exclusively a lip brush!

endARROW PROTECT Aluminum-Free Deodorant

deo2 Price: $9

Finding the right deodorant is a very individual experience. Some sweat more than others. Some produce stronger odors. Unfortunately, I require heavy duty deodorant. So when I say that I went two hours with solid protection but needed to reapply after 3-4 hours, that happens to be my personal experience with it.

Less subjective comments about this deodorant is that it looks clear in the tube and applies clear as well under the arms. It’s made without alcohol and aluminum. It does have a fragrance which reminds me of an Arnold Palmer beverage, which I love. The actual notes are pink grapefruit, mint leaf, ginger flower, and sea spray.

I should also note that it’s the same size as the $8 travel size of LAVANILA. I like the scent of the ARROW deodorant better, although the actual performance is nearly identical.

deoARROW Makeup Bag

bagPrice: $12

My bag smelled like a mix of chemicals and gasoline. I’m accustomed to Ipsy’s bags occasionally smelling like this, so I immediately put it in a corner to air out. It should take several days before the smell dissipates. I believe it comprises of a vinyl water-resistant material. One could easily find a larger, cuter, and cheaper makeup pouch but the water-resistance is what this bag really has going for it.

There are additional products coming to the Arrow line. The one I’m most excited about is the facial mist, since I’m looking for something which can replace my beloved Aloe Water Mist from The Skin House. Overall, I am still happy with my purchase. The Arrow lip balm is a sample choice option for February’s Birchbox, so you could potentially try it for yourself if you’re a Birchbox subscriber!

❤ Lili

Note: The link provided is a referral link, not an affiliate link. This is not a sponsored review.

Beautylish Lucky Bag 2016

BL1WHAT IS IT?

Beautylish is an online retailer which I use to purchase from overseas brands like Wayne Goss and Chikuhodo. They have an annual grab bag where you spend a specified amount of money and receive full size items worth an even greater retail value. This year, the bags were $80 ($75 plus $5 shipping) with the promise of at least $150 worth of products. Canadians had an extra duties fee, making their total $95.

If you hadn’t heard about these bags, I would not be surprised. It never made the front page of their website. On Dec 22nd, Beautylish’s email subscribers were sent a link to sign up for early access. I am subscribed under two different emails, and ironically it was the account I did not sign up on which was sent the purchase page link. I was informed by a few other beauty lovers that they did not receive the email either.

IS IT WORTH IT?

$80 is a lot of money to spend blindly on beauty products. It may not work with the buyer’s complexion or skin type. They could get products they don’t use or products they already own. I keep a list of items I’m saving money to purchase. So I had to decide whether or not I would be happier just buying a Viseart palette outright, or two $40 items I’m guaranteed to enjoy. I compared the Lucky Bags from 2015 and instead of a random sampling, last year’s participants had to choose between a Natural, Bold, or Makeup Artist themed bag. With the exception of the MUA bag (the first to be sold out), I was not impressed with what I saw. However, Beautylish is a company that strives to make their customers happy and I was willing to bet the 2016 edition would be much better.

gambleWHAT DID YOU GET?

BL1bBenjabelle Tulip Brush Tree

bl3bbl3cbl3Price: $24.95

Last year, I bought myself a brush tree dupe from Walmart and since then I’d been considering getting a second one. Now, I don’t have to and it’s such a cute shape! Drying brushes flat on their side is good but I find that hanging them upside down works best.bl3d

Charlotte Tilbury LTE Luxury Palette in Fallen Angel

bl8bl8b2Price: $65

I’ve been itching to try Charlotte Tilbury products but the price deterred me. I’m always looking for deals and CT is a brand I only see at full price. The other Luxury Palettes are $52, but because this one has limited edition shades and packaging, it’s even pricier. I only received my bag two days ago, so I would like to play with these shadows longer before I make a judgment but I really like them. The colors are beautiful but I would have to pair them with another palette if I wanted to create a look that really pops.

bl8cCTeyesb

The lightest color is under the brow and on the inner corner. The lid is a mixture of both lighter colors. The brown shade is in the crease and I added a touch of black on the outer corner.

CTeyescI love this shimmery neutral look!

Kevyn Aucoin The Creamy Glow in Patrice

bl6bl6bPrice: $26

A huge percentage of buyers received either a KA blush or bronzer. I don’t wear bronzer so I feel lucky that I got a blush. Patrice appears to be the only shade in the collection that I could pull off, so I was relieved to see that one in my bag. I am a fan of the KA brand so this was another hit for me. The way it blends reminds me of the Make Up For Ever HD blushes, but I do think I prefer MUFE’s over this one. It is still nice though.

bl6cIt Cosmetics Universal Brow Pencil

bl7bl7bPrice: $24

Again, I was glad to see this over the mascara option because I have a box full of unopened mascaras but I only own one brow product. This twist-up pencil is supposed to work for everyone. It is a cool toned shade that creates a shadow under the hair which makes the brows appear filled without adding additional color. At least that’s been the result for me.bl7cI consider myself a brow beginner so this product is actually perfect for me. I wasn’t as precise as I could have been when testing this out, but it takes a lot of effort to overdo it haha. I can see myself using this for everyday looks!

Becca Ever-Matte Poreless Priming Perfector

bl5Price: $36

I’ll reserve this primer as something to gift a friend. I have heard great things about this product for those with combination/oily skin. Because mine is dry, I can achieve and keep a matte face quite easily. Testing this out myself would be a waste so I’m keeping this unopened.

Bioderma Sébium H2O

BL2Price: $6.95

This is a stock photo from the beautylish website. The one I received is bubble-wrapped and I’m keeping it that way for a friend who could use this. I love Bioderma and already have 1.25 liters worth of the Sensibio version, so it would be a waste for me to try out this one.

WHAT COULD YOU HAVE GOTTEN?

Based on what I have seen on Instagram #luckybag2016 I’ve compiled this list. It is not 100% comprehensive as I’m sure I missed a few.

Bioderma: Sensibio and Sebium

It Cosmetics: Universal brow, Mascara, Pores no More

Becca: Backlight Primer, Ever-Matte, The One Perfecting Brush, Undereye concealer, Shimmering Skin Perfectors (Pressed, Poured, Liquid), Ombre Eyes Palette

Kevyn Aucoin: Blush, Bronzer, Eye Pigment

Charlotte Tilbury: Eyeshadow Palettes, Lip Pouch, Filmstar (Bronze & Glow and Killer Cheekbones), Charlotte Tilbury x Norman Parkinson Items

Benjabelle: Brush Tree

Beautylish Gift Cards: $20

Wayne Goss: 05 Brush, Brow Set

Chikuhodo: Sakura Set (VERY FEW)

Natasha Denona: Eyeshadow Palettes

TooFaced: Eyeshadow Palettes (Natural Eyes, Sugar Pop, Chocolate Bar, Boudoir Eyes)

Viseart: All Eyeshadow Palettes

rms: lip2cheek, eyeshadow

Glamglow: cleansers and treatments

Nudestix: (something in a case)

By Terry: Gold Baume de Rose Parure

Bliss: Lean Machine (VERY FEW), hand cream, spray, cleansing milk, 15-minute facial, cooling gel

Sugarpill: False Lashes

Jeffrey Star: Lip Scrubs, Velour Liquid Lipsticks

Korres: Lip Butter, Black Pine cream, Sleeping Facial

Anastasia Beverly Hills: Self Made Palette

FINAL THOUGHTS?

blgbsmallerBeautylish sent out prestigiously branded, high quality items. Many of them are best sellers! The total retail price of my bag is $182.90 but it is only as valuable as the products I can actually use. Since my favorite items would have cost $140, the $60 savings is something I am extremely happy with! That being said, I’m not sure if I will take the gamble in 2017. The number of items I saw on Instagram which I already have made me feel like it was pure luck I got products I’ve never owned. If I had a guarantee that my account profile photo would ensure that I don’t get complexion products too light for me or bronzers I couldn’t use, then I would sign up in a heartbeat!

But let’s be real…the lure of potentially getting another fantastic bag will make me participate again next year. 🙂

❤ Lili