My Top Favorite Must Have Beauty Products Lately

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Since joining Birchbox, ipsy and Beauty Army I’ve discovered a lot of really amazing bath and beauty products recently. While there have been a few fails, there have also been quite a few standouts. Here are some of my most recent favorites that I currently prefer not to live without.

Must Have "5" Star Beauty and Cosmetic Brands and Products

1. L’Oreal Paris RevitaLift Miracle Blur Cream discovered via a sample in More magazine :: After trying this product I was instantly in love. It’s similar to the Youngblood Anti-Shine Mattifier that I discovered via Birchbox in it’s ability to keep shine away all day long, but it actually works better. It’s biggest bonus is you get more product than with Anti-Shine Mattifier from Youngblood for a smaller price tag. Also, ass it applies similarly to a cream, you don’t need to use a sponge. Apply after your favorite moisturizer – my favorite for dry skin is Dr.jart+ Ceramidin Cream – and under foundation. You can currently purchase this on Amazon for less than what the Big Box stores are charging.

2. Revlon Uniq All In One Hair Treatment discovered via Birchbox :: I purchased this from Birchbox after reading so many positive reviews and it has become one of my favorite hair care products EVER. It sprays on like a hairspray but if you look inside the bottle it looks like a conditioner. It’s perfect for those dry, winter days if you have normal hair or for everyday use on dry or frizzy hair. I find that this product really keeps my hair soft and frizz free and it’s also helped prevent breakage I was having issues with. Not only does it hydrate hair, but it also promotes shine, repairs, protects against heat damage, and prevents split ends. Plus it smells amazing! To use, simply spray it on towel dried hair and style as usual. I’m on my second bottle – you know I really love something if I buy it more than once – and I’m looking forward to also trying the Uniq One All in One Shampoo & Balm.

3. Paula’s Choice RESIST BHA 9 for Stubborn Imperfections discovered via Birchbox :: I sample this through Birchbox and noticed a difference overnight. As I am prone to acne breakouts during those monthly hormone changes, I sometimes end up with red marks that linger long after the actual acne has cleared up. This product actually completely erased those marks overnight while helping to keep my skin clear. I have this as a definite on my wish list of things to buy when my budget allows.

4. Jesse’s Girl Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner discovered via ispy :: I sampled this this eyeliner through ipsy and as I received the full size product I’m still enjoying it. What I love about this eyeliner is that it stays on without smudging or transferring onto other parts of my eyelid later in the day. It also makes applying a liquid eyeliner super easy. The applicator is soft so I don’t feel like I’m tearing my eyelids off applying it and it’s super easy to control how much you’re putting on – even for those super fine lines. Plus, it’s drugstore priced.

5. Cailyn Cosmetics Tinted Lip Balm discovered via ipsy :: While this claims to be a lip balm, this product has all the staying power and color intensity of a lipstick. Made with natural beeswax and carnauba wax, this lip balm won’t smudge or stray and unlike long wear lipsticks and color stains, it moisturizes lips rather than drying them out. Plus each bold, beautiful color comes with a brush for application right inside the lid for the perfect application. This line of lip balms comes in wide range of colors as well as colors with shimmers. The price tag is on the end of a high end cosmetic, but it will seriously put your other lip balms to shame.

6. Supergoop!® City Sunscreen Serum discovered via Birchbox :: I sampled this via Birchbox as a free sample in one of my more recent orders and really liked this product. I found it’s great if you’re prone to breakouts – it helped to diminish mine – and it also helps to mattify your skin on those makeup free or light makeup days that you may not be using a product with sunscreen in it. I’m also a fan of the Supergoop! SPF 35 Daily Correct CC Cream although as winter is on it’s way, I really wish they offered a Porcelain/Light shade.

7. theBalm® cosmetics NUDE ‘tude™ Nude Eyeshadow Palette discovered via Birchbox :: I had this gem of an eyeshadow palette on my favorites list for a while and just recently was able to purchase it with a significant $30 discount through Birchbox with my points. I had read a lot of great reviews and I loved the neutral color palette. I was not disappointed. In fact, after I tried these eyeshadows, I cleaned out my makeup bag and literally threw all of my drugstore eyeshadows in the trash. This product put everything I had ever tried before it to shame. The colors are not only beautiful, but they stay in place all day long and are really, super easy to blend. This palette is the first time I was ever able to use an actual eyeshadow brush and not end up with a mess of dust down my cheeks and under my eyes.  I cannot recommend it enough. It’s simply the best eyeshadow I have ever used. I also found that the darker colors are great for lining your eyes when you don’t want a stiff, eyeliner line.

Take a peek at a few of my other previous cosmetic and beauty favorites from beauty box sample program here. Also be sure to follow my Bath + Beauty board on Pinterest for more great products you can buy as well as my DIY Bath + Body board on Pinterest for bath, body and beauty products you can DIY.

What are some of your recent bath, body and beauty favorites?

Beauty Sample Websites Reviewed & My Favorite Recent Beauty Products Sampled

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Reviews of Top Beauty Sampling Programs - Birchbox, Beauty Army and ipsyI’ve been a beauty sampling fiend lately and am currently a member of three beauty sampling programs – Birchbox, Beauty Army and ipsy.

My favorite company is still Birchbox because I not only love the variety of products and brands they offer, but also because they have a really great rewards program where you earn can points toward free products for reviewing samples, shopping, and referring your friends. Because of their rewards system, I’m able to purchase products that normally wouldn’t be within my price range. I’ve been with Birchbox the longest and most of my boxes have included at least one full size product. They also recently revamped their profile questions to help narrow down what types of samples you receive. Boxes are $10 a month.

Not long after signing up with Birchbox, I also signed up with Beauty Army. Beauty Army is different because it allows you to choose your own samples based on your profile. And if you don’t like the selection of samples you are given, you can change your profile to get different sample results. Generally they include one full size product in with the mix of samples and you can choose up to six samples every month. If you don’t like the sample choices for a particular month or are low on spending money, you can easily skip a month and you won’t be charged. They also have a rewards program to earn a % off your purchase and free monthly kits. Boxes are $12 a month.

ipsy is a little different – and it shows my age I suppose that I don’t really participate in sharing my beauty looks on YouTube – where you receive a monthly cosmetic bag filled with samples. Generally there are several full sized products within these bags with bag styles changing from month to month. I’ve only been with ipsy for two months at this point and wasn’t very excited about the selection in my first bag as it didn’t really contain products I would use. However, I did read from other members that the longer you are a member the more customized your bags become, so I stuck with it into the second month and was very pleasantly surprised. Every product I received in my second bag was something that I will use. You just need to remember to give feedback on the products you receive and whether it’s something you like and would want to receive more of based on brand, color, and type of product. The products in the bags are curated by Michelle Phan – and to be honest I have no idea who that is though you may – and while there’s not really a rewards program – you are directed to the manufacturers’ websites with a coupon code should you choose to make a purchase – you can receive free bonus items in your monthly bags for referring your friends. Bags are $10 a month.

So wondering what’s been in my beauty sample boxes recently? Below are a few of my recent favorites.

Must Have Beauty Products from Top Beauty Sample Programs1. SKIIN Instant Skin Tightener & Line Filler sampled via Beauty Army :: This product is coined “Plastic Surgery in a Bottle” and I have to admit it does a great job. Not only does it tightens sagging skin and help to smooth creases and wrinkles, but I also found that it was pretty amazing at getting rid of shine.

2. ModelCo Party Proof Lipstick Trio sampled via Birchbox :: This product comes as a trio of lipsticks available in Neutral (pictured) and Classic shades. I received a full size lipstick in my latest box in the neutral shade called “Kitty” and just fell in love. This lipstick gives just enough color to perfect my look without looking “made up” and it smells like a heavenly blend of sweet fruits. The long lasting formula glides on smooth and moisturizing and unlike other long lasting lipsticks and stains, it doesn’t dry your lips out.

3. Michael Todd True Organics Jojoba Charcoal Scrub sampled via ipsy :: This organic facial scrub is formulated with jojoba wax beads and activated charcoal to aid in removal of dead skin, impurities and toxins. It very gently exfoliates without scratching sensitive skin and leaves your face feeling fresh and clean, not oily. The activated charcoal is also perfect for helping to prevent acne and the ingredients are suitable for for all skin types

4. Supergoop Daily Correct SPF 35 CC Cream purchased via Birchbox :: Supergoop is the first CC Cream I’ve ever tried and I fell in love instantly. I have very fair skin and and it often looks red and blotchy without anything on it. This product corrects and evens out my skin tone, offers SPF protection and is works great alone or under foundation or other makeup. It’s also easy to blend and is fragrance free. I love how great my skin looks after applying this!

Natural Beauty and Skin Care Products Sampled Via The Top Three Beauty Sample Programs5. Pixi Lash Booster Mascara sampled via ipsy :: This smudge free mascara goes on evenly and doesn’t clump, giving you great waterproof coverage. It’s available in Blackest Black (which I received) and Blackest Blue which awakens the eyes and makes the whites of the eyes appear whiter. Vitamin E and carnauba wax nourish lashes while simethicone provides a smooth glide.

6. Pure Marula Facial Oil sampled via Beauty Army :: This natural oil provides intense hydration, protection and rejuvenation. I’m currently using this sample under my eyes to help keep wrinkles away. Interestingly enough this oil has the highest content of anti-oxidants vs. Argan and other oils tested.

7. Pacifica Alight Multi-Mineral BB Cream sampled via ipsy :: This super sheer, lightweight BB cream moisturizes and illuminates skin. It can be layered to build coverage or used as a primer underneath makeup. Alone it gives skin a soft, dewy glow. Similar to a tinted moisturizer, I love that this product is all natural with ingredients like coconut water, sweet iris leaf extract, damascus rose extract, white tea extract and aloe.

8. Bikini Soft Shave Oil & Razor Shaver sampled via Beauty Army :: I sampled the Bikini Soft Smooth Shave Oil and was tickled pink. This shave oil isn’t a goopy, sticky foam, yet it gives you a close shave without knicks, cuts and razor burn while leaving legs soft, smooth and moisturized. It’s formulated from all natural oils prized for their moisturizing properties and skin softeners that tone and restore.

9. Benefit Chachatint sampled via Birchbox :: I thought this product was a little weird at first. It’s very thin but also, surprisingly, very effective. It can be used both as a cheek and lip stain to give you a sheer, sun kissed look. I love the natural looking color it adds to lips and it’s staying power.

Fabulous Beauty Products for Skin and Hair10. Dr. Jart+ Ceramidin Cream sampled via Birchbox :: I love this cream for under my eyes as it provides rich moisture that lasts and works better than more expensive brand under eye anti-wrinkle creams. Not only does it contain skin repairing ingredients, but it also provides prescription-quality relief for conditions like eczema and redness, as well as dry skin.

11. theBalm cosmetics InStain Long Wearing Powder Staining Blush sampled via Birchbox :: I sampled this in Swiss Dot (Peach) and while it’s not a color I typically would wear – I tend to lean towards berry colors for lips and cheeks – I actually liked the way it looked against my pale skin. The sample size is one that will last for months on end as a little goes a long way.

12. Davines Oi/Oil Absolute Beautifying Potion sampled via Birchbox :: I sampled this hair all along with the Davines Love Smoothing Shampoo and Conditioner and was completely in love. The shampoo and conditioner samples lasted through a week of daily shampoos and left my hair ultra smooth and shiny while the Davines Oil helped tame frizz brought on by an excessively humid summer. It did the job of what generally requires the use of multiple products to achieve.

Are you a member of any sampling programs beauty related or otherwise? I’d love to hear about them!

My Top Five Favorite High End Cosmetic Favorites Worthy of Their Price Tag

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High End Cosmetic Favorites Worthy of Their Price TagSince I joined Birchbox’s sampling program back in April I’ve had the opportunity to try some really incredible products – many of which I’d never heard of. (In case you haven’t discovered Birchbox yet, it is the best way to discover new beauty, grooming and lifestyle products. Men and women can join to receive monthly deliveries of top product samples from high-end brands.) We did get an Ulta Beauty store at our local mall late last year, but I really haven’t had the time to hit the mall and peruse their offerings. So Birchbox has been like discovering an entirely new world of beauty brands for me. I love that they have unbiased reviews of all of the products they sell. It makes it easier to try new cosmetics and beauty products that I haven’t yet had the opportunity to sample. And their points program allowed me to score $30 off my most recent full sized product purchase which I was particularly happy about since some of these products aren’t in my everyday price range.

However, my top five most recent cosmetic discoveries are well worth their price tag and will stay part of my regular beauty routine for as long as I have the extra cash (and points!) to purchase them. They are (in no particular order): 1. Marcelle BB Cream (a Birchbox Exclusive), 2. Youngblood Anti-Shine Mattifier, 3. Benefit Bad Gal Lash Mascara, 4. Dr. Lipp Original Nipple Balm for Lips, and 5. Le Métier de Beauté Anamorphic Lash Waterproof Mascara.

I have combination skin so my cheeks are anywhere from normal to dry while my nose, forehead and chin tend to be oily. I can put on makeup and an hour later my t-zone looks shiny. By the end of the day – especially if I head out for a night of dancing to a local band – basically all of my foundation has come off entirely. So I’d been anxious to try Youngblood’s Anti-Shine Mattifier for some time as well as a BB Cream as a primer underneath of my foundation. As Birchbox carries the Marcelle BB Cream and it had rave reviews, I chose to go with it as a first time purchase. I was not disappointed in either.

The Youngblood Anti-Shine Mattifier does exactly what it claims. It prevents shine and soaks up excess surface oil. I apply this to my entire face after I’ve applied my own Handmade Eternal Spring Under Eye & Anti-Wrinkle Cream. You can immediately see a difference. I then follow it with the Marcelle BB Cream in Light to Medium. I have very fair skin and was really pleased that this BB Cream did not look fake on my skin. It blended beautifully while providing hydration – I use this in lieu of a facial cream – and helping to control shine as well.

29 Preserves I-Block Grape Seed Age Protecting™ Eye ShadowI then follow with my regular drugstore foundation, Almay’s TLC 16 hour makeup in ivory. Next I apply blush – I have been using Revlon’s powder blush in Berry Rich for a good ten years now – then dust on Cover Girl’s Clean Oil Control Pressed Powder in Classic Ivory with a brush. I am new to using this as I had tried it to control shine, but it would wear off very quickly. Next I follow with my eyeliner and shadow – I’m currently stuck on the 29 Preserves I-Block Grape Seed Age Protecting™ Eye Shadow (also via Birchbox) – and a thin layer of NYC Pressed Face Powder in Translucent, and then I apply my mascara and lip gloss. It may seem like a lot, but it actually looks pretty natural and lasts all day. Prior to using the Anti-Shine Mattifier and BB Cream, nothing would stay on my face.

No Shine Even After An All Day Festival in Ninety Degree Heat

Incidentally I tried out these two products in several different ways and settings. I wore it to work and came home with no shine. (I checked the mirror at work throughout the day and was honestly surprised that my face didn’t shine as it’s usually shiny by first pit stop to the restroom in the morning.) I slept in it and woke up to no shine. I went out late night to a restaurant/bar for dancing and drinks and came home late – still with no shine. I suffered through the worst allergy attack ever and must have blown my nose a thousand times and still didn’t have any shine. But the true test, I think, was on Saturday when I attended an all day outdoor festival in ninety degree heat. Even at the end of the festival my face remained a lovely matte (as pictured above at the end of the day.) I did get a touch pink even with SPF 30 under everything, but all my makeup lasted through the festival and without any shine to speak of.

I received the Benefit Bad Gal Lash Mascara as a free sample with one of my purchases from Birchbox and was really pleasantly surprised. This mascara is truly both clump free and lengthening even with just one coat. This is tied with the Le Métier de Beauté Anamorphic Lash Waterproof Mascara in Brownish Black as each has benefits the other doesn’t. I love the Bad Gal Lash Mascara for nights out when I want a more dramatic look, however, it’s not waterproof which is my preference. The Le Métier de Beauté Anamorphic Lash Waterproof Mascara is waterproof and provides beautiful full lash coverage with zero clumps in literally one swipe while Benefit’s Bad Gal Lash Mascara requires an extra coat to really reach its full potential. However, the Le Métier de Beauté Anamorphic Lash Waterproof Mascara doesn’t provide the same stunning length that Benefit’s mascara offers. Prior to discovering these two mascaras my favorite mascara was Cover Girl’s Waterproof Exact Eyelights Mascara in Black Gold as it was waterproof and clump free and allowed you to build some length and volume.

Finally is the Dr. Lipp Original Nipple Balm for Lips. As the name implies you can use this as a nipple balm. It also works great as a lip balm and gloss and to heal cuticles, split ends, sunburns, and even diaper rash. I received a sample of this and will be purchasing the full size product to add to my beauty arsenal. I used this on my chapped nose when I was sick and it worked wonders to heal it quickly. I also used it on a patch of eczema on my calf and on my lips with wonderful results. This product is the consistency of a super thick petroleum jelly, but is 100% natural and is even medically proven to reduce skin roughness by up to 40% in one hour. I love this both for its effectiveness and it’s many applications.

If you’re interested in sampling high end beauty brands like these for yourself, then sign up for a monthly Birchbox subscription! At only $10 per month (billed monthly) it’s a really affordable way to try new bath and beauty products without having to make a huge commitment. Plus both your monthly Birchbox subscription and your purchases earn points towards free products. Every dollar you spend earns you ten points. At 100 points, you get $10 to spend in the Birchbox shop. Monthly boxes each give you ten points and you also earn 10 points each for reviewing each product in your monthly box. There are also free gifts and free samples with your purchases in the bonus shop!

Want the ability to choose your own beauty samples? Join Beauty Army and choose six samples based on your personal beauty profile for just $12 a month with free shipping!

What are some of your favorite bath, body and beauty products that you love to indulge in?

Mother’s Day Gift Ideas – Birch Box’s New Limited Edition Superwoman Beauty Collection

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Cleopatra TOCCA Crema da Mano Luxe Hand Cream - Natural Beauty and Skin Care Hand Cream with a Fabulous Light Grapefruit and Cucumber Fragrance - Perfect for a Mother's Day GiftRecently I decided to give Birch Box a try. Based out of New York City this amazing company is perfect for anyone who loves trying out new bath and beauty products. I’d been wanting to try a sample box subscription for some time, but so many of them were out of my price range or required paying for three months or more up front. Birch Box is different. For $10 a month, billed monthly, you received a fabulous box of beauty, grooming and lifestyle samples each and every month. Samples include fragrances, skin care and bath products, cosmetics, even teas and snacks! What has me really excited about this sample program is that it includes high end brands I ordinarily wouldn’t have the chance to try due to budget restrictions. It also offers the chance to try “green” brands that are just launching.

I haven’t received my first sample beauty box yet – it’s set to arrive on Thursday – but I did order the limited edition From the Garden box they offered. It’s sold out now, but you can buy the products that were included within the box individually. My favorites from the box were the Tocca Crema da Mano Luxe, the Lafco Little Luxuries Candle Tin and L’occitane’s Thé Vert & Bigarade fragrance.

I received the Cleopatra Tocca Hand Cream (pictured above) which is a fragrant blend of grapefruit and cucumber. I immediately fell in love with the fragrance. It’s lightly scented, but smells quite lovely – crisp and fresh. What I really liked about this hand cream was that it absorbed quickly and left my hands feeling soft and smooth – almost silky in the way baby powder makes skin feel to the touch. It’s made with a combination of moisturizing oils including avocado and coconut oil, and also contains shea butter and chamomile extract. Tocca offers this cream in five signature fragrances – Cleopatra (as mentioned), Stella (blood orange), Giulietta (pink tulip and green apple), Bianca (green tea and lemon), and Florence (bergamot and gardenia). I pretty much want to try them all. Plus I love the packaging. And with Mother’s Day coming up I think these would make an excellent Mother’s Day gift as well.

I did some looking around, and Birch Box pricing is pretty much dead on with other retailers who offer their products. Minus the extra benefits that come with shopping Birch Box which include free shipping, free samples and offers from their Bonus Shop, and their rewards program.

Mint Scented Lafco Candle Tin with Matches that Fit Neatly Into the LidOne of the other products I received in my limited edition From the Garden Birch Box was this Lafco Little Luxuries Candle Tin in Mint. My favorite thing about this container is the tin it comes in. While the fragrance I received was mint, it really did not smell so much like straight mint to me, rather more of combination of mint and pine. My boyfriend thought it smelled more like pine than anything else, which was fine by him, seeing as how he prefers a more masculine scented candle so this scent made a nice compromise. Made from soy wax, this small candle has a burn time of over thirty hours. But what really does it for me is how lovely the tin itself is. Not only is it pretty to look at, but the lid has an indention on top that hold a box of matches. I thought it wa pretty genius to pair the two together. This is one tin I’ll definitely be re-using and re-purposing once the candle is gone. I may even put another candle it since I’ve been dying to try my hand at candle making at some point.

L'OCCITANE La Collection de Grasse - Thé Vert & Bigarade FragranceI also really love the sample of L’occitane’s fragrance Thé Vert & Bigarade that I received. It’s part of their new line of fragrances, La Collection de Grasse, that was inspired by its namesake town in the south of France. The four fragrances within this line are Jasmine & Bergamote, Vanille & Narcisse, Magnolia & Mûre, and Thé Vert & Bigarade. Thé Vert & Bigarade is a blend of blossoming green floral notes with earthy wood notes that reminds me of tradition. It’s not overwhelmingly floral and is almost crisp in nature. For me, it’s what a “toilet water” should smell like. That beautiful, yet expensive perfume that you coveted from your grandmother’s dresser. Traditional in a way that is classy, sophisticated, understated and timeless.

Mother's Day Gift Idea - A Fabulous Limited Edition Beauty Birch Box -  The Superwoman CollectionWith the From the Garden Limited Edition Birch Box now sold out, Birch Box just introduced a new limited edition box for Mother’s Day. Named the Superwoman Collection, this new beauty collection includes $190 in products bargain priced at just $58 with free shipping. (Plus you can score some sweet extras with it at no charge from the Bonus Shop.) As this box had so many intriguing products I really wanted to try, I indulged and purchased one for myself. Though you could always buy one for you AND one for mom. This box includes the following full sized products: 29 Preserves I-Block Grape Seed Age Protecting™ Estate Collection Eye Shadow – a four shade collection of shimmery ivory, creamy pink, rich espresso brown, and a warm cinnamon infused with antiaging grape antioxidants, a Le Métier de Beauté Dualistic Eye Pencil, a Le Métier de Beauté Anamorphic Lash Waterproof Mascara, and rms beauty™ Living Luminizer. You also receive a travel size Tata Harper Resurfacing Mask and Molton Brown Heavenly Gingerlily Moisture Bath & Shower along with a super cute Chambre de Sucre’s Macaron Limoge Trinket Box. In addition to shipping for free I was also able to choose a sample pack with two samples at no charge – I chose the Weleda Pomegranate Firming Night Cream & Archipelago Pomegranate Body Soap – and a free sample of Benefit BADgal Lash Mascara.

I can’t wait to receive to my first Birch Box shipment – I’ll be sure to fill you in on what’s hot and what’s just, well, not. And I’ll also be sure to give you feedback on the new Superwoman Collection! If you’re interested in trying Birch Box for yourself, you can sign up here. In addition to their sample box program, you can also shop for any of the full size products they carry. Birch Box products of the month always ship free no matter your order size. Other products ship free with a $50 order. Plus you earn points toward free products with every purchase! You can also gift a women’s subscription to Birch Box just for Mother’s Day for 3, 6 or 12 months!

Teroforma Whisky Stones® MAX - Great Gift Idea for Father's DayAlso, new to Birch Box are subscriptions for men. My boyfriend said he didn’t think he was really interested in a subscription for himself, but he did enjoy the purchase I made for him from the Men’s Birch Box Shop. I bought him the Teroforma Whisky Stones® MAX – as whiskey is his favorite drink – and a container of Mr. Natty Presents Frank’s Beard Elixir. I also chose the Birchbox Man Pick Two Sample Pac (Free with $25 purchase) which I received free with my purchase and I added the Birchbox Koozies (free with $30 purchase.) Plus it shipped free!

Father's Day Gift Idea - Wood Grain Beer Koozies with ZippersThe Birchbox Koozies, which I wasn’t expecting to be that great since they were a free product, are actually really cool. They look so much nicer in person and have that awesome wood grain motif that’s currently trending. They also have zippers on the back to zip the koozie snuggly around your beer or beverage.

Have you ever tried a sample program – either Birch Box  or another company? What was your take?