Review: BH Cosmetics Marble Collection Palette ($8.99)

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I finally splurged (as in, spent $9) on the BH Cosmetics Marble Collection Eyeshadow Palette in “Warm Stone”. Though this palette isn’t big on Instagram or YouTube, it’s been one I’ve had my eye on for a while. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t mainly due to the packaging…I mean how gorgeous is it?!

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The palette typically retails for $11.99, but for the past few weeks it’s been on sale for 25% off, making it a sexy $8.99. It comes with 6 mattes and 6 shimmers, most of which are warm-toned. There’s also a nice, huge mirror. It’s truly a beautiful little thing.

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Now the important stuff – the product itself. As is typical of BH shadows, each is SUPER buttery and soft. Great for blending, but watch out for the fallout! And like the other BH palettes I’ve tried, the shimmers are beautiful. The pigmentation is extremely comparable to high-end palettes and they blend easily – the only shimmer shade I didn’t like was the gold-ish pink on the lower left (swatched fourth from the right on my arm), which was extremely chalky and dry. The mattes were just as expected based on my experience with this brand – some were better than others, but you can definitely make them all work with some blending. The darker mattes were definitely more opaque and easier to use than the lighter crease shades. I do wish that this palette came with a matte black and/or a matte cream, but it’s pretty versatile in that you have options for a soft everyday warm eye or a smokier shimmer look.

FINAL GRADE: B+

Overall, it’s a solid palette that I’ll continue to use. It’s nothing spectacular or earth-shattering, but if the colors speak to you then it’s a worthwhile buy. And make sure you try out some of BH Cosmetics’ highlighters while you’re at it!

 

Mini Ulta Haul and First Impressions! Essence, Clinique, and More

I love dropping by Ulta after work as a reward to myself. Here I’ll share the purchases I made during a recent trip and how I feel about them so far!

1. Essence Satin Touch Blush in “Satin Love” ($2.99)

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I’m very picky with blush because I’m so fair, and already have a lot of facial redness/discoloration that any blush too noticeable just looks bad. I tend to stay away from very pigmented formulas, and though this Essence blush is more on the pigmented side, I was really impressed! It has a beautiful satin finish that adds a super subtle glow to your cheek. The color is a muted gold-ish pink, and as long as you go in with a light hand it can look extremely natural and healthy on the skin. I also love this on the eyes as an all over lid shade. For $3 I’d definitely recommend.

2. Rimmel Lasting Finish Foundation in “Ivory” ($7.99)

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As the weather starts to warm up, I’ve been on the lookout for an affordable, natural foundation that can keep me shine-free for as much of the day possible. The hardest part for me, though, is finding one that’s actually the right color…very fair but not pink, and only a little bit yellow. I know the Rimmel Lasting Finish is a pretty popular product and the color “Ivory” seemed like it was close enough. It’s very thick and has an EXTREMELY strong scent – it’s a floral shampoo-like scent, but I can’t stand it. It definitely isn’t full coverage, more of a strong medium, but I can skip the spot-concealing with this one! I LOVED the way it looked on my skin when applied with a sponge, and though it didn’t keep my oils away all day, I was very impressed by how it wore. My skin looked super smooth and almost flawless, without seeming unnatural (because some of my freckles and a few scars still showed through). I’ll continue to use it for sure (while plugging my nose)!

3. Clinique Take the Day Off Cleansing Balm ($29)

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I typically use the Garnier Micellar Water to remove my eye makeup and wipes (from various brands) to remove my face makeup. I’m familiar with the whole concept of makeup-removing balms, but was never interested because it just seemed so messy, and I never feel like I’m able to get all my makeup off unless I’m being a little abrasive with a wipe. Finally I took the plunge and tried out the Clinique Take the Day Off Cleansing Balm, which so many YouTubers rave about and boasts 4.5 to 5-star reviews on most sites. That price is STEEP, but it does come with a lot of product. I scrap off about a quarter-sized amount with a spatula, warm it up between my fingers, and go to town. It’s a super messy process and I have to rub my eyes a bit to get off all my eyeliner and mascara, but I love that the balm becomes a light milky substance upon contact with water. So no icky oily feeling after! I still wipe my whole face with a cotton pad with micellar water after to take off anything I missed, but overall the experience wasn’t as bad as I thought. Worth $29? I can’t say for sure yet, but as I get used to the process I might learn to love it.

4. Clinique Chubby Stick Intense Moisturizing Lip Colour Balm in “Plushest Punch” ($17)

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Lastly, I tried out this Clinique Chubby Blah-Blah-Name-Too-Long Balm. It was actually a free gift that I unknowingly received when I purchased the Cleansing Balm, so it was a pleasant surprise. Reviewing this is tough because I did really enjoy the formula and the concept, but not the color. And BOY is this sucker pigmented! It gives a shiny gloss-like finish and is incredibly moisturizing – almost creamy. Considering this is essentially a lip crayon, I was so impressed by how easily it glided on my lips and how opaque the color was. But because this color is so bright (perfect for spring if you’re into these fun reddish/coral lips!) I don’t see myself reaching for it. One way I might try working this into my routine is by applying it to my lips as a moisturizing base before applying a dryer lipstick on top, so that the colors can mix together a little and create a more comfortable lip color. If you find one in a color you like, I think it’s a great product.

Brand Review: Mario Badescu Skincare

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From left to right: Rosewater Facial Spray, Enzyme Revitalizing Mask, Whitening Mask, Anti Acne Serum, Enzyme Cleansing Gel, Aloe Vera Toner, and Drying Lotion (not pictured).

I’m a huge skincare junkie, but have a hard time finding products that fit in my price range without being so cheap that it’s concerning. Mario Badescu fits right in the middle – it’s not drugstore cheap, but not high-end expensive. You can get them online on their website, Amazon, or at Ulta.

I was first introduced to this brand via their popular Rosewater Facial Spray ($7). I love the smell of this, and I usually spritz it on before my setting spray in order to “melt” my foundation into my skin. It’s about the price of a drugstore setting spray and you get a good amount of product, and I’ve repurchased it a few times. Since then my collection has slowly grown, and I’ve gotten to experiment with a number of Mario Badescu products.

I don’t feel like any of their products are holy grails for me, but there are a few I enjoy. The Aloe Vera Toner ($15) is refreshing and gentle on my skin, and pretty effective at removing any traces of makeup I might have missed. It’s very lightweight and doesn’t linger, which I like. The Enzyme Revitalizing Mask ($20) and the Whitening Mask ($24) are both items I’ve discussed in my previous “Affordable Face Masks” post. I like the former because it makes my skin feel clean and soft, but it’s nothing groundbreaking; as for the latter, I’ve gone through about half the tub and though my scars have slowly been fading, I can’t say for sure it’s thanks to this mask. Both are okay for me, but have great reviews online so might be worth trying.

The Anti Acne Serum ($20) and the Enzyme Cleansing Gel ($14) are also average products for me. The serum doesn’t really get rid of existing pimples, but seems to do an alright job at keeping them at bay; I’ve since begun using topical creams prescribed by my doctor for my acne, so haven’t reached for it. The cleansing gel feels nice on my skin, but again, nothing innovative. I still prefer my SheaMoisture Black African Soap for daily cleansing.

Lastly, I’ll touch on Mario Badescu’s Drying Lotion ($17) (not pictured above). It is an EXACT dupe of the Kate Somerville EradiKate Acne Treatment, which is $26 at Sephora; in fact, the Drying Lotion seems to work better for me. You stick a q-tip into the product, which is settled at the bottom of the solution, and then dab on any active or forming pimples before you go to sleep so the sulfur can dry out these areas. I’ve had about a 50% success rate with the Drying Lotion (with the EradiKate, it was about 20%)…sometimes it’ll get rid of my pimples, and sometimes I won’t see a difference the next day.

FINAL GRADE: B

A LOT of Mario Badescu products (seriously…check out the Ulta site) are very highly reviewed and revered within the beauty community. Many of their products are decently priced and offer very unique options for skincare junkies like myself. I haven’t been disappointed by any of their products, but haven’t been super impressed by them either. I’d say to take a chance on a few interesting items you’ve had your eye on, but don’t drop everything to run out and put them all in your cart!

Best Eyeliner EVER: NYX Matte Liquid Liner ($6.99)

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Brush head of NYX Matte Liquid Liner in comparison with the tip of a 0.5-mm lead pencil

Every once in a while I find a makeup tool that is so amazing, so perfect, and so essential to my routine that it ruins all other products for me. The NYX Matte Liquid Liner is one of these tools. It’s an extremely black and matte liquid liner with a brush applicator (not a felt tip) that twists into the pot of product, and retails for about $6.99 at most retailers. It’s easily found at Ulta, Target, Wal-Mart, and other drug stores. And it is incredible.

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Liquid eyeliner is the only category of makeup that I no longer bother trying new products because I just don’t see the point (I’m on about my sixth tube of the NYX). I have very hooded eyelids (I’m half Asian, so have a monolid in some parts) that are EXTREMELY oily – both traits that make it difficult for any eyeliner to apply well and stay in place all day. I love cat eyes, but until discovering the NYX I wasn’t able to indulge in the practice because I couldn’t find a liner that could stand up to my lids. I’ve probably tried 15+ different eyeliners over the past few years, including all the cult favorites – Kat Von D, Stila, Wet n Wild, NYC, Tarte, Elf, Essence, and a ton of others. All of them smudged on me by around the 5-hour mark, or were just way too dry and difficult to apply. And a lot of them were more expensive than the NYX.

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This is a straight-up liquid liner with a brush tip (as opposed to a felt tip “pen”), so might not be the best option for beginners. Because the brush is flexible, you have to work a little bit in order to control the direction of the line. But I prefer this to a stiffer felt tip, which tends to drag on my eyes and skip across my lid.

It’s very true to its name – this baby is black. And super matte…which I love! The formula is extremely opaque, so just one swipe will give you enough pigment without you having to go back over again to build up the color. The great thing is that even if you were to layer this, the liner underneath doesn’t just rub away when you try to draw over it. This isn’t a pen, so if you use up what’s on the brush you’ll need to dip back into the pot to pick up more product. Typically I can draw a wing on one eye without having to dip back into the pot, until I move on to my second wing.

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Bottom: What’s left of the liner and the small amount of transfer on my finger after I vigorously rubbed for 10 seconds.

Lastly, this guy is super long-wearing. It can survive well over 8 hours on my extremely oily, hooded lids and still look just as sharp and black by the end of the day. Even after some serious rubbing, it refuses to budge. And it doesn’t sink into any lines or wrinkles (see picture above).

I love a lot of makeup products, but I only have about one or two holy grails. This has been at the top since 2013 for me. I highly recommend you pick one up and give it a shot – and if you’ve already given this a try, let me know how it went!

How I Ómbre My Hair at Home for Under $7

Who doesn’t love a good sun-kissed ómbre look? Ómbres are great because while they can be damaging to your ends and/or a little complex to do yourself, there’s not a huge risk involved — if you ever screw up badly, you can always just cut your hair. You don’t get that sort of peace of mind when dying your hair root-to-end.

I’ve been ómbre-ing my hair myself for about the past four years. I’d never dyed or colored my hair previous to my first ómbre so it was a nerve-wracking experience, but now that I’m a veteran I’m confident enough with my technique to share it with others. Here’s my step-by-step guide. I do this about once every 3-4 months, since at this point my hair has grown out and I’ll get a trim or cut and lose the color at my ends.

Disclaimer: This is the process I use for my own hair and my own vision. Please make sure you’ve researched beforehand the techniques and products you can use to achieve the look you want. This is not meant to be a one-size-fits-all method, so please keep this in mind!

Step 1: Pick Your Poison

Most ómbres will require you to use bleach – not traditional hair dye – in order to get a noticeable effect. I also want to make clear that any sort of bleaching is damaging to your hair…after this process your ends will almost certainly be more dry, brittle, and unhealthy. Before you decide to ómbre, make sure you are aware that you’ll now need to take extra care of your ends (through the use of treatments, hair masks, etc.) if you want to keep them healthy. And of course if you’re unhappy with the result, you can always cut your hair.

The only product I’ve ever used for this is the Revlon Color Effects Frost & Glow kit. This sucker is only $6.98 at Wal-Mart and comes with most everything you’ll need to get going. Make sure you select the correct color for your hair…regardless of what product you decide to use, you’ll want to choose a color that’s no more than a shade or two lighter than your existing color. The Revlon kit makes this easy since there are only two options: one if you have blonde or light brown hair, and one if you have medium to dark brown hair. If you have black hair, you’ll want to reach for the second option while leaving it on for a little less than the recommended time, so the resulting ómbre isn’t too bright in contrast.

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Step 2: Ready Your Supplies

First and foremost, make sure you’ve set aside an hour or two for your project. You want to account for the coloring/leave-in time as well as the time it takes to shower and wash everything out. Also, I recommend doing your coloring a day or two after you’ve washed your hair, since there’ll be more natural oils at this stage to protect your hair from the chemicals.

Before I start I make sure to have the following ready:

  • Hair bleach
  • 1 trash bag
  • 2 large sheets of aluminum foil
  • Gloves (if not included in your bleaching kit)
  • Phone/timer

Brush your hair to get rid of any tangles. You’ll definitely get bleach on your clothes during the process, so I always wear a trash bag (if you have a smock, lucky you) by opening a hole at the bottom center of the bag for my head, and then opening holes in the corners for my arms so that the bag can be worn like a shirt. This is also a great look for date night.

Now, following the instructions for your product, prepare your product. The key to a good ómbre is to work in stages (by “stages”, I mean how many different sections you’ll be working on and timing separately). Since the whole idea is to create a gradual gradient of color that lights as you get higher up, different sections of your hair will need to have been bleached for different amounts of time. The very ends of your hair will have bleach left on for the longest amount of time (since this will be the lightest section), while the highest point of your ómbre (i.e. the point at which your ómbre and your natural hair color meet) will have held bleach for the shortest amount of time.

The number of stages it takes to do your entire ómbre will depend on the length of your hair, but you’ll want at least three. On average, you’ll do the ends of your hair first, then the middle of your ómbre area, then the top. Of course, this is assuming you’ve decided ahead of time at what point in your hair you’d like the fade to stop. See below for how I defined my stages (the lighter ends of my hair are the remnants of my previous ómbre):

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Step 3: Color Away

Put on your gloves and get coloring! Split your hair into two parts, one on each side of your neck (as shown in above picture). Work in, using the tool included in your kit or your gloved hands, the product on the first stage/section of your hair on both sides. Make sure you’re not working it in with a straight line cut-off at the top – there’s nothing worse than an ómbre that goes straight across. To avoid this, you want to be a little “messy” at the point where your current section ends. Remember, those three stages you planned out are not hard lines at which you need to stop applying product…they’re just general guides, and you definitely need to be feathering in the bleach messily at these end points so that you create that nice fade and everything diffuses smoothly. If you have thick hair, make sure you’re really getting all of it – it’s easy to miss portions of your hair that are hiding in the back.

Once the first stage of your bleaching is done, fold sheets of aluminum foil around the ends of your hair, completely covering the portion of hair that has product in it. Leave it in for the recommended amount of time, reading the instructions for your product if you’re unsure – for mine, it’s about 5-10 minutes per stage. Make sure you’re frequently checking on your hair during this time; if you can already see a noticeable color, you should move on to the next stage. After about 8 minutes, I unfold the foil and get started on your next section. Use the same method to apply bleach to the middle stage, again making sure not to abruptly stop application at any point to avoid create a line of color. Cover with foil entirely the section that has product on it and wait another interval of time (again, 8 minutes for me). Now the last stage begins, and here it is absolutely critical that you are feathering in bleach “messily” at the point at which you’d like your fade to end. If you stop applying product abruptly at any point, there will be a very obvious line at which the ómbre ends and your natural hair begins, and you won’t be happy about it. Wait another interval of time. Then hop in the shower and wash your hair, following the instructions in your kit.

Now You’re Done!

Once your hair dries, you’ll get to see how your ómbre turned out! This process may seem scary at first, but once you’ve identified your personal “sweet spots” (i.e. how long you should wait per stage, where you’d like your color to fade), it’s a lot less daunting.

Hope this helps!

 

 

Make Your Own Sephora Color Switch for $2

The Vera Mona Color Switch retails for $18 at Sephora. It’s a popular little tool that allows you to use the same brush for different colors/products without any cross-contamination – simply swirl your brush in the scratchy pad to remove the powder that’s currently on the brush. It’s great for everyday use, though it’s not a substitute for regular brush cleansing. Unfortunately, it also comes with a pretty hefty price tag for what it is: an easily hackable product.

This is a VERY commonly known trick so I’m by no means taking the credit for inventing it. But in case you didn’t know – hair donuts are made of the exact same material as the color switch!

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The friction between these stiff threads and your brush bristles causes all the powder to kick off, thus “cleaning” your brush so you can dip it into another color without worrying about them mixing.

First, find a little tin or circular container (8-cm diameter and 3.5-cm depth is a good guideline). You can find them anywhere for $1 or less, or use one that you have lying around (the Coty Airspun powder container is a good size for a donut)!

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Then, stop by your local dollar store to pick up a hair donut. Make sure it’s made of the scratchy material, not fabric!

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That’s literally all there is to it. Make sure the donut fits pretty snugly in the tin so it doesn’t move around as you swirl your brush. If your container is too large for the donut, you can use a placeholder (such as a handkerchief, or even tissues) around the perimeter of the donut to fill in the empty space. It’s important that the scratchy material stays stationary while in use.

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Cleaning is also a breeze – once you think the donut is getting a little dirty, you can always flip it over and use the other side for a while. Once it’s time for a full cleanse, simply run it under some warm water and drizzle makeup-removing liquid soap throughout. Continually knead the donut in your hand so the soap suds up and rinse, making sure to really squeeze out all the soap in the process. Once it’s clean, leave it out to dry in an open area. That’s it!

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Dupe or Dud? NYX Photo-Loving Primer ($13) v. Smashbox Photo Finish Primer ($36)

In my first “Dupe or Dud?” post, I’ll be comparing the NYX Photo-Loving Foundation Primer and the iconic Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer.

I picked up the NYX a few weeks ago during a NYX BOGO 50% sale at Ulta on a whim, without knowing much about it. But when I did a little digging online, I read a lot of reviews claiming it was a dupe for the Smashbox Photo Finish Primer…so I put on my detective glasses and got to work!

Take note that both do contain silica, so will give more of a silky finish rather than a hydrating tack. Both are more ideal for oily or combination skin.

For the purposes of this review, I had to go pick up a sample of the Smashbox primer. I’ve purchased it before, and feel like I’m the only person in the world who isn’t in love. Though I have super oily skin and prominent pores, I don’t typically reach for silicon-y primers because most don’t get my foundation to stick as well as I’d like. I don’t think it’s a bad product, more of a “meh”, but not worth $36.

The NYX definitely feels very similar to the Smashbox upon initial application (I’m using the clear color for both, by the way). They have a similar texture and consistency, though I feel the Smashbox is just a little bit thicker. Both blended out fine and left my skin looking pretty smooth and silky to the touch. They also did a good job of mattifying my skin which in my opinion is a result of the “blurring” both primers claim to do. Foundation looked smooth on top with both primers and everything went on just as well. I didn’t notice any difference in how any of my other products applied or looked. In terms of longevity, neither made my makeup last all day; in fact, I felt like I was getting more oily faster when using the Smashbox, but if so, it wasn’t by much.

The Verdict: √ DUPE

Yep, this is definitely a dupe! Neither of these products wows me, and I don’t necessarily think you need to run out and get either one. But if you are considering the Smashbox, I’d suggest trying out the NYX. It’s a great alternative for a literal fraction of the price and performs pretty much the same. And note that both actually contain the exact same top five ingredients, with the Smashbox containing an additional few “high-end” components like grape seed extract and camellia leaf extract. Happy saving!