April 12, 2014

Influenster Uni VoxBox

Ever since I signed up for Influenster almost two years ago, the program has surpassed all my expectations. Influenster is a company that partners with brands to give its members the opportunity to sample various products that fit their interests and lifestyles. In turn, members test and review the products and voice their opinions via their social networks. The Uni VoxBox is my sixth box to date and contains items geared toward busy students. As I am indeed a grad student, I'm grateful and excited to be able to try these products out and share my thoughts with y'all. Everything shown here was provided by Influenster complimentary for testing purposes, and all opinions are my own.

Playtex Sport Fresh Balance
This is the one product in the box that I can't try out. I don't use tampons, so I will hand this off to a friend who does. I was, however, pleasantly surprised to see that Influenster included an entire box of 16 tampons instead of just one or two samples.

Pilot Acroball PureWhite
When it comes to stationery, I am admittedly a bit of a purist. With the exception of Sharpies, I buy all my writing instruments in Asia, where there are more options at lower prices. This Pilot ballpoint pen writes very well though. The nib is on the thicker side (I would guess 0.7, though it isn't specified) and I like how the ink flows out smoothly and dries quickly. The pen's advertisement markets its stylish appearance, with a colored grip inspired from the Spring Pantone shades. However, I don't really care for the white barrel and find it bulky compared to my sleek Asian pens. Looks aside, I quite this pen and will use it up--though at $4.59 for a pack of three, I don't plan on purchasing.

Broadway Nails imPRESS Press-On Manicure in Vamp It Up
I'm not big on nail-related things, as I have a nasty habit of peeling my nails so they're never good-looking enough for polish. To apply, I simply picked out the ones that fit my fingers, washed and dried my hands, used the included alcohol prep towelette, peeled off the sticker backings, and stuck on the nails. The results look nice, although the design I was sent isn't one I would pick out for myself. These press-on nails would be a good alternative to those who, for one reason or another, don't care for nail polish but still want fun nails. Application and removal aren't difficult and the kit comes with a good variety of nail sizes to fit most fingers. I personally found them kind of cumbersome, though I can't speak for those who are more experienced with faux manicures.

Red Rose Real Tea Premium Water Enhancer in Blackcurrant Raspberry
I was pretty excited to try this tea flavoring. I have never used any kind of water enhancer, preferring to either drink pure water or opt for something else entirely. To use, I just squeeze some of the concentrated flavor into a cup of water (there isn't really any unit of measurement) and mix. Sadly, I wasn't wowed by the taste. While there is a tea flavor, there is a more distinct taste of what I only know how to describe as artificial sweetener. It reminded me of diet soda, which tastes faker than the real deal and is why I never drink diet soda. This product would probably suit those who are used to diet sodas, water enhancers, or non-sugar sweeteners well, but unfortunately I don't fall into any of those categories.

NYC Expert Last Lip Color in Forever Fuchsia
Now come the two products that are right up my alley. Although NYC is a cheap drugstore brand, don't underestimate the quality of its makeup! The pigmentation of this lipstick is medium in one pass but can be built up to full coverage. The texture is surprisingly thin, making it pretty comfortable to wear--impressive for a lipstick that is advertised as being long-lasting. Forever Fuchsia is a bright, cool-toned, pink cream with no shimmer. It would suit cool skins beautifully, although I don't think it clashes with my warm complexion either. I definitely recommend exfoliating lips beforehand though, because this lipstick will catch on dry flakes. That being said, I am very happy to add Forever Fuchsia to my lipstick lineup, especially for the spring and summer seasons.

Rimmel Stay Matte Liquid Mousse Foundation in Sand
I had heard good reviews for this foundation from blogs and YouTube, so I was excited to try it for myself. Influenster let us choose our shade prior to mailing out the boxes, and luckily Sand fits me pretty well. As it is a mousse foundation, the texture is on the thicker side. However, it doesn't feel heavy when applied and it blends easily into the skin. The finish is matte but not too flat, and coverage can be quickly built up to full. One of this foundation's big claims is all-day shine control, and I'm happy to say that it succeeds in keeping my oily T-zone at bay. For day-to-day wear, I apply a small amount of this foundation to my forehead (to control shine) and the center of my face (where uneven skin tone usually is) and then blend it outward with my Real Techniques Expert Face Brush. Because it is full coverage, a little goes a long way and more can be used to spot conceal. I can see myself repurchasing this!

February 28, 2014

Not Quite Three Strikes

I rarely give in to the lure of packaging gimmicks. Some examples of products that come questionably clothed and haven't done so well include L'Oreal The One Sweep Eyeshadow (expressed my skepticism here), Benefit Fine One One (and the brand in general), and Urban Decay The Revolution High-Performance Lash Curler (quietly discontinued within two years of launch). However, over the years I have picked up a small share of gimmicky products that persuaded me with how promising they looked. How have they performed? Let's check them out.

I remember having to wait a while to order e.l.f. Lip Exfoliator when it was first released because it was so often out of stock. And I can see why. Attractively shaped and packaged like a lipstick, the Lip Exfoliator claims to effectively smooth lips with a mixture of sugar and oils in a convenient, mess-free manner. I was quite excited for this product and was initially impressed with its performance. However, after a couple weeks of use, the bullet began loosening from the base because it couldn't withstand the pressure that I needed to exert in order to achieve a good scrub. Now, the product is pretty much broken and I have returned to my reliable DIY lip exfoliator. I understand that this comes down to personal preference. I like to use  physical exfoliators that are harsher and more gritty, and the e.l.f. Lip Exfoliator couldn't hold up to that. For those who prefer gentler scrubs though, this product may very well work for you.

e.l.f. Makeup Remover Pen is the one product out of these three that I have continued to use. It is perfectly travel-friendly, the formula of the remover itself effectively cleans up eyeliner smudges, and it hasn't dried up on me yet. What makes me sad about it is that the tip is difficult to clean. The e.l.f. website recommends that you wipe the tip with a tissue after each use. However, for a product designed to be used on the go, how do you magically pull out a tissue and clean it immediately every time? Therefore, as shown in the photo, mine is perpetually stained with eyeliner. The reason why I have stuck with this, however, is because its pros outweigh its cons. Not only have I not been able to find a suitable replacement that is both affordable and convenient, but there is a final twist of ingenuity in this design: you can literally pull out the tip of the marker, rotate it to the clean opposite end (which is also a tip), and stick it back into the pen to essentially double its lifespan. It's like getting a second chance.

I wrote a positive review for Kiss Me Heroine Make Mascara Remover a couple years ago, but I don't reach for it much anymore. The primary reason is that I've mostly stopped wearing mascara. I made the switch from overnight contacts to glasses and didn't like how my lengthened lashes would hit my lenses, and I also wasn't a fan of losing lashes when it came time for makeup removal. Second, even though the Heroine Make Mascara Remover packaging is innovative and convenient, it has a similar issue to that of the e.l.f. Makeup Remover Pen regarding cleaning the wand. It's a hassle to have to rid the wand of any mascara before submerging it back into the tube. So instead I recommend Kiss Me Heroine Make Eye Makeup Remover, which should be the same excellent formula.

February 22, 2014

Carried Close

A lot of attention is paid to exciting makeup and promising skin care products, but not so much is given to the unassuming workhorses we make sure to have with us on a daily basis. Whether I am going to class or out with friends, I always carry a small pouch of items that definitely come in handy. Along with my wallet, keys, and phone, these are my on-the-go essentials.

The bag I use is the inaugural Ipsy Glam Bag from December 2011. It is a sturdy, waterproof bag with a fun purple stripe print and is about the size of a clutch. I like how it widens at the bottom so that it can not only stand upright but also fit more stuff inside. The bag originally came with a small mirror attached, but it got in the way so I eventually cut it off and replaced it with a mirror of my own. I don't call this my makeup bag because more often than not, there is no makeup in it!

It is almost impossible for me to not pick at my nails, especially when they're jagged, so I have a Sephora crystal nail file that I found in the clearance bin. My oily T-zone tends to get shiny by the afternoon no matter the season so there is a packet of blotting papers from Watsons. I carry one of those compact hairbrushes that you get from long-haul flights and a mirror from one of my favorite Asian stationery lines, Happy Go Lucky. There is also a band-aid for paper cuts or heels-induced blisters (whichever occurs first). I am smitten with Bath & Body Works hand sanitizers and snap them up when they're on sale five for five dollars. The scent I am using now is Island Margarita. I also have a packet of tissues, my trusty Burt's Bees lip balm, and a decanted bottle of Aveeno lotion. And lastly is a true multitasker. Called white flower oil, it soothes itchy mosquito bites, headaches, and stomachaches and its invigorating scent keeps me awake during boring lectures (sorry not sorry).

On days when I am wearing makeup or when I'm going out at night, I toss in some cosmetic-related touch-ups such as my e.l.f. Makeup Remover Pen, cotton swabs, and whatever lip product I used.
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