Special Delivery! Birchbox September 2014

Hello kittens!

Time to catch up on Birchboxes of the recent past! The September box followed the theme of Happy Days, with a bright turquoise box to shake things up this time. The box is designed to be turned into a, for lack of a better phrase, Happy Box. I’ve encountered similar ideas in therapy before- putting together self-soothing kit consisting of a box of items to lift the mood via the five senses. It’s why I tend to have something crafty (touch), some perfume (smell), some chocolate (taste), a book (sight) and ready made playlists on my iPad (hearing) by my bed. I think using this box to do that for yourself, whether you have clinically diagnosed anxiety or not, is and excellent thing to do. And it’s also a great excuse to have chocolate by your bed.

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The box this month felt really jam packed with stuff- the reusable drawstring bag inside was completely packed with goodies. I’m going to start with the extras first.

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This photo clip screams nineties/early noughties tat to me. Blergh. However, the idea of having a photo of something you care about nearby to boost your mood fits into the theme well. It’s not always possible to have a pin board or even room for a photo frame by your desk at work, but you probably have room for this. I think this is nice item for Birchboxers who are parents to give to their children instead, as the photo clip  would be a fun way for them to display their pictures in their rooms.

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This is probably going to find its way into a recipe, and then into my mouth, rather than the other way around. I do like dried fruit, I’m just a sissy about committing and eating it, or pretty much anything that strays beyond my bubble of food safety sometimes. It’s a full sized snack pack though- if you like dried fruit, this would be a good item for your happy box!

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Yaaaaaaaaaas! I’ve been wanting to try a beauty blender for an age, yet haven’t got round to picking one up. Theoretically it should fit in with my beauty regime well, and maybe tempt me back into the world of liquid foundation. I know that basically its just an egg shaped sponge, but let a girl dream, won’tcha? I think most people would be very happy to see this much hyped item, complete with solid cleanser, in their box, so I guess that fits into the theme. I also love the no-holds-barred pinkness of this product. Eee!

This *seems* to be a full sized product. The cleanser is just a puck of the solid cleansing product, rather than it being in its own pot, but otherwise it seems to be identical to the full product

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Birchbox asked their subbies in late August which product they wanted in their boxes. They had a couple of different options, and I chose Modelco Lip Laquer in ‘Viva’, a pretty corally pink. I really like this idea, and I hope that Birchbox do it again. It’s great that subscription boxes are generally a surprise, but it was nice to feel like the curator of your box for a while, and helps avoid inappropriate shades being sent to people.

As it was, my box came a little, er, half-baked. The Lip Laquer had been omitted, as had all the usual paperwork inside the box, and I had a mascara instead. A quick phone call to Birchbox (I must emphasise how friendly their staff are, how quick they are to fix problems, and how swiftly they answer the phone!) and this was rectified. I can’t complain, as I got an extra product out of their goof, so happy days!

I am not great when it comes to lipgloss. I have a dainty little mouth, and I feel gloss often makes it look smaller, rather than juicier. Also, I wore it a lot in my teens, and it feels a bit young for me now (she says, aged a whopping 27). Still, this gloss is a very pretty colour with good colour payoff. It’s very sticky, which can be a problem if you want to build it, but it’s nice enough, and it lasts pretty well, by gloss standards. It also now reminds me of my holiday, which makes me happy. I’d definitely use it again.

As for the mascara, I have SO many mascaras, it’s kind of insane. Particularly as I only really use one or two regularly. I really need to ‘shop my stash’… maybe I will do that in another post. I will try this one… but it goes to the end of the queue.

Another thing- Birchbox are throwing around a lot of Modelco products of late. Not a criticism, merely an observation.

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Agave Healing Oil is a hair treatment oil. These are all the rage at the moment, but I have been using hair oils for a few years now. They are excellent products to use between washes, or at the end of styling for shine and to repair damage and nourish the hair. Agave looks to have come excellent ingredients. Baobab seed oil is a super food for the hair, like Argan on steroids. It also contains Agave sugars and leaf extract, hence the name I imagine. Agave nectar is considered a superfood for the body- I’m worried this might be sticky on the hair, but likely not. There’s a bunch of other ingredients, but notably coconut to moisturise and vanilla, which is very gentle and conditioning for skin and hair. You’ll probably also smell great when using this product. I’ll definitely give it a go, and after all, a great hair day is a happy day!

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Serums are one of those products that a lot of people don’t know what to do with, and ask me about. Is it a moisturiser? Do I only use it at night? In what order do I use it and my other products?

For those who don’t know, serum is an intensive, concentrated treatment for the skin. It should be used at least once daily, usually at night, before moisturising. It *is* a moisturising product, but it tends to be a much richer, often oilier formula, designed to give a powerful dose of nutrients to the skin, as well as drenching it in good oils.

This serum is designed for day use instead. You would use this, again, before your moisturiser, after toning the skin. With vitamin C to help treat discolouration (sun spots, age spots etc) and repair cells and collagen to plump out fine lines, this serum is designed to help with signs of ageing from sun exposure, and generally give your face some love so you can get back to enjoying your day. I’ll definitely give this one a go.

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One thing that causes me stress about my face, more than anything else, is my dark circles. I’m never going to get rid of them completely, but I can at least try and show my eyes some love. This is what this Benefit product is all about. It’s Potent is a brightening eye cream designed  to combat dark circles. It’s nice and light and milky- you don’t want to out any heavy creams near your eyes, as the fats will build up in the thin skin there and make your eyes appear more puffy. I actually already own this product, though I’ve misplaced it currently, so I’m very glad of a travel sized spare. It contains a variety of skin firming ingredients, and loquat extract, which fights free-radicals to prevent and heal signs of ageing.

All in all, this box made me very happy. The products are all very nourishing, feel good products, with a few frivolities thrown in too. But how does the value of the box stack up?

  • Birchbox Photoclip: £0.99? It’s very hard to put a price on it.
  • Urband Fruit Magnificent Mango Snack: £1
  • beautyblender and solid blendercleanser :£26
  • Modelco Lip Laquer in ‘Viva’: Full size £15, but volume on both full size and sample is undisclosed. I estimate it’s about 1/3 the size, so £5
  • Agave Healing Oil: £16 for 60ml, so 4ml sample is worth £1.06
  • Skin & Co Sicilian Light Serum: £29 for 30ml, so 5ml sample is worth £4.83
  • Benefit It’s Potent! Eye Cream: £25.50 for 14.2g, so 3g sample is worth £5.39

Total: £44.27

That total is insane, but I may have been a little generous on the beauty blender. However, that is how much the equivalent product cost. It bears mentioning my erroneous extra, too.

Modelco Power Lash Black Mascara: £24 for 10g, so 5g sample is worth £12

Grand Total: £56.27

This is the most value I’ve ever gotten out of a Birchbox, even if I may have been generous on the beautyblender. I knew this box felt jam packed. Birchboxes usually come in around £25-£30 value mark, so double your money (including p&p), but this one is more than twice that. So thank you, Birchbox. You’ve made my day very happy indeed!

If you’d like to try Birchbox, click here to subscribe!

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Special Delivery! May 2014 Birchbox unboxing

This month, or rather last month, Birchbox teamed up with Harper’s Bazaar, probably one of the glossiest of the glossy magazines, to create a box full of on trend, high quality samples. So, let’s get on with it!P1000694

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P1000697I love, love LOVE the packaging this month. The box is sumptuously printed, celebrating the chicness of Harper’s Bazaar perfectly. It’s really summery and on point for the season, and yeah… I like it a lot. I also love the mint accent on this month’s freebie canvas bag. Good job, guys.

This month, as well as the usual contents postcard, there is a mini magazine full of tips and tricks, courtesy of Harper’s Bazaar, as well as a special subscription offer for both companies. Nice, but you know me- I’m here for the products, not the paper work.

P1000700The first item in the box is something I already own, already love, have already recommended to you guys… They’re Real by Benefit is a great mascara. Hyper black and long lasting, though not waterproof, it comes with one of the best mascara wands around at the moment- perfect to reach every single lash, corner to corner and root to tip. I’m thrilled to have another handbag size of this product, and it will so get used.

P1000702The box smelt great when I opened it, reminding me of a previous box that smelt awesome too, and it’s these little beauties that are responsible. Many boxes ago, Birchbox launched their own in-house brand, Beauty Protector, with a deluxe sample of their detangler. It smelt phenomenal and worked a charm, and I nearly cried when it ran out. These shampoo and conditioner samples have the same heady fragrance (somewhat floral but not too girly, yet almost musky, and feminine), so I really look forward to trying them.

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P1000709This full sized nail polish is by Soigné, a brand I’d never heard of, which is apparently ‘so hot right now’. This is an unforgiving orange shade called Persimmon. I swatched it on a nail, and it’s fine- it didn’t blow me away. The colour is really pigmented though, which is ace, but otherwise it’s a fairly standard formula, 2 coats to opacity and average drying time.

What got me most about this product is how much packaging there is. The box is twice the size of the polish, and it’s packed in this toxic smelling rubber mould, like a gun or something. It’s weird, and seems really unnecessary. And stinky.

P1000703Aromatherapy Associates make some really tasty smelling stuff, and this bath and shower oil is no exception. It’s an ok sized sample, given the type of product it is. Made with bright and citrussy grapefruit, aromatic rosemary and punchy juniper, this is designed to invigorate you and bring you to life of a morning- something I likely need. As an oil, it also has some moisturising qualities too. The packaging is super cute too.

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P1000706I’m pretty excited about this product, and it’s between this and the mascara for my top product of the box. This Liz Earle cleansing system comes with instructions, and a reusable lovely muslin cloth to use the product with. The cleanser is designed to not only cleanse, but to provide, with the aid of the cloth, gentle and mild exfoliation and ‘polishing’, for smooth and lovely skin. I can’t wait to try it, as my skin sure does need a pick me up, and with my recent birthday shunting me out of my mid and speedily towards my late twenties, I’ll take all the help I can get to stave off the oncoming and inevitable ageing process. Yes, I know I have bags and wrinkles- let a girl dream she’s still a fresh faced girl, alright?

I also have to mention the little tissue package- a cheap and easy way to keep all the gubbins together, sure, but it made the product feel like a surprise within a surprise, a present within a present, and I appreciate that.

So, here’s the value tally. The box, as with all Birchboxes, cost me a total of £12.95.

  • Benefit They’re Real Mascara: Full size 8.5g product costs £19.50, so this 3g sample is worth £6.88
  • Beauty Protector Shampoo: Full size 250ml product costs £14, so this 30ml sample is worth £1.68
  • Beauty Protect Conditioner: Same as for the shampoo, this 30ml sample is worth £1.68
  • Soigné Nail Polish: Full sized, worth£11
  • Aromatherapy Associates Revive Morning Bath and Shower Oil: Full sized 55ml product is worth £39, so this 3ml sample is worth £2.13
  • Liz Earle Cleanse and Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser: Full size 180ml product costs £13.25, so this 30ml sample is worth £2.20

Total: £25.57

This has been a really great box. I’d always prefer more makeup and less bath and skin products, but this box had great variety and lots of fun new brands to try. The value was good, and the theme was spot on. I would question including two nail polishes in a row however- I think they can do better than that, and I look forward to seeing if they do come the June box.

Later days!

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Special Delivery! All about Latest in Beauty, and Glamour Beauty Edit Box unboxing.

When I first came across Latest in Beauty around the time I decided to order a subscription box for the first time (so, a year back), it wasn’t much to shout about. You could order small samples for free, and only pay the shipping. It was a great option for those on a tight budget, but not very exciting.

Things are pretty different now. When I logged on to the LIB site a couple of weeks back, the “Little Beauty Box’ option linked to a page saying they were reworking this product. Now the link is gone entirely. However, there’s been a big change in the company. Now they offer a shop where you can sort of put together your own collection of deluxe size samples (for example a Modelco mascara for £6 instead of £10, or a deluxe Mirenesse lipgloss sample for £3 instead of its value of £6.57), or their LIB Collections.

LIB collections are sample boxes containing a mixture of big samples and full size products. However, they aren’t on a subscription and they aren’t secret. If you click on to a box you can see exactly what you are getting in advance. The boxes are themed, often based on a body part, type of product, season or a collaboration between LIB and another company or brand. You can order these at any time, basically until they are discontinued or stock runs out. They also vary in price, with some offering free shipping, others charging for it. This approach is being offered by several other companies now, and I can see the appeal- shipping is pretty quick because there’s no mass ship date like with Birchbox or Glossybox. I do like a good subscription though- if I wanted to order again with LIB, I’d have to reorder items as from an online shop.

LIB are currently offering the ‘Glamour Beauty Edit‘ box, which is a collaboration between them and Glamour magazine. They describe it as a ‘get pretty, feel happy’ collection full of ‘must-haves for Spring’. Priced at £14.99 with free shipping (hooray), I decided to give it a go. Just a warning guys- from here on out, this post gets REALLY picture heavy.

So, the box arrived with a freebie- John Frieda Frizz Ease. It’s a good product and good sized sample, lord knows I need it and will use it, and it was free! The box was a little bashed up- LIB ship their boxes in post bags rather than anything padded or protective. Still, it was pretty much unscathed, and it looks really good. I love the blue.

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Inside, the box looked really bright and spring like, with sky blue tissue sealing in the goodies like a gift. Inside the products were nestled in, well, a nest of pastel yellow, straw like shredded paper. I loved it- perfect for a spring box. It looked like a grown-up easter nest.

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So lets actually look at the products, of which there were seven, which right off the bat smacks of good value. It works out at a little over £2 a product, which is cheaper even than ‘drugstore’ prices. The first product I looked at was the Invisibobble.

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Yeah… so this looks pretty odd. It’s a set of three bright blue rings of coiled plastic. Straight off, I’m thinking, how the heck is this invisible?! Further reading (not on the packaging mind you) educates me that the ‘invisible’ part relates to the fact that the product is supposedly ‘traceless’. Due to to its material and design, it doesn’t crimp hair like a standard elastic band will, damages less, and holds the hair securely without having to be pulled tight. Pulling your hair back tight can lead to dryness and imperfections on the forehead and tension headaches.

I did stick this in my mad barnet, and it did hold my hair securely without being as tight as I usually pull my scrunchie. Does it look as good? Probably not. But I got three in the box, and I’ll enjoy trying them out. I wish them luck taming my lion’s mane.

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Next was a full sized Burt’s Bees lipbalm. I tried it straight away and I really like it. It’s very waxy, so it doesn’t budge or smear as much as some other balms. It’s all natural and packed full of oils and skin-kind goodies which is awesome, and it’s got peppermint in it. One, yum- it smells awesome. Two, it makes my lips tingle, and I love that feeling. So yeah, super happy with this item- it went straight in my handbag.

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I’ve never heard of these guys before, but the lacquer is a really pretty colour. The LIB website describes this as coral, which makes me wonder what coral they’ve been looking at. It’s in the coral spectrum, sure- a bright and warm orange-pink, but this is so deep it is nearly red. This is really big bottle, and I opened it up to look at the brush, and it seems pretty good- wide enough to coat my nails in a maximum of 3 swipes. I popped some on my thumbnail, and it dried quickly (5-10 mins) and was opaque in two coats. I can definitely see myself wearing this colour, and the quality seems pretty good. The simple but flirty packaging, with that sassy font, really appeals too.

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I’m terrible at eyeliner, and I don’t wear it because of that. However, I really want to, so I’m darn pleased this Daniel Sandler pencil made it into the box. I love the colour too- black eyeliner is classic and great, but bright hues are where it is at. As you can see, I decided to swatch it, and the colour is a  really bright aqua. The pencil itself is a pigment core within a plastic applicator, not a traditional pencil. The formula is very creamy, so you could smudge it out for a smokier look if you got in there quick. Once dry, it’s not budging- I washed my hands with soap and water and rubbed it dry with a towel, and it was still true. I’m really looking forward to trying this on my eyes. It’s also a brand I’ve not heard of.

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I’m fairly sure I’ve tried L’Oréal mascara before, and it’s been pretty good. I love the packaging and name of this one though, and according to LIB its the hottest new release. Inside, the formula is blacker-than-black. The brush is a bristled spooli, which is ok, and has this… bendy bit in the middle. Apparently it can rotate on 360 degrees, though I’m not sure quite why I need that. I’ve had a brief play with it, and it’s ok- hasn’t revolutionised my life yet, but I need to have a proper go with it to see what I really think. It is really, really black though, and it didn’t smudge off my bottom lashes, which is almost unheard of, so kudos.

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Shower gel! It smells really good, and I can always use shower gel. I’m not familiar with the brand, so I’m looking forward to trying it out. If it does have a good amount of rice milk in it, it should be nice on my skin. We shall see.

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Another brand I don’t know, and ADORABLE packaging. I really don’t do much with my hair. It’s really long and really curly and kind of bananas, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like to. I’m not sure I need volumising mousse with how much hair I have, but it might bump up my roots? I don’t know, I’ll certainly try it out!

So, that was the box. All in all, I’m rather excited about almost all of the products. If I had to pick a ‘Star Product’, i.e. the one I am most excited about trying, it would be the eyeliner. The colour is lovely, and applicator seems tidy and easy to use, and the formula seems to deliver. Now, if you’ve read my roundup in my previous experiences with boxes, you’ll know I’m not afraid to get down and dirty with the maths to work out what exactly I’m getting for my money. The Glamour Beauty Edit box isn’t going to get off any more lightly than the others.

  • Invisibobble: £3.75
  • Burt’s Bees Beeswax Lipbalm: £3.69
  • Cheeky Chat Me Up Nail Paint in ‘Tongue n’ Cheek’: £7
  • Daniel Sandler Long Lasting Waterproof Eyeliner in ‘Aqua Velvet’: £9.25
  • L’Oréal Mega Volume Miss Manga Mascara: £8.99
  • Rituals Zensation Organic Rice Milk and Cherry Blossom Foaming Shower Gel Sensation 50ml: £2.13 (200ml full size = £8.50)
  • Percy & Reed Abundantly Bouncy Volumising Hair Mousse: £3 (200ml full size = £12)

Total: £37.81

Of course, I also got a 25ml sized John Frieda Frizz Ease free with my purchase, so…

  • John Frieda Frizz Ease Original 6 Effects Serum: £3.15 (50ml full size = £6.29)

Grand total: £40.96

If you remember, the box cost me £14.99 with free shipping. Even before the free gift I got, you are getting well over twice your money’s worth. Also, the coloured cosmetic products are pretty much universal. Blue eyeliner can go with any eye colour, black mascara is well, black mascara, and nearly red nail polish suits all skin tones. So, good job LIB. I look forward to playing with my products in more detail. It’s a bit lame however that they can’t incorporate a contents card, like other boxes I received.

If you remember my Glossybox review, I was a little miffed by the inclusion of so many easy-to-find brands. That was because the expectations I went into the process with was very different to the expectations I had with LIB- for Glossybox I was expecting to try all sorts of new brands AND new products, not just new products. On ordering this box from LIB, I briefly flicked my gaze over the products before I ordered, so I sort of knew what I was getting. In terms of make up of the box, I would say the common vs uncommon or new brand build of the box was very similar to Glossybox, but my expectations so far have been met, unlike the Glossybox experience for me.

So would I order another box from LIB? Yes, definitely. Would I order every box from LIB. No, definitely not. Which I suppose is the beauty of the scheme. Also, this would make an excellent gift. Just saying’.

Until next time, kittens!

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BEDA: 5 Beauty Products I couldn’t function without.

If I was transplanted to a desert island paradise, I would hope a professional make up crew would follow me there (Yeah, I’m talking to you, Katy Perry). However, plonk me into any situation, and a little warpaint will help me through it. If I could only fit five products into my pocket, these are the ones I’d choose.

 

1. Benefit: The POREfessional PRO Balm

I’m a total Benebabe. You’ll find three Benefit products in this list, and they make up crucial parts of my ‘everyday’ makeup look, and most dressier versions too. With products like The POREfessional, it is easy to guess why. This product is the best selling primer product in the UK for good reason. It does exactly what it says on the bottle- it minimises pores. The translucent formula leaves a matte finish too- perfect to apply makeup over. You can also use it over makeup for touch ups, or if like me, you forget. I usually use this after my concealer and only as a spot treatment for areas with large pores (read: my T zone). As you apply the balm you really can just watch the pores blur away. On good skin days, I can just use a few dabs of this for added confidence and smooth perfection.

A little goes a long way with this product, which is a good thing. I use the product 2-3 times a week, and I have had my tube for a year. At £24.50, the longevity is a good thing.

 

2. L’Oreal Paris: Super Liner Brow Artist in ‘Blonde’

I reviewed this product not too long ago here. I won’t retread old ground except to say I use this nearly every day, and certainly every time I wear eye makeup.

 

3. Benefit: Fakeup concealer in ‘Light’

My dark circles are so deep and shadowed that illicit deals could go down in them. Bats could settle there to roost out of the glare of the sun. The night sky looks down at them and thinks DAYUM THAT’S DARK. Bearing this in mind, I have yet to find a concealer that can completely blot them out.

Fakeup is a concealer and dark circle treatment balm in one, and is designed for the under eyes. Even with its great coverage and fine line covering formula, I still have some lines and a fairly strong hint of ‘you need more sleep’ going on. But at least I don’t look like a zombie. Patted to blend away, it’s great on blemishes and to brighten up the bridge of your nose. I also use it on my upper lids to neutralise them and perk them up, especially if I’m not wearing much eye makeup. It also then helps loose powders to stick fast. The ‘lipstick’ style of the product also makes it really easy to apply and store neatly.

I’ve tried a lot of concealers, and I’ve tried going with out, but so far Fakeup is the one for me. Medium coverage of my cold, dead eyes, plus gentle moisturising is a total plus for me. Like all Benefit products, it isn’t cheap, but like all Benefit products, it works. I’d rather spend £18.50 on this than waste that much on several other products to give me the same, or an inferior, effect.

 

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4. bareMinerals: Original SPF 15 Mineral Foundation in ‘Fairly Light’

I often joke, particularly on Instagram that my make up shade is #paleassbitch. I think that’s a more fun, and shade appropriate name for the ‘just shy of the palest you can go’, nigh translucent cast of my skin. It’s also a joke Willam Belli made, and she’s a funny queen.

A lot of make up folks don’t understand pale people, and try to sell us things like bronzer, or makeup shades that are too dark. I wish they wouldn’t, because if I wanted to look like I hadn’t washed, I wouldn’t wash. And getting the right shade for me, i.e. the one linked above, was a chore. Having said that, now I have it, I adore it.

I love a good powder. You really need to it to set your makeup and keep it steady for as long as you need to wear it. You also need it if, like me, you like a matte finish to your look. I like how easy it is to build coverage with powder, and with this powder especially. It can function in thin, barely there layers as a finishing powder. Apply a few layers, and this product works as a super skin kind foundation. I use it somewhere between the two. After my concealer, and sometimes a touch of BB (I need it in the morning, not so much in the evening), I use this to set what I’m wearing and add light to medium coverage on my T-zone and outwards- blending and buffing it to an even porcelain finish. Available at £25, this is worth every penny. If you want a smaller size to see how you get on, look out for the beginners pack which comes with a great powder brush, available at Debenhams for approximately £13.

Sometimes people comment about how good my skin looks. Spoiler: it’s all powder.

 

5. Benefit: They’re Real! Mascara

I am going to start by saying that this mascara is not perfect, and I will go into why later. However, it has the best brush I have come across, and really does what it says on the tin- no broken promises. The formula is blackest black (and only available in this colour), long lasting and gorgeous. Combined with a brush that is designed to be used vertically as well as horizontally, you can get to every single lash easily, giving you corner to corner coverage.

Whilst the formula is good- it holds curl well, lasts, isn’t too wet (messy) or dry (clumpy), it does end up all over my face. My eyes are quite deep set- match that with high cheek bones and I struggle to not end up with my mascara smudging off onto my lower lid at the best of times. This mascara is NOT waterproof, and within about an hour I will always have a smear of some degree, even though I don’t put this mascara on my lower lashes. If you have a different face shape, you could be fine. This is still the best mascara I have (which you would hope for at £19.50), and my favourite. I have two of them- full and travel sized.

 

Runner up: Maybelline: Collossal Volum’ Express COLOUR SHOCK Mascara in ‘Electric Blue’

The reason this product didn’t make it onto the list is that a) it’s not something I would wear every day, and b) it isn’t available/in production any more. However, since it was a summer exclusive, it wouldn’t be unheard of that a similar product could appear this year, and you can still find it new-in-package on Ebay. This mascara delivers eye popping colour with great staying power and coverage. I personally love coloured mascaras, and wish I had more (I do have this product in Turquoise Electric, but the colour isn’t as true). For those with sparse lashes, or those looking to enlarge their eyes, coloured mascara doesn’t do the business. For me, it works great, and I love this true blue against bright shadow shades.

 

SO- You’ve got minutes to get ready and you’re only allowed five products: What’s in your war paint grab bag?

 

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