So Fresh & So Clean: The Easiest DIY Brush Cleaner

There is something so satisfying about getting all your makeup brushes and sponges super clean and back to their original, fluffy glory. It’s so important to clean your brushes (and often); not only will your makeup apply so much better with a clean brush, but your skin will thank you for it too. In order to prevent breakouts and uneven coverage (especially with foundation), I give my brushes a thorough wash at least once a week, and wash my beauty blender after each use or at the very most every two uses.

Anytime I’m traveling and am not able to wash my brushes within about a week, I notice significant changes in my skin and definitely break out. It’s now happily part of my #selfcaresunday routine and I love the way makeup goes on with a fresh brush! I’ve tried several store bought cleansers for my brushes, but ever since finding the viral-pin with this makeup brush DIY several years ago, I haven’t looked back! Unfortunately I don’t have the original source because I’ve seen this so many different places on Pinterest, but I wanted to share here too:

To get super clean, fluffy, like-new brushes, simply mix one part olive oil with one part dawn dish soap.

In a small dish, pour your olive oil and dawn dish soap in the 1:1 ratio. Instead of mixing together, simply dip one brush at a time into the mixture, so you can easily control how much soap and oil are on each brush. This is helpful if you have a highly pigmented brush (like for bronzer or a bold brush), so you can put a little more soap than oil to get the color fully washed out. The dawn dish soap is a powerful degreaser that will get any product out of your brush, while the olive oil conditions the fibers to leave your brush clean and soft.

Only a small amount of your cleanser mixture is needed per brush. Using your fingers or a textured brush cleaning pad, distribute the mixture completely through your brush (like you would wash your hair!). You will be able to see the bubbles working out the product from your brush – simply rinse with lukewarm water and repeat if needed until your brush and water is rinsing completely clean.

Lay your clean brush on a dish towel/highly absorbent towel to dry. For beauty blenders and sponges, I have used the beauty blender liquid soap (found here). This cleanser is $18, and IMO has not been worth the money and is underwhelming. It takes multiple pea-size applications of washing and rinsing to even get the blender clean of product, and doesn’t have a super appealing smell. Because I bought the full size bottle, I’m sticking to using this until it runs out, but I definitely have another product that I like way more, and is also much more affordable and multi-use.

For beauty blenders and sponges, I love using Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Liquid Soap!

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This is a great natural option for a lower price point than the BB cleanser, and works so well at completely cleaning your blenders. I love the lavender scent, however you could use any of these (the unscented would be a great option for blenders, or tea tree for acne-prone skin!). Ranging from around $7 for 8oz to large 32 oz. bottles for around $16, it’s a great simple option that feels a lot more practical than the designated BB cleanser. Most Target’s do stock this soap in the natural-beauty section, as well as Ulta, Amazon, and most drugstores. Because the olive oil in the mixture above conditions brush fibers, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend using Dr. Bronners for makeup brushes because the fibers may get dry. However, for sponges, it truly is the perfect soap.

Make sure to leave all of your brushes and sponges out to dry in a ventilated place until they are completely dry. I like to shape my brushes back to their original shape using the towel, and move them around after an hour or two to make sure all sides are dry.

Do you use this method to clean your brushes or have another DIY way you like? Leave a comment below to let me know your favorite way!

xo,

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Back to black: the charcoal products I can’t put down

There is nothing better than finding something that just works for you. Whether it’s a scent, an ingredient, a brand…finding your tried and true that works with your body is like finding a little hack that makes everything better (and easier). I am always trying new products but have recently found myself always reaching for the same ingredient any time I see it – Charcoal. While I’ve known about how amazing activated charcoal can be for a few years now, I’ve found myself subbing out my daily products with more and more charcoal based products and my skin, hair, and body are thanking me for it.

Charcoal is extremely purifying and is like a real-life magnet for toxins in your body. My first ever intro to Charcoal are the activated charcoal capsules below – a total impulse buy on Amazon when I was ordering my other holy-grail, Bentonite Clay. Fast forward to a few years later and it’s safe to say I’m obsessed (and forever hunting for the newest charcoal goodies I can find).

Here are my absolute favorite Charcoal-based products and why they’re just so important to my daily routine:

Pictured left to right: 1. Bioré Charcoal Cleansing Micellar Water | 2. Primally Pure Charcoal Deodorant | 3. Boscia Luminizing Black Mask | 4. Activated Charcoal Capsules | 5. Active Wow Activated Coconut Charcoal Powder | 6. Hask Charcoal Purifying Dry Shampoo

  1. Bioré Charcoal Cleansing Micellar Water – I’m such a fan of Micellar Waters to begin with, so when I found this charcoal based water I knew I had to try. True to other micellar waters I’ve used in the past, this is great for taking off makeup (even a full-face), and leaves a super clean feeling to your skin. I prefer using Micellar Waters to traditional makeup wipes or face wash, and this Micellar water is amazing for eliminating excess oils and keeping you matte throughout the day. While I think this micellar water would be a little too abrasive for sensitive skin and drying for dry skin, it is perfect for oil-prone skin or t-zone use.  Where to buy: Target/Drugstore
  2. Primally Pure Charcoal Deodorant – This one is the newest addition to my arsenal, but also my complete favorite and kind of life changing. I am late to the natural-deodorant game to say the least, mainly because I really did not want to give up my traditional shower-fresh Deo and was not willing to risk smelling gross (tbh). However, I really started thinking about giving it a try after going through a pretty intense experience last year that required surgery due to a skin condition under my left arm. It’s been almost a year and my arm never truly healed back to normal, and spraying aluminum-filled deodorant every day just felt wrong. After doing some research I found Primally Pure, and knowing how well Charcoal works for my body I had to give this a shot. Long story short, the transition has been effortless and I’m so happy I made the switch. Added to the list of things I never thought I’d say: I could go on and on about how amazing this deodorant is. Happy to help answer any questions on this for those of you thinking about making the switch too! Where to buy: Primally Pure
  3. Boscia Luminizing Black Mask – This one…now this one is something special. I love how popular face masks have become recently, because it truly is one of my favorite ways to treat myself and take care of my skin. This mask is a cult favorite for a reason – it is a peel off mask that dries so satisfyingly tight on your face, so when you remove it you’re left with baby soft, completely clean, nearly invisible pores. The mask is a pretty jarring jet black when you apply, due to the activated charcoal in the formula. This has been phenomenal for my oily skin and is seriously getting me closer to feeling good about going foundation-free. This has become such an essential product for me and is great to use once or twice a week. Where to buy: Sephora
  4. Activated Charcoal Capsules – Like I mentioned before, this was my first ever charcoal based product and I’ve kept them on hand ever since. My favorite DIY mask is Bentonite Clay & Apple Cider Vinegar, and I bought these as it was suggested to add in a capsule into the clay/ACV mix for added cleansing properties. It truly does make one of the most effective (not to mention super affordable) deep-cleaning masks. I like this brand of capsules because they are super easy to separate open to get all of the magical powdery goodness into my face masks. Adding in a drop or two of tea tree oil into the mix makes a very glam-glow like mask, for much less $$. Another great use for these capsules are to break two open into a small container, add a very small amount of water to make a thick paste, and take a spare toothbrush to circulate the mixture on the surface of your teeth. Brush for a few minutes, add water and swish around, then rinse out and brush your teeth as normal after. The charcoal is like a magnet to surface level stains, leaving you with a super clean, bright smile with none of the crazy chemicals or tooth-sensitivity that whitestrips have. Where to buy: Amazon or Drugstore
  5. Active Wow Activated Coconut Charcoal Powder – Super similar to the benefits listed above, this is a charcoal based powder made from coconut shells that whitens teeth beyond any at-home kit I’ve ever used before (and I used to be obsessed with them, yikes). I like this product over just using the capsules because the results are pretty dramatically noticeable, and it honestly is a little less messy than breaking open the capsules. A little goes a long way and gives such a clean feeling to your mouth and teeth. Because this will truly coat your teeth and toothbrush in a jet-black charcoal paste, make sure to set aside a separate toothbrush just for using this.  Where to buy: Amazon
  6. Hask Charcoal Purifying Dry Shampoo – Last but never least, this Dry Shampoo is so phenomenal and the fact that it’s a drugstore product is just the cherry on top. The charcoal is super cleansing to give you truly clean feeling hair, with a super refreshing citrus scent that smells equally as clean. It gives a fair amount of body (not as much as living proof or some of my other favorites), but definitely enough and a great daily option (at a great price point). This sprays as a true white like other dry shampoos, but does not leave a residue so it’s suitable for blondes or brunettes. I always have a can on hand and really love the way this product smells and works on my hair! Where to buy: Target/Drugstore

I truly have come to rely on these products and love how they’ve changed my skin since using. I’m so happy Charcoal has become so popular and will forever be stalking the aisles of target and sephora looking for the latest and greatest. Do you have a favorite charcoal product that I missed? Leave me a comment below to let me know what I need to try next! ❤

xo,

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Summer Nights: The June Play! by Sephora Box

Alright guys – while I had some great finds in my past few Sephora boxes, I’ve really been underwhelmed with the last few months products and haven’t prioritized reviewing for you all. I’m playing catch up for June and July before I get my August box, because I really do want to review each product if I keep my subscription.

What is it about subscription boxes that inevitably become super mundane and repetitive? Once you do a few it becomes super obvious that only certain companies even make sample size promo items, so you end up receiving the same items several times over. Not a biggie if it truly is a free item or something you can use your Sephora points on, but paying each month you’d think there would be a way to make sure people aren’t getting the same generic items over and over again. It’s safe to say I’ve got high hopes for August and am in need of a killer box – otherwise I think i’ll move on from Play. Rant over 🙂

June is my favorite month of the year for so many reasons (not just because it’s my birthday month 😉 ) I love the sunshine, outdoors, pool/beach/lake days, baseball, parties, and tan lines that Summer brings, and Summer nights are always the best. June’s Sephora Play! box is intended to revolve around just that – those easy products you can throw on in the summer to feel light but put together.

summer nights

  1. Make Up For Ever Ultra HD Invisible Cover Foundation in Y245 (Full Size: $43) This MUFE foundation is a subscription box regular that I’ve tried several times. Coverage is lightweight and feels good on the skin during those hot summer months where you need some extra moisture. This isn’t a foundation that I grab for on the regular however, and it doesn’t sit well on oily skin.
  2. Clinique Take the Day Off Makeup Remover for Lids, Lashes, and Lips (Full Size: $19) This is another regular giveaway product I have a stockpile on, as its regularly in the Clinique gift with purchase bags. This is a good makeup remover, however not one of my favorites or go-to’s. Again a bit of a miss for me and redundant product.
  3. Too Faced Melted Matte Liquified Long Wear Matte Lipstick in Queen B (Full Size: $21) My favorite product in this month’s box, the Too Faced Melted lipsticks are so nice and this color is super pretty. While it isn’t the most summery shade in my opinion (and looks a bit cakey when I have  a good tan), this would definitely be a go to shade in fall/spring. The formula is very long wearing, and has a nice scent and finish. Their sample sizing is also pretty well sized and gives you plenty of wear.
  4. Murad Nutrient-Charged Water Gel (Full Size: $60) This moisturizing gel does a great job at plumping up a clean face to leave you feeling glowy and fresh. I’ve really liked applying to my face and neck alike during the summer to help moisturize a tan and prevent peeling. While the sample has gotten good use, this isn’t something I would buy full size especially for oily skin concerns.
  5. Living Proof No Frizz Nourishing Styling Cream (Full Size: $38) I’m a bit of a broken record in this month’s review, but this is another regular giveaway product that I’ve tried several times. I personally prefer Moroccan oil compared to styling creams and while living proof products are great, this was underwhelming for me and not something I reach for a lot.

This Month’s Bonus: BVLGARI Omnia Pink Sapphire (Full Size: $84) A really soft, elegant, feminine perfume that I’ve used a few times now. Again, there’s no replacing my go-to but this is a nice change of pace.

June Total: $265

For those of you Play! girls who got the Milk Kush Mascara – I AM SO JEALOUS! I was hoping and praying I would get it in my box, as I’ve been dying to try. I am super close to buying the full size but have heard mixed reviews on it being really clumpy. If you’ve tried, let me know your thoughts! Overall this is the first box where I’ve felt super underwhelmed; many of these items are pretty standard samples that I’ve tried over and over again with either subscription boxes or gift with purchases. Good thing Sephora’s Birthday Month gift made up for this month’s box – Glam Glow is always a good idea!

xo,

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The Good Stuff: The July Play! by Sephora Box

Take two of playing catch up on this Summer’s Play! boxes…thanks for bearing with me! July’s box was definitely better than June, packed with feel-good natural based products that are so fresh and so clean. I’m really not a big follower of natural beauty lines and probably aren’t as careful or educated when it comes to that subject (hence my love for matte lipsticks, full coverage foundation, baked contour, etc..oops), but I did love a few things that came in this month and my skin definitely notices a difference too.

july

  1. Tarte Amazonian Clay 12-Hour Blush in Paaarty (Full Size:$29) This powder blush is super silky and the perfect warm muted rosy color – I really do love it! My daily go-to for blush and contour is the also tarte, so the formula is definitely a favorite of mine. This is a great summertime blush as it is super long wearing, so I’ve loved putting a little on before pool days and know it’ll stay in place. It’s pretty concentrated and a good size sample too, so this will probably last a while.
  2. Bite Beauty Agave Lip Mask in Natural (Full Size: $26) I am always looking for super healing lip products to keep my lips smooth and hydrated (especially when I’m wearing a lot of long-wearing, matte lipsticks which can be so drying). This Bite mask is really nice and does a great job healing cracked lips. I love applying before bed as it is really thick and stays in place well, but have also been dabbing a little bit on during the day for some extra moisture and plump. A little goes a long way and I just discovered this comes in a few shades as well (versus the natural), so I’ll definitely be getting a full size once this is out! This is by far one of the best healing lip balms I’ve ever used.
  3. Farmacy Honey Drop Lightweight Moisturizer with Echinacea GreenEnvy (Full Size:$45) Moisturizers aren’t in my everyday skincare arsenal as I have oily skin and really need oil control more than anything. This gelly-cream has a nice scent and did feel good applying, however I didn’t notice really anything to write home about nor is it something that addresses my skin concern or needs. This is really mild and I would think would be safe for sensitive skin too – just not my cup of (honey) tea 🙂
  4. Caudalie Vinoperfect Concentrated Brightening Essence (Full Size:$42) Now toners on the other hand? SIGN ME UP! I much prefer applying toners than moisturizers and any kind of concentrate/astringents/etc do much better on my skin than gel or lotion based moisturizers. This brightening essence feels so good sweeping on and makes your face feel really clean, bright, and exfoliated. The sample is a bit small so I’m hoping it lasts several uses so I can really get a feel for long term results, but this seems like a great option for brightening and evening skin tone!
  5. Ren Evercalm Ultra Comforting Rescue Mask (Full Size: $38) I love a good face mask, and typically reach for high-power exfoliating, extracting, tightening, intense face masks that leave me feeling brand new. This mask is one of the few that is way more subtle, calming, and surprisingly enjoyable. This applies like a lotion and acts like a calming recharge for just the right amount of fresh. It feels really good on (especially after a day in the sun or angry skin day), and leaves a clean, refreshed finish. I really liked this product!

This Month’s Bonus: Briogeo Blossom & Bloom Ginseng + Biotin Volumizing Shampoo (Full Size: $24) I have really thick hair (that is also pretty long right now), so this wouldn’t be something I would reach for on the everyday, however I liked using it prior to blowing my hair out straight for some added volume and thickness. I would think this would be amazing for thin hair and have seen on a ton of reviews that regular use does help your hair grow! It has a super fresh, clean scent which I loved too.

July Total: $204

Overall this natural-based box was pleasantly surprising and felt very healing on tired skin+lips. Here’s to hoping my August box comes in soon so I can dig in to more goodies!

xo,

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Beauty Goals: The May Play! by Sephora Box

Let’s go ahead and call May’s Play! box the “better late than never” review…we have been non-stop since early May and with an upcoming move to the ‘burbs (never thought I’d be so excited!), there’s really no slowing down for us until August. While I’m tightening up my schedule to try to prioritize some fun projects I’m working on and posts I have in the works, I wanted to play a little catch-up on my Play! reviews for last month and the June box.

May’s box featured cult-level favorites to celebrate Play!’s two year anniversary. Some I have tried and love, some were new and completely loveable, and some were not worth the hype IMO. Let’s take a look at the good, bad, and…annoying?

 

May

  1. Marc Jacobs Beauty Velvet Noir Major Volume Mascara in Noir (Full Size:$26.00) It’s no secret that I have recently and unapologetically become obsessed with mascaras, lash boosters, and lash primers. I have been fighting off the urge to get lash extensions for almost a year now, and while I think I will inevitably end up with them (especially if kids are in our future – the easiest and quickest way to look awake and ready with no effort!), I’m not quite ready to take the plunge. The good news is through all my trial and error, my lashes have never been longer or healthier, and I’ve found some great mascaras in the process. This Marc Jacobs mascara is gorgeous, and has a beautifully rich velvet finish with no-clumps. It is extremely thickening and luxe, and has great wear. While I prefer thinner, comb like brushes, this wand is thicker and fluffy; if that is your preferred wand, this is absolutely worth going for the full size.
  2. Kat Von D Tattoo Liner in Trooper (Full Size: $20)  I have yet to have a less than stellar experience with any Kat Von D products, and this cult-classic liquid eyeliner holds true to my high standards with her line. This is widely popular for a reason: the felt tip makes for super easy application, it is extremely long wearing, and pitch black. Whether your an exaggerated winged-liner kind of gal or a reserved, tightlined minimalist, this liner is sure to please.
  3. Benefit Cosmetics The POREfessional Face Primer (Full Size: $31) The Play! boxes tend to be a bit primer-heavy, which I know for some can be a little frustrating. This primer is well-known and well-loved, and truly is a great staple product if you’re looking for a full size everyday go-to. I have oily skin and larger pores around my t-zone, so this product really does help to combat the shine and create a smooth matte finish that for the most part lasts throughout the day. Great product, but I do wish Play! would take it easy on new primers every month…when you have a go to full-size, the samples do a lot more sitting around than actually being used.
  4. Sephora Collection Mud Mask Purifying & Mattifying (Full Size: $20) This “detoxifying mud mask that clarifies skin with zinc and copper” is truly a great product if you have oily skin/larger pores. The Play! boxes have honestly been killing it as far as matching my skin/hair concerns and feel almost personalized, which I love and still can’t believe only costs $10 a month. This is a great mask with results even after just one time. Is it acceptable to have a face mask on while at the office? No? Are we sure? Can that be a new thing?
  5. Drybar Detox Dry Shampoo (Full Size: $23) After hearing rave reviews on this dry shampoo for such a long time, I was really excited to finally give it a try and fully expected to love it. I love dry shampoos and use daily. However, this was honestly such a letdown for me! The smell to me is completely overpowering and not appealing to me at all – it has almost a musky, manly, chemical smell to me and reminded me of a men’s body spray. Compared to my go to NYM dry shampoo (which is also about a quarter of the price), there wasn’t great volume or body, and I was underwhelmed with the finish, along with totally overwhelmed by the smell. After using I seriously could not get over the smell and had to hop in the shower to wash my hair. Overall this was a total miss for me, but I’m happy I was able to try the sample size instead of trying a big bottle like I almost did!

This Month’s Bonus: Yves Saint Laurent Black Opium (Full Size: $91) Let’s start with the good: this scent is super luxe, sexy, feminine yet strong and overall I totally get the hype. Again, it’s not going to replace my go-to, but it’s a great scent. However the bad (and as mentioned above downright annoying) is this borderline comical sample sized bottle and design! This is by far the smallest sample size I’ve seen out of any fragrance sample, and the design is so poor that I wasted the product itself. The top is a pop-off and not resealable, so after some time struggling to even open, I spilled a good bit on my hands and threw away the rest to make sure it didn’t spill anywhere else. Super wasteful and might as well have been a paper-fragrance sample.

May Total: $211

While there were some hits and definitely some misses in this month’s box, I thought it was a great box for those who wanted to try some cult-classics if you haven’t already. Are any of these products favorites of yours? Let me know below!

xo,

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Insta Beauty: The April Play! by Sephora Box

April’s Play! box may have taken way too long to get to me (anyone else have such a hard time with mail delivery living in an apartment complex? I am so over it!! #APARTMENTPROBZ 😦 ) but these products were worth the wait because they are SO good y’all…packed with products I’ve been dying to try & definitely lived up to my high-hopes! The April box was curated around “products that deliver quick, camera-ready results” which also means flawless, natural-but-better makeup that makes everyday looks just that much better. Lately I have been all about products I want to reach for time and time again rather than things that will crowd my vanity and rarely get used, and I can’t wait to get the full sized of a few of April’s Play! goodies!

Insta Beauty

  1. Make Up For Ever Ultra HD Perfector (in Shade #6) (Full Size: $36) This “Lightweight skin tint that blurs imperfections and protects skin” was selected for my skin tone in the shade #6: Warm Sand. I applied with my beauty blender over the Primer in this month’s box (read below), and love how this product feels, looks, and even smells. I do prefer more full coverage foundation usually but this is PERFECT for summer days, vacations and easy weekend days! The SPF is super lightweight and has no fragrance itself, but the foundation has a subtle yet bright, crisp smell that I loved while applying in the morning. As expected from Make Up For Ever, this product is fab and in my opinion super similar to the ever-popular IT Cosmetics CC cream but WAY more lightweight, breathable, and natural looking.
  2. Urban Decay Hi-Fi Lipgloss in SPL (Full Size: $20) This “On-trend, iridescent lip gloss that visually plumps while it moisturizes lips” is shimmery-sparkly-pepperminty heaven. I’m not a gloss girl or typically any kind of shimmer (unless it’s neutral eyeshadows) but this gloss is too pretty to not break out of my norm. Wearing alone it looks and feels great, but based on this particular shade I would probably layer over a light/medium pink liquid lipstick to tone it better for my skin. This shimmer has a lot of purples and blues, and I like to warm up my lip color to best suit me.
  3. IT Cosmetics Bye Bye Pores Pressed Poreless Finish Airbrush Pressed Powder (Full Size: $29) My skin tends to get really oily throughout the day, so I am and always have been on the hunt for great powders. This IT Cosmetics pressed powder has been on my radar for a bit, so I was so excited to get a sample beforehand to see what it’s all about. This “Translucent pressed powder that reduces the look of pores for an airbrushed finish” is so divine, and I can’t wait to get the full size. It is feather light, has great brush pickup unlike some pressed powders, and truly fits the description. The shade “Translucent” was sent and it truly is sheer and gives a flawless finish. I have been wearing this without even using my usual Urban Decay Deslick setting spray, and still stay completely matte. Love love love this and can’t rave enough!
  4. Peter Thomas Roth Skin to Die For No-Filter Mattifying Primer & Complexion Perfector (Full Size: $28) This primer made for a great trio with the foundation and powder in this months box. I started with this primer and love the consistency and how breathable it still feels. This “weightless primer that blurs imperfections and reduces the look of pores” is one of the best primers I’ve tried and I’ll definitely be getting the full size once my sample tube is finished.
  5. Fresh Lotus Face Mask (Full Size: $62) This Fresh face mask is described as a “five-minute facial in a jar that targets dull, rough, and dry skin”, and after a few tries I have to say i’m not all that impressed. I love the Fresh line and although this mask smells great and feels good to apply with the slightly gritty pieces to exfoliate, I just don’t see or feel enough of a difference to buy a full size. I applied according to the instructions and left on for 5 minutes, but personally prefer face masks that can sit on a bit longer and have more dramatic results.

This Month’s Bonus: MIU MIU L’eau Rosée (Full Size: $81)  “Scent Type: Fresh Floral with key notes of blackcurrant, lily of the valley & musk. soft floral with sophisticated musk.” At first try I was not a fan of this, as the musk hit me first and was pretty strong. However even just a few minutes after spraying and the fragrance adjusting to my skin, it smells divine and just keeps getting nicer throughout the day. It’s not as bright and fresh as my go to Chance by Chanel, but this is a nice change and reminds me of the diptyque fragrances with the complex musks.

April Total: $256

Overall I couldn’t be happier with my Play! Boxes so far and have been so impressed with the brands and quality of products you get for so little each month. This month’s bag was a simple and sweet canvas bag that goes along with the theme and says “Make it Snappy”.

Many of these products are really good sizes for just being samples, so I’ve already noticed that my Play! products tend to help supplement my normal makeup routine & purchases. I feel like I am actually making less trips to Sephora just by using my samples with my normal go-to’s; win win! What did you think of your April Play! box? Are any of this month’s products your go-to favorites? Drop a comment below and let me know what your favorites are!

xo,

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Feel the Love: The February Play! by Sephora Box

Subscription boxes have become so popular over the past few years, expanding into almost every category imaginable (treats for your face, your belly, your pets, your workout bag, you name it!). It’s so easy to see why the concept is so popular – what could be better than a “surprise” box full of little goodies of brands you love, or new things to discover…from you, to you! Regardless of what category, it’s a great way to try new product without feeling wasteful, and my favorite…to have travel sized items ready for your next trip!

On the same note, it can be frustrating when the samples you do receive are way offtrack from your preferences, or so tiny that it’s borderline comical (anyone else get the mini-eyebrow pencils that are so small you can barely grip them between your fingers, much less fill in both brows with it?) I’m definitely a fan of subscription boxes, but have had my fair share of misses too.

I recently switched from Birchbox to Sephora’s new monthly program called Play!, because I honestly found myself losing or not using most of the products that Birchbox sent (a girl can only have so many mini-perfume vial’s before going insane). February was my first month with Play! and I was super happy with everything I got, and actually have used all of the items over the past month instead of trying once and never touching it again.

I was so happy with the assortment that I thought it’d be fun to review what I get in my Play! box each month and share new finds (that are actually worth buying the full size of!). I will also link the full size products in my review, along with the price point on each, to make shopping easy (yo’ welcome 😉 ) and see how much each box would cost if buying full sized products.

Before I dive in to February’s products, here is a little overview of the program for those of you who are unfamiliar. And, as all content on the blog unless otherwise stated, this is solely my opinion and not influenced by sponsorship in any way. These are just my thoughts and how things worked for me; to each their own and I’ll always give it to you guys straight! 🙂

PLAY! is a beauty subscription box that is shipped once a month to you, for $10 per month (and billed monthly). We all know Sephora’s product and line assortment is stellar, so right off the bat I felt I would be happier with this subscription box because I knew the brands would be more familiar to me. Each month you’ll receive five trial-sized samples (plus a bonus product), packaged in a cute drawstring bag that correlates with that month’s theme. I personally find the bags more practical than the boxes from Birchbox, so I liked that aspect as well. Upon signing up for Play!, you will complete a short questionnaire to identify your skin type, tone, and beauty preferences, which Sephora then uses to help customize the shades/product that are sent.

You also receive a Play! Pass with each box, which gets you 50 bonus Beauty Insider points when you bring in store…which just means more free product! There are also cute features like Play! dates, which are subscriber only events hosted in store, and exclusive video how-to’s on the product you receive. Overall it’s a really straight-forward program with some great benefits, but my favorite part so far is the quality of product you get for just $10. The idea of subscription boxes are to discover product you actually want to buy the full size of, and I can absolutely see myself doing so with Play!

February’s box was themed around Valentine’s Day/Galentine’s Day and was super cute! The bag came with a cute themed-card that had beauty inspired Valentines Day cards you can give out to your girlfriends, and had the following product inside:

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Image courtesy of Sephora.com

  1. Sephora Collection Ultra Shine Lip Gel in Perfect Nude (Full Size: $12): Described on the site as “Nude lip gloss that makes lips look fuller with its light-reflecting formula”, this gloss definitely lives up to the hype. I just recently started to wear gloss occasionally again, as I’m pretty loyal to matte lips, but that’s what’s great about subscription boxes…trying products out of your typical wheelhouse to discover things that might work great for you. This gloss isn’t sticky, would compliment a vast-array of skin tones, has a great applicator, and really does make your lips look more full and pouty. A great staple-gloss to layer over color or wear solo.
  2. Make Up For Ever Artist Rouge Lipstick in M-500 – Wine Violet (Full Size: $22): Described as a “silky, high-pigmented lipstick in a deep wine shade with a matte finish”, this Make Up For Ever lipstick is so nice! This vampy shade is actually so wearable, and feel you can tone this down by blotting for a more subtle daytime look, or amp it up with a lip liner for nighttime. While I probably won’t be reaching for this every day, the mini size is perfect to have on hand. I wore alone for a night out and even just one coat lasted through our Thai dinner date..so it’s a winner in my book.
  3. Too Faced Better than Sex Mascara (Full Size: $23): What can I say about this cult-favorite mascara that hasn’t already been said? Described as the “fan-favorite mascara that volumizes and separates lashes with its unique wand”, this mascara is definitely a classic worth a try. I love having mini-tubes of these sample mascaras on hand because I keep them everywhere (one in my desk, one in my car, one in my bag), and recommend this mascara to anyone who hasn’t tried yet. Sephora always has the mini-sized tubes towards the front of the register, which is a great option if you want to try before you buy the big tube (mini’s are $12). While this isn’t my everyday go to and I do find it tends to be a bit flaky throughout the day on me, it’s worth a try because it seems to work a little differently on everyone.
  4. First Aid Beauty Ginger & Tumeric Vitamin C Jelly Mask (Full Size: $32): A “Jelly mask packed with Ginger and Tumeric to soothe and brighten Skin”, this Jelly Mask was selected for my skin type by Play!. I was completely unfamiliar with this line and product, but absolutely LOVED it as soon as I tried it! My skin always runs hot and my face carries some redness, so the Jelly texture immediately felt so good as I applied and instantly helped to soothe my skin and brighten up my overall tone. I will definitely be buying the full size of this baby once my sample is out! (but for reference, think this sample size will get me quite a few applications, which is so nice!) This product was perfect for my specific skin concerns and I thought Sephora hit it out of the park using the info I provided.
  5. Peter Thomas Roth FIRMx Peeling Gel (Full Size: $48): Another product selected for my skin concern, this “Exfoliating gel that uses fruit enzymes to reveal bright, glowing skin” is unlike any product I have ever used before! You apply to clean, dry skin, and in circular motions the product helps to lift dead skin cells to smooth and brighten the surface of your skin. As I applied I was so surprised at how quickly the peel was lifting and was honestly a little freaked out at first (is this stuff taking off my skin? Am I going to have a face when this bad-boy is over with??), but after finishing and rinsing I was blown away at how clear and fresh my face looked. I did originally think a lot of what was “peeling” was the product itself…remember in grade school when you would put glue in your hands just to rub it off? That’s honestly what this reminded me of. However, after trying several more times and reading other reviews online, I realized it really is exfoliating your skin and not just balling up on itself. I think this would be a great product for mature skin as well – and read that men love this product to help with shaving/ingrown hairs on their face! (Hubs – if you’ve made it this far into reading this, be ready to try this tonight).

Monthly Bonus:

Philosophy Amazing Grace Fragrance (Rollerball: $20): Fragrance is such a personalized thing to me, so it’s pretty rare when I really click with a sample I receive. I’ve used other Amazing Grace products by Philosophy and while I like this scent in bath/body products, I’m personally not a fan of this as a perfume. I am so insanely loyal to Chanel Chance (which I’ve been wearing since High School), and am still awaiting the day when I find something that suits me better. Sorry Philosophy, Amazing Grace just ain’t it!

February Total: $157!

Granted, that would be for full size of each product, but most of these samples are sized for a few applications at minimum, rather than just one-time trial sizes. So far, I’m super impressed with the value of Play! and can’t wait to share my future boxes! Going forward, I’ll be sure to include some photos as well…so be on the look out for my March review coming soon.

 Do any of you have Play!, and if so what do you think? Anyone prefer Birchbox, ipsy, or another Beauty box? Drop a comment below to let me know, or if you have questions on any of the February items above!

xo,

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Amazon Favorites: Beauty

Going along with my Amazon Favorites series (you can check out my Amazon Favorites: Travel here), I wanted to share my tried and true Beauty favorites from Amazon. Beauty products are really the first product category I branched out into purchasing on Amazon years and years ago, with of course the exception of getting my college textbooks for way cheaper than the bookstore. All these years later, I still rely on Amazon to bring me the best of the best in my daily routine, and plenty of new favorites to discover. Here are some of my very favorites! Just a quick note – these are the items I exclusively found and buy on Amazon and can’t buy in my regular go-to’s of Target/Ulta/Sephora, etc.

Interested in seeing my Beauty Favorites as a whole, not just amazon? Leave a comment and let me know!

Skincare

I am a complete newbie when it comes to Dermarolling/Micro-Needling, but with co-workers and friends alike raving about theirs, I had to try. You can buy high quality dermarollers on amazon for just $14.99-$20, in varying needle sizes. I chose the smallest needle size at a 0.25mm because (luckily) I do not have issues with fine lines/wrinkles right now. I began dermarolling to even my skin tone, shrink my pore size, and to prevent wrinkles. Always make sure to deeply sanitize before and after each use, and use on a clean face. Apply your favorite skin serum on top for deep penetration and max absorption! Please note: I LOVE the Mario Badescu Vitamin C Serum, however I do not recommend applying this after Dermarolling. I found it entirely too strong and my face burned to the point where I had to rinse off and I was red through the next morning. I use Vitamin E oil right now and will be trying a few different serums to see what works best for my skin. If you have questions or want more information on Dermarolling, drop a comment below and I will elaborate further (and I encourage you to do plenty of your own research before starting).

Out of everything on this list, this is my holy-grail, changed my life product. I discovered this going on 4 years ago and have at least every other week since! This clay makes by far the best Facial mask I have ever used. I have oily, acne prone skin (hence the no-wrinkles thing) and get very oily in my t-zone by the end of the day. I use so many products to try to reduce this, and this mask really helps balance my skin out and literally feels like a pore-vacuum. For oily skin, mix with Raw, Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar. I also sometimes will add a capsule of Activated Charcoal and 2-3 drops of Tea Tree Oil to the mask if I’m having a breakout. Make sure to read the instructions and never use a metal spoon or bowl to mix your mask, as this will deactivate the properties in the Bentonite Clay.

Tools

These brushes are so impressive. Not only do you get 14 pieces for foundation, powder, concealer, eye shadows, brows, contour and eyeliners, but they are a fantastic quality that rival most all of my high end brushes. I ordered these almost 2 years ago, and through daily use and thorough washes at least once a week, they are still going strong! They are so soft and feel good on your face while applying, and have thick nice handles. The face brushes are by far my favorite out of the bunch, as they handle both powders and liquid foundation so well. Over the years I’ve lost a few of the eye brushes and will be reordering this set again – it’s amazing because these are only $11.99! I would happily pay double or more for this set, but shh…don’t tell amazon.

Hair

After 4 rounds of balayage to lift my almost-black Aveda hair color, my hair is finally noticeably lighter. I’ve been battling brassy ends since starting the process, and lifting my dark color has been no easy feat. I’ve tried several purple shampoos to maintain my toner, and although I love the Not Your Mothers Purple Shampoo, it just wasn’t as strong as I needed for my bleached ends. I do highly recommend the NYM for Natural blondes or subtly bleached hair, but for my black-to-ash-blonde dreams I needed something powerful. This Fanola No Yellow Shampoo was recommended by a co-worker and WOW – this is magic in a bottle. After just one use my hair was noticeably less fiery – with just 3 minutes of leaving it on in the shower. Read the instructions when applying and be careful how long you leave it in – I would not go past the recommended max of 5 minutes, unless you are intentionally trying to achieve an ashy ultra-violet or grey. I have only used once a week since getting (2 weeks ago) and am so excited to continue using to tone my hair.

Misc.

Teeth

Active Wow Teeth Whitening Charcoal Powder Natural

Active Wow Natural Teeth Whitening Charcoal Powder

I have bleached my teeth on and off for years, with really heavy bleaching done last year in prep for our wedding day. I do love the results of the at-home Crest Whitestrips line, but they made my teeth so painfully sensitive, and after years of buying were really costly. I began using Activated Charcoal tablets for my teeth and to add into Natural face-masks, but this Teeth Whitening powder is so much more powerful than the Activated Charcoal alone. After just one use, this gives you noticeably whiter teeth and such a clean feeling mouth & gums. I recommend applying as instructed and brushing and flossing your teeth as normal after, to remove any trace of the charcoal. This has absolutely no taste, so don’t let the rich black color scare you when applying (it is pretty jarring to look at the first time, fair warning). Make sure to keep your mouth completely sealed closed as you are brushing, as this will make a mess in your bathroom if not. I like to use in the shower so I can easily rinse away any mess I make, and don’t worry, this won’t stain your bathroom tile if you rinse off right away. Also, use a spare toothbrush designated just for this – it will stain your toothbrush and I wanted to spare my Sonicare 🙂

Lashes & Brows

If you can’t tell, the Amazon “Best Seller” category is my favorite place to hunt for new products. The reviews on Amazon are so helpful and let me know exactly what i’m getting, and this Lash & Brow booster deserves every bit of the 4.5 stars out of 7,529 reviews. This is not an instant lash & brow booster like a mascara or gel; this helps your lashes regrow and strengthen over time providing you with your real lashes & brows. I have been fighting off the temptation of lash extensions for over a year now because I know I naturally have long lashes, and don’t want to completely ruin them. I just love the look of extremely long and thick lashes and good eyebrows, so this natural serum is perfect! This does not have the side effects listed with some leading prescription eyelash serums. You do need to apply to clean, bare lashes at least once a day for results (which come slow, different for everyone but don’t expect instant results). Always test eye products prior to applying as some people may have severe reactions; I test on the inside of my elbow and if fine, test on a small portion of one eye. If all good, then feel free to incorporate this into your night time routine.

Essentials

These activated charcoal tablets are great to have on hand, not just for bloating or stomach pain, but for your skin and teeth! As mentioned above, you can break a capsule into your face masks for deep pore cleansing, or in a cup with some water for a natural teeth whitener. Along with essential oils, vitamin E, Jojoba Oil, and Castor oil, activated charcoal is on my must-have list.

Vanity

While this last recommendation isn’t a product, it is one of my favorite things I’ve ever purchased on Amazon and part of my everyday routine! This lighted vanity mirror is about the size of an iPad and fits perfectly on my vanity. The lighting ensures your makeup is always true to tone and flawless, and the detachable close up mirror is perfect to use for tweezing or spot treating. There are several models on Amazon that come in black, white, etc, so you can really customize to what you need.

Have any Amazon Favorites of your own you’d like to share? Drop a comment below!

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