May 2015 Empties

May tends to be a pretty exciting month, product-wise, because it’s the time of year when we use up our winter beauty staples and get to move on to lighter, more fun summer products. There will be plenty of those to discuss in the coming weeks, but for now let’s take a look at last month’s winners and losers:

  
Aqua Spa Relax Body Creme: I really loved this rich cream. Despite its thick texture it absorbed quickly, left no greasy residue, and kept my skin soft all day. Its lavender and chamomile aroma was quite perfumey when first applied, but it quickly diffused into a much more subtle scent that I really liked. 

Benefit Total Moisture Facial Cream: This tiny jar – from my Benefit Advent Calendar – saved my face during the last dry days of spring. When my tinted moisturizer just couldn’t provide enough moisture, I paired it with this thick-but-not-too-thick cream. It kept both dry patches and blemishes away while providing a perfect base for makeup. 

L’Oreal Volume Filler Thickening Shampoo: I found this shampoo incredibly disappointing. Since the ads for it featured Blake Lively, the queen of enviable hair, I was really hoping this shampoo would leave me with luscious locks. Instead it left my hair looking dry and dull, with no shine and a straw-like texture. 

Bliss Grapefruit & Aloe Body Butter: With its fresh citrus scent and rich texture, this body butter became my go-to hand cream throughout the winter and spring. It absorbs quickly and protects hands and cuticles for hours, even through the excessive hand washing of flu season. 

Aussie Moist 3 Minute Miracle: This deep conditioner isn’t new to this blog, and neither is my opinion of it. This is a high quality conditioner that can be used daily or as a weekly treatment. It repairs hair and leaves it silky and shiny without weighing it down. I still swear by it. 

Bliss Multi-‘face’-eted All-in-one Anti-aging Clay Mask: I decided to try this multi-tasking mask last weekend and almost instantly regretted it. It contains 10% glycolic acid, which was so harsh I had to wash it off after four minutes and still ended up with a chemical burn near my lip! Then my skin promptly broke out with several small pimples. Definitely not a fan. 

Whish Shave Cream: I recently wrote about this Birchbox find. I liked it more with every use. It really moisturized my skin and softened hair, leading to a closer-than-usual shave, less irritated skin and smooth legs that stayed that way for almost a week. 

Bath & Body Works Dark Kiss Body Lotion: This medium weight lotion featured a sort of sweet, sort of sultry scent and kept my dry patches in check through the spring. It didn’t clog pores and it gave my skin super soft all day. A perfect lotion for spring and/or fall. 

Beauty Protector Beauty Wash: This shower gel featured a sickeningly sweet scent and though it lathered up richly, it didn’t leave my skin feeling particularly clean. I’m a big fan of Beauty Protector’s hair products, but this body wash is definitely not for me. 

In other news, I finally came to the end of my body lotion stash last month! For those keeping track at home, it took me one year and five months to clean out that collection. So, now that I’m in the market for new lotions, please feel free to leave some recommendations in the comments below!

Inside Influenster’s #BellaVoxBox

voxbox-blogimageI’ve been very lucky over the past year and have been invited to participate in several product trials through Influenster. Most of these have been one-product trials, which are great, but I was over-the-moon excited to learn that I’d been selected to receive the Bella VoxBox, which contained an assortment of beauty products and treats to help me have a beautiful spring and summer. Here’s what was in it:
Bella VoxBox
EcoTools Complexion Collection Mattifying Finish Brush (#EcoToolsPerk): This brush was designed with specific cuts to help distribute the perfect amount of powder and control oily shine all day. I’m already a big fan of EcoTools, so I was not surprised to discover that it did just that! The brush truly grabs and distributes powder perfectly evenly, and my face stayed matte all day. Loved this.

DOVE Fruit (#DOVEwithRealFruit): The ladies in my office and I always tend to have stash of Dove dark chocolate squares on hand, so we were excited to try this new treat from our favorite chocolate brand. I received a bag of whole blueberries (cranberries and cherries are also available) dipped in dark chocolate. They were even more delicious that I had imagined! My officemates concurred. I also threw some into my usual trail mix of nuts and raisins – amazingly good.

Not Your Mother’s Deja Vu ‘Do Style Extender (#NYMdjvd): This lightweight hair primer is said to block humidity and repel dirt and oil to extend the life of your hair style, while also conditioning to control frizz and boost shine. While I didn’t notice that my hair style lasted any longer than normal, I did love the way my hair looked on the first day of use, which was shiny and bouncy with some weightless volume. Also, this might be the best-smelling hair product I own – I can’t get enough of the apple-berry scent.

Rimmel Scandaleyes Mascara by Kate Moss (#rimmelbykate): Created by Kate Moss, this jet black mascara features a “broken-heart” shaped brush that looks odd but does a stellar job of reaching all of your lashes, creating a dark, dramatic look. A couple of my friends asked if I was using a new mascara because my lashes looked so good. It also didn’t bother my sensitive eyes at all, a huge plus. My only complaint is that this mascara was really smudgy; I wouldn’t recommend wearing it for long days at the office or on an especially hot, humid day.

Rimmel Lasting Finish Lipstick by Kate Moss (#rimmel): Another Kate Moss creation, I received this in shade 12, which looks like an intimidating reddish orange in the tube but in reality is an incredibly wearable creamy red that felt good and looked even better. This might be my favorite product from the box!

Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs (#AirbrushPerfectLegs): As tights season is finally behind us, I was excited to give this leg makeup a try. It’s supposed to hide imperfections and not rub off on clothes. In my experience, it didn’t hide anything and looked completely unnatural. It was the only dud in this collection of fun summer products.

I received these products free from Influenster for testing purposes. All opinions are my own.

Birchbox Best: Benefit Lollibalm

Benefit LollibalmBenefit’s Lollibalm has been at the very top of my must-try list for quite some time, so I was absolutely delighted to find a mini tube of this hydrating balm in my May Birchbox. I was even more delighted when I put it on; its smooth, creamy texture feels heavenly, and the sheer pink-purple shade is incredibly pretty and flattering. The balm is long lasting and moisturizing. Another plus: the cap stays put, so I can just throw it in my bag without worrying about lip balm smears getting all over everything in my purse (a lip balm pet peeve of mine). In short, Lollibalm did not disappoint and was definitely my top pick from this month’s box.

Runner Up: I’m rather surprised to report that my second favorite product in the May Birchbox was Parlor by Jeff Chastain Moisturizing Sea Salt Spray.Parlor by Jeff Chastain Moisturizing Sea Salt Spray My past experiences with texturizing sprays like this one have always been wildly disappointing; my dreams of easy, pretty, surfer-girl waves have always been dashed by the reality of limp, crunchy hair that looks like it hasn’t been washed. I was so sure that this product wouldn’t work that I almost didn’t even try it. Then last week, running late one morning, I decided that I’d save myself a few minutes of hair drying time and give this spray I try. I combed out my hair, spritzed it all over with the salt spray, then used my fingers to scrunch it up and ran out the door.

Much to my surprise, by the time I arrived at work 30 minutes later, my hair had fallen into spiraled, beachy waves. While I think I look best with straighter hair, I was definitely impressed with this product. My one complaint, which is my complaint with all hair products that come in a spray, is that it’s difficult to distribute the product evenly throughout your hair. One side of my head had much more defined waves than the other, and I have no idea if that side had more or less product. Other than that, I’d say this salt spray is a definite winner in the battle of beachy hair products.

Birchbox Best: Liz Earle Eyebright Soothing Eye Lotion

Liz Earle Eyebright Soothing Eye LotionThis month Birchbox partnered with the incredibly stylish and addictive show Mad Men to create a special box inspired by the memorable and covetable looks of the show. While this was a five star box overall, there was one product that stood out to me as the most impressive: Liz Earle Eyebright Soothing Eye Lotion. This cooling liquid, made from a variety of skin soothing botanicals, is my new morning best friend. Whenever I wake up with tired, puffy eyes – and don’t have time for my usual morning walk – I simply pour a little of this on a cotton pad, hold it over each eye for approximately 5 seconds, and then go about my normal beauty routine. The cooling sensation of the lotion starts soothing instantly, and within 20 minutes my eyes are completely de-puffed. It hasn’t bothered my sensitive eyes at all. If you’re prone to puffy eyes, this product is a must-have.

Runner Up: The entire rest of the box! Here’s a quick look at all the other great finds this month:
Mad Men Birchbox
Anastasia Beverly Hills Clear Brow Gel: I’ve never used brow gel, so I was excited to try this one. It kept my brows in place all day without any sticky or flaky residue, and added a little extra polish to my day. A word of caution: brow gel highlights your brows, and that includes any errant hairs. You’ll want to make sure you’re brows are well-groomed before you swipe this on!

Beauty Protector Protect & Oil: This hair oil protects against UV rays and heat styling. It also made my hair silky smooth and frizz free. My new favorite hair product!

Cargo Swimmables Water Resistant Blush in Los Cabos: This pretty peachy blush is universally flattering. The powder goes on streak-free, and can be layered for more or less pigment. Once on, it won’t budge until you wash it off – mine lasted all day, through rain and workouts.

Whish Shave Crave Shaving Cream in Blueberry: This unique shave cream makes for a lovely shaving experience. It doesn’t foam up like traditional shave gels, which means it won’t clog up your razor and makes shaving quick and easy. It also does an exceptional job of moisturizing skin – no itchy razor burn here!

March 2015 Empties

You know how sometimes you seem to run out of every single thing you need all at the same time? That definitely happened to me this month – in the midst of an already very empty-producing month, I ran out of deodorant, body lotion, moisturizer and shampoo, all on the same day! There’s lots to review this month, so let’s get right to it:
March 2015 Empties
Johnson’s Body Care Melt Away Stress Lavender & Chamomile Lotion: I found a tube of this old favorite in my stash of body lotions and decided to bring it to my office to use as a hand cream. It did a great job of keeping my hands and cuticles soft in the colder months, and that soothing lavender and chamomile scent really did help take the edge off on some of my more stressful days. My coworkers frequently commented on how nice it smelled, too. This lotion is lightweight but moisturizing, and scented but not overly perfume-y. I’m a big fan.

Secret Invisible Solid Antiperspirant/Deodorant in Powder Fresh: I was apparently feeling nostalgic the last time I went deodorant shopping because I bought this, the same deodorant I used during my middle and high school years. In middle school, it made me feel grown up. In high school, it made me feel feminine. Now? It left me feeling rather underwhelmed. It works fine as an antiperspirant/deodorant, but I didn’t think it smelled powdery at all. Instead, it had a scent that I’d call chemical cucumber. I wouldn’t purchase it again.

Roloxin Lift Revitalizing Facial Treatment: I received this mask in my last Birchbox. It’s supposed to act sort of like instant botox, smoothing wrinkles for 24 hours. Even though I (thankfully) don’t have many wrinkles, I gave it a try. I couldn’t see that it did much to improve the fine lines that I do have, though it did leave my skin feeling silky smooth.

Vaseline Intensive Care Advanced Repair Non-Greasy Lotion: I’ve written about this body lotion multiple times. I still have nothing but good things to say about it. It kept my skin flake-free and hydrated all winter long. This is one of my favorite new discoveries of the past year – a definite winner!

Boscia Recharging Night Moisture: This is a real quality moisturizer. Fragrance free and gentle enough to use when your skin is in the midst of a full-on rebellion, I returned to it again and again. It isn’t greasy and can be used as a daytime moisturizer, but it’s also deeply moisturizing and stood up to the cold, harsh winter air when most other moisturizers could not. I will likely be repurchasing this gem.

BeeKind Body Lotion: Made with honey and organic chamomile extracts, a portion of the proceeds of this bee-friendly lotion supports honey bee and sustainable pollination research. It had a mild scent and felt great going on, but I found that not long after applying the lotion, my skin felt dry again, like I hadn’t applied any lotion at all. It supports a great cause, but I need more moisture from a body lotion.

Bumble and Bumble Thickening Shampoo & Conditioner
: I don’t typically review shampoo and conditioner together, but I used these two samples together, and I loved them. The shampoo claims to make hair look fuller and thicker, seal split ends and smooth flyaways, while the conditioner boasts a featherweight texture that creates fuller looking hair. I have to say, this duo did all of the above. My hair felt like it looked good all day after using these products, and the mirror confirmed it – smooth, silky, bouncy hair. Great products.

John Frieda Brilliant Brunette Colour Protecting Moisturising Shampoo: I wrote about the matching conditioner last month, and this shampoo wasn’t really any more appealing or effective than its counterpart. My hair looked and felt kind of dry after using it, and to make matters much worse, it caused my husband to break out in a rash around his hairline! Definitely proceed with caution if you have sensitive skin!

CoverGirl CG Smoothers BB Cream: Here’s another old favorite that’s been featured on this blog more than once. It’s my go-to winter BB because it’s both moisturizing and light enough for my pale, dry winter complexion. And with a drugstore price tag, it really can’t be beat!

Herbal Essences Tea-Lightfully Clean Refreshing Shampoo: This fresh-scented scalp clearing shampoo was another winter favorite – it soothed and de-flaked my scalp, smelled clean and fresh, and left my hair soft and clean. Another winner!

February 2015 Empties

Is anyone else feeling an overwhelming sense of relief that February is over? This winter has been so harsh, I just cannot wait for spring! At least I’ve had lots of new products to test to help me get through the cold dark days of winter. Here’s what I finished up last month:
February 2015 Empties
Nivea Essentially Enriched Daily Lotion: This is a good basic body lotion. It had a very light texture and a mild almond-infused scent. It kept my skin reasonably smooth and didn’t cause body breakouts. I wasn’t exactly wowed by this product, but it did its job!

Amika Nourishing Mask: I received this in my February Birchbox. It’s a decent deep conditioner. It made my hair smell nice and left my strands feeling super soft, but it didn’t add shine or do much for split ends, and after a couple of uses my hair was so static-y that I couldn’t stand it!

Too Faced Better Than Sex Mascara: While I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s better than sex, I will say this mascara is better than most. It adds a nice thick darkness to lashes, doesn’t budge all day, never flakes, and doesn’t irritate my eyes! This is a great mascara for day or night.

John Freida Brilliant Brunette Colour Protecting Moisturising Conditioner: I received this as a Christmas gift, and didn’t realize until after a couple of uses that it was the color treated hair version and not the Liquid Shine version that I’ve always loved. Maybe this would do something for color treated hair, but it left my hair feeling dry and brittle. Not a fan.

Freeman Coffee & Chai Energizing Paper Eye Mask: I used this just this morning to soothe my puffy and overtired eyes. While it didn’t completely eliminate the puffiness and dark circles, it depuffed a little and left my eyes looking brighter. Plus, it felt really nice. I’d definitely use it again.

What are your favorite new finds for February?

December/January Empties & The End of the Shopping Ban

Well here we are, a month into 2015, which means the great shopping ban has ended. For the record, I made it approximately 17 hours into the new year before purchasing this. I’ve also purchased a few necessities, such as shampoo, conditioner and a fresh tube of Dior Lip Glow.

I’m really glad I participated in the shopping ban; I learned a lot. There are some products I will always think are worth the splurge (see Lip Glow, above), but there are many I can easily go without. Over the course of the year I managed to use up all of my shampoo, conditioner and toothpaste. I still have too many skincare products to count and a basket full of body washes and bar soap. This year, I will continue to whittle down my stockpile and track my empties – I really enjoy writing empties posts – while allowing myself to make the occasional extra cosmetic purchase. Also, I really missed my beauty subscriptions last year, which is why I’m delighted to report that my husband reactivated my Birchbox subscription as a birthday gift – I’ll be getting my first one any day now!

So, before I dive back into the world of Birchbox and start reviewing my new purchases, let’s take a look at what I used up over the past two months:
January 2015 Empties
Avon Naturals Nourishing Banana & Coconut Milk Shower Gel: I continue to be impressed with Avon shower gels. They lather up delightfully and leave my skin feeling clean and fresh, not dry. The scents are mild, and this one had a nice tropical feel, which is a great escape this time of year! Plus, they really conveniently hang upside down so you can get every last drop out of the bottle.

Osmia Organics Spot Treatment: We’ve seen this one before, the holy grail of blemish treatments. This gets used all the time in my household. It clears up blemishes pretty much overnight. I’ll be repurchasing ASAP.

Suave Professionals Volumizing Shampoo: This was the last bottle of shampoo in my stockpile. I had forgotten how high-quality Suave Professionals shampoos are. I had many good hair days thanks to this product. If you’re looking at cutting back your beauty product costs, this is an area I’d suggest you try – Suave Professional shampoos cover a range of hair concerns and really work well.

Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleansing Cloths: This product might win the prize for most appearances in an empties post. Part of that is because there are only 25 cloths per package, so they don’t last long. Part of it is because it’s a great product – gentle, effective, and perfect for nights when I’m too tired to wash my face properly.

Ayres Body Butter in Midnight Tango: I loved the packaging and the light orange blossom and vanilla scent, but this body butter was kind of a dud. It had a thick texture but failed to really soften my skin, and it caused body breakouts.

Melaleuca Sun Valley White Amber Jasmine Body Wash: I used up its mate, a body lotion, in November. Like the lotion, I really enjoyed the scent, but this body wash left something to be desired. I didn’t feel overly fresh after using it. I would not repurchase.

Herbal Essences Honey, I’m Strong Strengthening Conditioner: I liked the clean, honey-infused scent of this conditioner, and it was a really good detangler, but I’m not sure how much stronger my hair was after using it. Still, it’s a quality conditioner.