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.

Winter Beauty Problems, Solved

Winter is in full swing in my little town, along with all the unpleasant effects of the season: a touch of seasonal depression, a general lack of motivation, and a bevy of beauty problems that make those first two obstacles seem even harder to overcome. Never fear, my dears! Warmer, sunnier days are right around the corner, and I’ve found a handful of products that are sure to solve your winter woes and keep you looking lovely until spring.
Winter Beauty Essentials
Problem: Dry, flaky scalp and lackluster hair
Solution: Herbal Essences Tea-Lightfully Clean Refreshing Shampoo
I’ve been plagued with a dry, flaky scalp every winter for as long as I can remember. I am blown away by how effective this shampoo is. It contains tea tree oil, which is a great purifier and cleanser. My scalp situation was improved after one use, and after three I was virtually flake free! Better yet, this shampoo smells divine and leaves my hair looking full, soft and healthy. This is definitely my new favorite shampoo.

Problem: Dry, red, irritated skin
Solution: Clinique Liquid Face Soap Extra-Mild
I generally shy away from using anything that calls itself “soap” on my face, but I was compelled to try this one after my sister started using it – and stopped having blotchy winter skin. This time of year my skin tends to get dry and irritated, particularly around my cheeks. This incredibly mild cleanser has stopped all that, while still managing to keep oil at bay.

Problem: Chapped lips
Solution: Candy Cane ChapStick
I’ve been using this since November, and it has been serving me well the whole time. In addition to its festive, not-too-pepperminty candy cane scent, I find it less waxy than the ChapSticks of old. It soothes chapped lips without irritating them and is a great defense against the elements to help prevent chapped lips before they start! It’s clear, but leaves my lips looking healthy and pink when worn alone. It also makes a great primer under lipstick.

Problem: The winter itchies
Solution: Vaseline Intensive Care Advanced Repair
I wrote about this lotion in the fall after I received it from Influenster for testing purposes. I have to say, I’m still loving it as my go-to winter body lotion. Non-greasy and fragrance free, it provides deep moisture and has kept my skin comfortable for the past couple of months. You can read more about my testing experience here.

Benefit Advent Calendar Days 15 – 21

I can hardly believe that there are only three days left in the calendar, but I can’t lie – I’m beyond excited! I’m enjoying the holiday season more this year than I have in recent memory, and I have a feeling this festive little calendar may have had something to do with it. It could also be that I have a wonderful husband and fabulous friends and family to help me celebrate. Perhaps a little of both!
Benefit Ooh-la-lift and That Gal
This week was filled with a good variety of treasures, some better than others. Day 15 held a little vial of Ooh-La-Lift, an under eye brightener that I’ve always wanted to try. Unfortunately, after several uses, I have to say that it didn’t do much of anything for me. I didn’t see a change in my under eye appearance at all, and it’s milky texture made it feel too slippery for my face.

Day 16 revealed a mini bottle of High Beam, which is pretty much my favorite Benefit product and the secret to looking well-rested when you just aren’t. Swipe and blend over cheek and brow bones and BAM! You’re glowing. Not surprisingly, I have a bottle of it already, so this one went to my lovely sister!

The notepad behind door 17 is cute but probably too small to be useful – a little disappointing. Day 18 held a little bottle of “That Gal” brightening face primer. Now, if you’ll remember, I was burned by the last primer I tried from this calendar (dry patches! chalky skin!), but I gathered my courage and gave this one a try. Here’s what I found: even though I didn’t notice any brightening effects, my makeup stayed pretty much flawless all day! Again, I’m not a huge fan of primers, but if you’re looking for one, this one goes on very smoothly and really did make my makeup last.
Benefit Ultra Plush Lip Gloss in Fauxmance and Watt's Up
Door 19 was hiding another hair tie, and this one is by far my favorite – a lovely light blush-pink sort of color with tiny white polka dots. I could not love the color more, and the tie is working very well – it’s in my hair as I type this!

Day 20’s gift was another Ultra Plush Lip Gloss, this one in the shade Fauxmance. It’s kind of a berry purple-pink shade in the tube but is sort of reddish on the lips. I haven’t decided if I like the color yet or not, but to be honest, I’m still so in love with the Dandelion gloss I received earlier in the month that I’m not really looking for a replacement just yet!

Today’s treat was a tube of Watt’s Up, a golden champagne shimmery highlighter. Another favorite of mine, and lately it’s been my go-to – I swipe it beneath my brows, blend and go. I still have a little left in my current tube, but this one will go into my beauty stash to replace it when it’s gone. I’m thrilled to have another one!

Be sure to check back on Christmas Eve to find out what’s behind the final three doors!

October 2014 Empties

I worked my way through lots of little samples last month, nearing the end of some of my beauty stashes! I actually used the last conditioner that I had when I started the ban almost a year ago, which means I was able to buy a bottle of new conditioner! I’m on my final bottle of shampoo as well, and I continue to work my way through body lotions. Happily, I found some real winners last month:
October 2014 Empties
Vaseline Total Moisture Clean Feeling Lotion: I’ve been a fan of Vaseline lotions over the years – they typically absorb quickly and leave skin soft and smooth. This lotion did that, but with side of clogged pores! Not a fan of body breakouts; I will not be repurchasing this one.

Fekkai Glossing Shampoo: Fekkai Glossing Cream was my first hair product love, and this shampoo is just as good! Not only did it leave my hair soft and shiny, it also gave it a good amount of bounce! As a devoted volumizing shampoo fan, I found this quite impressive for a shine enhancing shampoo.

Fekkai Glossing Conditioner: Like its counterpart, I found this conditioner delightful. Soft, shiny, not-weighed-down hair in a bottle.

Johnson’s Baby Shampoo: I’m not sure how this made its way into my stash, but I used it up. I like the scent – it smells like apples to me – and it cleaned my hair, but I didn’t feel like it did anything to clean my scalp. I’ll leave this one to the babies.

The Naked Bee Moisturizing Hand & Body Lotion: This 70% organic lotion is a surprising treat. The lotion is not very thick but it worked miracles on my cuticles. It’s a nice, gentle lotion, but those sensitive to scents beware – the orange blossom scent is quite strong.

L’Occitane Amande Shower Oil: I can’t tell you how long this little bottle sat in my shower before I decided to give it a try, but I instantly wished I had done so sooner. The rich almond scent and silky lather make it a joy to use and it left my skin feeling clean and soft. Winner!

Maybelline Dream Fresh BB: This is not a new product for me, and it did not let me down. It’s so easy to use, adding polish and smoothing skin in one quick step. I maintain that this is the best BB cream value on the market.

Alterna Bamboo Volume Abundant Volume Shampoo: This shampoo has kind of a sexy, masculine scent, and it adds nice volume.

Alterna Bamboo Volume Abundant Volume Conditioner
: It shares the sexy scent of its shampoo sister, but it wasn’t as moisturizing as I like my conditioner to be and it didn’t do much to add shine.

Shu Uemura Cleansing Oil Shampoo: This may have been my favorite find of the month. I’m always skeptical of oils – they can either add silky shine or a pile of grease. This shampoo fell in the first category. Not only did it leave my hair feeling super clean and unbelievably soft and healthy, it also cleansed and moisturized my scalp without adding grease – a major find as we head into the dry winter months!

Dove Deep Moisture Nourishing Body Wash: A solid body wash – you can read my review and experience with the #oneshowerchallenge here.

September 2014 Empties

Exciting news from the shopping ban front: I’m now down to the last of the little shampoo and conditioner packets in my beauty stash, which means that the purchase of new shampoo and conditioner is on the horizon! Hooray! If you have some new recommendations that I simply must try, please feel free to leave them in the comments!

As you can see, I’ve been a busy beauty blogger this month! I’ve got lots of empties to report on, so let’s get right to it:
September 2014 Empties
Bumble & Bumble Surf Crème Rinse Conditioner: This conditioner is supposed to encourage the natural, beachy waves in your hair. The package recommends letting your hair air dry. When I used this product as directed, paired with its coordinating shampoo (see below), it made my hair extra wavy. When I used it as a regular conditioner and followed with my usual heat styling, it still brought a little wave to my hair, in a very pretty way. I’d say this is a useful product if wavy hair is a look you’re after!

Bumble & Bumble Surf Foam Wash Shampoo: This shampoo lathers up satisfyingly well and left my hair feeling super clean. However, in addition to bringing out the waves in my hair, it brought out the frizz. Followed by the appropriate frizz fighter this could be a real winner for days when you want to rock beachy surfer girl hair.

Bliss Vanilla & Bergamot Soapy Suds Body Wash & Bubbling Bath: I am a huge fan of this sweet scent, having fallen for it when I discovered the Bliss body scrub featuring this combo. Unfortunately, I felt like this body wash left something to be desired. I had to use a lot of it (like eight or nine pumps) to get enough of a lather to wash head to toe and it didn’t leave me feeling all that fresh and clean. I will not be repurchasing this one.

Murad Pomegranate Exfoliating Mask: This has been a staple in my skincare stockpile for years. It’s a great brightening mask that is perfect for combination skin.

JR Watkins Natural Apothecary Lavender Hand & Body Lotion: I’d call this an average body lotion. I like it best as a hand cream. It’s a little thick and takes a while to absorb, but isn’t all that moisturizing. Plus, I found it occasionally clogged pores on my body.

Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleansing Cloths: As you can see, these have made it into the regular lineup in my household. I love them. You can read more about them here.

Fekkai Salon Glaze Clear Shine Rinse: This at-home glaze is supposed to add shine and boost color. It made my locks feel extra strong and healthy, but did little to improve shine and made my hair incredibly flat. As a big Fekkai fan, I found this one quite disappointing.

Jergens Ultra Healing Extra Dry Skin Moisturizer: If you’re on the lookout for a more moisturizing body lotion now that fall is upon us, run, don’t walk, to your nearest drug store and snag a bottle of this stuff. I love it! It absorbs so fast, has a mild but delightfully clean scent, and leaves skin super soft. Winner!

Degree Motionsense Shower Clean Invisible Solid: I’ve been using this for months, and it’s still a solid deodorant, but I’m feeling like I need a change. Any suggestions for top-notch antiperspirants would be much appreciated!

Disney Resorts H2O+ Grapefruit Bergamot Conditioner: This little conditioner came home with us on a recent trip to Disney World, so it makes sense that it basically smells like vacation. It’s also a really high quality conditioner, and left my hair noticeably stronger – I lost far fewer hairs in the shower while using it!

Disney Resorts H2O+ Grapefruit Bergamot Shampoo: As with the conditioner, I loved the smell. It has a weird, almost gelatinous texture, but got my hair very clean and left it shiny.

Pantene Pro-V Fine Hair Solutions 2 in 1 Volume Shampoo & Conditioner: This is one of those bottles that has been sitting in my shower forever. It’s a perfectly decent 2 in 1 product, and it is a wonderful volumizer. It can be drying, so I would avoid it in the colder winter months. Other than that, it smells great and is perfect for days when you’re short on time.

Good Hair Day in a Bottle: Clear Total Care Nourishing Conditioner

Clear Total Care Nourishing ConditionerThis week, while working my way through various sample packets of shampoos and conditioners, I stumbled upon what has quickly become my new favorite conditioner: Clear Scalp & Hair Therapy Total Care Nourishing Conditioner. I had samples of both the shampoo and conditioner in Clear’s Total Care line, and while the shampoo didn’t really do anything for me – it would be a better choice for more coarse or dry hair types – the conditioner really blew me away. Here’s why:

1. It made my hair do exactly what I want it to do. You know that thing we all try to get our hair to do, where it falls just perfectly, not too flat, not too poufy, just soft and shiny and perfectly framing your face? Yeah, my hair did that when I used this conditioner. Like magic.

2. My hair instantly felt healthier. After one use, I noticed that it felt thicker and stronger. After two uses, I feel like I have the flowing mane of a hair model. Seriously, it’s that good.

3. It smells amazing. The scent is reminiscent of the old-school Herbal Essences shampoos. All day after using it, I felt pretty just because my hair smelled so good.

So there you have it, a drugstore conditioner that makes you look, feel and smell pretty. What are you waiting for? Go buy some!

August 2014 Empties

It occurred to me the other night that I’m nearly done with eight months of this yearlong shopping ban. Eight months! I have to say, there have been some very tempting moments recently. Every time a new Allure Beauty Box comes out I feel a strong need to purchase it, and some of the new fall nail colors are just beautiful! But, I’ve come this far; what’s four months more? Now, a look at what I cleared from the bathroom shelves this month:
August 2014 Empties
Fresh Sugar Rose Tinted Lip Treatment: The Fresh Sugar balms are all amazing, and this is probably my favorite. It has a nice soft rosy tint that instantly adds polish to any look. It’s also very moisturizing and gentle on sensitive skin.

Number 4 Lumiere d’hiver Clarifying Shampoo: By design, this shampoo doesn’t lather up very much, which I dislike in a shampoo. It did clean and clarify my hair and scalp, and left very clean and shiny hair in its wake. However, I found my hair got a bit greasy within a few hours of using it. It also has sort of an earthy, spicy scent that I didn’t love.

Colgate Cavity Protection Flouride Toothpaste: Plain ol’ Colgate. What can I say? It’s a quality toothpaste that always leaves my mouth feeling clean.

Clarisonic Refreshing Gel Cleanser: I was impressed with this fresh-smelling cleanser right away. Though it’s formatted for normal to oily skin, I didn’t find it to be drying, and it left my skin soft and clear, whether or not I used it with my Clarisonic brush.

Crest 3D White Multi-Care Whitening Rinse: If you’re into whitening your teeth – and really, who isn’t? – I find that using a whitening rinse really helps improve the effectiveness of your overall plan. I really like this rinse – it works well and has a great flavor, leaving you with nice fresh breath and no burning mouthwash sensation!

Boscia Super-Cool De-Puffing Eye Balm: I buy this again and again. I don’t know how I would get by without it, especially on hot summer days and whenever I don’t get enough sleep. It feels amazing and de-puffs quickly. Get it!

L’Oreal EverCreme Deep Nourishing Masque: I’m so glad I tried this sample! Such a winner. This deep conditioning masque left my hair so soft I couldn’t stop playing with it. It also has a rich, cocoa-buttery scent that I adore. I will definitely be repurchasing this!

Jergens Daily Moisture Dry Skin Moisturizer: I’ve been trying to use up this jumbo bottle of lotion for the entire year! Don’t get me wrong, this is a solid moisturizer that I would highly recommend. It doesn’t have much of a scent, absorbs quickly and doesn’t clog pores. It’s lightweight enough to use in the summer but moisturizing enough to use in the winter. An overall winner; I’ll just get a smaller bottle next time!

July 2014 Empties

Another month has come and gone, and other than last week’s Baby Lips slip, I’m chugging right along with my shopping ban. My shower is starting to look rather empty, which is not something I’ve been able to say in a long, long time. Here’s what I used up during the month of July:
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Oscar Blandi Balsamo di Jasmine Smoothing Conditioner: If you like the smell of jasmine, which I definitely do, there are few conditioners on earth that smell as amazing as this one. It also leaves hair shiny and soft, and really helps keep frizz at bay. My husband also really liked using it as a shaving cream – it’s apparently very easy on the skin!

Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleansing Cloths: Since I just wrote about these, I won’t go into much detail here. Suffice it to say that they work well and did not last long!

Clarins Water Purify One-Step Cleanser: This is another quick and easy cleanser – just pour some on a cotton pad and swipe it across your face. I’ve returned to this refreshing waterless cleanser again and again over the years. It can be a little drying, so I’d recommend it to those with oily skin, or as a summertime cleanser for those with normal or combination skin.

Herbal Essences Hello Hydration Moisturizing Conditioner: This is a decent conditioner that smells like vacation. I often use this conditioner as a shaving cream.

Maybelline Dream Fresh BB: I’ve written about this BB cream before. It’s my spring/summer favorite. It contains SPF 30, covers blemishes and withstands high heat and humidity. The tint is not quite light enough for my basically translucent skin during the winter months, which is the only reason I don’t use it year-round!

Dr. Lipp Original Nipple Balm for Lips: This teeny .1 ounce tube of balm was my surprise favorite this month. This itty bitty tube lasted me months of daily use. Not only that, but a tiny dab on my lips every night kept my lips soft and supple. I’ve found that other thick lip balms can make the skin around my mouth break out, but that hasn’t been a problem at all with this one. A new favorite, for sure!

June 2014 Empties

Happy summer readers! Another month has come and gone, and with it, a big pile of empties – I’ve been busy testing and trying a variety of products. I’m also learning some important beauty shopping lessons. The most important one so far? If, like me, you are a beauty blogger or product enthusiast who enjoys buying and trying lots of different products, do not under any circumstances buy a jumbo-sized bottle of anything. Deluxe samples and travel sized version are perfect for girls like us, and give us a chance at actually finishing a bottle of something in a reasonable amount of time. Which brings me to my first empty:
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Pantene Pro-V Fine Hair Solutions Volume Shampoo: This has been my go-to shampoo for many years, which is probably why I purchased a giant bottle of it in the first place. Now, sure, I’ve tried other little bottles of shampoo here and there, but I’m pretty sure it took me a year to finish this one! It’s a great volumizer, although it can be a little drying. I love the fresh clean scent. This is certainly a solid drugstore buy – just make sure you pick up a smaller bottle.

Boscia Clear Complexion Willow Bark Spot Treatment: I’ve written about this skincare savior a couple times before, so I’ll be brief. It takes care of blemishes, quickly, and it comes in a convenient little pen. It’s awesome.

Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Extra Strength Alpha Beta Face Peel: I accidentally purchased a box of the extra strength peels instead of the regular ones, which I swear by. These are also amazing for smoothing your skin and getting you glowy in minutes. I have somewhat sensitive skin and I found these only very mildly irritating. If you have highly sensitive skin, I’d avoid this strength.

Secret Invisible Solid: I took this tiny deodorant with me on vacation and finished it up when I returned. It keeps sweat and odors at bay, but I’m not crazy about the scent, and it rubbed off on some of my clothing.

Freeman Facial Brightening Paper Mask in Rose: What a little gem! This serum-infused paper mask brightens skin in 3 to 5 minutes. I left it on for 4, and woke up to noticeably fresher looking skin the next day. I found it easy to use and very pleasant. I’ll definitely buy these again.

Bath & Body Works White Citrus Shower Gel: This super sudsy body wash has a light, clean fresh scent that’s just right for summer. A quality cleanser for sure.

Nuxe Multi-Usage Dry Oil: This hair, face and body oil smells absolutely heavenly, but my praise for it ends there. I used this sample on my hair, and the results were disastrous. The first time I tried it, I used a very small amount, and it left my hair both flat and frizzy. The second time I decided to use a bit more, and my hair was so greasy that I had to slick it back and pretend I was going for the oily look. Perhaps my hair is just too fine for this type of oil.

Crest 3D White Flouride Anticavity Toothpaste: I just wrote about the full-sized version of this, so there’s not much more to say. A standby whitening toothpaste!

Nick Chavez Beverly Hills Advanced Volume Shampoo: I think I may have found my new favorite volumizing shampoo! This stuff has a scent that I can only describe as a cross between bubblegum and sour apple. It made my hair so bouncy and soft, and really helped keep frizz at a minimum. I definitely recommend it for fine-haired ladies.

April 2014 Empties

I know it’s a bit early in the month for an empties post, but considering the pace at which I’ve been using up products these past few weeks, it just makes sense. This month I’m saying goodbye to a couple of old standbys and discovering some new favorites:
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Aussie Moist 3 Minute Miracle: Even if you’ve never read this blog you’ve probably heard of this drugstore dynamo. It is hands down the best conditioner I have ever used. It’s ultra nourishing, leaves hair shiny and detangled but never greasy or limp, smells great and has a drugstore price tag.

Caldrea Coconut Fig Leaf Body Lotion: A nice lightweight body lotion that absorbs quickly and with absolutely no stickiness. I recommend this lotion for warmer weather as it isn’t very heavy and leaves skin feeling smooth and soft, even on humid days.

Clinique All About Eyes Rich: This has been my go-to eye cream and I’ve recommended it to many friends and family members who are now devoted fans as well. The cream improves just about any eye issue you might be trying to fix – puffiness, dark circles, wrinkles, you name it.

???????????????????????????????Thymes Lavender Body Lotion: I slathered this deliciously scented body lotion on my hands and arms before bed. Not only did I sleep like a baby every night I did this, but I awoke with soft skin and a light lavender scent still lingering on my arms and pillow. A definite winner – adding to the “must buy” list!

Bath & Body Works Coconut Lime Verbena Volumizing Shampoo: My only complaint about this shampoo was that I wish I had a bigger bottle! It has an exotic scent that brightened my whole day, cleaned both hair and scalp exceptionally well, and left my hair so soft and light that I couldn’t stop touching it all day.

Bath & Body Works Coconut Lime Verbena Volumizing Conditioner: A decent conditioner, it shares the delightful scent of its shampoo sister and worked wonderfully as a stand-in shaving cream.

Osmia Organics Spot Treatment: This organic blemish fighter is my skincare secret weapon and I am very sad to see it go. It is made up of a blend of oils that zap blemishes, pimples and random skin bumps in a matter of days, sometimes hours. If you have any lingering spots that you can’t seem to shake, buy this now. You won’t regret it!