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.

Get Naked: Urban Decay Naked Skin Weightless Complete Coverage Concealer

Urban Decay Naked Skin Weightless Complete Coverage ConcealerIt’s finally starting to warm up around here – a few days have even felt downright summery – and that means it’s time to transition into my summertime skincare and makeup routine. In addition to swapping out my extra mild cleanser and heavy winter moisturizers for some more lightweight options (more on these coming soon!), I’ve started to seek out a lighter, breezier makeup routine.

As the weather gets nicer my skin tends to be less dry and more even-toned, which means I don’t need a whole lot of makeup to look and feel pulled together. A nice BB cream with SPF and a long lasting concealer to cover any random spots are really all I need. Enter Urban Decay Naked Weightless Complete Coverage Concealer, AKA my new favorite concealer. I have always preferred concealer that comes in a tube (rather than a stick), and since this one actually came in a light enough shade to match my skin tone, I had to have it. It has a creamy texture that goes on lightly, which means I can blend it easily and it doesn’t have the dry, flaky finish that so many concealers do. Also, it really is a perfect match for my complexion; if I do nothing else, I can pat this concealer onto any blemishes or red spots and my complexion looks even and natural. Plus, it provides coverage all day without getting greasy or dry.

It also camouflages dark under eye circles, but a word of caution: use the absolute least amount of product possible here. I’ve found it creases after a bit if I’ve used too much!

If you’re in the market for a good all-purpose concealer, I highly recommend this one.

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!

Brand Crush: NYX

A couple of months ago, during an out of town shopping trip, I made my first visit to Ulta. The closest one to me is located an hour away, in a city I don’t often visit, and so I had never before had the pleasure of shopping in what I quickly determined was the best of both beauty-shopping worlds: a vast variety of high-end hair, skin and beauty products mixed with drugstore favorites. What more could you want?

NYX packaging almost exactly matches the shade of the product inside, making it easy to select one you'll like.

NYX packaging almost exactly matches the shade of the product inside, making it easy to select one you’ll like.

Winding my way through the store, I filled my basket as I made my way to the NYX display. I’ve read a lot about NYX; its lip butters are beauty blogger favorites, and it seems that every time I pick up a magazine these days another NYX product is being recommended. Since none of the stores in my neck of the woods carry this brand, I decided I’d pick up a few things to try. I fell in love immediately.

The first thing I tested was the Infinite Shadow Stick in Flushed. A shimmery champagne gold, this eye crayon glides on smoothly, is highly pigmented, and has definite staying power. It’s incredibly easy to apply and instantly made my eyes look brighter. I felt “done” without being overly made up. Who wouldn’t love that?

My second NYX product, which was equally enchanting, was the Butter Lip Balm in Parfait, a super fun hot pink. This light balm goes on sheer but can be easily layered for more intense color. It feels nice and the color lasts much longer than any of the other balms in my collection – it’s sort of like the staying power of a lipstick in the body of a lip balm. It’s perfect.

Me, sporting NYX Infinite Shadow Stick in Flushed on my eyes and NYX Butter Lip Balm in Parfait on my lips.

Me, sporting NYX Infinite Shadow Stick in Flushed on my eyes and NYX Butter Lip Balm in Parfait on my lips.

Next I tried the Butter Gloss in Crème Brulee. This is a soft nude shade that is ultra feminine – perfect for days when I’m feeling extra ladylike. The Butter Gloss goes on like satin. It’s smooth and creamy and leaves your lips feeling extra moisturized. It’s not sticky, and the moisture lasts and lasts. If you’re a lip gloss fan, you’re sure to fall for this one.

One thing that I really like about NYX packaging is that it almost exactly matches the shade of the product inside, which makes it easier to select one you’ll like. And they are so easy to use, they make the whole idea of effortless beauty seem a bit more attainable. Not to mention the fact that NYX products are very reasonably priced (the lip products mentioned here ring in at less than $5 a piece; the eye crayon is less than $10!). So, to recap, NYX makes it easy to find what you’re looking for, the products do what you want them to do, and you’ll look gorgeous without spending a fortune. NYX, where have you been all my life?

What NYX products are you crushing on?

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?

Birchbox Best: Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid

The secret to lovely winter skin.

The secret to lovely winter skin.

As you may remember, I received a Birchbox this month for the first time in over a year. To celebrate the return of the beauty subscription, I’ve decided to give a monthly shout out to the best new find (or finds). This month I had a really great selection of items, but there was one real standout product: Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid. This mild exfoliant says it’s good for all skin types, and as someone with sensitive skin, I’m typically weary of that. However, after reading copious reviews on the Birchbox website, I was convinced that it was gentle enough to give it a try. I’m so glad I did!

The product claims to even skin tone, reduce redness, build collagen and unclog pores. It can be used once or twice a day, after cleansing and before moisturizing. I simply pour some on a cotton pad and swipe it on during my nightly cleansing routine. I have to say, I am blown away by this product! It didn’t aggravate my skin at all – in fact, while my skin was in the height of winter craziness, this product calmed it down! After one day my skin looked less blotchy and had fewer dry patches. After my second use, the flaky patches were completely gone and my skin felt super smooth. On day three my skin looked more even and felt better than it had in months. There’s no going back for me; this little skin saver is going into my arsenal forever!
The Balm Read My Lips Lip Gloss in BAM!
Runner Up: There was another new product definitely worth mentioning in my February Birchbox – The Balm Read My Lips Lip Gloss in BAM! This a creamy, shiny gloss with sort of a liquid lipstick type of feel to it. It’s super long lasting and this shade, a rosy pink, is very pretty and feminine. I’m loving it as a weekday lip gloss – perfect for the office!

The Long Overdue Benefit Advent Calendar Finale

Happy New Year lovely readers! I hope you are having a beautiful start to the new year. I woke up this morning feeling very optimistic about the year to come, pondering what my beauty resolution should be this year (more on that later) and realizing that my final Benefit Advent Calendar post is long overdue. As such, my first order of beauty blog business this year is to finally tell you all what treasures I received on the final three days before Christmas!
Benefit Bad Gal Lash, Cha Cha Tint and Fake Up
Day 22 held a tube of Bad Gal Lash mascara. I’ve mentioned this mascara before on the blog. I used it in college, and it was quite literally the prettiest my lashes ever looked. However, something about the formula stung and burned my sensitive eyes, so I had to give it up. I haven’t given this mini a try yet, but I’ve decided I am going to give Bad Gal another go, just in case the formula has changed. I’ll let you know how that goes in the near future.

Behind door 23 was a mini of Cha Cha Tint, which might be the only Benefit complexion enhancer that I didn’t already have! Like the others it gives a nice subtle wash of color. This one is a soft peachy shade that I think would be great for spring.

Christmas Eve revealed a mini of Fake Up, a moisturizing under eye concealer that I recently wrote about here. Since my tube is almost gone, I was delighted to add this one to my stash!

So, 2014 is officially behind us, which means the shopping ban is officially over! I’ll be posting this month about my experience with the ban and what I learned from it. In the mean time, I want to know what your beauty resolutions are! I still haven’t decided what to do this year, and I might just steal your idea. Please feel free to leave suggestions in the comments!

Thanks for a great year, readers!

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!

Benefit Advent Calendar Days 10 – 14

Hello my pretties! With Christmas fast approaching I’ve been a holiday-partying fool this past week! Add in some present-wrapping and Christmas shopping and I’ve barely had a second to rest, let alone update all of you on what’s been inside my advent calendar! We’ve got five days to cover, so let’s jump right in.

Days 11 and 13 both featured items that I already have and adore: Benetint and Posietint. If you’re not familiar with these lip and cheek stains I suggest you check them out, because they are the ultimate I-just-happen-to-naturally-have-this-gorgeous-flush products. Posietint is my favorite summertime tint, while Benetint is a classic red that’s great for parties. Since I already have bottles of both, I gifted them to my sister!
Benefit Total Moisture Facial Cream and Stay Flawless Primer
Unfortunately, day 10 gave me the first dud of the calendar – Stay Flawless 15-Hour Primer. This little primer stick comes in adorable polka dot packaging, but my love for it ends there. It did nothing to extend the life of my makeup, and made me look far less flawless than I normally do – it made my dry spots even flakier and gave me a somewhat chalky appearance. Not cute.

The advent calendar gods must have known that my skin was in need of some TLC, because behind door number 12 was a nice little jar of Total Moisture Facial Cream. It has more of a perfumey smell than I’m used to in a moisturizer, and that made me a little nervous, but so far it hasn’t bothered my skin at all and after one use I woke up with much softer, less itchy and non-flaky skin – hooray!

Today’s gift was an elastic hair band with a bow charm on it. Cute, but a little too youthful for my style – I’ll be gifting it to one of the littler beauties in my life!

What Benefit product is on your wish list this year?