to pamper / beauty box review (allure, birchbox, sephora play)

If you’re interested in a beauty box, the Allure Beauty Box has been impressive. I subscribed in December 2017 when I heard of the January spoilers (a full size $85 Sunday Riley serum). They have a good balance of prestige and non-prestige brands. Value-wise, it is easy to pick 1-2 products in the box that exceed the $15/monthly fee*. The box contains a booklet that explains each product and discounts for the full size. You can go month to month, which is what I do.

A sample of what’s been in my boxes:

  • October 2018: 7 products. Sunday Riley x 2, Caudalie, Hourglass mascara, YSL lipgloss, etc. Valued at $86.

  • September 2018: 5 products, 2 were full size. Drunk Elephant Babyfacial, full size MAC lipstick, Tarte x 2, IGK, etc. Valued at $66.

  • August 2018: 6 products, 2 were full size. Laneige, Caudalie, Eyeko, etc. Valued at $69.
  • July 2018: 8 products, 1 was full size. Olay, Ouai, Sunday Riley, etc. Valued at $110.
  • June 2018: 5 products, 3 were full size. Kat Von D and Ole Henricksen. Valued at $69.

I prefer skincare and I like when the products are prestige brands or interesting products from the smaller/mass brands. I don’t wear makeup often but the offered brands tend to be prestige (like Make Up For Ever, MAC) and/or a product that I would actually use (like highlighter or lip product). Hair products are not in every box. No perfume samples to date!

Perhaps a part of their success is not customizing their boxes like their competitors below (excluding color variations for makeup). Spoilers are usually available, e.g., here is November’s. I like the spoilers – no surprise needed here.

Signup link through Allure (they have gift subscriptions)
My referral link
* – first box is $10, subsequent boxes are $15 each. One year is $150. I tried cancelling after 2 months and they offered me 4 boxes for $10.

Signup through Amazon (While you may get an older box as first box and don’t get a $5 discount on your first box, you don’t have to deal with Allure’s customer service. Not that I had issues with them when trying to cancel via e-mail. Recommended if you have issues with getting mail as you’ll be dealing with Amazon and it also sounds like they ship faster.)

Alternatives

  • Birchbox:$10/month. I did Birchbox for a bit, stopped, restarted, and then stopped again after they devalued their program. Birchbox is still quite good for shopping, especially during November sales, for discovery kits and value sets. I like higher end brands and while Birchbox sells them, their customized boxes don’t consistently have them. Is the box worth the $10? Not to me. The brands also tend to repeat, which is not a good thing when it is not an appealing brand. I also think there is room to improve the website, which in my opinion, is hard to shop and lacks filtering/sorting functions that are common in most other sites.
  • Sephora Play: $10/month. This was super exciting when it initially launched and registration was limited but it fizzed out for me and I cancelled after 10 months. It had too much makeup/perfume, some skincare that wasn’t appealing, Sephora Collection products, or it started repeating. This is great for someone who isn’t picky. I ended up selling most of what I got. A non-committal alternative is buying the Play boxes that aren’t monthly or past monthly boxes when Sephora clears them out.

All images from Allure.com

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to pamper / tata harper concentrated brightening serum & huxley brightly ever after essence

Like many other Asians, my skin is prone to hyperpigmentation, freckles, sun spots, etc. It’s not just about sun exposure, it’s also about temperature. I regularly use brightening products to keep the spots at bay.

I’m reviewing two empties today: Tata Harper Concentrated Brightening Serum and Huxley Secret of Sahara Brightly Ever After

(1) Tata Harper Concentrated Brightening Serum

Tata Harper is an American natural beauty brand and I love the concept of clean, natural beauty, but it’s pretty expensive. Products in green colored packaging are her standard line (previously mentioned). Products in yellow colored packaging are pricier and not sold as pervasively as the green line, but has a wider distribution than it used to.

What’s In It? I don’t really read ingredients as my skin is not sensitive, but I looked for reviews (there weren’t that many useful ones). I regularly use Tata products and know that she would never put silicones into her products. From her website: A blend of targeted technology takes a triple-action approach to fighting and minimizing the appearance of dark spots. Brassica Napus and Sea Fern Extract helps to minimize the appearance of dark spots. Colorless Carotenoids help prevent the appearance of dark spots, and Norwegian Kelp boosts glow and helps reduce the look of dark spots.

Texture: It has a consistency of a light lotion unlike what you think of as a serum. For the summer, I used it with the True Botanicals Vitamin C Booster powder mixed in. It mixed really well. I use it after any liquid products, like the Sulwhasoo First Care Activating Serum and Water. Even in the hot summer days, it never felt heavy.

Smell: Nothing memorable. I think it smells floral/natural?

How Long It Lasts: I used about 1-2 pumps in the morning. I don’t remember when I started using it (I hate breaking into expensive products and sometimes do it slowly), but I would guess late winter through early October. That’s over half a year for the 1 fl oz and there was a scant amount left after the pump stopped working.

Does It Work? Yes, it does brighten. I noticed it one day after a month of almost daily usage. I have some old, dark spots that didn’t budge, not that I expected them to.

Packaging: Externally, Tata’s products are 5 stars. Internally, it’s also 5 stars. The airless pump works perfectly to deposit the right amount and to keep it hygienic. Glass bottle bottom, but not a deterrent for traveling light.

Pricing: Tata Harper is by no means budget-friendly. Let alone the yellow line. I got it for 30% off (US sales tax included in calculation) by purchasing it from the UK site Cult Beauty during their 20% off Black Friday sale stacked with cashback from another site. Also, there was a very nice Tata Harper gift with purchase, which I placed value on. Purchasing from Cult Beauty means that VAT is removed for US orders and you are also not charged duty tax.

Note on Cult Beauty: I think they send US-bound packages in bulk from the UK to a US third party, aircitypost, which then mails it out. It took 5 weeks(!) for me to get my package. Aircitypost messed up my address (what happened to copy and paste?). Cult Beauty service was 3 stars out of 5. My order also came with a time sensitive coupon. Needless to say, I didn’t shop from them again, but may consider it in the future. Also, the plastic on the inside of the glass container has been warped since I got it – mystery solved after I pulled the top off of the empty bottle.

Would I Buy It Again? Maybe, but I rather try other products first. There are so many.

Where to Buy (available at more stockists than last year):
Tata Harper (especially if want Tata samples)
Nordstrom (sometimes great with stackable gifts with purchase)
NET-A-PORTER (also on their global sites)
Bloomingdales
Neiman Marcus
GOOP
24Sevres
Cult Beauty

(2) Huxley Secret of Sahara Brightly Ever After Essence

Huxley is a mid-range Korean brand. I first heard of Huxley on Glow Recipe, but pretty much everything on that site can be found for a cheaper price elsewhere.

This is called an essence, but I treat it like a serum. The terms essence, ampoule, serum, and water can be confuing. I layer from light to heavy texture.

What’s In It? From Glow Recipe: Huxley’s star ingredient, the antioxidant-rich Prickly Pear Cactus Seed, is still present in the new line to protect and strengthen skin, while new players such as Niacinamide and Mulberry work overtime to supercharge and brighten the complexion. Even better, the milky texture quickly absorbs (seriously, so quickly) to keep your skin slick-free and ready for your moisturizer. It also has glutathione, bisabol, and silicone but I can’t tell for the latter.

Texture: It is heavier than water, but very runny. It’s strange to put an essence in a serum bottle, but this is when the strict definitions of Asian skincare items don’t apply. It spreads and absorbs easily. I also mixed the True Botanicals powder above with this one. It works better with a heavier formula, so I don’t recommend it.

Smell: All of their products have a clean, cactus smell. I love it.

How Long It Lasts: It lasted a while because I didn’t use it consistently. It got to a point where I was determined to finish it, so left it on my vanity to force myself to use it.

Does It Work? It makes my skin feel moisturized and there is some brightening effect, but nothing drastic. It is very easy to layer, despite the silicone ingredient.

Packaging: Huxley uses the same dropper bottle for other essences. The dropper bottle works better than it does on the Oil Essence, but the last bits get stuck and you have to shake it out. Overall, all their products have glass packaging that has a solid feel.

Pricing: Retails for $58 in the US, I got it for $20 + intl shipping from SweetCorea in Korea. I think it’s great for the latter price.

Would I Buy It Again? Maybe, for the same reason as above. I want to try other products.

Where to Buy
Anthropologie
Saks
Nordstrom
Revolve
YesStyle
SweetCorea (cheapest but shipping from Korea is added later, great for a haul)
Harvey Nichols

to pamper / sulwhasoo first care activating serum in plum blossom + 11st review

My friend recently went to Seoul. She asked if I needed anything, so I started looking into Sulwhasoo products. Even though I just came back from Asia myself. I discovered that Sulwhasoo has a limited edition First Care Activating Serum EX (FCAS) in a plum blossom scent 윤조에센스매화지향 (different than having limited edition packaging) and I was sold. However, it’s pretty hard to find, not sold at Lotte duty free, and wasn’t released in the U.S. eBay prices were totally hiked up, so off to Korean sites I went.

Sulwhasoo Research: I previously avoided the FCAS since it has a lot of alcohol, but was convinced after reading reviews online — Fifty Shades of Snail loves the FCAS and many other Sulwhasoo products, and there is this mega post from the Asianbeauty subreddit on Sulwhasoo (which I have copied into Word and notated). I don’t write off alcohol completely but leave it to those with more expertise to do the analysis.

Continue reading “to pamper / sulwhasoo first care activating serum in plum blossom + 11st review”

to pamper / jelly cleanser reviews (drunk elephant beste, glossier, lagom)

I’m fairly fond of Drunk Elephant (past mentions). However, I have not tried their sunscreens or soaps. Nor do I plan to. When DE dropped the new Beste jelly cleanser, I thought eh… why not. My experience was consistent with many lackluster reviews, I was not impressed. My skin is normal (I used to think it was combination). In general, I wash my face at least twice a day and do a double cleanse at least once a day. I tried this cleanser on dry skin, wet skin, as an only cleanser, and as a second cleanser.

  • Texture: A little goes a long way, but it felt slippery and stripped my skin of moisture despite having Marula oil and glycerin. Maybe it works better for oilier skin. It does foam up.
  • Packaging: People were extremely upset at the packaging. The bottom lid is concave, you turn it for the center opening to open and squeeze the tube to dispense cleanser. You turn it back and hear a click for it to lock in place. My bottle never leaked but others complained about it leaking. Also, if you leave it in any wet surface in an upright position, that can’t be hygienic. The tube comes in a cardboard box which has an internal black/white print, which leads a gray line on the right side of the tube.
  • Pricing: Drunk Elephant is by no means a wallet-friendly brand. This cleanser is $34 for 5 oz.

Compared with the other jelly cleansers you see here, or my favorite non-jelly second cleanser (Cerave Foaming Facial Cleanser), this cleanser is not worth keeping and already returned to Sephora.

Reviews of the other two cleansers. Both have hyaluronic acid, which is hydrating.

  • Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser. Thicker texture. I like it on wet skin. Nice packaging and it comes with stickers for customization. It has a smell – like a mild floral scent of a plastic toy from childhood – but it’s actually from rosewater. This is probably the only Glossier product I like aside from the lip balms. It’s slightly pricier than the next cleanser, but since it’s a thicker cleanser, you will have to use more to properly cleanse. I like trying new cleansers so most likely won’t rebuy. Referral link: 10% off first purchase.
  • Lagom Cellup Gel to Water cleanser. Lagom is a Korean brand. Gel = jelly. This cleanser is great — if you wanted a jelly cleanser in concept, this is the one to try. It does not strip at all. In fact, I think it’s super moisturizing*. I love how the gel dissolves into a watery consistency once you swipe it. Similar to the Beste, a little bit goes a long way. I would have be impressed if DE formulated a product like this. (*You will never get enough moisture from a cleanser — you still need actual moisturizer.) It’s also a large tube — at 7.44 fl oz for $17, the cost per oz is almost 1/3 of the Beste cleanser. Find it at Target and Peach & Lily (referral link: $10 off $50 for first purchase). This bottle is lasting me for a while since I rotate cleansers regularly. If I had to decide right now whether I would rebuy one day, I would say yes.

Happy Cleansing!