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

Advertisements

to shop / uniqlo lately (oct 2018)

I found myself in Uniqlo over the weekend, which is rare as I am much more of an online shopper. The Columbus Day long weekend sales are in full swing.

Blocktech Soutien Collar Coat


I love outerwear pieces and Uniqlo is great at nailing practical, affordable options with their Heattech/Blocktech/Airism technology. I saw this one in the store. The material was softer and lighter than I’d expected (from prior Blocktech purchases). This coat reminds me of something I had from Gap circa 2002, minus the hood (which can be removed) and the nifty Blocktech.

The Uniqlo store didn’t have the size/color I wanted, so I checked their online store. I don’t understand why Uniqlo likes to do this. There are two products named WOMEN BLOCKTECH SOUTIEN COLLAR COAT with different SKUs, prices, same content, and some overlapping colors. That is a challenge with buying online – you can have the same fabric content but very different weight/feel.

Extra fine cotton A-line striped 3/4 sleeve dress which I posted is on sale along with the shirt version.

Fleece coatigan and Fleece Collarless Jacket looked great in person, especially the lighter colors. The pockets on othe coatigan do add bulk if not laid flat. Although the fleece “cardigan” coat from the Uniqlo U collection last fall/winter still wins in style.

Images: Uniqlo

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 shop / amazon prime day review (sonos, wifi extender, ecovacs deebot)

Prime Day this year was more exciting than prior years due to the extra discounts for Amex cardholders. (This may have been a coincidence.) Review of my new toys:

(1) TP-Link AC750 Dual Band WiFi Range Extender, Repeater, Access Point
I’m the tech support person at home. My Verizon FIOS modem and router is tucked away in a metal cabinet in a closet. While this is easier for the eyes, this is horrible for the wifi connection from the furthest ends of home. This device was a Prime Day flash deal and I happened to check Amazon at the right time of day, but I’d happily pay their current price for this useful device. It was by coincidence that this was also well rated by Wirecutter. FWIW, TP-Link is a Taiwanese brand and I’ve purchased multiple products with no issues.

(2) Sonos One Speaker
Works well with Pandora, Amazon Prime Music, Spotify, etc. Love the sound quality and I can control it from my laptop or phone app. Packaging is as beautiful as any Apple product’s. I didn’t enable Alexa.

(3) ECOVACS DEEBOT N79S Robot Vacuum Cleaner
This is my first robot vacuum cleaner. I have yet to schedule it to clean when I’m not home but there is an app for that. It’s super easy to setup and navigates my mostly hardwood floors and rugs seamlessly. When I saw it go under my vanity, bed, couches, tv stand to access areas that would require moving of furniture to vacuum, I was pretty sold. It picks up hair extremely well. It is pretty easy to clean and gross to see how much random dust accumulates! Time is limited so this is one area of my life I happily will defer to bots for. This is a fair priced vacuum. There were additional discounts on Prime Day, but the price today isn’t that far off.

review / want les essentiels mini ohare leather tote



Want Les Essentiels has been tempting me for a long time with their leather products. I picked up the Mini O’Hare mini leather tote in black. It comes in various colors and the black was certainly the hardest to find on sale.

Continue reading “review / want les essentiels mini ohare leather tote”