Friday, February 27, 2015

Budget Friendly Drugstore Skincare Brands

I've been wanting to this for awhile now but this idea just kept getting pushed back. Now with a definite drop in my subscription addiction there are less posts about unboxings and more posts about everything else tumbling around in my head! I love my high end products, there's a few things I will keep hitting up Sephora for, but on the other hand there are some great brands you can pick up at the drugstore that I don't believe get all the buzz that they deserve! Today I want to highlight some of these hidden gems. It's going to be mostly skincare or haircare focused because at this point I think everyone is familiar with all the great cheap makeup. It's a common misconception that good grooming (for lack of a better umbrella term) items must be expensive. It's the thought that using something to cleanse or care for yourself should be pricey so it's filled with good for you ingredients. This isn't necessarily true and I've found some great products at a very budget friendly price that everyone should consider looking at!

Simple. If you're like me you're like me you would have mistaken the plain packaging from this brand as a generic line, however it is packed with some amazing products. Touting items using minimal ingredients, my personal favorites are the gel moisturizer and dark circle roller ball for your eyes. These products are affordable and effective! Fun fact: they are the first to bring a reasonably priced cleansing water to the US and it's something I definitely want to get my hands on to try!

Garnier. While some items are a little pricier, this brand carries some of the most effective items in my opinion for those who suffer or have suffered from acne at a convenient drugstore location! My favorites include the dark spot corrector that in fact really works well to speed up the fading of acne scars, a full coverage BB cream that contains SPF in a non-greasy formula that stays matte all day, and a surprising one, which is an affordable cleansing oil which contrary to popular belief, is probably one of the best methods to thoroughly and gently cleanse an oily face. I could go on, but this is definitely a brand worth checking out, some of it is a little pricey for drugstore, however everything is affordable compared to designer products and work just as well if not better! Psst they have some pretty awesome hair products too including my HG dry shampoo!

Freeman's. This brand has every type of face mask and facial scrub under the sun and a large tube of the stuff hovers around the $3 mark! It's really worth it to try a few of them out because it really won't set you back too much! These items usually lurk on the bottom shelves of drugstores so people tend to overlook them, but next time you're in the store definitely squat down for a look!

Queen Helene. Home to my HG mint julep mask, this is another brand often overlooked. It has pretty plain and generic packaging, but everything I've tried from this line is fantastic. Ingredients are carefully mixed together for a well curated product that is effective while staying at a very affordable price. I do have a harder time finding these products but usually they can be spotted at Walmart and Bed Bath & Beyond!

What are some of your favorite drugstore skincare brands?

Thursday, February 26, 2015

What I Ate in Taiwan

Ever since my last What I Ate in Vegas I'm really a huge fan of these posts. To me, love is food, and what better way to experience and love a new place than to eat! That being said, I ate a LOT of things while I was in Taiwan last week so here is just a small sample of what went into my belly. I'll try my best to add captions for everything but honestly some things I don't even know what some of the things I ate are. Enjoy!
Soup Dumplings @ Din Tai Fung 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

FINAL UnBoxing Match! February 2015 Ispy vs. Birchbox vs. Beauty Box 5

Here it is the FINAL UnBoxing match. My subscriptions with BB5 and Ipsy have come to an end and I don't expect to ever resubscribe. There are just better subscriptions out there and I have more than enough beauty products to last a few lifetimes.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with these services, Ipsy and Birchbox are two custom beauty subscription boxes that come monthly. Both of these cost $10 a month and each arrive with 4-6 different goodies ranging from sad little foil packets to full size products! Beauty Box 5 costs a little more at $12 and delivers the same amount of goodies. I would say that typically Birchbox consistently delivers high-end skincare and hair care products with a sprinkling of makeup while Ipsy goes more for the mid-range items and is normally a lot of makeup items and Beauty Box 5 is mostly drugstore with an even mix of products.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

InstaNatural Haul...Take 2!

Last month I had the privilege of reviewing a few InstaNatural products (check out my review here) so when the opportunity came up to test out some other products I jumped on it. Shipping was a little weird this time, there were some delays I'm suspecting due to the east coast storms so everything came separately at different times. That being said, I was a little limited on time to make the publishing deadline so the first two products I'm going to talk about how a solid month long testing period while the third one was much shorter. That being said I'm reserving harsh judgement on the last product simply because I haven't had the opportunity to test it out as long as the other two.

Here's a little background information on the company itself: 

InstaNatural is a leading online and global distributor of more than a dozen nature inspired beauty and cosmetics products. Our products are one of the top sellers on Amazon and can also be found in leading spas, salons and aesthetic centers in the US, as well as internationally in UAE, UK and Canada (coming soon). We are constantly in search of wonderful natural and organic ingredients from the around the globe, so we can bring you the absolute best products, no matter the cost. In addition, we strongly believe in treating our customers the way we would want to be treated. This is why our lifetime satisfaction guarantee and our customer service is unlike any other company in the industry.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Nail of the Week #30: Zoya in Sansa

Why didn't anyone warn me that Zoya has the slowest shipping in the world?! It took over a month to arrive and I never received a shipping notification email! I mean it was a nice surprise and all but still...I don't think I will ever purchase directly from the Zoya website ever again. This was the only time I've ever contacted customer service about an order since I had a hard time finding any kind of status on my package. I must say that their customer service was very polite and helpful though so thumbs up to that. Anyway, mini rant over, here are my nails for the week and apparently I was still on a purple sparkle polish kick!

This gorgeous polish is Zoya in Sansa. I'm a Game of Thrones nerd so the name definitely hooked me but I must say it is more gorgeous in the bottle than it is on my nails. In the bottle it has the beautiful copper and green sheen to it but on my nails it's just a dark dark purple with some purple and gold sparkles. It was an easy polish to work with, two coats got it like this. I could have probably gotten away with one but I messed up on a few fingers and it gets dramatically darker with a second coat so I had to be fair to all the fingers. I'm thinking this will be a fantastic toe color in the future. Also note how short my nails are. They started getting a little brittle and peeling so I had to sacrifice the beautiful length and square shape for some stubby rounded nails. Fingers crossed they get their act together soon because I'm dying to try out my french tip stickers!

Friday, February 20, 2015

What's in my Trash?! #15

Despite how crazy my empties collections always gets, I think these What's in my Trash?! posts have to be my favorite ones to write! There's nothing better than getting to throw away a bunch of trash while at the same time writing a whole bunch of mini reviews. It's also a great motivator to work through samples because too often I get stuck in a rut using my tried and true products or I trick myself into thinking I'm setting things aside for travel (spoiler: I don't get to travel that much), so these empties posts are great for a bunch of reasons! This is another month of lots of empties, I'm really trying to catch up here, I'm not going to lie most of these empties are from DECEMBER, yeah two whole months ago, that's just how many things I've been using up it's ridiculous. Let's just get into it.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Top 5 FREE Phone Apps

This seems to go against my whole "unplug" goal in my NYG but this is quite a different post that I've never written for this blog and I thought it would be a fun one to do anyways. I have way too many apps on my phone, that's for sure. I'm definitely embarrassed to ever do a what's on my iPhone type of thing ever, but I've decided that it's okay to put together a top 5 of apps. Now I'm not including the obvious favorites, such as Instagram or Yelp, I tried to pick some more obscure ones to possibly spread the knowledge of what's out there. These are all apps that I use often and have shared with many friends who in turn fall in love with them too. All of them are available for free on the iTunes store and I'm pretty sure in the Google Play store too.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Steps to Take More Steps #NYG

This one was tough for me. If I had the choice to go hiking or have a Netflix marathon, guess which one I would choose. That being said, this is exactly why walking more was one of my New Years Goals this year. I wasn't always like this, throughout college I was more or less a workout freak. There was a time in which morning gym sessions and nighttime runs were the norm but sadly after graduation, the free gym membership and having a beautiful beach to run on was ripped away, plus the office life promotes sitting on your butt 8 hours a day and then coming home too mentally exhausted to do anything but stare at the TV until bedtime. Sorry I'm making my life sound so horrible, but that's just the truth of it. Anyways, in order to combat that electronic zombie life that I have fallen into I've come up with a few tips and tricks that I would like to share on how I try to incorporate more movement into my life!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

What's in My Travel Beauty Bag?

I don't think I've mentioned this to on the blog but this very second I am actually in Taiwan! It's a cross between a mini family reunion and celebrating Chinese New Year. Not something I normally celebrate but the timing worked out like this and I can tell it will be crazy there. So everything you're reading this week is actually pre-written from about a week and a half. Things were crazy packing and getting ready with Valentine's Day inconveniently in the middle of it all (can you tell that I don't celebrate that holiday by choice?). Anyways so I thought it would be fun to share what I brought in my beauty bag, makeup, skincare and all! I don't get the chance to travel often but I was so thankful for subscription boxes now because I was easily able to fit everything into just one bag! Also the fact that this was a family function, I really brought minimal makeup and most days I don't expect to wear anything but a little mascara and filled in brows. So my bag I'm using is an giant makeup pouch that I got from Lancome years ago. I'm pretty sure I've had this thing since college and it really serves me well because it fits all. I kept all my skincare and other products just inside the pouch and I put a smaller makeup bag inside it for my makeup.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Nails of the Week #29: Simple Heart Manicure

In honor of Valentine's Day over the weekend I decidedly to sport some festive nails! What I learned is that I'm horrible at free-handing hearts and especially left handed! Therefore the ones on my right hand are quite lopsided and I decided to quit while I was ahead because I just know if I tried to fix them they would just turn into blobs. But I must say I am quite proud of the white hearts, I think those both look pretty darn good!

So for this manicure I used Essie in A List as the base red. This is such a gorgeous bright red and probably the favorite out of all the reds that I own. I did two coats of it, probably should have done three since there is a tiny bit of streaking on some nails but I didn't want it to start getting two thick since I knew I would have to do two clear coats later. Then I used my trusty Color Club Nail Art Duo in Black and White to do a white accent heart and then black hearts on all the other fingers. They aren't perfect hearts but I think they are distinguishable enough.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Unboxing: Eco Emi Chocolate Edition Box!

I received this quite awhile ago but it seemed appropriate to feature it on the blog for Valentine's Eve! This is something different that I've never done before but I decided to buy it for myself as a fun treat. This is the special edition Eco Emi Chocolate Box! It promised 8 chocolate themed goodies for the price of $16! Eco Emi has normal monthly beauty boxes that are always filled with eco friendly products. It's a very nice concept but the last thing I need is to subscribe to new boxes so these limited edition boxes are perfect for me. I wish this came with an info card but I'll try my best to get all the companies and product names right, however I'm going to skip doing the value of the box.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Review: Laniege Water Sleeping Mask

Let's just talk about for a minute how much my skin has been thriving. If you were with me through last summer it was basically like Revenge of Puberty up in here. I basically stopped wearing makeup and tried everything under the sun to get my acne under control. I'm pleased to announce that has finally happened and with that I am becoming adventurous with new products too! Now I don't normally review sample sized products because I mean it's a sample and typically you can't really judge a product from this one, but this is a special case and I couldn't resist. What I really came here to talk about today is the Laniege Water Sleeping Mask that I received from a Target Beauty Box. This is truly such a skin game changer for me that I had to come on and talk about it.

This Korean brand is fairly recently new to Target shelves but it's a very popular brand internationally. This little sample jar is 20ml while a full sized jar is 80ml and retails for $23. You can check it out here on the Target site. This is an incredibly reasonable price since you only need about a pea size to cover your whole face and this is something you apply 1-2 nights a week. I do know people who use water masks nightly though and have reported no problems.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

How to Drink More Water #NYG

One of my New Years Goals was to start drinking more water. Or at least it was the add on I had at the end of January. I'm not a sweets person but I love drinking fruit juice so I know that throughout the day I'm not getting enough of plain ole water. Today I thought I'd share some tips and tricks I have on motivating myself to drink more water throughout the day.

  • Put the Brita in the fridge. If I'm drinking water it's out of a Brita pitcher since I don't have a fridge that spits out water. My biggest excuse is that I don't like room temperature drinks so I swap out the fruit juice during the day with the water pitcher instead. Not only is the juice not there when I go looking, cold water is much more satisfying so I'm more inclined to pick that up instead.
  • Make a game out of it. I find that drawing lines on water bottles and making it a game to drink past a certain line is a great way to motivate myself to drink more water. Bonus points for adding fun doodles or encouraging messages.
  • Leave full water bottles everywhere. This one seems odd since I just declared that I don't like room temperature water, but I must say if I leave water everywhere (re-usable bottles, don't worry!) I go throughout the day I'm more likely to pick one up and drink it just out of convenience. Now I do look kind of insane doing this, but if it works for me I'll keep doing it!
  • Commit to some sort of deal. Sometimes I just really want that juice or even a soda so I make a deal with myself that if I want to have on glass of something else, it must be followed up with two glasses of water. 
  • Put it on your To-Do list. I am a hugely list oriented person so putting down individual amounts of water on a to-do list is almost a fool proof way for me to get it all done. I love the satisfaction of crossing something off a list so this is a great trick I found to get me to my ideal amount daily.
What are some tips and tricks you have for drinking more water?

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Review: The Japanese Konjac Sponge


Awhile back I had a post comparing Konjac sponges to (manual) facial brushes, you can check it out here, so I was thrilled when I was presented with the opportunity to review a different brand of a Konjac sponge! The one I have for you today is The Japanese Konjac Sponge and in particular the Bamboo Charcoal Puff. You can purchase this one off Amazon with free shipping and I can tell you that I got it within two days of ordering it and I don't have Prime! 

I'm going to just give a brief description on Konjac sponges. Konjac (pronounced KOHN-yak) is a plant native to tropical areas in Asia, specifically in Japan, areas of China and Indonesia. It is within the yam family and the root is the part you eat, as well as what Konjac sponges are made of. This particular puff contains bamboo charcoal making it an ideal tool to use with oily and acne prone skin.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Nails of the Week #28: Matte Metallic Look

So continuing my obsession with mattify everything I chose a glittery/shimmer polish and decided to throw a matte coat on top of that. Now if I were smart I would have take a before picture of my nails but the color is pretty true in the bottle though I must say it got a little bit more pink when I put the matte coat on top of it.

The biggest surprise this week is that I am NOT rocking an Essie polish, this is actually OPI in It's My Year which was one of their Miss Universe collections back in 2011. I picked up this bottle from Nordstrom Rack hence why I was able to get such an old polish. This color before the matte coat is this beautiful jelly purple with a gold shimmer. Three coats required for full opacity. Now I didn't want to stop there so I applied a matte top coat just to see what would happen and I'm digging the look. It created a gorgeous matte metallic finish that effectively muted the base coat and really brought the shimmer to attention. This is definitely not a look that everyone will like but it inspires me to try out the matte coat on more glitters and shimmers.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Friday 5 Faves

Happy Friday Guys! I thought it would be a great time for another Friday 5 Faves and despite the fact that I'm regurgitating a lot of favorites that you just were informed about, I'll let you in on a little secret. I actually had that post ready to go about halfway through January so now it really is a testament to how much I'm loving certain things because 2 almost 3 weeks later I am still gushing about them!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Journey to Minimalism: Lipsticks #NYG

The days I wear lipsticks are probably once a year. I went through a crazy lip phase and bought just about everything out there and have quite a stash at this point. As part of my New Years Goal of embracing minimalism, it is high time to go through everything and keep only the items I really love and will use. Luckily I have a bunch of friends and family who love shopping my makeup collection so I'm confident that all of the colors that don't make the cut will find loving homes! Currently all of my products take up a lipstick holder, three drawers in a small acrylic drawer set, and a small basket that is mostly brand new products that sits in my Alex drawer. My goal is to hopefully reduce my collection to half of what it is.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Wednesday Wants

I think the secret to these wishlists is to make short lists and try to put things I already have intended on purchasing in the future. This gives me less of the check things off mentality I have when it comes to lists and therefore I feel less guilty if I 'accidentally' purchase these things.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Project Second Chance Recap + What's Next?

In the end this project ended up being a lot tougher than Project Pan. It was harder to motivate myself to pick items I had an initial bad impression of and force myself to use it. I think it is safe to say this is the first and last time I will be doing Project Second Chance! I also discovered that I had a lot of products that I don't use on a daily basis or it was hard to just incorporate it seamlessly into my routine. For example, I don't like doing eye shadow unless I'm also wearing a full face of makeup and the chances of me doing that for a regular day is slim to none. For items that appeared to be an application issue and not a wearability one I would spend weekends experimenting but truthfully it almost never got worn out, I just wanted to play around to see if I could get something to work. This was a great project in theory but for my habits and makeup wearing purposes it just ended up being a fail in my book.

Monday, February 2, 2015

January 2015 Favorites + Unfavorites!

The first month of 2015 is already over?! Wow that flew by fast! Looking back though I'm so excited with the direction my blog has been going and I'm thrilled that I see it going strong for the rest of the year! This was definitely a great month with some great products, and even more surprisingly, some of them are makeup items!! This January I had more occasions to put on a full face of makeup and I found a couple of items that I absolutely love. As always there are some great skincare finds and we are finishing off with some fun random items.