Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Tarte Journey to Natural Beauty 6-pc Collection - Review and Swatches

You know I'm completely in love with Tarte Amazonian clay blushes. They are my favorite blushes to use, and I've amassed a decent sized collection since their release.

When I saw that there was an Amazonian clay blush in the new Tarte Today's Special Value on QVC, I couldn't resist ordering it (and signing up for auto delivery).

The set is currently selling for $59.94 plus shipping (the price will jump to $72.50 if there are any remaining after the official TSV date of February 5) and comes with:
  • Brow Architect Liner and Shaper
  • Airbrush Finish Bamboo Foundation Brush
  • Tarte Amazonian Clay Full Coverage Foundation
  • Tarte Amazonian Clay Blush in Fearless
  • Tarte Amazonian Butter Lipstick in Plummy Rose
  • Tarte Lights, Cameras, Flashes Mascara
  • Makeup Bag
Brow Architect Liner and Shaper in Fair/Light (Estimated Retail Value: $18)

Full product


Defining Powder in Fair/Light

Liner Product

Liner Product
I've never really done much to my brows. They are naturally full, so the most I normally do is pluck and wax them. This product was my first real experiment with a brow pencil. I surprisingly like the little bit of definition the liner part adds to my brows. According to the pamphlet sent with the set, the liner is a universal shade. Sadly, I can't get the defining powder to work for me. It applies cakey, uneven, and extremely obvious. The spoolie is nice to have right with the product.

Aside from not liking the defining powder, the other major negative to this product is that there isn't much of the liner product. The second to last picture above shows the liner product twisted all the way out. That's all there is there.

Airbrush Finish Bamboo Foundation Brush (Retail Value: $32)

I already have one of these from a previous purchase of the Amazonian clay foundation. It's a super dense, soft buffing brush. I used it a lot to apply mineral foundation over the summer. I find it a bit too large for applying liquid foundation.

What makes this version of the brush unique is the decorative handle. I think it's really pretty, but I'm worried about how clean it will stay and how well it will hold up over time. One minor feature that I really like about this version of the brush is that the bottom is flat. It's such a large-handled brush that it seems to make the most sense for me to just stand it up on my table, but the original one that I have is curved at the bottom of the handle, so I have to keep it in a brush holder.

Tarte Amazonian Clay Full Coverage Foundation in Fair (Retail Price: $38)

As I mentioned earlier in this post, I've purchased this foundation before. I like it. It's a really good color match for me, which is always nice since I have a hard time finding foundations that match me. I also feel it's worth pointing out that you are getting 1.7 fl oz of product when most foundations only have 1 fl oz.

My biggest gripe with this being included in the TSV is that it's included in TSV's too often and is included in the auto delivery shipments. I already had a tube-and-a-half of this foundation in my stash before I got this tube, and I'll have two more coming my way in future shipments. Even if I didn't have any of this in my stash already, I don't know anyone who can go through a foundation in three months (the amount of time between shipments). I wish Tarte would mix it up by including different face products in each shipment.

Tarte Amazonian Clay Blush in Fearless (Retail Value: $25)

The pamphlet states that Fearless is a warm pink shade, and I would agree with that. It also has fine gold shimmer. It's a beautiful shade that is up to par with the regular shades in the line.

Amazonian Butter Lipstick in Plummy Rose (Estimated Retail Value: $26)


I'm not a lipstick wearer, but I was curious to try this one, and I'm thrilled that I did! It doesn't feel heavy on the lips; it feels more like a balm. The color is also a really nice, everyday color. I'm really curious to see what shades will be sent in the following shipments.

Lights, Cameras, Flashes Mascara (Estimated Retail Value: $19)


If you've followed me for awhile, you know that I'm not a fan of the Lights, Cameras, Lashes mascara. I was skeptical about trying this new variation, but I figured I might as well give it a shot.

I'm happy to report that I'm liking it, even though there's been a couple minor issues. The first issue I had was figuring out how to deal with the brush.  I'm going to go ahead and link you back to the product listing for this set to see a better picture of the brush for this mascara because my picture doesn't show it very well. The brush has a slight curve to it, and, according to the pamphlet, one side has shorter, softer bristles, and the other side has longer comb-like bristles. The shorter bristles, as best as I can tell, are on the underside of the curve. The first few times that I used this mascara, the wand felt really awkward; I was worried I was going to poke myself in the eye.

My other issue was having it smudge onto my browbone during the course of the day. So far, this has only happened once, so I'm assuming it was some freak occurrence. I'm not noticing any flaking during the day, which is the usual problem I have with mascaras. I'll make sure to give an update if I discover down the line that I actually dislike this mascara.

Edited to add: I had the smudging issue again today. I've come to the conclusion that it was because I was too warm and ended up with a light sheen of perspiration on my face. Not good. I'm the type of person who sweats at the drop of a hat (lovely image, I know), so this is really unfortunate. I will probably still use this mascara some, but it couldn't be an everyday mascara for me. It'll have to be relegated to days when I'm just running a couple of errands or days when I'm just playing with makeup and not planning to leave the house.


From left to right: Plummy Rose Lipstick, Fearless Blush, Brow Liner, Brow Definer, Foundation

The Bag (Estimated Retail Value: ???)

 This is a really cute bag that's a good size. All of the products from this set fit in this bag with plenty of room to spare. I don't know how much I'll actually use it, but since I just consider it an extra, that doesn't bother me.

Bonus Item:

 Tarte always throws in a deluxe sample of product with the first shipment of a TSV. This time it was a sample of their Brazilliance Skin Rejuvenating Maracuja Self Tanner. I was a little disappointed because they've sent this sample before, and I don't use self tanners. Then again, it's a bonus, so I'm not really bothered by it.

 Total Estimated Value: $158 (Note: I didn't assign any value to the bag or to the self tanner samples.)

Final Thoughts:

As with all of the other Tarte TSVs that I've gotten, this set is an incredible value. You are getting the entire set for less than buying the foundation and brush individually. If you are interested in a couple of these products, it's worth checking out. If you aren't sure whether to get the auto delivery option, get it. You can always cancel future shipments if you decide you don't like the colors in them (the future colors haven't been released yet).

Are you going to indulge in this Tarte TSV? If you've picked it up, can you give me any tips on how to get the defining powder to work.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Fresh Sugar Lip Balms - Worth the Price?

I was thrilled when I found out that Sephora's 2012 birthday gift for VIBs was a duo of mini Fresh Sugar lip balms in original and Rose. There's a lot of hype about these balms, but I just couldn't justify the $22.50 price tag to try out a full size (Ouch!). Getting to try them for free was a much better deal.

Here's a look at the duo from the day I brought them home. The packaging itself makes these balms feel fancy because they are metal tubes and the cap twists on and off.

Sadly, this is what ended up happening to my original balm after a handful of uses:

This balm is SO soft, you can't keep it in your pocket, which is where I always keep my lip balm that I'm using for the day. The packaging gives the balm too much wiggle room. It would work a lot better in a more traditional lip balm tube where the balm is formed to the side of the tube. I ended up having to depot this into an empty jar that I had on hand because I just couldn't use it in the tube anymore.

As for how well the balm actually performs, it is a nice feeling balm. It's not overly slick, but it isn't waxy feeling either. It has a citrus/lemon scent that is nice but not over-powering. One major positive is that it has SPF 15, which is always nice. As for how well it moisturizes, I don't find it amazing. Since I'm trying to use it up, I'm using it pretty constantly right now, and the edges of my lips start to feel dry, and I don't know why that is. After doing a scan of the ingredients, my best guess would be because it has benzyl alcohol in it, but I have no proof to back that up. 

Final Thoughts

Is this balm worth $22.50 for a full size? Not for me. I don't want to have to be super careful when slicking on a lip balm or keep it in my purse instead of my pocket, and the formula isn't amazing enough to overcome that negative. If it were in a value set that I already wanted, I wouldn't object to using it again, but I'm not going to go out of my way to pick more up.

What do you think of the Fresh Sugar Balms? What is your favorite lip balm?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Depotting UD Book of Shadows and Why Depot?

I've been on a major decluttering and organizing kick since the end of December. I've been donating clothes and pulling household items for a town-wide auction 'o everyone's junk that my fiance and I attend every year.

In my makeup stash, there's a few things that I've been doing to help organize and declutter. I've been working my way through trying products in order to decide if I'm going to keep them around or not (several bronzers have been cut from my stash). I also went on a major depotting spree. I already did a post about a DYI freestyle palette, but I also recently picked up some Z Palettes since they had some on sale.

I didn't do a very good job taking pictures of the depotting process because I was honestly more concerned with actually getting items depotted. I also found that depotting Urban Decay shadows from cardboard packaging isn't all that difficult.

Things you'll need to depot an Urban Decay Book of Shadows:
  • A prying tool of some sort (I'll show a picture of mine shortly)
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Cotton balls/cotton pads
  • Something to protect the surface you are working on (I used paper plates)
  • Labels (optional - I prefer 3/4 inch removable, round labels - they fit well on most of the products I've depotted)

 My particular prying tool was a small flathead screwdriver that was included in a all-in-one tool kit my mom gave me a few years ago. I wish the tip had been skinnier, but it served its purpose.

 The above picture is what remained after I mangled my Book of Shadows IV. My particular method of depotting was to peel away the layers of cardboard from the top until I could get underneath the shadows to pry them up (Tip: if you aren't confident that you will remember the names of the shadows, write out the labels before you start ripping the cardboard apart.).

Once I got as much cardboard pulled up as I could, I just slide my mini screwdriver underneath the pan and gently pushed up. You can kind of see in the pictures that most of them came up relatively easily since the purple overlay on the cardboard didn't come up on most of them. I had a little bit of trouble with the top row of shadows wanting to crack, but I'm almost positive that it is because I initially didn't peel up enough of the cardboard at the top of the palette. The shadows that had started to crack were easily saved since Urban Decay shadows are so buttery; I just had to gently press them back into place.

After I had the pans pulled up, I placed them on a paper plate. I was careful to keep them in the same order they were in while still in the palette so I could label them correctly. I used rubbing alcohol on a cotton pad to rub away the leftover glue. On some of the UD palettes I depotted, getting rid of the glue wasn't a big deal. The pans from the first Dangerous Palette were a pain in the butt to get clean. I read elsewhere about someone using Goo Gone to help remove the glue. I tried it, but it didn't seem to work very well, and I was afraid of getting the Goo Gone on the eye shadow, which wouldn't have been a good thing.

 Here's a look at a labeled eye shadow pan so you can see what my labels looked like.

As for why to depot? Take a look:

This is a size comparison between the original Book of Shadows IV and my new palette. Depotting can be a HUGE space saver. The downside is that you lose the special packaging, but if you aren't overly concerned about that part, you can really condense your collection without getting rid of products. 

 Are you a fan of depotting or do you like to keep everything in its original packaging? 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

EcoTools Day-to-Night Clutch Set Review

I don't know about all of you, but I feel like I had a crazy week this week. I subbed every day (one of them was a half-day, but the rest were full days), had tutoring two days after school, helped on of my guard girls write a routine on another day after school, and had a doctor's appointment. It wouldn't have been bad, but I had a headache ALL week. It started on Sunday and came and went through last night. I was so tired last night that I was in bed by around 8 p.m., and I didn't get back up until around 8:30 this morning.

Sadly, with everything going on and not quite feeling right, I didn't get a post up yesterday. I've been trying to stick to having posts up every Tuesday and Friday, and I just didn't have enough of them done ahead of time.

I'm making up for it today though by bringing you a review of a relatively new brush set by the company EcoTools.

EcoTools is an earth-friendly company that makes their brushes from synthetic taklon bristles, recycled aluminum ferrules, and bamboo handles.  Best of all, their brushes are sold at places like Walgreens, Walmart, and Ulta for super-affordable prices. If you keep your eyes peeled, you can often find them for BOGO 50% off at Walgreens or Ulta.

I picked up the Six Piece Day-To-Night Clutch Set when EcoTools had an amazing Cyber Monday sale - 50% off everything with free shipping. The everyday price on the EcoTools site is $16.99, which isn't bad for five brushes and a cute little clutch.

Here's a look at the clutch on it's own. It has elastic loops on the inside to hold the brushes in the set. You could also throw in a couple more loose brushes if you wanted. I personally won't use this much (if at all), but it is more functional and convenient than other brush holders that EcoTools has included with their sets.

Before I start talking about the individual brushes, I will say that every single EcoTools brush that I have is super soft. 

Round Powder Brush - Because of the size, I've been using this for blush instead of powder. I like the shape and density of this brush because it helps me get a light blush application. I can see how this would be a good brush for powder for the same reason. You will be less likely to over-powder with a brush like this compared with a brush that is more dense.

Stay-There Shadow Brush - This is a classic EcoTools brush. You can find this same shape in a couple of their other sets. I find this particular brush shape too large and fluffy for applying shadow to the lid, but this is my absolute favorite brush for applying my matte highlight to my browbone and to help blend out my crease color.

From top to bottom: Pointed Concealer Brush and Smudge Brush

I'm including a picture of these two brushes together because my individual pictures are deceptive about the relative size of these brushes.

Pointed Concealer Brush - I use this as a crease brush because I like how precise it is for applying color.

Smudge Brush - I also use this in the crease. It is smaller and doesn't have a point. The size makes it great for applying a super dark color to the crease.

Lip Liner Brush - This is another brush that is included in other EcoTools brush sets. I've never used it to apply lip color, but I can tell it would work well for this. It is also a good size for adding an inner corner highlight or as a small concealer brush.

Final Thoughts

I just flat out love EcoTools brushes. They are soft, inexpensive, and good quality. They have a decent variety of brush shapes. I own nearly every brush they have put out. My only real complaints with their brushes are that a lot of them can only be purchased in sets and they often include a lash and brow brush as part of their sets. I'm really excited about some of their new brushes that just came out, but I'm going to wait to pick them up. I'm trying to cut back on my spending for a little while after my shopping spree at the end of 2012.

I clearly have a tendency to use brushes in ways they were not intended for. Are you that way too? Are you as happy with EcoTools brushes as I am?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

NYX Blushes - Review and Swatches

In my quest to keep up with regular blog posts, I dug back through my folders of pictures from the past year and moved the ones of the products I haven't reviewed into their own folder. I'm hoping to knock out most of them over the next month or so. If you notice my watermarks or lighting looking different in this post and others, it's because some of these pictures were taken with a different lighting set-up and/or were edited using a different program.

(Tangent! I ordered a Softbox Light Box Cube, which should be arriving this week. I'm really excited to get it! I'm hoping it will help eliminate having to deal with shadows and glare on products. I'm also excited to have a more consistent backdrop so I don't have to worry about hiding the wall in my half-bath that is less that pretty.)

Back on topic: One of the products that somehow hadn't gotten reviewed was NYX powder blushes. These are currently listed at $5.99 on Ulta.com, but they can frequently be found on sale both at Ulta and at other online retailers (for example, they are currently selling for $4.50 on CherryCulture.com).

The packaging on NYX blushes is really basic. I personally really like the fact that it isn't overly flashy or bulky and doesn't come with a cheap, awful blush brush (Physicians Formula *cough, cough*).

NYX Powder Blush in Desert Rose

NYX Powder Blush in Dusty Rose
I currently only have two NYX blushes in my collection: Desert Rose and Dusty Rose. Desert Rose is a bright reddish-pink, and Dusty Rose is exactly what the name implies: a dusty, muted pink.

Left to right: Dusty Rose and Desert Rose
As you can see from the swatches, both shades are matte and have really good pigmentation. Both blushes blend nicely onto the skin. I couldn't wear Desert Rose if it didn't. I have to blend the heck out of it to make it work for me because it is so bright and pigmented. Both blushes still look good after about 8 hours. Dusty Rose is a bit more faded, but it is still visible. If I had to go out in the evening after a full day at work, I would probably touch it up. Desert Rose could probably make it all the way to bedtime because it is such a bright color to begin with.

Final Thoughts

I really enjoy both of these blushes. They are a nice addition to my collection, and the odds are pretty good that I will be adding more NYX blushes to my collection in the future. They perform incredibly well, especially for their price-point. The line also has a really good range of shades to pick from.

Do you own any NYX blushes? What do you think of them? What colors should I add to my wishlist?

Friday, January 11, 2013

Favorites of 2012

Last year, I started my blog with three posts on my favorite products of 2011. I'm having a much harder time coming up with my favorites for this year for a couple of reasons. The first reason is that a lot of my favorites are still the same. The second reason is that I tried out so many new products this year that I don't feel like I've used many products very consistently.

To see my favorites for 2011: Best of Face, Best of Cheeks and Lips, and Best of Eyes.


I didn't even think to include hair last year. I'm not a huge hair person. I don't experiment with my hair very much, but I do have some standout products that are such staples that I'm not even going to include them in my finished product posts anymore.

Nature's Gate Tea Tree Shampoo, Pomegranate Sunflower Conditioner, and Biotin Conditioner (not pictured) - These are my staple haircare items (I didn't like the Henna one all that much, but I pulled an old picture). The Tea Tree Shampoo keeps my scalp from flaking, and the conditioners do a great job of helping detangling my hair. I buy them and finish them consistently. Oddly enough, I am listening to a YouTube video by NYCGeorgette, and she said she hated the Pomegranate Sunflower conditioner and said it made her hair really greasy. Maybe my hair is just really dry...*shrugs*

SalonGrafix Conditioning Cleanser - This is another product that I recently saw a terrible review on while watching YouTube. Jen from the channel From Head to Toe hated it. She said it wasn't anything like the Wen Cleansing Conditioner. I've never tried Wen, so I can't compare the two. I will say that I tried using this once when I had product in my hair (currently a rare occurrence), and it didn't work very well. However, for lazy days when I just don't want to have to mess with a separate shampoo and conditioner, this works great. I plan on keeping a bottle of this in my stash at all times.


 Silk Naturals Kiss Cleanser - This has been my regular face wash for several years now, and I love it. It removes all but the most stubborn eyeliner (and possibly waterproof mascara - I haven't had a waterproof mascara in a while). It's a really basic cleanser. I had no qualms about having my 7-year-old niece us it over Christmas when we were playing with her makeup that she got as a Christmas present. I recently resolved to stop testing other cleansers because I always go back to this one. I don't need to search for anything else.

Essential Oils - I started adding essential oils into my skincare routine around November-ish after Christine from the PinksoFoxy YouTube channel and her Beauty Travel Channel blog did a couple videos and blog posts about them. I use a mixture of tea tree oil, lavender oil, sweet orange oil, and rosehip oil. For carrier oils, I have just been using Tarte's Maracuja Oil, Josie Maran's Argan Oil, and grapeseed oil that I purchased at WalMart. The place that I have noticed the biggest change is actually on my legs. I get ingrown hairs on my legs all the time, and I have a lot of scars. I feel like both have been reduced after starting to use these oils.  

Warning!!!! If you want to experiment with essential oils, please check out Christine's information and do some research. Essential oils should be used sparingly (I only have a few drops of each in the two dropper bottles in the picture). The underside of my arms broke out in bumps this week, and I think it was because I used a body scrub with essential oils and then used my regular oil mix after my shower, so I ended up using too much overall. Please be careful!


Nars Sheer Matte in Siberia -  This is probably the best match I have ever found for my skintone. It hasn't quite reached Holy Grail status yet, but it is a really nice foundation. Sadly, I wasn't able to wear it for several months because I got too much of a tan over the summer (which is why there isn't a lot gone from the bottle).

Physicians Formula Healthy Wear SPF 50 Powder Foundation in Translucent Light - This was my go-to foundation for the summer months (it's too dark for me during the winter). It was quick and easy, and it gave me just enough coverage. I actually went through two of these during the course of the summer and fall. My main compliant is that I couldn't wear it on days when I knew I would be sweating a lot because it started to feel really gritty and gross on my face. It was fabulous though for days when I was just making a quick run to the store or something like that.

Tarte Amazonian Clay Shimmering Powders in Rose and Champagne - When I grabbed for a cheek highlighter this year, it was likely one of these two. They are both subtly beautiful. I even used Champagne a lot as an inner corner highlight for my eyes and on the browbone.

Wet n Wild Eyeshadow Trio in Walking on Eggshells - This was my go-to trio for when I didn't know what I wanted to use. It has become an cult classic for a lot of people because it is such a basic, easy palette.

Lorac Pro Palette - This is a relatively new purchase for me. I bought it in December. I'm going to repeat what a lot of other people say about it. I love the versatility and the mix of shimmers and mattes.

Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencils - I'm showing the Ocho Loco set here, but I'm talking about the liners in general. I bought the Naked set of mini pencils last holiday season, and I enjoy them all. It took me a while to get used to how soft and creamy they are, but now I'm comfortable using them and grab for them most days.

Prestige Waterproof Eyeliner in Suede - This liner is on-par with the Urban Decay ones. I particularly love this color because it is a great soft brown for my pale skin. It works really well with Walking on Eggshells for a subtle look. I will eventually pick up more colors in this line.

Urban Decay Pocket Rocket Lip Glosses - I'm really sad that these have been discontinued! I love them. I love the creme brulee scent and the non-sticky formula. This is the gloss that I reach for the most. The one thing I would change is having the guys on the top. It is a cute, novelty thing, but I don't like having them there when I'm subbing at a school. Having a lip gloss with a guy in his underwear on the top isn't exactly school appropriate.

Real Techniques brushes are the first, third, fifth, and seventh brushes from the left.

Real Techniques Brushes - I have bought quite a few of these over the past year. The brand has a good variety of brushes. I use the Expert Face Brush, Stippling Brush, and Deluxe Crease Brush every day. I use the other brushes that I have consistently.

I'm sure I've forgotten some things from my list, and I'm going to kick myself the week after this gets posted when I grab for something that I love. *shrugs* That's how these sorts of things go I guess. I also want to mention again that nearly all of my favorites from last year are still favorites and/or Holy Grail items for me.

What were your favorites from 2012? Is there something I HAVE to try this year?