Test Monkey: Adovia Natural Facial Moisturizer

damienBecause of my vast social influence, sometimes I get to try products out and tell you, gentle readers, about the results. But rest assured that my opinions are completely honest and unbiased — only Diet Coke or Frito-Lay could buy my love. (Seriously, call me, Diet Coke or Frito-Lay!)

Facial moisturizers: I don’t typically use them, mainly because I’m lazy about such routines — I mean, I’m not exactly Patrick Bateman in the morning. Or in the evening. Or ever (although I do like Huey Lewis & the News). But I am getting older and should start caring about these things, I suppose, so I gave this product a shot.

It puts the lotion on its skin...

It puts the lotion on its skin…

Adovia Mineral Skin Care touts its inclusion of Dead Sea minerals, grapeseed oil, and other natural ingredients in its products as being key to their effectiveness. I can’t speak to whether those specific claims are true, but I can say the Moisturizing Day Cream had advantages and disadvantages (for me, at least). On the plus side, it’s very thick and a little goes a long way, so a jar of this size should last a good while. Despite its initial heaviness, the moisturizer does absorb nicely, so I don’t feel as though I’m wearing a Crisco mask after applying it (and my hands benefit, too). On the (minor) minus side, it has a light scent that isn’t “old-lady handbag,” but I can’t quite put my finger on it — Chris and I were both trying to identify it like we were playing “Password” and eventually settled on “vaguely cotton- or linen-scented candle, or maybe light laundry detergent.” So it’s not terrible, but if you prefer facial products to be unscented (as I do), caveat emptor.

I’m still not quite in the habit of using it daily, as I should, but once cold weather is here and the air is drier, I can see myself reaching for it more often. You can learn more about Adovia here and order its products direct or through Amazon and other online retailers.

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com.

WTF-ery: Shipping Shenanigans

 

I never shop at Walmart, for many reasons, but the lure of a fantastic deal I saw posted online recently got the better of me (wait for it…). Not having received any sort of shipping notification, I was surprised to find this box waiting in the mail today. It was kind of dented, but no big deal. Seemed kind of large, though…

Dimensions: 15 inches X 12 inches X 6.5 inches

Dimensions: 15 inches X 12 inches X 6.5 inches

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Length of paper stuffed into box for protection of fragile items: 68 inches. (Note for scale: My height is 60 inches.)

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Seriously?

Seriously.

Seriously.

And now the backstory: Someone posted on Facebook that Walmart.com had several Yes to Carrots lip balms on clearance for 8 cents apiece (yes, you read that correctly: $0.08). Because I’m my mother in many ways, I always need to have extra lip balms on hand, so I ordered these five, plus five in another flavor (also 8 cents) and two tinted versions that were 13 cents apiece. According to the Walmart website, the others are still processing and will arrive sometime next week — which means I’ll have at least one more box like this coming. For a (literal) handful of lip balms. Oh Walmart:

go-home-youre-drunk

 

“What’s in the box?!” Square Hue, September 2014

whats-in-the-boxSquare Hue is a nail-polish subscription service that releases a limited-edition collection themed around a specific destination each month. Unlike Julep, which offers some level of choice among several polishes each month, Square Hue sends the same colors to all subscribers, and the only hints as to contents are whatever sharp-eyed observers can glean from the single sketch released to tease each collection. Each box includes three 0.5 fl. oz. bottles in a distinctive cube shape, plus a card listing each color and its finish. All polishes are “5-free,” meaning they do not contain formaldehyde, toluene, DBP, camphor, or formaldehyde resin, if you care about that sort of thing (I personally love all the chemicals, but that’s just me). Square Hue also donates a portion of its proceeds to various humanitarian campaigns, most notably the fight against human trafficking.

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The September collection was devoted to Sydney, about which I know nothing other than it was the home of fish-out-of-water transfer student Sandy Olsen in Grease. That being the case, I can’t say whether these colors particularly evoke the city — all I know is that to me, they evoke a Thanksgiving tablescape. Let me tell you about it, stud.

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This month’s collection included two microshimmers and a high-gloss crème. An important note about microshimmers: I am usually not a fan. Unless the formula is perfect — not too thin and not too goopy — it’s difficult at best to apply them without leaving lots of visible brush strokes in the finish. Sad to say, the two microshimmers in this month’s collection did not have perfect formulas — I found them both to be bad about dragging, which made the application very uneven. I ended up using three coats of each to get them to level out at all, plus top coat, and they still didn’t look great. Why-yi-yi-yiiiiiiii?

Oxford Street

Oxford Street

Crown Drive

Crown Drive


“Oxford Street” is a yellow-gold microshimmer, while “Crown Drive” (or “Crown Street,” if the accompanying card is to be believed — hello, Square Hue, I know an editor who could help you with these discrepancies) is an orange microshimmer. Am I the only person who sees vivid microshimmers like these and immediately thinks of ribbon candy? (And how many times can I work the word “microshimmer” into a single post? It’s like the nail-polish version of “Malkovich Malkovich? Malkovich.”)

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King Street

“King Street” is a crème finish, and it applied much more smoothly than the first two polishes, only requiring two coats for full coverage. On the down side, it also dried much darker than it appears in the bottle — what looked like a bricky-red there ended up looking like chocolate syrup in certain lights and brown-leaning oxblood in others on my nails. (As my fingers show, it’s also a stainer.) I love a vampy, dark wine shade, but this one just doesn’t do it for me. I’m no stranger to heartbreak (nor do I have psoriasis).

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But hope springs eternal — next month: Milan!

The Lowdown
Cost: $19.99/month (with shipping)
Contents: 3 limited-edition polishes available only through Square Hue during that month (if you want a previous month’s collection, check out people’s swap boards or Storenvy)
Link to sign up: www.squarehue.com (according to the site, new subscribers will also get a surprise bonus collection when they sign up — this will be a random collection from a previous month)

“What’s in the box?!” Ipsy Glam Bag, July 2014

whats-in-the-boxSubtitled “I got a rock.”

(On a side note, yes, I am well aware that this is August 1, and I’m just now writing about the July Glam Bag. This last month has been insane with work. I don’t even know how many days I’ve still been working at 2am, so ye olde blogge here got a little dusty. Be prepared for a deluge of posts in upcoming days as I try to catch up and maybe test a few ideas I have percolating. And now back to your regularly scheduled tittle-tattle.)

Ipsy’s July sneak peeks — themed “Sensationally Sunkissed” — showed so many different products that I couldn’t even gauge which ones I might want for my so-called dream bag. Three different nail polishes were up for grabs, not to mention a Benefit mascara I wanted to try, so after the relative success of my June bag in terms of aligning with my interests, I had high hopes. Sad Trombone — that won’t happen again.

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Boy, that’s…pink.

Pink pleather bag vaguely shaped like ravioli? Barbie.

The "goods."

The “goods.”

What an intriguing array of items! Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

What a lovely shade of sludge.

What a lovely shade of sludge.

Cream eye shadow in a shade best described as “fading bruise”? No thanks (although it gets cute points for being so wee).

Piiiiiiiiiiiiiiink!

Piiiiiiiiiiiiiiink!

I liked the texture of this tinted lip balm and would actually consider trying it in a different shade. But this one (“Pretty Pink”) makes me look like I’ve just snarfed a can of bright pink frosting, so it’s a pass. (Um, I’m guessing, that is — a lady would never eat canned frosting with a spoon, of course.)

Nope.

Nope.

As per the June bag, Ipsy seems a little obsessed with sending me texturizing sprays that promise to give my hair tousled, beachy waves. These Bieber bangs of mine are not going to respond to that nonsense, thank you very much.

Yay, a full-size item! Boo, it's bronzer.

Yay, a full-size item! Boo, it’s bronzer.

I look like Lydia Deetz. I am FINE with looking like Lydia Deetz. Bronzer looks like dirt smeared on my face. Pass. (Although, as always, full-size products are nice.)

WTF, Ipsy?

WTF, Ipsy?

Dark tanning oil? HA HA HA HA HA HA HA! It’s clear now that Ipsy’s bag fairy is just fucking with me.

So it only took four Glam Bags for me to become one of those whiny, entitled “OMG, I WILL CUT SOMEONE IF I GET ANOTHER [unwanted item]” subscribers (in my case, bronzer, salt sprays, and anything designed to make my skin look less jellyfish-like). My annoyance is two-fold:

  1. I diligently and immediately rate each item I get in my bag so that Ipsy can better understand my tastes, especially the portion of the survey that asks whether each type of item is something I want more of. I also indicated on my initial preferences quiz that I pretty much want nail polish and makeup only. Ipsy then says, “Whatever, Heidi, we’re sending you more beach spray.”
  2. When the Glam Rooms go live (i.e., when you can log on and find out which specific items will be in your “curated” bag that month), people eagerly post pics online and cheer or groan as warranted. Other people’s bags are often crammed with products I would actually like to try. What am I doing wrong? How do I need to have my profile set to get the occasional lip stain instead of tanning oil? (That said, I saw plenty of people online who had my exact bag configuration and were all, “Whee, best bag ever!!” I just hope they find my Pinterest Swap Board so I can maybe end up with something I might considering using.)

So, I dunno, Ipsy. You’re on the thinnest of ice right now. The bimonthly e.l.f. Beauty Bundle keeps giving me The Look, and if I don’t get some satisfaction in my next Glam Bag, we might have to have the “It’s not you, it’s me” talk (except it would totally be you).

Interested in trying Ipsy for yourself? You can sign up and then taunt me with how much better your bag is each month. Here are the details:
Cost: $10/month (includes shipping)
Contents: 4-5 samples, travel-size items, or full-size products curated to fit your health and beauty profile
Link to sign up: http://www.ipsy.com/r/8o26 (full disclosure — I earn points or something for referrals, so this is my personal link)
I personally paid for all items reviewed in this post.

“What’s in the box?!” Ipsy Glam Bag, June 2014

whats-in-the-boxSubtitled “Why I’ll Never Be a Bombshell.”

June’s photo hints from Ipsy all featured cute beach themes and a broad array of products. When my Glam Room contents were revealed, I was pleased — unlike the previous two months’ bags, this one included a few items I might actually use, including a full-size mascara and a lip gloss (although that would depend on the color and consistency).

The announcement concerning the bag itself was A Big Deal, because it was designed specifically for Ipsy by Rebecca Minkoff. I had no idea who this person was, but I checked out her website when the announcement was made, saw a maxi dress in the teased print for $368, and quietly closed that tab in my browser. Ahem.

Festive!

Festive!

Cute bag — the Internet tells me that pineapples are way trendy right now, and I do enjoy vivid Hawaiian prints. They always make me think of my dad, who loved to wear what he called “Magnum shirts” (in honor of Magnum P.I.) in the summer months. (But he would have been gobsmacked at paying $368 for one, regardless of the designer. My mom sewed most of his.) As for the contents?

photo 2

Hmmm…

2014-07-02This eyebrow pencil was touted as being a universally flattering, one-shade-fits-all brown. A couple of things about me: (1) my skin is deathly pale; (2) my eyebrows are decidedly not. I’m pretty sure that enhancing them with anything would make me look like Joan Crawford . . . wait, what am I saying, that would be AWESOME. Anyone want to give me some brow pencil tips so I can achieve that level of glamour? If not, this goes on the Swap Board.

photo 2-2Tousled beach waves? Clearly Ipsy is unaware of my Unfortunate Perm Phase (grades 5 through 8), during which I desperately (and futilely) tried to achieve any sort of body and wave in my hair. If dangerous chemicals applied by trained professionals couldn’t make it happen, this spray won’t. Swaaaaaap!

photo 1-2I’d never heard of this brand and kind of gave it the side-eye when I saw how many items on its website involve camouflage — I’m not in the Duck Dynasty demographic. But this scent was actually pleasant! Light, not overly floral. It won’t replace my Earl Grey spray, but it’s nice enough.

2014-07-021I never buy lip gloss, because (being the cutting-edge fashionista that I am) I yearn to keep wearing the brick-red matte lip colors most commonly associated with the mid- to late 1990s (aka “the salad years”). I would still be wearing my favorite shade of Almay Amazing Lasting Lipcolor if it hadn’t been discontinued in the last century. But fellow Ipsy subscribers were raving about this item, so I gave it a shot. It’s nice enough, but the shade isn’t for me. Even though it looks very bright in the picture, on my lips it’s more of a pale wormy shade that washes me out even more than normal. I need contrast, people! Sad trombone.

And finally, the Be a Bombshell mascara saga. Sigh. Grab a snack and settle in. Ipsy mails the glam bags in waves, so before mine had arrived, I had already started seeing complaints online from people re: this item (which was included in EVERYONE’S bag this month). The most common assertion was that it smelled awful — like burned rubber — and that people were afraid to use it. The company responded that the complaints were baseless, first saying that its choice to not include a fragrance in the mascara was just throwing people off and then later claiming that independent testing had confirmed that the mascara was free of any harmful bacteria or other spoilers and therefore it was totes safe to use. When mine came, I opened it and noted that it didn’t smell like anything, so I tried it on late one night before I was about to wash my face anyway. Almost immediately, the white area of my eye started to turn red, although I did not experience any burning or itching, but I wasted no time in washing it off to be safe. But the damage was done — as I showed on Facebook and Instagram the next day, my eyeball went into full-on Nancy Kerrigan-style “WHHHHYYYYYY???” revolt. The day before my 20-year high school reunion. HAWT. (And this photo was just the beginning — over the next 36 hours or so, the redness grew more concentrated and brilliant, completely obscuring any white area of my eye. Sam kept helpfully pointing out that I looked as though someone had punched me, which is just what I desire day to day, so yay!)

It should be noted that I am not the type to have customer service departments on speed dial — I’m more the type to eat the wrong entree a waiter brings out because I don’t want to cause trouble by returning it. But in this case, I was irritated (physically and mentally) and thought it was worth mentioning to someone that even a tube of mascara that seemed perfectly fine (i.e., no alarming stench emanating from it) obviously was not. So I emailed the good people of Be a Bombshell and included my picture. Within a few hours, I received the CSR version of “we’re sorry if you were offended by the horribly racist/sexist/inhumane comments we made publicly and now we’re trying to smooth it all over because our PR flunkie says to.” In other words, it was a retread of previous assertions that the mascara was totally fine, buuuuuut just to make the whiny poopypants complainers feel better about life, BaB and Ipsy had already agreed that Ipsy would handle any issues. And hey, thanks for writing! Try our other products!

It’s become clear that a number of companies are using the Ipsy subscriptions to launch new products, which is fine, but they should be prepared for the honest feedback they receive. In no way was I seeking compensation or anything, but I thought my reaction was severe enough to bring to someone’s attention, especially because my tube didn’t have the tell-tale chemical smell others had complained about. I don’t have sensitive skin or eyes and have never had a reaction to anything before, so this was waaaay past normal. And given the massive number of people who also experienced problems, you’d THINK BaB would eventually get a clue and cop to the fact that something was off in this batch of products. But, like those people in college who always complain about having a bad roommate without ever realizing that THEY are the bad roommates, BaB more or less tried to blow off concerns and were kind of snippy about it. Bad PR move.

Ipsy, on the other hand, sent me TWO replacement products, which I just received today (hence this late post) — a full-size vivid lip gloss from BaB (which I doubt I’ll try, not wanting my lips to fall off) and a very nice deluxe sample of this volumizing mascara (which I’ll be happy to try). And so I remain pro-Ipsy, because even if I hadn’t received any replacement items (which I had not requested), the cost of the remaining items in the bag surpassed the $10 subscription fee, and I gained expert knowledge on all the different eye drops out there (that is, knowledge that they are USELESS — my eye healed up on its own but took a full week to do so). So, win-win?knowingishalfthebattle

To Buy or Not to Buy? Jamberry Nail Wraps

shakespeare_102

Image courtesy of Jack C. Gregory Illustration

In a nail-polish Facebook group I belong to (yes, that’s a thing — there are tons of them out there), someone recently mentioned being a Jamberry representative and offered to send samples to people. Thinking it was something food-related, à la Tastefully Simple, I didn’t pay much attention. But then I received an invitation to an unrelated friend’s online Jamberry party and figured since I didn’t have to leave the house to attend (why can’t more social gatherings take place virtually?), I’d check it out. And I’m glad I did!

For a few years now, so-called nail strips have been available (Sally Hansen designs are all over the place, but other polish brands, including Essie and OPI, have also put out a few options). They’re billed as being made from actual nail polish yet offering a no-mess way to achieve more elaborate looks than the average gal may be able to accomplish with assorted lacquers. Jamberry wraps offer the same function, but with a few key differences:

  1. They are made from vinyl rather than nail polish. Therefore, they don’t chip with wear. The website and catalog claim that manicures with these wraps last 2 weeks and that pedicures last up to 6 weeks.
  2. Because they are essentially fancy stickers, chemicals aren’t required for their application or removal. People who are sensitive to smells or ingredients associated with polish and removers may appreciate this difference; it also makes them pretty kid-friendly (and, in fact, the company offers several cute designs made specifically for a child’s smaller nails).

In the days leading up to my friend’s online party, the rep leading the event sent samples to everyone on the guest list so that we could ask questions and/or offer feedback after trying them firsthand (so to speak). I followed the simple application directions and sported this look for a little more than a week:

Because I like ALL the colors...

I call the accent-nail-only look “Jammin’ on the One.”

Ultimately, as the rep had promised, the nail polish I also wore chipped within a few days, but the Jamberry wraps never budged or became worn. And I didn’t baby my hands during the test period, doing all the usual stuff I would around the house (laundry, dishes) in addition to working a shift in a strawberry shortcake booth at a local festival (so lotsa hand-washing there). Removal was equally easy — I just peeled them off and swiped my nails with polish remover to ensure that no adhesive remained. Impressed with the performance and because, hey, #treatyoself, I placed an order at my friend’s party.

Jamberry offers more than 300 designs, ranging from solid colors and French tips to much more elaborate graphics. Because I am une dork suprême, I pounced on this design as soon as I saw it — my high school reunion was fast approaching, and this way of sporting the school colors was a lot easier than other options I had considered:

 

Dear old Cathedral, here's to you...

Dear old Cathedral, here’s to you…

A sheet of wraps retails for $15, but the company suggests that the average wearer can get at least two full manicures and pedicures from that single sheet. Because I (1) hate waste, (2) have small hands, and (3) don’t have long talons, I managed to stretch my sheet even further:

Plenty of future manicures left!

Plenty of future manicures left!

Given that I would typically not wear such a busy pattern on all fingers at once, these should last me a long time, and, unlike nail polish that can get gloppy over time if it’s not used, these won’t go bad or take up a ton of space in my Melmer.

Application was simple, although I need a little more practice to ensure that I don’t have any small creases or bubbles (which you can kind of see on my index finger in the picture). It was also very easy to trim them to size with some cuticle scissors so that I could maximize each strip’s usage. If you look closely, you can glimpse the Dowager Sophie just beyond my hand — that’s ’cause I was lying on the couch and watching Investigation Discovery while applying the wraps. Achieving a cute look while only being semi-upright AND brushing up on my murder shows? Sign me up!

So, to buy or not to buy? Well…

  • Pros: Lots of designs, colors, logos (even for colleges and sports teams, if you’re into that — which I am NOT); no smells, chemicals, or spillage risks; simple customization for your nail size (unless you have giant mutant nails or something); protection against splitting or breaking for thin nails; no special equipment required other than a heat source (such as a hair dryer) and a cuticle stick
  • Cons: A little practice to really get the hang of applying them perfectly; some tedium in filing the wrap sufficiently to avoid “feeling” the edge of it; availability only through sellers (in other words, you can’t decide on a whim to run to Target and pick up a sheet)

The verdict: BUY

Interested? I’m hosting my OWN Facebook party on July 1 so you can check ’em out for yourself! I have a ton of samples ready to drop in the mail, so watch for your invitation to come soon! AAAAAAND attendees will be the first to find out about a new Jamberry surprise, which is super-cool (I already know what it is, so nyah-nyah).

(For the record, even if I weren’t having a party, I would label these as a “buy.” I don’t pull my punches, as you’ll see in my upcoming entry on Be a Bombshell mascara….)

“What’s in the box?!” Dollar Shave Club

whats-in-the-boxBeing a fair-haired lad, Chris doesn’t shave daily, so he could never remember the brand of razor he was using whenever we would be out somewhere and he’d decide that he needed more blades. This usually meant either accidentally buying the wrong kind or starting over with a new razor altogether, and both choices were pricey and annoying. Enter the Dollar Shave Club.

The premise is simple: Sign up for one of three plans, then set it and forget it. The first month’s box includes a set of blades (four blades per month) and a handle; thereafter, like clockwork, once a month you receive a small cardboard envelope with another set of replacement blades. If you don’t need that many, one click on the site lets you switch delivery to every other month. You also have the option of changing your plan and/or adding a few extras to that month’s delivery whenever you want to. Easy-peasy.

Plan 1: The Humble Twin ($1/month plus S&H): Just like it sounds, a basic twin-blade razor.

Plan 2: The 4X ($6/month, no additional S&H): A four-blade option.

Plan 3: The Executive ($9/month, no additional S&H): A six-blade option.

Chris opted to try “The Executive,” because he wanted ALL THE BLADES on his face. He also decided to add a tube of shave butter and, because he thought the premise was hilarious, the “One Wipe Charlies.” Mere days after he registered on the site, the first box arrived. The verdict: He really likes the shave butter, but he loves the razor (saying more than once that it’s the closest shave he’s ever gotten), and he SUPER-LOVES the wipes . . . for using on his face at night (he likes the minty tingle). (Note: I don’t know whether he has actually tried them for their intended purpose, nor am I going to ask — as the wise men of Spinal Tap once said, some things are “best left unsolved.”)

He decided to switch to delivery every other month, though (because he still doesn’t need to shave daily, especially when these blades do such a great job), so when I went to the site to make the change, I noticed that Plan 2 (The 4X) was specifically recommended for “your girlfriend” and thought I’d give it a shot (plus Chris wanted more wipes). And lo, my own delivery promptly arrived a few days later.

 

Whee, sharp things!

Whee, sharp things!

The handle has some weight to it, which is nice, plus the grippy texture makes it perfect for use in the shower. As for the blades, I have to say . . . I think they are FANTASTIC. I have scars (yes, plural) on my ankles from past incidents when I’ve cut myself to the point that I feared I would bleed out in the shower, and regardless of the razor’s newness and the gel/creme/whatever I put on my legs, I always seem to nick my knees when I’m shaving. That said, since switching to these razors, I literally have not cut myself ONCE, which makes them totally worthwhile in my book. Add the convenience of always having blades on hand for a minimal monthly investment and I’m sold, a completely satisfied customer.

Want to try Dollar Shave Club for yourself? Click here to sign up — you get great service, and I get $5 off my next month’s delivery. Winner, winner, chicken dinner!