“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

“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!

What’s in the box!? Ipsy Bag, May 2014

whats-in-the-boxAh, the anticipation associated with the release of a new Ipsy Glam Bag! Ipsy is a subscription service that offers a variety of beauty items — usually four or five deluxe-size samples (and sometimes full-size items) — plus a themed makeup bag each month, for a mere $10 (including shipping). When you enroll, you take a quiz that’s supposed to help the magical elves at Ipsy (the Ipsters?) personalize the contents of your monthly bag. Feedback you provide on each bag’s contents after trying everything then helps them better match your interests over time . . . allegedly.

The games begin on the first of the month, when Ipsy starts releasing teaser photos with items that could be included in your bag that month. If it’s a photo of one item, that means everyone will get it (as was the case with an Urban Decay eyeliner in the April bag); if the photo shows more than one item, you can only wonder which your bag will contain. Over the next few days, more photos go up, each of which causes a frenzy of speculation/excitement/rending of garments/bitching all over the Internet. People give these images Zapruder-film levels of analysis and scrutiny, working to identify brand logos that are partially obscured, investigate possible color options for teased lip glosses or polishes, etc. Invariably, some people complain, complain, complain about the possibilities, to which I say, “Jesus, sack up and unsubscribe! Makeup should not cause so much Sturm und Drang!” (But that’s just how I roll.) Finally, around the 10th or so of the month, you receive an e-mail notice announcing that your personalized “Glam Room” is ready for viewing, which means that you can log in to the website to see what your specific bag contains that month. And then people start celebrating or moaning all over again, because that’s what the Internet was invented for, right? (That and cat pictures. Never forget the cat pictures.)

IpsyMayGlamRoom

I’m a relatively new subscriber, so the bag I received in May was only my second. Therefore, I’m not jaded yet about what I get or don’t get (that is, I’m not all, “OH MY GAWD, I WILL CHOKE THE MAIL CARRIER IF I GET ANOTHER SET OF FALSE EYELASHES” the way some people are — subscription boxes seem to bring out a really weird sense of entitlement in a lot of ladies online). But it also means that I’m still tweaking the system to get Ipsy to understand my likes and dislikes, and I have a ways to go on that front, as you shall see. The possibilities were pretty broad this month, with people getting everything from some sort of fancy facial water spray to (yes) eyelashes to nail polishes. And then there’s my assortment.

There’s no mistaking the Ipsy package for anything else when it arrives — the hot pink bubble mailer is a constant:

IpsyMay

And inside the mailer:

IpsyMaybag

The makeup bag design changes monthly, and it would be difficult for Ipsy to top this little canvas number for me, given that I wear this watch and this Fitbit, carry this phone, and work at this desk every day. So cute! I haven’t yet decided how best to put it to use, but the bag is a winner, no question. As for the contents . . .

IpsyMayContents

Let’s break this down.

HangTenI hate nature. I hate being outside. This is going up on the Swap Board. Next!

Pacifica

A lot of subscribers were excited about these eye shadow duos. I rarely wear eye shadow, and when I do, I have several neutrals to choose from already. But bonus points for being a full-size product! Still, this is also going up on the Swap Board.

JulepClio

Isn’t this pretty?? But it didn’t come in my bag. Much like the kid who trades her organic, gluten-free, wholesome bento box lunch for some Cheetos and a Swiss Roll, I traded my microdermabrasion scrub for someone else’s glittery polish (Clio, by Julep). (I had already gotten a different scrub in my first bag, and I’m perfectly happy to keep using this one a few times a week, so this was a good trade on both sides.)

Pur-lisse HeyHoney

 

I actually tried these two products (at the same time, even, because I’m efficient that way). According to the instructions on the Hey Honey website, I was to apply moisturizer before smearing the exfoliating mask on my face. So I reached for the Pur-lisse sample. The good? It didn’t smell like an old lady’s handbag. The bad? A pea-size globule made my face feel as though I’d gone bobbing for apples in a washtub o’ mayonnaise. I rubbed it in as best I could, but ugh. Won’t be using that one again. Then I moved on to the exfoliating mask. It was clear and smelled a lot like wildflowers, but it definitely felt like honey going on. (I wish it had been white or tinted to look like honey, too, so it would have been easier to tell where I had already applied it.) Per the instructions, I let it dry for about 30 minutes, and then I peeled it off. If you’re one of those people who fondly remembers picking dried Elmer’s Glue off your hands after finishing a school project, this mask is for you, because that’s exactly what it looks and feels like as you remove it. On the downside, I don’t see how it was in any way exfoliating, plus my face still felt gunky from that damned Pur-lisse moisturizer that I’d applied beforehand (and the HH website said to add MORE moisturizer after removing the mask — NOPE). So I’ll not be using either product again.

Now, I’m sure this all complaining makes it sound as though I hated my assortment this month, but I would still recommend the Ipsy subscription to anyone on the fence about signing up. For $10, you get to have the fun of chasing that perfect-bag dragon, and sometimes you might end up with something new and unexpected that you really like (for instance, the aforementioned Urban Decay eyeliner I received in my first bag — who da thunk it?). The products included are always worth more than the cost of the subscription, and just because the items I received aren’t the ones I would have selected doesn’t mean they were BAD — they just weren’t to my tastes/needs this time around. And if need be, you can make friends with fellow subscribers through dedicated Facebook groups or other online forums and do some horse trading, so really, it’s a win-win. I reviewed my bag’s contents on the Ipsy site (basically assigning everything a DO NOT WANT THIS AGAIN, IPSTERS rating), so maybe the next one will be more “me.” Tune in next month to find out!

The Lowdown
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)

“What’s in the box?!” Julep Maven Box, May 2014

whats-in-the-boxOne thing about developing an interest in various subscription services (and occasional purchases from people’s swap boards) is that the daily mail delivery has gotten much more exciting. On May 1, I received my first shipment from Dollar Shave Club (more on that in the next post) and my monthly Maven box from Julep.

Julep is a subscription service that primarily pimps nail polish, although other makeup- and skincare-related products are available. To become a “Maven,” you fill out a little quiz that categorizes your color preferences as belonging to one of four profiles: Classic with a Twist (that’s me), Bombshell, Boho Glam, or It Girl. Around the 20th of the month, you find out what the next month’s theme is and get previews of what your profile-determined Maven box will have in it, although you can always switch to one of the other boxes if you prefer the color selections it includes. You can also upgrade and get a box with all the colors for that month, or you can skip a month if nothing really grabs you (I think — apparently the skips have to be “earned,” maybe one every six months or so, but I’ve heard that customer service will make exceptions for people if need be). If you accept shipment of a box, about a week later you’ll also get access to a 24-hour “secret store” on the website that offers special deals on various products, usually including at least one polish color that isn’t available in the sets (for instance, a new polish correlated with that month’s birthstone). And throughout the month, you’ll get emails with different deals, etc. (There’s also a “Jules” rewards program for keeping your subscription going, but I don’t know much about that yet, either. I’m not a paid spokesmodel.)

This month, in the spirit of OTYS, I opted for the Polish Lover’s Upgrade — I earned double Jules or something for doing so, which means that my monthly box should be free next month, I think. I dunno, I just liked the pretty colors, okay? Don’t judge me, you don’t know my life. (Note: Had I stuck with the standard CWAT box, I would have received two polishes — Maddy and Ramona — and some crazy wand thingie that the company just released.)

JulepMayopen

Goodies lie within!

As shown in the photo above (click to expand), the box always includes a card showing all the choices for that month, a discount code to use on the site for later purchases, and an inspirational thought. I like to keep mine taped to the wall next to my face so I can glance over and feel reinvigorated when I need a mental pick-me-up. (Snerk — I couldn’t even type that with a straight face.)

JulepMaycontents

My precioussssssssssss…

The name of each color is always a woman’s name (I’ve labeled them in the photo). Sometimes it has some nebulous connection to the color — for instance, the May birthstone polish (a sparkly green emerald) is named “Priscilla” after Priscilla Presley, born May 24, 1945. I looked on the site once to see what “Heather” looks like, and it’s kind of a weird grayish color, which I don’t get — shouldn’t it be some shade of purple instead?

Because of some unfortunate recent nail breakage, I haven’t gotten to try any of them yet, although I swatched each on a nail stick while watching Investigation Discovery the other night, so that was fun. And Sam had a good time poring over them the next day, because he gets very excited about pretty colors, especially if they sparkle. (No sparkles this month, although several have shimmer finishes that are pretty.) I also haven’t tried the Luxe Repair Skin Serum, because I really loathe the word “serum” and therefore don’t want to gunk up my face with it. But hell, maybe for kicks I’ll try it one night and report back on the effectiveness of its “Power Cell Complex (TM).” That should be good for a laugh, right?