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!

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?

Earl Grey by Demeter; Or, “Quit Buying Perfume That Smells Like Food”

OTYS: Try new perfume.

I’ve always liked the idea of perfume but have found very few that I’ll actually wear. It can’t be overly strong, and I avoid flower-based scents so that I don’t smell like the inside of an old lady’s handbag (I dismiss a lot of smells with the shorthand “old lady handbag,” including original flavor Febreze — blergh). My standby for several years has been Clinique Happy, because I like the citrus base. And then, thanks to a discount code with my Ipsy subscription, I did some browsing on the Demeter Fragrance site and purchased Earl Grey Tea cologne spray and roll-on perfume oil.

Pros: The oil in particular smells terrific. I know it’s weird to be constantly sniffing my wrists, but I do it surreptitiously when I wear this scent (as I’ve mentioned before, the smell of Earl Grey is The Best). Lovely.

Cons: Both the cologne and the oil seem to fade very quickly. Chris claimed to be unable to smell them at all even after I had just applied them (and then he told me to quit buying perfume that smells like food, because that drives him bonkers — I can’t help liking non-flower scents, okay? It’s not as though I bought the pizza perfume). If anyone out there has tried these or other Demeter offerings, any suggestions for making them last longer? Or do I need to just apply much more generously?

Operation Treat Yo Self

Welcome, gentle readers!

Whither this blog? Let me set the scene: I am a nub, perpetually frazzled and overworked (purely my own fault), and let’s just say that my sartorial style is a few levels below that of the average eight-year-old boy. I also have a tendency to deny myself things that I might want because I can’t “justify” the “expense” (and by expense, I mean things that are usually $10 or less — I’m not a high roller by any means). It drives Chris, my husband, insane.

At our neighborhood’s annual Halloween festival, a vendor was selling homemade soaps and lotions, and I splurged on a bar of Earl Grey soap (when Chris said that no, really, the $6 soap was perfectly okay to buy). Earl Grey is one of my favorite scents, and I absolutely fell in love with this soap, using it until it became a translucent sliver. After hemming and hawing for much longer than mere BAR SOAP warrants (seriously, you don’t want to go inside my brain), I finally broke down around Christmas and ordered more from the vendor’s Etsy page, and thus sprouted the seedling that would become Operation Treat Yo Self (OTYS) in the new year.

The purpose of OTYS is to get me to loosen up a little and sample small indulgences without feeling like I’m The Worst for doing so. Over the last few months, this has taken the form of subscription boxes. I stumbled onto the Julep site (I honestly can’t remember how), and then investigating it led to the Ipsy site. (More on both sites in upcoming entries.) Julep is mostly devoted to nail polish, but Ipsy is a total wild card in the sense that I don’t know month to month what I’ll be getting, so chances are pretty high that I’ll end up with items that I am clueless about using.

And that’s where you come in — feedback in the form of helpful tips or flat-out instructions when I post a photo and say, “WTF am I supposed to do with this?” would be most appreciated. Or you can just sit back and laugh at my feminine ineptitude — I don’t know your life, so whatever. But I think reviewing the contents of said boxes and other things that catch my fancy seems like fun, so here I am. And if you want to play along by issuing OTYS challenges, I would love it! (Okay, I should qualify that — I will not play along with things like suggested bungee jumps, but I would consider buying a freaky nail polish color and reviewing it. This isn’t Fear Factor.) So slather on your favorite face mask and let’s dive in, shall we?