Sephora gets some major nerd cred

I don’t always love what Sephora does, but I have to hand it to them. In the past few weeks, I’ve noticed some majorly awesome nerdy stuff they’ve done.

  • Passbook win! They were the very first store or service to successfully implement Passbook support with iOS 6, notify me about it clearly, and make it simple to integrate. Even Starbucks’s effort was behind Sephora’s in this regard. (To date, these are my only two Passbook items.) The extra bonus is that I no longer have to explain to Sephora reps how to look up my complicated email domain in their system!
  • Shopping by reviews. Seriously, guys, this one’s important for a couple reasons. I blathered about it here, but in a nutshell it allows customers to shop based entirely on the feedback of other users, with ZERO marketing input from Sephora. Seriously. Right now, it doesn’t even have a single image on the page view! And check out all that unused white space! I expect Sephora to tinker with this and probably ruin it in the coming weeks, so here’s my screencap for posterity:

Most online beauty presences aren’t into minimalism. This is definitely an anomaly even among Sephora’s other page views. Heck, I was badgered into adding as much noise as I have on this site because a professional beauty writer told me it looked boring and “needed more images”—and for her industry, I reluctantly admit she’s right. That’s why I find this so interesting. Amazon, for example, claims to be king of giving people data-based shopping, but they don’t allow one to simply search for things with a high review count until you’ve whittled down your results to a much narrower selection. If you trust the community of reviewers that a vendor has built, then being able to rely solely on them for shopping decisions is a stark contrast to most web storefront merchandising models.

So despite the fact that Sephora still uses Blogger for their professional company blog and that they create horrible Facebook-page-embedded auto-tweeting Flash-based clicky contests and that their “added item to basket” animation now takes a full fifteen seconds to trigger and their web text sometimes looks like this (right), they still win a pretty major tech award in my cold, geeky, stainless-steel-encased heart. Way to go, guys! Now let me search on active ingredient/ingredient category or on whether products have attractive and durable packaging  that makes a satisfying click noise upon closure, and I will love you even more. <3

Branching out from my usual sources

I’m a big Sephora fan, no doubt. I’ve also enjoyed shopping for beauty products at Nordstrom, and of course I get some of my stuff from EDS and my hippie-dippier ingredients from Mountain Rose and Nature’s Gift. But lately I’ve found that shopping at bigger retailers is surprisingly un-scary! I was eyeing my go-to eye cream online, and there were no good shipping deals from the manufacturer’s site or QVC where they often sell their stuff. But Amazon had a great deal! I emailed the seller just to be sure, and they confirmed that it was a fresh shipment, too. So I went for it and was very pleased with the price point. (Go here if you want a similarly great deal.)

And just last month, on a trip to Texas, I lent a friend some Peter Thomas Roth Max Complexion Correction pads to calm her breakout—her skin had freaked out in the humid Dallas climate. She loved them so much she asked me for a referral, and when I Googled them, the Amazon price was way lower than the Sephora price! AND the Amazon shipping was free.

Look, some of you lovelies know I used to work for Amazon. But I worked in Kindle, and thought of them primarily as a tech company plus a place to, like, research for the best headphones and flash drives. I don’t actually order through them all that often for more “normal” items. But I’m totally going to start checking them for skincare deals, and I’ll be watching my lil’ widget to see what kinds of products it starts suggesting. (If it doesn’t get smarter soon I’ll have to hard-code it to offer y’all up beauty deals.) I think as my tastes mainstream a bit more, I’ll start to find better and better deals from the big A.

And lest it not be said, those complexion pads are GREAT for acne, and also help with wrinkles and age spots! Just be careful not to overdo it, or you’ll get mad flaky and dry—you may wanna start with the sensitive formula and work your way up to the full thing.

 

EDITED TO ADD: I actually received a totally gross-looking shipment of these pads. The top foil was punctured and the product was clearly contaminated, even though it’s largely alcohol based. However, I wrote the seller to complain and they immediately refunded my money, without me having to harass them or send the product back or anything. I was then able to salvage what seems to be clean and safe to use product—it really was just the top seal that was disgusting. So overall, even though I wouldn’t expect it to show up like that from Sephora, I had a good skincare shopping experience with this Amazon seller, so I’ll be trying that out again soon for sunblock.

Update on lies and oils, respectively

OK, I know it’s been WAY too long since I last updated. Home ownership is busy-making! As is trying to work full time while running a side business and writing a book and generally making an effort to cook more and decorate and yada yada. ANYWAY. Hi, I’m back! So what has been going on with me, you wonder?

  • I tried out a new lip “stain” – must remain in quotes because it is SO NOT A REAL STAIN SEPHORA. So annoyed it’s making me all capsy (cf Fug Girls). To be fair, they actually have many products in their Lip Stain category that I don’t consider true stains, but I suppose I’m a bit of a purist (since my husband is such a pickypants about kissing me with any discernible product on my lips). Anyway – “Cream Lip Stain” – a LIE!!! It’s a long-lasting liquid lipstick like you get from the drugstore, guys. And it’s icky and hard to get off and I’m returning that shit.
  • I ordered more oils! After my post-wedding resolution to quit spending so goddamn much on skincare and beauty, I did a good job of not buying stuff for a while. But then I ran out of stuff and my face got sad and long story short, I invested in some new purchases. I got an oil sampler pack from Garden of Wisdom, and I also shelled out for a big bottle of their nice organic argan oil that my skin and hair both seem to love. Check out my little three-pack — I love being able to sample different types!

The trouble is, they don’t use the best packaging — I hate a nice unrefined cold-pressed organic oil going into a lipophilic plastic bottle, and I hate that the ink on the shitty labels gets all over my hands. So I’ve started being crazy-weird about how I unwrap them, only undoing the bit around the cap so I don’t touch the ink — and I need to hit Zenith to buy some new glass bottles so I can decant my argan.

Aaaanyway, as you can probably see, I got a combo of Baobab, Kukui and Tamanu oils. I’ve already tried Tamanu and it’s fine, but nothing amazing — didn’t break me out and seemed to moisturize well enough, but I prefer the smell (or lack thereof) and consistency of argan which I now have too much of. Working on trying Baobab now — it’s clear and yellow and semi-thick, and so far seems fine but not resplendent. Will update once I hit Kukui!

Trouble in paradise

All the fancy accoutrements pictured here are from the real estate staging! Our stuff looks simultaneously nicer and less nice than that.OK, so we bought ourselves a brand new house. Like, a really nice one. Nice enough that I can’t afford to shop at Sephora ever again.  We’ve had a really fun and monumental beginning of the year, with the new home and a big move all right after a trip to Rio for a friend’s wedding (which my husband officiated). BUSY. And since we haven’t had time to fully unpack, I still can’t get to all of my toiletries or clothes! SO sad.

The funniest part of this house with its seemingly extravagant updates, is how  certain parts of it were built for fashion over function. Check out this magnificent master bathroom, for example — big glass-walled shower, big Jacuzzi tub w/ gas fireplace, two sinks. Deeee-luxe, right? But what you DON’T see here is that the enormous, heavy glass wall of the shower is held up with a tiny, nay, DAINTY dime-sized blob of mere silicone. Or that the Jacuzzi jets occasionally malfunction and scream on in the middle of the night like a banshee. Or that the shower contains a lovely assortment of multiple showerheads arranged at perplexing intervals and heights (…What did they have in mind here, exactly? Pint-sized/waif orgies?) but that the plumbing is such that one can’t actually make two (let alone all) of them work well at the same time, for, say, the purposes of dual showering with one’s sweetie or basking in the warm spray from multiple sources. And the *worst* part to this beauty diva is that there isn’t enough hardware for a bathroom that size — the only measley bath towel rack is way across the room from the shower, hung right over the heater so the towel blocks the warm air. And there’s only one hand towel ring, for two sinks that are a few feet apart.

Gatco Latitude II collection - Satin NickelThe fantastic part about these defects is that they gave us an excuse to buy some new bathroom hardware (at much expense and hand-wringing, but hey — gotta hang up your towel somewhere, and when we saw the terrifyingly-installed glass shower wall shake under the gentle pressure of a hanging towel being removed, we quickly chalked it up to a worthwhile expense, as opposed to the medical bills resulting from having been CRUSHED). So we selected this gorgeous Gatco Latitude II collection which seemed to be sturdy and of clean modern design, and which featured handy inclusions like a double towel bar (pictured left) or even a double toilet paper roll or a hotel-style towel rack and shelf combo. Once these babies arrive and we put them up, I’ll be SO happy to finally have somewhere to put my washcloth, hair towel, and hand towel. Plus a bunch of toiletries since Grant kindly condescended to get me some matching shelves for all my lotions and potions.

But what other troubles plague these spoiled brats, you ask? Well, I’ll tell you (since you asked). The lighting fixtures in our new master bath are kind of ridiculously designed — they contain these bizarre glass cover things that are SCREWED down over the hard-to-find tiny Halogen bulbs. And this is INSIDE the glass fixture casement part. So I need a tool that apparently doesn’t exist (a precision ratcheting offset screwdriver, say that five times fast) to get the dang casements off to change out the bulbs, five out of eight of which were dead. I managed to do ONE by hand, another one appears to have been seared by a power surge and fails to work, and the other three I just can’t get the screws off of. Oh, and I almost electrocuted myself trying, so we now have learned that this can only be done with the circuit shut off, i.e. during daylight, i.e. weekends only. And I think I broke one trying last time.

ANYWAY. None of that is REALLY “trouble” as the title implies. Just all the funny puzzling quirks of new home ownership. Hopefully soon, I’ll be able to get my home set up with all the hardware needed to really unpack those boxes marked “bathroom” and go back to primping in the style to which I’ve grown accustomed! (Way, way better, actually. Trading Sephora runs for Home Depot runs is totally worth it! Also worth it is ditching the manicured nails, not that I really had those very often anyway. But home improvement and nice nails do NOT go hand in hand!)

Holy lashes, Batman!

Remember my Great Mascara Review from last year? Yeah, now that I found my Holy Grail Mascara, I thought I was all done with that noise. Well sadly, my HG is starting to bug my eyes lately — might be the lack of humidity now that heaters are going on everywhere — and I think I need to switch to a gentler formula for my overtaxed peepers.  After all, I DO spend all day staring at tiny text in an MMO in a de-humidified office.

Through absolutely no intention or efforts, I have wound up with the following generous sample tubes from Nordies and Sephora over the past few months (left to right), which I figured I might as well review briefly. None of these formulations are waterproof, so I wasn’t surprised that none of these were a huge hit, but what the heck!

One thing is for certain — the tiny, thin brushes from my Clinique Lash Power Mascara and my Smashbox Lash Detailer Mascara are way better for my peepers, so I’ve washed and saved those. Any new HG mascara will likely only be HG when applied with one of these phenomenal brushes!


Sephora Atomic Volume Mascara — Meh. Hard to apply and rubs/flakes off really easily. It was super dry and sticky-like to get on, like the (sealed in a bag) tube was old and dried out. Niiiice.

Peter Thomas Roth Lashes to Die For — Spiky ouchy brush, meh formulation, will still keep brush for use w/ other mascaras but not to be used at base of lashes. Owie!

Lancôme Defincils — Sometimes I like this, but I don’t care for this stuff most days. It goes on very spindly/separatey, without enough volume — as I’ve mentioned before, this looks weird on my superlong and weirdly-pointing lashes. Makes them look lanky, anorexic and confused — bad in both teens and eyelashes, turns out. If I use the superskinny Clinique brush, it looks better, but still not amazing. It does give great separation with few clumps though.

Sephora plain ole mascara — Immediately leaked all over my undereye when I ate spicy food and teared up a tiny bit (no actual crying). Also weird fibrous flakiness. Ew.

Smashbox Lash DNA x2 — Meh, dry formula, and the stupid brush doesn’t allow for precise application so you smear it everywhere. Does separate nicely and get fringe-y when applied w/ Lash Detailer mascara brush (part of Beauty Breakthroughs kit). But for a mascara that isn’t waterproof, this stuff sure is hard to remove! Harder than most waterproof mascaras!

Shiseido Perfect Mascara — Has the same icky glue-like smell as the long-lasting Too Faced Lash Injection, but this stuff also rubs off if you change your shirt. Pass! And what a stuck-up name, haha.

Clinique High Impact Mascara x2 — Meh. This stuff is fine, not phenomenal, just fine. Goes on fine, comes off fine, doesn’t stay amazingly long but then none of these non-waterproof ones do.

Lancôme Hypnose Drama — This stuff is just fine, not amazing. Annoying abnormal brush and slightly dry/clump-inducing formulation. Meh. 

Estée Lauder Sumptuous — This is supposed to be volumizing? It’s one of those length and separation but no volume mascaras that makes my eyes look FREAKY. Great for Halloween though!

Buxom Lashes — This stuff is also with a mean ouchy spiky brush, which makes it mega-hard to apply to the lash base. Applied with a skinny Clinique brush it looks fine, but otherwise, pass. Also, it seems to uncurl my curled lashes quicker than any other formulation!

And home sick on school pictures day, Smashbox Bionic Mascara. Ick. Just as tacky, thick, clumpy, and eye-goober-forming as I remember it.

So yeah, no big winners here, but not a shock given that these were all non-waterproof freebies. Back to the drawing board — curse my sensitive peepers!

Sephora Favorites are kind of my new favorite

When I was living in Barcelona, I my friend who worked at the department store how to say "eyeliner" in Spanish. The answer? "Eyeliner" in Spanish pronunciation, i.e. "eh-yeh-lee-nurr". Lovely!Ohmigosh, Sephora is doing WAY more Sephora Favorites boxed sets this year! (Even if you ignore all the Halloween ones.) Or maybe they’re just doing more all at once? Either way, I’m obsessed.

I only *kind of* want this basics one, but I TOTALLY want this hair one, this new Lash Stash one, this eyeliner one, and maybe a couple others. And if these puppies go on sale after Christmas, well, maybe I’ll strike then! I just wish there was a way to link Sephora gift registries with Amazon gift registries. Ooh, like a lot. Like, I’m gonna go Tweet Sephora that idea right now!

Sample Time

So leading up to the wedding, I spent approximately a million dollars on beauty-related products and services and then received a bunch of gifts that take up all the space in our cupboards. So it’s time for a purge!

In addition to cleansing our kitchen of old dishes, I’ve decided to make my way through all the many, many, MANY Sephora samples I’ve amassed in recent months and possibly even years. (I used to use these up as swap gifts on MUA, but I’m too pressed for time to even swap anymore.)

So in the coming weeks, look forward to an insane amount of feedback on the many different little foil packets I’ll be busting into soon! First up will be a tinted moisturizer round-up, despite my fair skin – at least I’m doing it in the summer to try and check ’em out at my tannest!

Freebie Fest, Part 2

Wow — Sephora’s recent VIB Swag Bag was quite the freebie for me. Many of the items included are things I’ll actually use*,  which is rare for me with freebies. There was even a replacement for an existing product of mine! It was nice not to have to spend the $50 minimum for free shipping online, too — my local store often runs out of bonuses way early, but not this time.

PLUS, all my wedding skincare remedies qualified me for a free Skincare Challenge full-size product, and they finally had something I wanted — and I’ve been wanting to switch to a different moisturizer anyway as of late. Never seen a philosophy Skincare Challenge reward on their site before, so this was a pleasant surprise.

And lastly, I still have a crazy high number of points to redeem, so I’m due for another freebie soon! But none of the 500-point bonuses have appealed to me lately. Maybe I’ll just wind up stocking up on a zillion different $100-point perks instead…

*Like Phytodefrisant, Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer, Urban Decay Stardust shadow in a purpley color, and a replacement for my trial-size Smashbox Photo-Op Under Eye Brightener that I like to carry in my purse for loooong days (like this one). Quite the bonus bag!

Lip Stain Roundup

I sometimes feel like a bit of a chump for being a lip stain addict, because stains are probably the least natural cosmetic out there. (I’m sure some “natural” stains exist, but even the pretend-naturals like Tarte are chock-full of silly chemicals.) But ever since Grant started dating me, he has been horrified by the idea of kissing a glossy mouth. And I can’t say I blame him! Hence, Stain City.

Well, I’d never quite found the perfect product. The closest I’d gotten was Vincent Longo’s gel stains, but those shades are all way too dark for my fairer complexion — not into the Goth Lip look. Plus the packaging can be hell — while the wand applicator is great, I’ve had three tubes break in my purse and stain all of the contents. Ew! I’ve also tried TheBalm’s Stainiac, which is also wand based and is a bit lighter in pigment, but the formulation feels sticky and doesn’t last as long. And I’ve tried decanting Benetint and Lorac’s Sheer Wash into a wand tube, but meh.

I don’t care for balm-based stains like Laura Mercier or tarte, since the whole point is kissability; and most pen-style stains like Styli Style tend to dry out much faster than other packaging styles. I started an EDS thread to solicit others’ input, and it definitely helped, but I was still searching for better shades that were less Goth or garish. I’ve tried the in-between Stila brush-pen-balm-thing as well as the Sephora Lush Flush in 2 shades… what can I say; I leave no stone unturned!

But finally, here’s the good part! Today’s Sephora package brought me a new nude/beige stain by tokidoki that actually looks fab, even though nudes usually wash me out. (Sadly, though, this stuff tastes terrible!) And I also got both color combos of TheBalm’s For Keeps, so I can mix and custom blend colors that work better on me, and dilute them to soften the look. (Plus I simply adore the innovative formulation and charming packaging!)

AND, I now see that  a Josie Maran stain pen just came out, which I am, like, contractually obligated to purchase at this point. And I never did try the Givenchy stain pen. At least cosmetics companies have clearly realized that there is a market for stain… now here’s hoping we get some SUBTLE stains out of this epiphany soon! ‘Til then, a combo of, yes, ALL of the above will be what colors my lips. Grant certainly can’t complain that I haven’t tried to find a good kissable-yet-glam solution!

The Hair Powder Shakedown

Pun totally intended.

I started using Jurlique Rose Silk Dust a couple years ago on my face, and I discovered that it was a bit too drying to use often. But, of course, I was unwilling to waste such an expensive product! So I started using it on the wispy hair bits around my face that tend to get greasy thanks to my cleansing cream and my DIY facial oil blend that I use to moisturize. And thus begun my love affair with hair powder!

Not only do I have coarse, drier hair, but I also have hair that tends to look WAY better when unwashed for a couple days. And since it’s dry, it tends to look fine unwashed except right at the scalp or around my hairline. So the advent of  hair powder as a common beauty product has been an almost-ideal solution… except that some hair powders are AWFUL.

I tried a travel size bottle of Ojon Rub-Out, and HATED it. Greasy, stinky (but not in their usual signature yummy Ojon scent) and flaky-looking. I’d been using Bumble and Bumble Hair Powder as a very different type of styling aid, but I found it didn’t translate well to scalp use AT ALL. (The brown turns your scalp brown and the white just looks like chalky dandruff, and both irritate the skin while failing to make you less greasy-looking after a long day.) And don’t even THINK about brushing your hair with either of these products in it, unless you want to spend an hour on brush cleaning afterwards. Ew. So I opted to avoid spray formulations and just go for straight up powder… powder. Continue reading “The Hair Powder Shakedown”