January Birchbox Samples Worth The Splurge

january birchbox recap

After a four month hiatus, I renewed my Birchbox subscription due to serious #birchboxenvy and FOMO. I’m glad I did, though, because my January box is chock full of beauty goodies I can use for my day-to-day. I got an eye serum, eyeshadow stick, body butter, nail polish (I love getting nail polish), primer, and body wipe. Read on for my recap of what I loved and didn’t love.

shiseido ultimune eye concentrate birchbox

Shiseido Ultimune Eye Power Infusing Eye Concentrate: I was super stoked when I saw that I’d be receiving this eye concentrate (concentrate is just another word for serum, fyi) in my box this month. I had tried it a sample in the past but didn’t realize that it functions underneath your eye cream. I use it about once a day, usually at night; since it’s a serum, a little bit goes a long way and you definitely don’t want to use too much because it can feel greasy. Upon application I notice my lines are drastically smoothed and my eyes look more refreshed. I use two different eye creams (because I’m really indecisive) – one from Caudalie and one from Shiseido– and alternate between the two. I’m not sure if that’s necessarily a smart move but I’ve seen a reduction in my crows feet and dark circles. Overall, if you are looking to integrate anti-aging in your beauty routine, this product is worth the splurge.

whish body butter

Whish Three Whishes Body Butter: Due to the sample size of this product, I use it as a hand cream rather than a body butter. I got it in the almond scent, which smells like an Italian bakery, but not too sweet like the overwhelmingly scented Bath & Body Works lotions. It has more of a refreshing scent which may have something to do with the organic ingredients. Which brings me to another reason why this product is worth the splurge – it’s organic! I’ve been trying to incorporate more organic beauty products in my routine (#greenbeauty Instagram is rubbing off on me) and this may just be my new go-to lotion brand.

cargo shadow stick

Cargo Swimmables™ Shadow Stick Trio: I got the shade in Sea Shell, a golden, shimmery shade. This was my first time using an eyeshadow stick and though I still prefer powder, there’s something nice about the creamy texture. It makes me look more awake for one; and two, it doubles as an eyeliner and is very easy to use. I apply it over a smoky eye for a more dramatic effect and love how it looks. I’m not sure if I’ll be purchasing it, but if you’re looking for an eyeshadow stick this one is worth it.

la fresh body soother wipes

LA FRESH® Instant Body Soother: This product feels refreshing on my skin and I could see using it after working out or even to wipe my yoga mat (yes? no?). Unfortunately, I only receive one wipe to try so I’m not really sure if it’s worth purchasing relative to Yes to Carrots and Burt’s Bees.

ipkn radiant primer

IPKN Flash Cream Radiant Primer: This primer had a thicker, greasier consistency than other primers I’ve used. It’s a lot like a lotion, which is not necessarily a bad thing if you have dry skin, but as someone with oily skin, this primer is too heavy for me. Because of that, I won’t be buying this primer.

ciate nail polish

Ciaté® Pillow Fight Nail Polish I was bummed I didn’t get the pretty grayish lilac polish in the photo, but the gunmetal shade wasn’t so bad. This nail polish is supposed to be tough on chipping and quick to dry but I didn’t notice a difference compared to other nail polish brands I use (Deborah Lippman, butter LONDON) and it’s not as smooth.

Generally, this was a pretty good box and I am using all the samples. What did you get in your box this month?

P.S.: If you’re not already a subscriber, sign-up for Birchbox so you won’t get left out of a Valentine’s Day box!

Follow

Not Your Average Coat: Leopard Print

Leopard Print and Over the Knee Boots - Winter Style

Boots: Stuart Weitzman; Jeans: Free People; Sweater: White House Black Market (similar); Bag: Tory Burch (similar); Coat: Zara (sold out; see below for similar styles); Sunglasses: Chanel.

There’s something dramatic about a leopard print coat. Even when paired over a jeans and a white sweater, it never looks boring. And since cold weather is a reality for at least six months out of the year (thanks, New England), I try to invest in as many fun coats as my bank account allows. As my Pinterest board can attest, I’ve always loved leopard print, but it wasn’t until this past fall that I found the perfect leopard print coat at Zara.  Though the coat is sold out, here are a few others I really love below. Revolve Clothing and MANGO have the best deals.

 

 

 

 

Follow

Winter Closet Staple: Cozy, Stylish Sweater Dresses

Sweater Dress Winter Style

Coat: J.Crew (similar). Sweater dress: Kohl’s. Boots: Tory Burch, sold out (similar). Sunglasses: Chanel

Like over-the-knee boots, sweater dresses are a staple in my closet during the winter and by far my favorite thing to wear when it gets cold. Maybe it’s the combination of cozy wool with a flattering feminine silhouette that really appeals to me. Or maybe its simply the versatility that allows you to wear it for just about any occasion, including work. Once you put on a sweater dress, there’s not much more you need to do to look put together. Style with tights or without; pair with over-the-knee boots, booties, pumps or even sneakers; add a belt for a swinging ’60s look or not. You can’t go wrong with the look. The sweater dress I’m wearing above is on sale for only $20! I kept the look sleek and minimalist but added a statement red coat for a pop of color. Scroll down to see some other sweater dresses I like.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Follow

Best of Beauty: What to Add to Your Makeup Bag in 2016

best of beauty for 2016

I tried over a 100 beauty products over the past year and it would be a total waste not to share the best ones. Here’s a roundup of the crème de la crème that you need to use in 2016 from makeup to skincare to body.

Makeup

*Best Mascara: Covergirl The Super Sizer Mascara. Don’t be fooled by the drugstore brand; this stuff is the real deal. Like its pricier counterparts (YSL, Benefit) it adds dramatic volume and length, but doesn’t clump lashes or leave you with raccoon eyes by the end of the day.

Best Highlighter: W3LL People Brightener Stick. From contouring to strobing, highlighters became a big deal this year and for a good reason – they make you look like you significantly more awake even before you’ve had your first cup of coffee. Well, at least this highlighter does. Plus, it’s paraben-free.

*Best Face Primer: Murad Invisiblur. Primer is one of those things I always forget to wear but once I do, I remember why it exists. Invisiblur perfectly hides imperfections like fine lines that I could almost do without additional coverage. The silky texture allows heavier foundations to glide on smoothly, and it has SPF 30. 

Best Tinted Moisturizer: Jouer Matte Moisture Tint. I wear the Nude for light-medium skin and it adds a healthy glow to my otherwise pale complexion. It also provides decent coverage despite having a lightweight texture.

*Best Lip Pencils: Butter London LIPPY Bloody Brilliant Lip Crayon. These lip crayons are my favorite! They’re moisturizing, glossy (but not sticky!), pigmented, and equipped with a built-in sharpener. Also, unlike the NARS lip pencils, these don’t break off. My favorite shade is Teddy Boy.

Best Blush: NARS. Highly pigmented, long lasting, and doesn’t clog pores. Isn’t that what we all want from a blush? I tried the blush shade Super Orgasm, which has a shimmery hue, after the cult classic Orgasm was sold out. Some people comment that there’s “glitter” on my face, but I don’t mind a little sparkle.

*Best Contour: PUR Cosmetics Cameo Contour Stick. Thanks to this contour stick, which comes in five different shades, contouring isn’t as intimidating or confusing as it used to be. There’s also a handy guide on the back of the box that shows you where to highlight and darken.

Best Eyebrow Pencil: Benefit Instant Brow Pencil. Filling in and shaping my brows is actually fun with this waxy brow pencil from Benefit. I prefer it over other pencils, including Benefit’s brow zings, because I can get a more precise, natural looking shape and shade.

Best Concealer: Miracle Skin Treat & Conceal Concealer. You know those annoying people who say you need to let your pimples air out instead of covering them with makeup? Yeah. Just show them this miracle concealer, which not only conceals breakouts but works to diminish them and it hides dark circles like a good concealer should.

Best Foundation: Kevyn Aucoin ‘The Sensual Skin Enhancer’ Makeup. I bought this after reading that Kylie Jenner uses it (yeah, yeah) and it totally makes sense why. This foundation is heavy duty, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. While I wouldn’t wear it everyday, it adds a lot of coverage from under-eye bags to acne. I highly recommend using a face oil and primer underneath because it’s a bit thick in texture.

Skincare

Best Exfoliating Mask: Origins Charcoal Mask. It look a lot of sampling to find the right charcoal mask but I’m pretty confident this one is yet. I use this to tighten pores and minimize blemishes, and it does the job in 20 minutes. Another thing I like about this mask is that it’s really gentle and doesn’t dry out my skin.

Best Brightening Mask: SK-II Facial Treatment Mask. This very pricey sheet mask, formulated with vitamins and minerals, is worth every penny. I used this after a long day at NYFW (it was one of those samples from the kiosks) and it provided the most intense hydration while tightening pores and brightening my skin. It’s a must-have for tired looking skin that needs an oomph for a big event.

Best Overnight Mask: REN Wake Wonderful Night-Time Facial. If you don’t have time for a mask (or the budget for a very expensive one), this product will do. It magically revitalizes skin overnight to reveal a more youthful and radiant complexion in the morning.

Best Facial Peel: Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Peel. If you have any sort of hyperpigmentation, bumps, or breakouts this stuff is the real deal. Although the two-step process isn’t enjoyable, and may cause redness immediately after, your face will look totally renewed by morning.

Best Eye Cream: Caudalie Premier Cru The Eye Cream. Eye creams are my least favorite beauty product. For much of my twenties they just seemed wholly unnecessary (“why can’t I just use my regular moisturizer instead of dropping $100 on another cream?!”). But alas, dark circles and crows feet got the best of me and I set out to find the best eye cream at Sephora. So far I like the Premier Cru eye cream by Caudalie best. Not only is it really hydrating, but the cream absorbs into my skin so my eyes don’t feel greasy (as it did with Shiseido) and it brightens my under eyes unlike any other eye cream I’ve used. I have yet to see any difference with my crows feet, but at the very least it can provide preventative aging.

Best SPF: COTZ Face Natural Skin Tone SPF 40. There’s nothing I hate more than sunscreen doesn’t absorb into my skin (ok, there are a lot of things I hate more than that). The nude shade and smooth texture of this sunscreen perfectly blends into my skin tone without leaving any unwanted residue. It also protects my face better than any other sunscreen, which means it has no toxic ingredients.

*Best Moisturizer (Day) – Murad Anti-Aging Moisturizer SPF 30. I started using this moisturizer after my face was uncontrollably breaking out over the summer, and it helped balance my skin and prevent further breakouts. The formula is tailored for anti-aging as well so it’s a win-win for any 20-something with blemish-prone skin.

Best Moisturizer (Night) – Dr. Jart+ Ceramidin Cream. I stalked this product for a year, reading all the rave reviews, before finally asking for a sample at Birchbox. It’s amazing. If you have dry, sensitive skin or skin that reddens easily, this is for you. I have oily skin and it provides just the right amount of hydration without being greasy.

Best Face Oil: Boscia Tsubaki Beauty Oil. For the second year in a row, this is my favorite face oil. I did nickname it ‘I woke up like this‘ for nothing. The non-greasy oil boosts collagen, calms redness, brightens and soothes skin for a glowing Queen Bey effect.

Best Makeup Remover: Cailyn Cosmetics Makeup Remover Balm. I first tried this in a Birchbox sample (Birchbox is awesome, btw, join here) and got immediately hooked. If you wear heavy eye makeup or waterproof mascara this stuff is a must-have. This is the gentlest makeup remover I’ve ever used (Clinique’s Take the Day Off is a runner-up) and, unlike makeup remover towelettes, it moisturizes my skin instead of irritating it.

Best Facial Cleanser: Fresh Soy Face Cleaner. I got this as one of several samples from Sephora earlier this month and fell in love. It’s very similar to my other favorite cleanser by Liz Earle but comes in gel instead of lotion form so it’s more appropriate for oily skin. My skin has been more balanced and less blemish-prone since using it. And unlike Liz Earle (which I still recommend), it’s more accessible in the U.S.

*Best Pore Refining Treatment: StriVectin Advanced Retinol Pore Refiner. It was a happy coincidence when I received this product at my worst pore outbreak. Not only does it reduce the size of pores, but it also smooths the texture of your skin while preventing signs of aging thanks to the retinol. I saw results within a week.

Best Acne Treatment: Tea Tree Oil. I’ve been using the Body Shop’s tea tree oil as an acne spot treatment for over a couple years now and it works every time. Depending on the size of the pimple it can take between 2-5 days for it go away with regular application (twice daily). I use it as soon as I feel a breakout coming to prevent it from getting larger.

Body

Best Body Scrub: Frank Original Coffee Scrub. I received this as a gift bag goodie from Simply Stylist, and was a little weirded out at first. After all, it’s coffee grinds mixed in with brown sugar and other edible ingredients. But since I’m pretty much a coffee addict I gave it a try and I’m so glad I did. This is the only scrub that’s gentle yet effective enough to exfoliate and smooth my skin. It’s totally worth the mess it creates in the shower.

Best Deodorant: Dove Dry Spray Antiperspirant. Another fabulous sample from Simply Stylist. This spray leaves zero residue so you won’t stain your black t-shirts, and the fresh scent lingers all day. I’ll never go back to stick deodorant.

Best Self Tanner: St. Tropez ‘In Shower’ Gradual Tan. If you don’t tan easily or see the sun much, you’ll wan to use this. Admittedly, it is a bit of a hassle to use in the shower because you need to turn off the shower for 3 minutes before rinsing. But after a handful of tries, you’ll have your tan. The only other drawback is that it stains your hands if you don’t wash them right away. No one ever said tanning was easy.

Best Hair Removal: Completely Bare Wax Strips. The gentlest wax strips you’ll ever use, especially for your face. I’ll never use Veet again.

Best Body Lotion: Perlier Revitalizing Body Butter. You may remember that I raved about this body butter earlier this year. It has the scent of an Italian bakery (think almond cookies) and a luxurious buttery texture that will keep your skin hydrated all day.

There you have it! 28 of my favorite beauty products from the past year. You’ll notice some glaring omissions from this list like eyeliner and anti-aging cream but that’s because I have yet to find the best. Let me know your top beauty products from the past year in the comments!

*Product provided to me for review; all opinions are my own. 

**This post contains affiliate links. 

Follow

Fashion for Lunch at Vinted

vinted wine bar and kitchen

Shrimp and kale salad

I’m a strong believer that food and fashion complement each other. Just look at all the pretty food photos on fashion people’s instagrams. So, when Vinted Wine Bar & Kitchen in West Hartford launched their lunch menu, it seemed like the perfect occasion for a blogger meetup with jewelry designer, Elyse Ryan. Vinted had already been one of my favorite restaurants for dinner or late night snack (love the hummus and scallion pancakes) so it came as no surprise that I was enamored with their lunch from the shrimp and kale salad to the mushroom quesadilla. If you’re ever in Connecticut, you need to try it.

Back to the fashion. As I mentioned, we met with jewelry designer Elyse Ryan whose collection of necklaces and bracelets add a pop of color to any outfit. I showed up to the meetup in a New Year’s Eve style sequined dress by BB Dakota, which might have been a little over the top for an afternoon in West Hartford, but nevertheless appropriate for Vinted’s sleek, stylish interior.

me and elyse ryan

Me and with jewelry designer Elyse Ryan

Elyse generously gave everyone a special friendship circle cuff created by Easter Seals students with proceeds going to charity. They are adorable and make a great gift for your bestie; purchase it here.

bb dakota dress

Dress: BB Dakota. Jewelry: Elyse Ryan

I also really loved the colorful baubles, which added to the festive tone of the dress. This is not the time to be minimalist.

bauble bracelets by elyse ryan

Bauble bracelets and friendship circle cuff by Elyse Ryan

And back to lunch. Just looking at these photos is making me hungry.

mushroom quesadilla vinted

Mushroom quesadilla. Photo courtesy of Bonnie from @homeplaceblog

 

bbq chicken slider

BBQ chicken slider. Photo courtesy of Shawna Hannon of Delish Eats blog.

 

*Lunch provided courtesy of Vinted; opinions are my own. 

Follow

Gift Guide for the Cat Lady

Every year I create a holiday gift guide dedicated to people who love cats. Whether you or someone you know owns cats, obsessively watches the latest cat videos, or dressed up as a cat for Halloween (or totally refused to because of appropriation) this guide has the purrrfect gifts (sorry, couldn’t resist) from the ultra sophisticated to the super adorable.

gift guide for cat lady

Follow

Best of Black Friday Sales

Happy Black Friday! With so many sales going on it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by this major shopping event. Even as someone who loves to shop, I’m not a fan of shopping in crowded stores on Black Friday. Thankfully, I don’t need to. Here’s a roundup of some of the best Black Friday sales from my favorite stores. So, relax and shop peacefully from the comfort of your bed.

Sephora – $10 deals while supplies last

 

Anthropologie – 25% off everything with code SHOPTOIT

 

Net-a-Porter – up t0 50% off

 

Kate Spade – surprise sale up to 75% off (private link) through 11.28; 25% off entire purchase with code MERCI.

Nordstrom – extra 25% off selected sale items; 40% off designer clearance

J.Crew – 30% off your purchase + extra 40% off sale with code HOLIDAY through 11.29

Gilt – extra 40% off with code BLACKOUT40

Madewell – 25% off your purchase with code CALMDOWN through 11.29

Topshop – up to 50% off

Follow