Product Reviews: Cheap Thrills #3 – mascara picks from e.l.f & NYX

The last of my three-part series on cheap makeup thrills for summer wraps up with the topic of mascara; a product that a lot of people consider the “holy grail” of a polished makeup look, but can be a bit of a challenge to find one that delivers and lasts. Especially when its the one beauty product that needs to be replaced four times a year. A cheaper formula is especially beneficial to help with this, since it’s not easy to essentially throw away a product if you feel there’s still some left to use. To help avoid eye infections, it’s important to replace your mascara every 3 months, and never add any other liquids into the tube that could contaminate or introduce bacteria. Having been a former makeup counter manager, you wouldn’t believe the stories I encountered of women adding olive oil or water into their more expensive mascara tubes to make them last longer, and then coming to the counter to return it when it “didn’t work anymore”. Really?! Really. So, in short, finding a less expensive formula that you like, and stocking up on several tubes, can lessen the amount of buying trips you make and ensure that you have healthy eyes for the year.

But what are the basics of finding a good mascara? Quite frankly, the market is flooded with choices, from $2 to upwards of $70 per tube. But what are the main aspects that I look for in selecting my choices? The first thing I look at is the brush – it makes ALL the difference in the results of the application. And second, I look for multi-tasking formulas that also care for and condition lashes. Once I make my picks on those two factors, I’ll then wear the product for a full week in order to make my final decision. Here’s two selections I made on my trip to Target at the beginning of summer: NYX The Skinny Mascara and e.l.f. Cosmetics Lash Extending Mascara, both in black shades.

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To me, these brands are very similar – professional grade makeup that retails for a fraction of the cost of other brands. But there are a few subtle differences for each formula that I want to explain further:

  1. NYX’s The Skinny Mascara is not a new product, but captures a trend that is growing – full, dark lashes that look more natural and defined. For several years, huge, gargantuan mascara brushes were all the rage in makeup marketing, but unfortunately, they were a total hassle and awkward to work with. I’ll admit that I hate using big mascara brushes. But this brush is absolutely super thin, and I LOVE it! It captures every single lash, and suddenly brings them all into focus. Giving you complete control, you can build this formula from airy and light to bold and super-defined. I have found it takes a bit of practice to work with, especially if you are used to a larger brush. But once you get the hang of it, it’s hard to go back to a larger brush. Plus, this formula stays all day long – no smearing or smudging, even in humidity. It’s water-resistant yet easy to remove at the end of the day with coconut oil or makeup wipes.
  2. e.l.f. Cosmetics used to make my favorite mascara – the Mineral-Infused Mascara that had a total kick-ass silicone brush. But, unfortunately, they discontinued that formula a while ago (why, e.l.f., why?!). So, I picked up their new Lash Extending formula, and gave it a whirl. While it doesn’t mimic my old favorite, this newer formula is a good alternative as an overall multi-tasking mascara, with both volumizing and lengthening qualities. The formula conditions lashes with vitamins B and E, delivers bold color, and stays all day – it didn’t flake or clump. The brush is not silicone, but it does give an even coat on the first couple of strokes, and the formula is buildable. While the NYX formula was easier to use in defining each lash, this formula gives more length and a thicker texture from the start. If you want a good, solid formula for every day use, this is a great choice.

Both of these choices are affordable ($6.99 for NYX and $3 for e.l.f.) and easy to get at either ULTA or Target, plus both brands are coupon-eligible at ULTA. Both brands are cruelty-free, and the e.l.f. formula is vegan too. If you are on the hunt for a good mascara this summer, and don’t want to spend too much, give these a try! You don’t have to be a makeup artist to get great results with either of these picks.

© 2018 28daysbeauty

Product Review: Cheap Thrills Part #1 – e.l.f. beautifully bare top 3 picks

Inspired by a recent trip to Target that has renovated it’s beauty department, I decided to grab a few new items from some of my favorite brands and write a 3-part series that I’m lovingly calling “Cheap Thrills”. It’s not a dig at all – it’s meant with the highest praise in the fact that not only are these amazing products, but you can get them at super low prices! Win – win!! Plus, I love that the products I’m providing a review on in this series are all perfect for summer – they are long-wearing, low-maintenance, and can take the heat/humidity that comes along with all-day activities. Let’s get into it!

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From left to right, my picks are from e.l.f. Cosmetics’ “Beautifully Bare” collection:

  1. Natural Glow Face Palette in “Fresh & Flawless” – the palette features a champagne highlighter, two blushes, and a bronzer. The shimmer is subtle – not sparkly, which gives the skin a beautiful satin finish. The formula is 100% vegan, and cruelty-free. The powders are silky, very lightweight, and blend easily together. I like using this as a full-face palette – I’ve used the bronzer as a contour shade on my cheeks and eyes, and the highlighter in a c-shape around my cheekbones up to my brow-bones. Powders are great for any skin type in summer – they stay put and help your foundation keep from sliding due to sweat or humidity.

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2. Smooth Matte Eyeshadow in “Blushing Rose” – there are several colors that this cream eyeshadow comes in, and “Blushing Rose” is a soft, pretty mauve with a hint of grayish-brown. I apply after foundation and concealer, and prior to any powders – using the doe-foot applicator across the lid, and blend easily with an eye-shadow brush. It locks down to a matte, dry finish, and wears all day. I like layering this as an eye-shadow base before applying powder formulas. I tend to stay away from eyeliner during summer, mostly due to the humidity and sweat-factor, and focus on a bright lip color (more on that in a minute) instead. This is great product to add a bit of polish to an overall easy summer look. Just finish your brows and swipe on mascara, and you’re done!

3. And lastly, Satin Lipstick in “Touch of Berry” – I love, love, love brighter lipsticks for summer. It’s super easy to go simple on the rest of your makeup, and let a bright lipstick take center stage. Plus, in super hot or humid weather, a bright lipstick is much less likely to look messy or runny through the day – just reapply when needed.  By using less makeup overall, your look will look instantly refreshed when a new coat of lipstick is applied. This formula is light, hydrating, and softly glossy. This berry color feels like a balm, and looks fantastic on any skin tone.

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All in, these 3 products together are under $20 total! I’ve also taken these with me on a few weekend trips – they pack light, and are great with multiple looks. Stay tuned for the next picks, and happy shopping!

© 2018 28daysbeauty

My best beauty of 2016: Top 10 Savvy Splurges & Cheap Thrills

As the year comes to a close, I wanted to recap for you the beauty products that I found myself constantly reaching for, as I think they are worth noting in the flood of beauty choices available. Many of them aren’t really “new” to the market, but they are the ones that I think a) deliver GREAT results and b) are worth the money. So, I divided my top 10 beauty products into 2 groups: 5 Cheap Thrills (which cost under $15) and 5 Savvy Splurges (which cost over $15). In the beauty industry, it’s surprising to me how many people think the higher the price tag, the better the product. There’s a certain perception people have, but in reality, it’s all about the performance. Check out my top picks – they all are great for ANY skin type, even hyper-sensitive skins.

Top 5 Cheap Thrills:

Who doesn’t love a great deal that is also a performance workhorse? I also love the fact that all the 5 products you see below can easily be found at Target, or online at Amazon.com. Stock up on these if you can, since you’ll find that these become a part of your daily routine year-round (clockwise from the top):cheap

  1. Simple Micellar Cleansing Water – This is the fantastic alternative to expensive micellar cleansing waters that burst onto the American beauty scene a year ago. The best part is that this is truly great for sensitive skins, cleans deep, and removes eye makeup easily. For a new, large 13.5 oz size, it’s a mere $8.99 at Target.com. Use as a pre-cleanse at night, with cotton pads, to remove all makeup and prep skin for your cleanser. Your cleanser will work even better, and your skin will be balanced.
  2. Dove Sensitive Skin Bar Soap – All hail this fantastic soap! It creates a luxurious, foamy lather, makes for a comforting head to toe clean, and doubles as a great shaving cream in the shower. For an 8-pack on Target.com, it’s only $9.39. The nice thing is that it’s great for kids too – if you need a soap that is safe for the whole family in the bathtub. Use with a bath puff for extra lather and suds.
  3. e.l.f. Mineral-Infused mascara – For only $3, it’s hard to pass up this awesome mascara. It’s buildable, doesn’t smear or flake, and can look natural or dramatic. The silicone brush lifts and separates, plus always creates a clean look without clumps. Mascara should be replaced at least every 3 months to avoid eye infections, so this price points makes it even easier to do.
  4. TRESemme TRESTwo Extra Hold Hairspray – I use this hairspray daily, as it’s great to maintain any style. It resists humidity, and holds all-day without feeling crunchy. Plus, you can get it in travel sizes, so I keep a bottle at my desk to help fix any hair emergencies fast, but it doesn’t irritate my scalp. The 14.6 oz size is $5.99 at Target.com, and it lasts!
  5. Up & Up Witch Hazel – If you struggle with finding toners that don’t burn and actually do something, then look to witch hazel as your daily skin fix. Witch hazel is a natural extract, and acts as antiseptic, soothing and balancing astringent for the skin. After cleansing, soak a cotton pad and wipe over skin – it helps clear away dead skin cells from dry skin (to allow your moisturizer to do its job properly), and clears/heals acne breakouts from oilier skin types. Men will like it post-shaving, to help soothe razor burn. At $2.49 for a 16 oz bottle, Target’s own private brand Up & Up version is a steal. It’s located in the first-aid section, since it’s always handy to keep for cleaning minor cuts and scrapes. Insider tip: witch hazel is a staple in many spa facial treatments and toner brands on the market.

Top 5 Savvy Splurges:

Some beauty splurges are totally worth it, since they deliver that extra-special level of performance and can be multi-tasking to get the most for your money. The ones that I’ve chosen below are the over $15 price point, which some people would scoff at for being too “low” of a splurge price point level. Yeahhhhh, sure. But how many times have you bought a higher price point beauty product with the promise of it being “totally worth it”, only to be disappointed and have buyer’s remorse? Probably more often than you care to admit. Also (this is important) – if you have a closet or drawer full of these miracle-in-a-bottle types of high price point beauty products, and you haven’t used them within the last year, then PLEASE toss them or return them. You don’t want to risk eye infections or breakouts due to expired products or bacteria buildup, just because you refuse to let your hard-earned dollars go to waste. Navigate beauty hype cautiously, and remember that $15 could also equal a fantastic bottle of wine! (clockwise from the top):

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6) Clinique Different Lipstick (my favorite shade is Sugared Grapefruit) – this collection of lipstick shades from Clinique has been a fan favorite for years. This formula feels lightweight, yet delivers great color payoff. The shades range from cream to satin finishes, are long-wearing, and moisturize lips. I wear Sugared Grapefruit almost daily year-round, as it’s a beautiful pinky-peach color that matches my natural lip color. At $17 a tube, I love that these are available at Ulta and Boston Store, since I can earn points and use my rewards.

7) Cargo Color Stick (my favorite shade is Key West) – Cargo has a knack for developing multi-use makeup, with high performance formulas. For the past year, I’ve found myself constantly reaching for this as a blush, and multi-tasking it as a lip color when traveling. They are $28 per stick, and come in a variety of shades, plus a bronzer shade of St. Tropez. The great part is that you get a LOT within the tube, so they last a long time. You can easily find the entire shade range online!

8) Julep Skip the Brush Creme-to-Powder Blush Stick (my favorite shade is Sheer Glow) – Oh, what a fun brand Julep is! This Korean-beauty inspired brand also features great multi-use products, including this Sheer Glow highlighting stick. I love to use it under my brow bone and on my eyelid, to give shimmer under shadow. As well as a highlighter on my cheekbones, forehead, and bridge of my nose. The stick is super easy to apply, and the creamy formula is very blendable – it looks glowy, not glittery! Each blush stick is $24, and you can either subscribe to the Julep Maven beauty boxes, or find them at Ulta.

9) Altchek MD Glycolic Renewal Pads – This NYC beauty brand is dermatologist developed to give high performance skin care, without a super high price tag. A jar of pads (36 per jar) is $20, and delivers a great micro-peel, anti-aging treatment that you can easily use at night, under your favorite moisturizer. My family and I have super sensitive skin, and what we love about these is that they don’t burn. At. All! I use them about 2 to 3 times per week, after cleansing, and I wake up to glowing, softer, clearer skin. Find these online from the brand’s website, or at Kohl’s.

10) First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream – Hands down, this is one of my favorite moisturizers of all time. It’s soothing for all skin types, and doesn’t leave a greasy shine. It absorbs quickly, hydrates fast, and helps repair the skin’s natural moisture barrier. You can use it anywhere on the face and body, and a little goes a really long way. Even people with oilier skin need to hydrate, especially if you are in a seasonal or dry climate. A large 6 oz jar is $30 at Ulta or Sephora, but it will last for a while. People with hyper sensitive skin, such as eczema, will also love this – it calms irritated skin, contains colloidal oatmeal, anti-oxidants, and ceramides without any parabens. I consider this one of my anti-aging secret weapons, to help build healthier skin.

I hope these product recommendations help you in tackling your beauty challenges, and sifting through performance versus price. I’m looking forward to trying some new brands and products next year, so feel free to let me know if there’s any out there you have questions about! Be well, and have fun, in the New Year!

© 2016 28daysbeauty