I have my first holiday gift guide of the year today featuring some great discovery gift sets. Birchbox and Sephora each have their own curated box sets with hand-picked items. They’re often grouped and boxed by themes such as dry shampoos, berry lips, nude lips, sunscreen, skincare etc. They’ve basically taken their best sellers and packed them into sampler boxes with minis at a value price. I love these for myself because it allows me to try a lot of items without having to buy the individual full sizes I’m unsure about. Each store has their own exclusive selection which makes them unique.
There are tons of boxes and kits to choose from. Many are pretty affordable and tons at the $25 price point. This year I shopped sets early as I know there’s a good chance the value sets of them will sell out early. My friends this year are all about hair styling and highlighters. It seems like every single female friend I have doesn’t have time to wash and dry their hair on a daily basis. The good thing this year is that there are TONS of dry shampoo sets and holiday styling sets for all hair types. Highlighters are also as popular among my friends as they are on Instagram lol. Sets are great because even though I think I can find the perfect highlighter or dry shampoo for my close friends we all have different tastes and preferences.
Up first are some of the Birchbox Kits. Birchbox is known for their monthly subscription boxes and for the longest time I thought that was all that they offered. Not true. The Birchbox Collection has an entire shop of discovery kits, limited-edition box sets, and much more. If you visit their store you’ll see their products grouped by product type and then brand. An entire wall will be dedicated to suncare and they’ll split it by types of sunscreens. Their value sets are really cute and well put together. You can also buy individual full-sized items as well.
Up first is The Dry Shampoo Starter Kit for $32 ($74 value) you get an amika (Fort)Tress Shower Cap, amika Perk Up Dry-Shampoo, R+Co Death Valley Dry Shampoo (one of my favorites), Oribe Gold Lust Dry Shampoo, Living proof Perfect Hair Day Dry Shampoo, Klorane Dry Shampoo with Oat Milk.
To date the R+Co had been my favorite but has been replaced with the Oribe Dry Shampoo that just launched a couple months ago. Neither leave my hair looking dusty or matte and there is no white residue. One of my friends swears by the Living Proof one which I tried. It left my hair looking too matte. As this set is a gift I won’t be reviewing the other items but thought you would like a peek at this one.
Next is the one I’m just beyond obsessed with. In my What’s In My Bag post I mentioned this Birchbox + Oribe Styling Kit. It has five minis of Oribe – cute beyond words!! I ordered two of these, one for me, one for a friend. I suspect I will be ordering a few more as you just can’t go wrong with Oribe. It’s priced at $35, each bottle is tiny but if you’ve never tried Oribe before this is a great way to try out the line without having to buy individual bottles which are around $20 each for the minis.
One kit I received as a press sample was the Complete SPF Kit. When I visited the Birchbox Soho Store over the summer I was just blown away by the presentation and display of the store. If you’re in NYC definitely make a stop there. The bottom floor is for men’s grooming and skincare so bring your boyfriend, husband, brother or male friends with you. They can build their own Birchbox too!
This one is priced at $18 – you get mini sample sizes of Supergoop! Advanced SPF 37 Anti-Aging Eye Cream, MDSolarSciences Mineral Moisture Defense SPF 50, Dr. Jart+ Every Sun Day SPF 30 UV Sun Fluid, Supergoop! Defense Refresh Setting Mist SPF 50, COOLA Face SPF 30 Unscented, COOLA Daydream SPF 30 Mineral Makeup Primer. I have yet to try all of these but I’ve tried both the Coola ones and find them suitable for my sensitive skin.
Next are the Sephora Favorites. I think one could seriously get carried away with the sets because they have SO MANY good things in them! One of the complaints my friends have about makeup is that the size of some things are just too big and it take them forever to use something up. Minis are popular among friends who like to rotate items frequently because you can use them up faster.
Up first is the Sephora Favorites Scouted by Sephora set which is $24 for five minis. This one features 5 up-and-coming brands at Sephora. I received this one as a gift and haven’t had a chance to try the items yet, but have been really curious about Milk Makeup so I’m eager to try the mascara. It has a Bésame Cosmetics Red Matchbook, GrandeLIPS Hydrating Plumper, Makeup Eraser Mini in Pink, MILK MAKEUP Ubame Mascara, Wander Beauty Lip and Cheek Mini in Pink City.
Next is the Sephora Favorites Glow for It. This one sold out online but I spotted it in store and picked up two. It’s since been restocked online and I can see why it’s been a popular one. For $30 you get minis of Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector Liquid in Moonstone, Benefit Watt’s Up, Cover FX Custom Infusion Drops in C+ Lemongrass – Radiance, Hourglass Ambient® Strobe Lighting Powder in Incandescent Strobe Light, MILK MAKEUP Sunshine Oil and a full size Lancôme Glow Subtil Silky Crème Highlighter in Glowing Lights 06. The Lancome blush itself is $30 so the set is a steal.
I already have 3 of the items in the full size (Hourglass Strobe Powders swatched here) but almost want one for myself.
Another one is the Sephora Favorites Hair Rescue Masks on the Go ($25). This one is listed as being an $85 value. It has quite a lot of product to sample – to date I’ve tried three of the items from Ouai, Phyto and Christophe Robin and all three are great. This one has Bumble and Bumble Hairdresser’s Invisible Oil Balm-to-Oil Pre-Shampoo Masque, Phyto Phytokératine Extrême Exceptional Mask, Gloss Moderne High-Gloss Masque, Christophe Robin Regenerating Mask with Rare Prickly Pear Seed Oil
, Living Proof Perfect Hair Day® Night Cap Overnight Perfector, Briogeo Don’t Despair, Repair!™ Deep Conditioning Mask, Ouai Treatment Masque, VERB Hydrating Mask, and two packet sets of Rita Hazan Weekly Remedy Treatment For Deep Hydration & Superior Shine Treatment Step 1 & 2.
I wish I had this set last year when I was traveling for a month. It would have been perfect as it has packets small enough to pack in a carry on. One of my friends is obsessed with masks – skincare and haircare. She is going to freak out when she gets this one.
Last but not least is the Sephora Favorites Ready, Set, Style! This one was a bit pricier at $29 but the sizes of each spray was pretty impressive. You get five sprays for hair refreshers, volumizers and texturizers. It includes Bumble and Bumble Thickening Dryspun Finish, Drybar Detox Dry Shampoo, IGK Down and Out Dirty Spray, Ouai Texturizing Hair Spray, Living Proof Flex Shaping Hairspray.
That wraps up my first holiday gift guide. I hope these give you a better idea of what the sets look like compared to stock photos although I do think that both Birchbox and Sephora do a really good job at giving us accurate stock images on their websites.
The Sephora VIB Rouge 20% off sale starts tomorrow November 4th and runs through November 7th. If you’re shopping online use code 20ROUGE. I received an early code from a Sephora employee so was able to shop the sale early. I’ll have my Sephora shopping recommendations roundup up later this afternoon for those who are trying to research early.
For now I hope this sets post give you some ideas for affordable gift options. The ones I featured are all very reasonable in price ranging from $18 to $35 which won’t break the bank if you buy multiples. They’re great for holiday gifts or to treat yourself. I’m seriously tempted to keep a few of these for myself – I may order one or two more once the Sephora sale starts.
The Birchbox Complete SPF Kit and Scouted By Sephora Set gifted as press samples. Remainder featured purchased by me.
By popular request, I’ve rounded up some new bronzers I’ve tried this summer along with tried and true favorites. Bronzers are probably one of most favorite makeup products – there’s just something about a glowing tan that I love. Living in Southern California we have warm sunny weather almost year round. I do use sun protection for the face and body, but living here there’s just no avoiding the sun – but I love it.
I’ve pulled an extensive list of bronzers and split them by type. It’s by no means a comprehensive list of all the bronzers on the market, nor is it a list of all the bronzers I have tried or own (that would be a post a mile long). I have picked out the ones I thought were either new and interesting, tried and true or new found loves. A quick note before I go into the details – I have medium olive toned skin with normal/combination skin. I prefer warmer bronzers as cool-toned bronzers often look ashy or grey on my complexion. Foundation shades most reached for include the Charlotte Tilbury Magic Foundation in 6 + 7 mixed, NARS Velvet Matte Skin Tint in Groenland and St. Moritz mixed. I love bronzers of all types whether it’s liquid, powder, shimmer or matte.
Finding the right shade or formula for you will depend skin undertone (pink or yellow), skin tone (fair, light, medium, tan or deep), skin type (oily, dry, combo, etc.) and also things such as shimmer or formula preference.
Up first are some matte bronzing powders. Several of you have asked for recommendations on more affordable options. Two lines I’ve tried I think are excellent are the Colour Pop and Benefit.
Urban Decay Beached Bronzer in Bronzed (reviewed here) is a deep warm matte bronze, I think this is best suited for deeper skintones, on me it’s a bit dark, but good for days I want a more dramatic look.
Colour Pop Super Shock Cheek Bronzer in Skinnydip is a soft light neutral matte bronze that looks like a skintone color for me, for those with fair skins who find most options too dark, this might be a good option to look at.
Benefit Hoola Matte Bronzing Powder (c/o) is a classic that is neutral so it will work with a wide range of skin undertones, it’s one of the best more affordable matte bronzers I’ve tried.
Marc Jacobs O!Mega Bronzer Tantric (c/o, on the face here) is another well-loved one by me, it’s huge! The color and pigment is semi sheer but buildable, so if you’re looking for one that is impossible to overdo, this is a good one.
Next up are more luminous glowy bronzers ranging from a soft shimmer to high shimmer.
Colour Pop Super Shock Cheek Bronzer in Poolside (medium-deep bronze) and Paradise Cove (cool-toned neutral) both have a soft luminous finish. They have a unique formula that I thought would be powders but are more of a bouncy gel cream. The price is affordable but the amount of product you get pretty small at 4.2g. Still I think these are fun and easy to build.
Charlotte Tilbury Filmstar Bronze and Glow in Medium- Dark (review + look here) is a gorgeous bronze and orange shimmer duo. It’s more dramatic on me, but still wearable. For tan to deeper skintones I think you will love this one. More details in the review linked above.
Kevyn Aucoin Celestial Powder in Sunlight is one of the latest additions to the celestial powder line, it’s not really a bronzer, but on my skintone it is. It’s a medium to deep golden shimmer that gives my skin a golden sunkissed look. (It’s also coming soon in the Celestial Skin Liquid formula, available for pre-order.)
Edward Bess Black Sea Golden Hour Mousse Bronzer is something I bought while in New York. It’s the most beautiful warm golden coppery shimmer I’ve ever seen. It’s a mousse formula that is super lightweight and easy to blend. I swatched it with a heavy hand below but once you blend it on the skin it becomes a more soft glowy gold that gives the face a beautiful golden glow. I highly recommend it.
Liquid bronzers up next. I have used and liked the Armani Liquid Summer Bronzers but didn’t love it enough to repurchase (even though they added more shades). A few more affordable options below.
Cover FX Custom Enhancer Drops (c/o) come in 4 highlighter shades and 2 bronzers. I’ll have a post on the entire collection soon, but for now a quick peek at the bronzers in Sunset and Sunkissed. Both are neutral to cool toned. Sunset offers a deeper bronzed look. If I look in the bottle there is a sheen but on the face it looks more creamy. Sunkissed is my skin but better. These have been swatched heavily but blend out nicely and are very easy to layer and blend.
Benefit Dew the Hoola (c/o) looks super orangey in the swatch, but let me assure you, it is not orangey on the face. It is on the warm and peachy side but I think that’s what makes it work. It’s sheer but buildable and dries to a semi-matte finish. I’ve worn it alone or with a tiny bit of powder blush layered on top.
NARS Laguna Liquid Bronzer is another new one that looks super warm and almost orangey in the swatch but often times with any kind of cheek product what you swatch on the hand/arm looks very different on the face. I love this one because it’s fluid and blends into a very soft finish on the cheeks. It leaves a soft sheen without looking greasy. I almost hate posting these swatches because I think they will deter many of you from trying it, but I really urge you to try if you have a NARS counter near you. It’s one of the most natural looking bronzers I’ve tried that is visible but looks like your skin, just better and with a bit more life.
Last but not least, the three I consider classic staples:
Edward Bess Ultra Luminous Bronzer in Daydream is my holy grail of all bronzers. It’s soft and luminous just like the name implies, it’s impossible to overdo, not too shimmery and warms up the skin beautifully.
NARS Laguna Tiare (limited-edition Tiare version shown) is a classic with a scented twist for summer. It’s the same as the classic Laguna but has a summery tiare scent added in a special limited-edition packaging. The original was one of the first high end bronzers I splurged on and it lasted for what seemed like forever. It’s a classic soft luminous medium bronze that doubles as a soft contour powder. In the event you don’t want something scented or want this in a palette form, there are a few Nordstrom Sets you may want to check out including the Cult Survival Kit or the Nordstrom’s Best Cheek Palette.
Tom Ford Bronzing Powder in Gold Dust is another classic, it was quite the splurge when I first bought it because they only had the large size which is over $90. They’ve since launched smaller versions for the past couple of years which are still pricey but more affordable and nice to travel with.
For those who were asking for a summer bronzer roundup, I hope you found this helpful! I focused mainly on stand alone bronzers rather than ones in palettes. If you have any favorites please share them in the comments along with your skintone, maybe 1 foundation shade you use for reader reference.
Hourglass 1.5mm Mechanical Gel Eyeliner ($16 for single, $45 for set of 3) is the latest innovation from Hourglass with the thinnest waterproof gel liner that offers precision accuracy with a single stroke, available now at Hourglasscosmetics.com, at Sephora July 29, all other counters August 15
L’Occitane Frisson Verbena Collection ($12 to $55) has a range of fresh green and citrus body products perfect for summer, I’m in love with the Frisson Verbena Fresh Shower Gel and Hand Cream (thoughts on these soon)
Net-A-Porter Beautified Natural Nomad Pouch ($50) with Tata Harper Fortifying Body Oil and Lotion, Illia Sway Multistick, RGB Nail Polish, Remover Pad and Cuticle Oil, Rahua Volume Spray, Joya’s Composition No. 1 Perfume, LAFCO Hand Lotion
YSL Volupté Sheer Candy ($34) has launched in four new shades in Belle Cannelle #14, Rose Candy #15, Cherise Desir #16 and Fraise Ganache #17
Some deals and codes that have come through my inbox recently:
Sephora – Online Limited Beauty Insider Offers with $25+ orders (one code per order) while supplies last:
Ole Henriksen’s 3 Little Wonders 7-Day Sampler with code WONDERS
Choose 1 of 3 Lip Minis from Too Faced, NARS or Sephora Collection with code LIPMINI
Fresh Soy Conditioning Eye Makeup Remover with code FRESHSOY
Deluxe sample of Ole Henriksen Ultimate Lift Eye Gel with code EYELIFT
Benefit Cosmetics They’re Real Push-Up Liner 30-day Sample with code PUSHUP
Choose 1 of 3 Deluxe Sized Self-Tanners from Vita Liberata, St. Tropez, bareMinerals with code BRONZED
Early Access sample of Josie Maran Argan Black Oil Mascara Deluxe Sample for VIBs/Rouge, use code VIBJOSIE
Shu Uemura USA – A Midsummer’s Night Sample Set with any $50+ order, includes Tsuya Radiance Essense, Classic Cleansing Oil (20 ml), Anti-Oxi Deluxe Cleansing Oil (20 ml), Stage Performer Instant Glow (10 ml), Mini PK70C Gloss, use code UNWIND
If you have any good deals or codes, please share in the comments 🙂
P.S. Don’t forget to enter my Fresh Sugar Tulip Giveaway! There are up to four ways to enter and the entry period is almost up. I’ll be selecting the winner over the weekend and announce who won next week.
I was finally able to jump on the Lancome Erika F bandwagon which was possible thanks to my UK blogger contact (thank you a million times over again). It is even more gorgeous than I had imagined. I’ve seen it described a number of ways – so I was really curious to see what it looked like in real life. I’ve read it described as a lovely taupe – but to me, it’s more of a silvery greenish shade rather than a taupe. To me it’s a complex silvery green sparkle with maybe the slightest hint of taupe. Maybe it’s just my skintone, but I find Stila’s Diamond Lil to be green and I know many disagree with me.
The Lancome Erika F is very unique and the pigment is superb. I haven’t been a huge fan of Lancome eyeshadows, but this one has definitely changed my mind. Now if only they would release this formula & packaging in the US!
I pulled out my other greenish-taupe-silver shadows to see how it compared. Here it is compared to Benefit Where’s the Smoke, MAC Greensmoke, Paul & Joe #18, Bobbi Brown Pewter Chrome & Stila Diamond Lil. I feel that the Lancome Erika F is truly unique!
Swatches on bare skin (note again, please take swatches with a grain of salt, I have a light-medium complexion, if your skintone is different from mine, of course this will look different on you, and also, I’d like to point out again that my swatches are not the best):
Two more views of swatches, same order, different lighting:
Anyone else have this shade? What other colors do you use to compliment this color? I need inspirational ideas!
I want to thank you again for everyone who submitted feedback in my recent survey. Next week I will be doing a series on reader requests, focusing particularly the topics that received at least 3 or more mentions.
This is a post for those who have requested photos and swatches of more affordable brands, particularly Benefit. (See below after photos for additional commentary.)
To date, I’ve accumulated 6 of their luminizing and bronzing powders which come in a wide variety of soft pretty shades. The lighter shades like Dandelion, Thrrrob & Georgia (not featured) are on the sheerer side. Some might find they won’t show up on your skin. Dandelion & Thrrrob give a soft pink glow for me, Georgia didn’t show up on my face at the store so I didn’t purchase it. Coralista, Dallas, 10 and Sugarbomb are more pigmented but not overly shimmer or frosty which is nice.
Coralista – a softer version of Nars Deep Throat/Torrid, nice and peachy with pearl
Dandelion – soft powder pink, this is pretty sheer, but gives a nice pink warm pink glow
10 – SHOUT OUT to Jojoba from My Makeup Reviews for making me buy this (see her review here), a very pretty soft bronzey color and pale champagne
Sugarbomb – four shades of soft sugary candy colors in peach and pinks
Thrrrob – pale cool pink, similar to Dandelion, but cooler
I usually try to avoid this brand because I really don’t like the high pressure sales tactics that I typically experience from associates representing this line. While I understand it might be required of them to use this approach (based on training or corporate culture), I don’t like super pushy sales associates and I’ve found it to be an extreme turn-off. I try to shop for this line at Sephora where I find a much friendlier staff.
*UPDATE* In response to one of the comments below, these retail for $28 USD each which I agree isn’t exactly more affordable. The request for “more affordable brands like Benefit” came directly from several readers (quote on quote). I perceive Benefit as a mid-end brand, but I agree the pricing isn’t quite mid-end. You do get 10-12g of product for these boxed powders depending on color. They are comparable in price to MAC MSFs where you get 10g of product for $27 USD. Benefit also has powder eyeshadows at $18 each for .11 oz (compared to MAC priced at $14.50 for .05 oz) and cream eyeshadows at $19 each for .16 oz (compared to MAC priced at $16.50 for .17 oz).
The pricing of Benefit doesn’t exactly reflect my perception that line is a mid-end brand. While in some cases you get a better deal for your dollar, the prices are as high as brands like MAC and Bobbi Brown (like back in the day before price increases). Is the line priced correctly? Some might argue that something is worth what someone is willing to pay but since us consumers have no bargaining power with big corporate brands/stores, perhaps this isn’t the best justification of price or worth.
I might be in the minority, but I perceive Benefit lower on the brand scale compared to Clinique and MAC, but the prices indicate otherwise. I admit I did not really notice the prices much until a couple months ago when my receipt total was over $50 for 1 blush + 1 eyeshadow from the line. It was when I checked my receipt breakdown that I realized Benefit isn’t quite as “mid-end” as I assumed with regards to price.
Overall, I like the quality of Benefit blushes and eyeshadows, but there are some products from the line I refuse to try out mainly because of my prejudiced perception of the brand such as their mascara or foundation. Will I purchase anymore Benefit? Most likely yes, but I will be thinking out purchases more carefully knowing that I’m not really saving money like I thought I was by picking products from this line over my other favorite high end brands.
Do you have any Benefit Cheek Colors? What are your thoughts?
(Updated with edits, I apologize for the spelling errors!)
I have been procrastinating on a few comparison requests and thought I’d post this in case anyone else had the same questions. I plan to be a better blogger this upcoming year and be more on top of things!
Comparison Project #1: How does Edward Bess Intimate compare to other shades, particularly Chantecaille Pyrite & Benefit Fawn Over Me?
Chantecaille Pyrite has more gold while Edward Bess is definitely more taupe/brown. Benefit Fawn Over Me might look like a close dupe at first glance, but looking more closely will show that it’s more of a paler sandy champagne compared to the Edward Bess. Here it is compared to similar shades.
Top: Chantecaille Pyrite, Edward Bess Intimate, Laura Mercier Bamboo Middle: Scott Barnes Sable, Benefit Fawn Over Me, Guerlain Sable Blonde Bottom: Becca Mermaid, Nars Cyprus, Benefit Fawn Over Me
1) Chantecaille Pyrite 2) Edward Bess Intimate 3) Laura Mercier Bamboo 4) Scott Barnes Sable 5) Benefit Birthday Suit 6) Guerlain Sable Blonde 7) Becca Mermaid 8) Nars Cyprus 9) Benefit Fawn Over Me
Bottom line: In my opinion, there is nothing like Edward Bess Intimate and I find it different enough to justify owning even if you have any of the above shades. This post will be updated later this afternoon with swatches.
Comparison Project #2: Is Bobbi Brown Java Metallic similar to the brown shade in Nars Brousse?
Bobbi Brown Java is a cooler mouse-grey when compared to Nars Brousse which seems to have a tinge of red. By itself you would barely be able to detect any red tones to Nars Brousse. I’ve also compared it to a few other medium-dark cool-toned browns.
Top: Edward Bess Mystery, Bobbi Brown Java Metallic, Nars Brousse Bottom: Cle de Peau Satin 106, MAC Magnetic Fields, Jouer Espresso
1) Edward Bess Mystery 2) Bobbi Brown Java Metallic 3) Nars Brousse 4) CdP 106 5) MAC Magnetic Fields 6) Jouer Espresso
What’s the verdict? Are these different enough to justify owning all? Probably not unless you are a brown eyeshadow fanatic like me. This section will also be updated with swatches if my camera will cooperate with me later today. While I love the Cle de Peau 106, it can look a bit bruisey on my Chanel Shell (equals MAC NC30-35) skin and it’s the least shimmery.
* Please note that the bronzer and blush were applied with a heavy hand for swatches and do not look the same on the face, when applied with a bronzer/blush brush, these 2 mixed create a healthy soft glow
Another combination: green/gold/brown eyes with peachy lips/cheeks
1) MAC Cash Flow Paint Pot 2) Giorgio Armani Eyeshadow Quad #3 3) Benefit Coralista 4) MAC New Vegas Mineralize Skinfinish 5) Chanel Black Jade Eyeliner 6) MAC Summerfruit Lipliner 7) MAC Shy Girl Lipstick 8) Giorgio Armani Lipshimmer #1 9) Giorgio Armani Lipshimmer #16
Another combination: green eyes with pink lips/cheeks
Cheeks: Chanel Rose Petale
Eyes: Bobbi Brown Ballet Pink Cream Eyeshadow Bobbi Brown Ivy Shimmer Gel Liner Chanel Murano Quad
Lips: Bobbi Brown Blondie Pink Lipliner Chantecaille Camelia Lip Chic Edward Bess Bare Rose Lipgloss