MAC vs. The Competition Box Dupes Vol. 1

Between the upcoming holidays, family illnesses and a rush of kiddie birthday parties, I feel like I haven't had time to do anything for myself. I've actually started and stopped this entry about four seven nine times within the past week two three weeks.

I've had the dance kit makeup I wanted to test against the little girl's MAC collection sitting in my room for about a month now, just waiting to make its way on to a face chart. Alas, it seems that this is not to be. Instead, I will have to just be happy presenting hand swatches until I get this whole face chart mess settled. Hopefully by then I will also have received the complete collection of the second brand recommended to us, Arbonne.

First of all, I'd like to say that my DD has super sensitive skin. She cannot wear just any brand of makeup. Everything I buy has to be hypoallergenic, but also professional quality for the stage. MAC is about the heaviest she can wear without having a reaction. Unfortunately, this gets pretty expensive, since we replace her makeup every season or every other season, depending on the product. As much as I would like to save some cash, I don't want to risk her having a reaction to expired/contaminated makeup. I try to keep it sanitary, but when you're in a rush to re-apply backstage, sometimes poop happens. This is what set me on my mission to find affordable, but quality duplicates.

When I went into the supplier to select the products, I only purchased the ones that focused on coverage and colour. I find that most people use their own mascara (preferable formula: volume) and eyeliner (gel or liquid) and primer. I used Makeup Forever's HD Microperfecting Primer and Benefit's Stay Don't Stray for my swatches. Here's how my selections held up against the recommended MAC items:

FACE: MAC Studio Fix Foundation in C4 VS. TCB's Dual Foundation in 42

Results: Unfortunately, I made the mistake of buying the dupe foundation based on the DD's winter skin tone, and not her spring skin tone (which is what she usually looks like during competition season). I forgot take into account the fact that we fly south every winter for the holiday, right before intense dance rehearsals start. Basically, the colours don't match, but even if they did, MAC's Studio Fix appears to have much better coverage than the dupe I picked up. The dupe applies sheer and has a more natural look, while MAC cakes itself on. For the stage, Studio Fix is the kind of makeup you need.

CHEEKS: MAC Powder Blush in Desert Rose VS. TCB's Blush in 114

Results: I wish I knew how to take photos/edit them better. These blushes swatched pretty much exactly the same on my hand, but have a colour difference in the photo. I'm not sure if that means they show up differently under bright lights and in photos or if I'm just a crummy photographer. The consistency and coverage also pretty comparable.

EYES: MAC Eyeshadows in Gesso and Espresso VS. TCB's Eyeshadows in 30 an 48

Results: Almost an exact colour match, the main difference between the two is texture and pigmentation. The dupes win hands down in both categories. The MAC Espresso had to be swatched a few times over to achieve the pigmentation that TCB's unbranded shadow displayed the first time it was applied. The dupes felt less grainy on my fingertips, which is probably why they went on smoother than the MAC shadows.

LIPS: MAC Lipstick in Russian Red and MAC Lip Liner in Vino VS.TCB's Lipstick in 142 and Lip Liner in Bordeaux

Results: Russian Red just won't go down. The unbranded lip colour isn't as creamy, matte, or deep as MAC's lipstick. Plus, it's too orange. I'll have to keep hunting for the perfect match. Not so for the lip liner though. Bordeaux applies much smoother than MAC's Vino, and looks less crayon-y. Is that a word? Regardless, the dupe lip liner is awesome!

FINAL THOUGHTS: I'm very happy with the results. I've managed to potentially replace four high priced items in my little dancer's makeup kit. Testing the products for staying power will be the next step before I feel confident in offering them as cheaper, yet quality alternatives to MAC products in my dancer's kit. I'm sure after doing some more research I will be able to find something to replace the expensive foundation and lipstick as well. I would also love to know of any other makeup products and colours that dance parents are looking for so I can start my hunt for those as well!


My Emergency Dance Makeup Bag

My little dancer is still too young to be expected to show up at events with a full face of makeup, but it doesn't mean that she isn't expected to look 'polished' when she is representing the studio. I sometimes forget that it could be required of her while at the studio as well.

Last night I had the pleasure of watching the studio's ballet examinations. I brought the DD in perfectly coiffed and neatly dressed, but after looking around, I realized that she should have been wearing light makeup as well. After attending her very first dance convention, JUMP, last year, I learned never to travel without the makeup basics. It didn't take much to run into the change room and give her a little makeover.

Carrying around a full makeup bag is pretty annoying. Fortunately, my subscription box addiction means I'm stocked up on sample sized products. I also tend to gravitate towards multipurpose cosmetics to keep my purse clutter at a minimum.

Here's What's In My Current Emergency Makeup Bag:

Benefit Stay Flawless / The Porefessional Primers (sample size): Let's be honest, young kids don't need full coverage foundation unless they're on stage or doing a photo-shoot. For conventions, examinations, and all other events, the more natural looking they are, the better. That, and the DD's fair skin tone, is why I tend to stick to light primers instead of using foundation. It's also less clutter in my purse and less messy overall, since I would have to carry a brush if I was using a liquid foundation and solid foundations in compacts have a tendency of cracking easily and leaving powder residue all over my purse.

Benefit Lollitint / Benetint Lip and Cheek Stain (sample size): I am obsessed with these two items. I will never carry anything else for lips and cheeks. They manage to go onto cheeks lightly to give a healthy, rosy glow, but pack a punch on the lips and give you the bright matte lip that's expected of all dancers at events. They also last for hours after the tints dry. A gloss or lipstick will never cut it because you'll have to keep re-applying, and powdered blush causes the same messy fallout as powdered foundation.

SharaShara Triple Shine Color Shadow in Yellow Brown (trio): This is a recent addition to my bag. I love this product because the colours are almost identical to her studio's standard eye makeup, but shimmer instead of matte. Up until I received this little trio, I was using Urban Decay Eyeshadow Pencils. I had no problems with the pencils, but this takes up way less room in my purse and I do find I can control the depth of the colours much better. I use a dry finger to dab the shadow on her eyelids so that I can achieve a soft look, required for something like a ballet exam, or a wet finger to apply it a bit darker so it will last longer for conventions.

Benefit They're Real Mascara (sample size): I appreciate any cosmetic item that allows me to control the look. This mascara can create a look as soft or dramatic as you'd like. It all depends on how many coats you apply and how you move the brush. The brush itself isn't huge, so it's perfect for tiny eyes. The formula is wet, but also dries much faster than the mess below.

Benefit They're Real Push-Up Liner (sample size): Once I'm done with this sample I don't think I'll be using this product it anymore. It may last a long time, but applying this on a child is a disaster. I much prefer a basic gel pencil liner to any liquid or pen because the formula isn't as wet and you don't have to worry about fluttering eyelids causing smudging or a double line.

I know there appears to be a significant amount of Benefit products, and although I absolutely adore some of them, it is mostly because they're the easiest multi-use samples to come by. Topbox and Ipsy seem to give them out every month, and Birchbox Canada looks to be following their example. Sephora always has them on hand as well if you ask at the checkout counter. The odd time they don't, they will make you a sample from their floor stock. The SharaShara product came out of my CutiePieMarzia2 Memebox, but it's currently on sale from the Memebox website for $5.


How Kinek Changed My Life (By Saving Me $$$)

For anyone who lives in a border town (or within a few hours of one) and likes to save money, boy, do I have a service for you. It's called Kinek and I've been using it for about 3 years now. They call themselves an 'alternative delivery solution'. They offer a few different services, but the one I use, and the one that benefits my fellow Canadians the most, is their Border Network Service.

Description from the Kinek Website:
Border Network: Kinek’s border locations are conveniently set up for Canadians. Easily sign up for your US Shipping Address and start saving on international shipping and brokerage fees.

 Basically, anyone can sign up for a Kinek account for free. They are then provided with a unique ID number which can be used at any Kinek point you are interested in picking up your packages at. The website provides a quick and easy search tool for finding Kinek offices closest to any Canadian/US Border point. Pricing and Operating Hours vary by location, but most of the offices I've used charge a standard pickup fee of $5 per package (under 30lbs). There is no monthly rental fee associated with Kinek, so it's like having a pay-per-use P.O. Box.

I'm posting about this service now because I've been using it a lot lately. I had already planned a trip across the border for some Christmas shopping, so I put in Black Friday orders for the little girl with California Kisses, Discount Dance Supply, and All About Dance. Right now California Kisses is only available in one dance supply store in Canada, and the cost mark-up is atrocious. Shipping to Canada is a minimum of $30 and there is a separate charge for duties and taxes. Getting an outfit on sale isn't as attractive when it costs almost double to ship it. Shipping to the US? Free for any purchase over $100. The DD also has her ballet exams coming up and the standard body suit for her studio changed, as well as the slippers. I could have bought them here for $30 a piece, but instead I bought both from All About Dance for $25 together, and then free shipping of course. Her ballet tights came from Discount Dance Supply for $3.25 a pair vs. the $16 I usually pay at home. Even with the currency exchange and gas cost factored in ($40), I made out like a bandit. 

Dance is an expensive art/sport, and for any parent in Canada whose kid wants to play hockey, I envy you. For all the other dance parents who don't mind an extra drive to save some cash, I urge you to look into Kinek. For more info, check out their Shipping to the Border FAQ

P.S. There's also an App for that!


November Empties aka The Great Topbox Purge of '14

This month's Topbox was such a disappointment to me that I decided to purge my stash of the remaining products I received. I want to start a fresh beauty routine in 2015, and there is no better way to do that to de-clutter.

Here's what I managed to use in November, from worst to best (in my opinion):

Barefoot Venus Lip Fable in Honey: This is from a Topbox I received ages ago. I was saving it for the winter since I had heard such great things about this product.  What a letdown. Their website lists the retail value as $7.50, but I probably wouldn't pay more than $2 for this product. Why? I find the moisture effects hardly last and it just sits on top of my lips, rather than absorbing like the many other balms I use. The texture is a bit like Vaseline, and to be honest, I prefer the latter for dry lip season.

Redken Extreme Rescue Force Fortifying Treatment: Yet another Topbox sample product, and another that didn't do much for me. This hair mask has actually been discontinued by Redken and so it's hard to predict the actual value, but it works just like any standard drug store conditioner. Also, I wonder whether it was sent out by Topbox before or after it had been discontinued. Just another strike against the subscription in my book. I swapped out my Moroccan Oil Smoothing Conditioner in order to use this up, and while it's not terrible, when something performs slightly less than what I'm used to, I notice right away.

 Skinfood Facial Water Vita-C Cream: Another product I am indifferent to, but surprisingly, this one came from my favourite beauty box, Memebox. My skin is quite picky, and while this one kept my face hydrated as the weather got colder, without causing me to break out, I've received products that are far superior to this from Memebox. I did love the light texture and the morning pick-me-up it provided. Skinfood recommends keeping this cream in the refrigerator, and to anyone who has it in their possession, so do I. The card I received with my Memebox lists the value at $13. This is actually less than most of your run of the mill drugstore brands, which is what I would have to run out and buy if I was in a pinch. The issue is that the cream isn't readily available anywhere nearby and so I'd probably purchase something from Neutrogena before I got my hands on this again.

Bioderma Sebium Purifying Foaming Gel: I really enjoyed this cleanser, which I received in my September 2014 Topbox. It did take me a while to get to it since I was mad at Topbox for sending me three Bioderma products in a row. I was planning on boycotting Bioderma all together, but then my Clarisonic died and their cleanser stopped being as effective. I tried a few other samples I had in my stash and this Bioderma gel outperformed them all. I didn't break out, produce any excess oil on my t-zone, and my skin didn't feel overly tight or stripped of moisture, I got a good two weeks out of the 15ml sample and considering the full size is $20 and 200ml, the value seems to be there. I am really considering buying this again at my local Shoppers Drug Mart if the cleanser I'm using from Memebox doesn't work out.

Mizon Magic Peeling Foot: I am a foot peeling mask convert. The whole idea of this product was gross to me, mostly because I think feet are disgusting, but after trying my first one, I am a woman changed. This little sachet saved me from spending $40 on a sub-par pedicure. I admit, it took a lot of patience not to move around too much while the booties were on my feet (for at least an hour and a half), but I got to catch up on Arrow in bed instead of making strained small talk at a salon. I received this in my Foot Therapy Memebox, and while they have a retail value of $11 listed, I managed to pick up a few The Face Shop foot peeling masks on Black Friday for 40% off. I'm set for the whole season!

The Face Ship Lovely Me:Ex BeBe Lip Essence: This is my holy grail lip product. I am absolutely in love. I will probably use about five of them before winter is over. It's not necessarily the hydrating aspect that sucked me in, even though it performs in that department, but it looks so pretty on! This is what I use during the day because it actually makes me look like I'm wearing an lip product and not a balm. It makes my lips look soft and pillowy, and enhances my natural colour. I just cannot gush about my BeBe Lip Essence enough. It's $9 at The Face Shop, but I bought a few during their 20% off sale, and then more of them on Black Friday.


I've got a (Miga)BEE Allergy

The one good thing about getting sick is that it forces you to slow down. I've had the My Honey Box from Memebox sitting around my house for a few days now, and I was finally able to play with it. This isn't a new box by any means, so I already knew what to expect when I bought it on a restock at the beginning of the month. I was mostly intrigued by the Edmong Honeybee Water Cream and the Migabee Antipollution RE-Peeling Gel. It wasn't until after I purchased the box and it shipped, that I went back and read the product descriptions for the two more closely, and picked up on a potential problem. The Water Cream was fine, but ...

"MIGABEE Antipollution RE-Peeling: This is a peel-off type of facial pack enriched with natural ingredients renown(ed) for (their) nourishing and brightening effects - honey, bee venom, propolis, (and) royal jelly. It'll work to exfoliate dead skin cells, blackheads, and whiteheads, and to control excess oil and sebum, by maintaining the skin clean and well balanced." (I don't even know how to edit that last fragment to sound like English, sorry.)

Honey, propolis, and royal jelly - I like all of those things. Bee venom, on the other hand, is one of the only allergies that I have not managed to grow out of. Unfortunately, no one on any forum, blog, or Facebook group could tell me whether I would have a reaction to this stuff. They only thing anyone could recommend was to patch test it. My bee sting allergy isn't life threatening, but it causes severe discomfort. I get red and swollen and develop hives. Since I was already feeling kind of gross, I figured today would be the day to risk it and try the stuff out. Not on my face, because I'm groggy, not insane, but on my hand.

Geez, I really wanted this stuff to have an insignificant amount of bee venom. I like to exfoliate dead skin cells and control my oil and sebum. But alas, it was not meant to be. The results of my patch test above tell my sad tale. It was fine upon initial contact with my skin, but after 10 minutes I could see that my hand was noticeably more red than before. After I peeled the dried gel off, my skin was much redder and felt pretty itchy, as well as burned a bit. It took a while before the swelling became apparent, but it came just the same.

So long, Migabee. I wish I could say it's been a pleasure. My swollen hand made me feel otherwise. Luckily, the swelling did subside after about 2 hours. I wish I could give a review on the actual product performance, because so many people adore it and have it on their holy grail skincare list. Unfortunately, all I can say is, anyone with a bee allergy, stay away.

Note: I've included my Memebox affiliate link in this post for anyone interested in checking it out. You can use the code XP1OWK to get $5 off any order of $30 or more. They are having a Black Friday sale tomorrow, but it seems to be only in their US Shop. Boo.


Heelloooooo Poppets aka Ettang's Mrs. Doubtfire Mask Review

I've been pretty impatient waiting for my Competition Box supplies to come in. In order to stop myself from getting upset over the fact that the face charts I ordered on Ebay were on regular computer paper and I could have printed them myself at home, or that my safety pins still have not arrived from Germany, I end up trying every 'miracle' product I've been hoarding in my bathroom cupboards. Whoa, run on sentence.

Anywho, I've been fiddling with these Ettang Modeling Take-Out Cup Masks, which I purchased in Memebox's Memeshop, for two weeks now. I could not get the consistency right for the life of me. It doesn't help that the instructions are barely in English. But today was the day ... I did it.  My Calendula and Oatmeal masks were casualties of my first experiments, so this time I fiddled with my least favourite mask of the bunch, Peppermint. Figures this would be the one I get right. I mixed it at about a 1:1 ratio of powder to water. I tried it at a 1:2 and 1:3 and both were just too watery. The masks ran down my face, neck, and chest, and didn't firm up like they were supposed to.

I got most of the information on these products from Amazon. I do wish Memebox provided at least a translation of the selection being included in the Ettang Take-Out Pack, and the purpose of each mask, but at least the information is out there somewhere on the interwebs. According to Amazon, the Peppermint Modeling cup is for skin soothing, skin refreshment, and skin conditioning. Nothing too earth shattering.

So, did it do it's job? I think so. I mean, when I took it off my face was baby soft, even though my skin itself felt a bit tighter. The photo above is a close up of what the mask looked like when I peeled it off my face. Besides air bubbles I don't know what the heck is on there. Could it really have pulled all that junk out of my pores? If so, the mask was probably worth all the attempts and the 20 minutes I had to sit around doing nothing while it dried.
Would I buy this product again? Maybe. They are pretty messy. I had powder and little bits of rubber everywhere by the time I was done. I might save the rest of the cups for special occasions only.

The funny thing is, regardless of the texture I achieve, I always feel like Mrs. Doubtfire. You know the scene where the case worker stops by and Robin Williams gets his disguise run over, so he he has to improvise and ends up shoving his face into a lemon meringue pie and calling it a  beauty 'mask'? That is what you look like in these masks. They even melt off your face 'like a snowcone', again, even after perfect mixing. In case you have no idea what I'm talking about, I refer you to the video clip below:

(I'm sharing this clip from Yeah Okay's Youtube account. They had a Blogger share button so I hope it's ok to do so.)

Note: I've included my Memebox affiliate link in this post for anyone interested in checking it out. You can use the code XP1OWK to get $5 off any order of $30 or more.


The Competition Box's Box Competition

 A few days ago I fell out of love with both Topbox and Ipsy. My November bags from each service were less than stellar. Because of this, I decided to take a long, hard look at my monthly subscriptions and see if there were other places that gave me more value for my money. It was time for a beauty box showdown! It's just like shopping around to find the bank with the offering the best interest rate. Even if subs are luxuries and not serious financial investments, they still have to feel worth it.

The Cost Breakdown:
Ipsy: $10 USD + $4.95 S&H = $14.95 USD total (or $17.19 CAD with the exchange rate)
Top Box: $12 CAD + HST = $13.56 CAD total

What I received in each box: 

ClariSEA Sea Salt Solutions Instant Glow Powder Exfoliant
Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream Skin Protectant
FULL SIZE Elizabeth Mott You're So FINE Eyeliner
Marc Anthony Oil of Morocco Argan Oil Volume Shine Hairspray
FULL SIZE Nicole by OPI Nail Polish in Guys & Galaxies

Out of this bag, I tossed the ClariSEA since it needed to be mixed with my own cleanser (which already has an exfoliant) and most of the ingredients I could combine in my own pantry if I wished to do so (I don't). I also got rid of the Elizabeth Arden cream because I'm not a fan of the brand and the sample sent was too tiny to trade. I'm saving the eyeliner for the Holiday Party Season, where I'm sure to get use out of it. Even though I didn't care for them, my mother found use for the hairspray, and my little girl fell in love with the polish. If these two items weren't confiscated, I could have have at least traded them for something I really wanted.

Usefulness: 3/5
Full Size Products: 2/5
Total Value: $27.99 CAD (I only count the value of the full size products since all of the other ones are basically 'free samples')

Eyeko Black Magic Mascara
Elizabeth Arden Flawless Future Powered by Ceramide Caplet Serum
UniqOne All in One Hair Treatment
Benefit stay flawless 15-hour primer

I was so disappointed when I opened the bag, mostly because I was expecting five products, not the usual four. Topbox sent out an email claiming that Benefit would be throwing in an extra sample into this month's bag if they received 17,000 followers on Instagram. They met their goal, but instead of receiving the primer as a bonus item, it was included as one of the guaranteed four. I really did not appreciate this. First off, I basically had to 'work' for the sample, even though I was legitimately paying for it, and secondly, it made me assume that they had always planned on including this product in the bag, whether Benefit met their goal or not. The upset kept on coming though, because all of the samples this month were tiny, except for the mascara, and the hair treatment was actually labelled "free sample". I gave the mascara to the DD for when she plays makeup, tossed the primer in with my multitude of Benefit samples (all from Topbox), and trashed the other two items.

Usefulness: 1/4
Full Size Products: 0/4
Total Value: A whopping $0 CAD

In the end, I decided to cancel my Topbox subscription and give Ipsy one more chance to impress me. I also subscribed to Birchbox Canada. I took a look at the boxes sent out in the previous months and felt confident in spending the $14.95 ($10 + $4.95 S&H) to test out their December offerings. Another plus that I noticed after signing up? Birchbox was charging in Canadian funds. No fluctuating exchange rate to worry about! Glossybox was also an option I was looking in to, but for $26 USD per month with shipping, I couldn't bring myself to pull the trigger. I usually pay about the same for my Memeboxes, and they are at least guaranteed to include 6 full size items.

Note: This post contains some affiliate links.


Kiddie Mani feat. Makeup by One Direction

A few days ago I was sent some Makeup by One Direction samples to review from BrandBacker (This post is powered by BrandBacker). Unfortunately, before I could even open the boxes, they were confiscated by my little girl. After some begging and pleading on my part, she decided she would 'allow' me to take some photos of her using the products to give herself a mani.

First off, she decided to use their neon pink shade, "Moments"

She really loves the polish because the lid is large enough for her to get a good grip on, and the brush is the perfect size for tiny fingers and fingernails. This is probably the first time she's managed a solo-mani without getting polish all over herself and my nice towels.

Next came the glitter in "Kicks", which is described on the box as a "snow cone blue".

I noticed a few things about the 1D polish while she was doing her nails that I really liked. The color is buildable, which makes it age appropriate for young kids (like the little 7-year-old in these photos) AND their moms (the neon pink is coming with me on my next beach vaca). All the DD needed was one layer of polish and glitter for her sweet pink mani, while I would probably use about 2-3 for a seriously fun pedi.

 The nail polish and glitter are also supposed to be UV-reactive, which may get tested the next time we go Cosmic Bowling. 

The newest collection should be in stores already, so after seeing how much the kiddo enjoyed this set, I'm thinking I need to head over to Walmart before the holidays to pick up some stocking stuffers. She would probably get a kick out of their hair mascara and go nuts over their full beauty tins. If only she could decide which member of 1D is her fave, it would make my shopping much simpler. Obviously each member has his own 'collection'.

All the info on the Makeup by One Direction line can be found on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/MakeupbyOneDirection

You can also enter to win some of it here: Makeup by One Direction Giveaway


It Takes Me Twenty Minutes to Wash My Face

For the past few months I have been ranting and raving to anyone who will listen about The Face Shop. They are a Korean beauty retailer who bought out the Fruits and Passion chain in Canada and converted all their stores into perfectly lit slices of kitsch heaven. My mall actually has two of them.

Besides a few masks here and there, my Face Shop purchases have been strictly makeup. I am pretty sure I own their full line of lip balms, lip tints, cheek blushers, nail tattoos and Mini Pet hand creams. When I decided to branch out to find other Korean makeup retailers, I came across Memebox, the online K-Beauty 'subscription box' service. Everyone knows I can't resist a sub-box.
I've received a few masks, cleansers, and serums along with the makeup I was after, but used them casually. I tried to integrate them into my Western skincare routine, but I didn't really think they were making much of a difference. It turns out, I was doing it all wrong. Each one of these potions and lotions serves an important purpose, which I'm still trying to understand. Honestly, I didn't realize the composition of the products and the order they were used in was such a big deal until I read this amazing blog post over at Harlot Beauty.
Today I tried it ... and my face feels like a baby's butt. I actually unwrapped all of the items I received in my Skinfood Memebox, picked up the missing essentials at The Face Shop, and did a full run through. It took twenty minutes and it was twenty minutes well spent. I mentioned previously that the skin on my face is comparable to that of an elephant, well, not anymore!

I'm going to give it a few days before I write a glowing review of these Skinfood and Face Shop items, only because this euphoria could be temporary. But for my face's sake, I hope not!

Note: I've included my Memebox affiliate link in this post for anyone interested in checking it out. You can use the code XP1OWK to get $5 off any order of $30 or more.


The Perfect Makeup Removal Technique for Tiny Eyes & Errors?


Trying to get a child to stay still during the stage makeup process is almost impossible, especially one who is as hyperactive and restless as my little dancer. She's like a bobble-head; if I'm not holding her steady, she ends up with lipstick in her ear. The absolute worst is when her face is on perfectly, then I go to apply that final coat of mascara or lipstick, and she decides it's about time for some sudden movements.

There isn't always time to re-apply a full lip or re-do a whole eyelid right before a number or during a quick-change. I was so frustrated during our final competition last season, that I was about ready to throw in the towel and let the DD go on stage with black eyeliner all over her upper eyelid. Of course she thought it would be a good idea to have a ferocious blinking contest with a friend after just getting a fresh coat of MAC liquid liner! Luckily, right before I had a nervous breakdown backstage, a seasoned dance mom felt sorry for me and fixed up my girl. She then taught me how to make two of the staples in my dance bag work together to fight those irritating makeup mishaps.

I give you the Q-Tip and the Makeup Wipe Combo:

Sure, they're pretty handy on their own but, when they work together, these two little items make magic. You just wrap the wipe tightly around one end of the Q-Tip and use that on any makeup oops you need to get rid of quickly.

 Using a Q-Tip dipped in a liquid makeup remover may seem fine; however, when you're kid is on stage with the lights hitting that visible streak down her face from the extra liquid that you forgot to squeeze off the tip, you'll be kicking yourself. Makeup Wipes on their own don't work well, because they don't provide the precision that the Q-Tip does. I end up removing half of the DD's eye makeup with one swipe. What works for my own makeup flubs doesn't necessarily translate when I'm working with a face that's half the size.

I learned this trick just in time for our studio's year-end showcase. I saved myself a lot of grief, and my girl a lot of lectures on the virtue of sitting still. No problem is too small to fix now. I will definitely be including these two products in my kit, as they are a must-have for any dancer/dance parent at a competition!


Slowly Building the 'Brand'

 Once I decided to really give my Competition Box idea a try, the first thing I did, besides set up this blog, was look for little ways to get the word out. Aside from spamming everyone on my social media accounts, I needed something I could physically give to people I encountered at studios and conventions. When I came across a deal on Groupon for personalized stamps from 2712 Designs, I figured it was a great place to start. I ordered a few different styles and sizes so I could stamp anything I had on hand. I know eventually I will also end up using them on whatever 'packaging' I offer the bag contents in.

My first stamp came yesterday, and I'm obsessed. It's the largest stamp I ordered, and the one containing all the basics - name, email, and blog address. Once I get my domain up and running, I am definitely ordering another one. It's the perfect size and style to create my own minimalist business cards. Right now, though, this one is perfect to label the samples I give out, and to leave my mark on any other random surface I feel will be seen by the people I want to reach. It's self inking and compact enough to carry around in my purse, so along with the kraft tags and scrapbook cut-outs I bought, I'll always be ready to stamp up a storm and promote myself when I need to.

I could have probably gotten a stamp made for the same price at Staples or OfficeMax, but the styles at 2712 are too adorable. Plus, each stamp is made by hand and the crafts-person leaves their own little signature on your invoice. It just has a nice, personal touch you wouldn't get from one of those big box office supply chains.

I can't wait to receive my mini wood stamps!


I wore a mask ... on my nails!

 I've been waiting patiently for products to come in so I can test them for my competition bag - namely, my face charts (for the makeup comparisons), safety pins (all the way from Germany!), and makeup removers (just ordered them). Meanwhile, all of my personal beauty items have been arriving in record time.

A little background info: I love getting my Ipsy and Topbox subscriptions every month, so I decided to branch out and join pretty much every other beauty subscription option available to Canadians, or at least the ones who didn't charge an arm and a leg for shipping. The first one one I added was Julep Maven, mostly because I couldn't justify going to the nail salon for a manicure that would last me about two days. I was pretty sure I could learn to do it myself.

Receiving a few new polishes a month has been fun, but in October I took the plunge and ordered their Trick or Treat Mystery Box. To be honest, I didn't hear many good things about Julep's mystery boxes, but I guess they took the criticism to heart and promised a better experience for anyone who purchased their latest one. I'm glad I decided to do it. It included some of their best nail care products, thus allowing me to jump start my new routine.

The first thing I decided to try was their Nail Moisture Mask:

I followed the instructions pretty well, but let me just say, those little finger masks were a pain. I don't know how one is supposed to secure them 'around each fingertip', but mine kept riding up for some reason. I figured the essence would help them adhere to my nails/skin, but the masks were not as moist as I was expecting, so it didn't happen. I ended up just making a fist and pressing my cocooned fingertips into my palms to make sure the mask stayed in contact with my nails for the duration of the treatment.

Aside from that little hiccup, the rest of it was smooth sailing. I wasn't completely bored waiting for my 30 minutes to be up, since the masks are 'touchscreen-friendly'. When my hands weren't in a fist, I could text, Tweet, and Subway Surf to pass the time.

After I removed the masks, the remaining solution, which the instructions said to massage in, didn't exist. The rinsing and patting steps weren't really necessary. My nails, though? They looked spectacular! When I'm not wearing polish, they're pretty awful. Even after moisturizing, you can tell they've been tortured (usually because I've just removed stubborn glitter polish). They now look healthy and shiny and moisturized. Even my cuticles have an acceptable appearance. The biggest downside? The other side of my hand isn't so pretty. They felt nice, but looked like I had fallen asleep in the tub. Not cute.

 Overall, it was a positive first nail mask experience for me. I probably wouldn't pay the full purchase price for these ($30 for a pack of 5). However, they're currently on sale in the Julep Secret Store, so I may decide to pick some up before it closes down for the month.


October Empties

For some reason, I don't really start a skincare regime until the fall. It might be because during the summer my skin provides it's own moisture and a washcloth with water is all it takes to feel like my face is clean. But as soon as the weather gets colder, I start reaching for my holy grail skincare products. By the end of the month, I amass quite the collection of empty containers. 

Here's what I've gone through this month:

Biophora Bioactive Solution: I was told by an esthetician, politely of course, that I basically had elephant skin. It is thick and tough and needs regular exfoliation. She recommended this product to me and I've been using it religiously as a toner ever since. I go through a giant bottle every year, and I guess for $50, it's not a bad deal. The main issue is that I can only find it at select spas, but never at beauty supply stores, so it's a mission every time I need to replace it.

 Josie Maran 100% Pure Argan Oil: My first experience with argan oil was with what seemed to be the holy grail of all argan oil products - Josie Maran. I received a mini sample in a 2013 Topbox and have been hooked ever since. I've tried other, cheaper versions, but nothing works as well. My go-to moisturizer in the winter, I use it on everything - face, hair, hands, etc. Anything that lacks moisture gets a dime-sized amount of this. I wish I could say that my skincare routine was all-natural, but this 8-free product makes up for it, right? Unfortunately, it's super expensive, so I buy a mini bottle every few weeks at Sephora, which doesn't hurt my wallet as badly.

skynICELAND Glacial Cleansing Cloths: I received a sample 10-pack of these in my October Ipsy Glam Bag. I've already used them up, and have another 2 full sized packages on order from Amazon. These are the first cleansing cloths that have not irritated my skin in any way. Most of them either dry out my face (YESto) or leave a weird film, causing me to breakout (Neutrogena). I use them at night when I'm too tired to wash my face properly and I can't tell the difference from my usual cleanser in the morning. I do not use them as an eye makeup remover though, since I'm weary of using anything that lathers around my sensitive eyes.

Benefit's the POREfessional: I hate wearing makeup. I'm not quick at applying it on myself and it takes me about an hour before I'm happy with my face. I love anything that I can just slap on in less than 5 minutes. That is why I love the POREfessional. Most people use it as a primer, but it doubles as a light foundation, almost a BB cream, for me. Sometimes I get crazy and mix it with my moisturizer so the coverage is even lighter. I just want something that evens out my skin tone, but doesn't feel heavy on my face like most makeup does. I used to use Benefit's some kind-a gorgeous, but have given it up for this. My tube is empty, but I've got a few mini samples from Topbox and Ipsy to tide me over. I don't need to splurge on a full size at Sephora for at least another week.

I tossed these before I took photos:

Bliss Hot Salt Scrub: I won a tub of this a few years ago at a bridal shower and have been using it faithfully ever since. This scrub has allowed me to perfect the 5 minute shower. It's most effective when you apply it to dry skin, so the only water I waste is when I'm rinsing it off and washing my hair. Aside from the plus of water conservation, it leaves my skin feeling super smooth and I don't feel guilty if I'm in a rush and skip the after-shower body moisturizing step. My Aveeno will be there tomorrow. Another super plus for this scrub is that I can always find it discounted at Winners (Canadian T.J.Maxx), so I've never actually had to dish out the $38.00 for it. I just stock up whenever I find it.

R.I.P Clarisonic PLUS: My Clarisonic PLUS died this month, after almost 3 years of trusty service. I was obsessed with it. I took it everywhere, even though it was bulky, and faithfully changed the brush heads every 3 months. As I mentioned before, washcloths suffice for my face in the summer, but this little miracle machine, along with the Clarisonic Refreshing Gel Cleanser, kept my face clean and clear throughout the other seasons. Even though my skin gets dry in the winter, it's always when I need to exfoliate it the most. I'm torn on repurchasing though. They're quite an investment ($265 CAD), and even though customer service was super helpful because my PLUS was out of warranty, and offered me a 25% coupon through email, I still have yet to receive said coupon after contacting them again.

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