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.


Expressing Yourself Through Dance...wear

What first attracted my little DD to dance was the costumes. She was terribly shy at school and couldn't even make it through one dance class, never mind the whole season. All of that changed when she saw her first recital. The perfectly made up faces of the dancers, plus the sequins, lace and tutus just sucked her in. She begged to try again, knowing now that the reward for 8 months of hard work was the privilege of sparkling in front of an audience. She wanted to be a princess, and ended up discovering her love of dance along the way. 

Obviously 8 months is a long time for a kid to see a payoff. She wanted at least a taste of what she was working so hard for every week. I sucked it up and started Googling Dance Mom Fashion blogs. Those ladies may be nutso, but their kids are always adorably dressed for dance class. There was one brand that always stood out in all the entries though....

Ohhh, California Kisses, where do I begin? Their website lacks an About Us section, so I'll tell you what I know. According to CK's blog, their website launched in 2012, which makes them relatively new in the dancewear world. They're owned by/affiliated with Beach Bunny Swimwear and are based in Irvine, California. Sophia Lucia, the world record holder for the most pirouettes, is their spokesperson. Also, the shipping charges to Canada are astronomical and so far, the line is exclusive to only one shop in Canada, Gabie's Boutique, in Newmarket, ON.

A few weeks after my research spree, while on vacation in Florida, the DD got to try on her very first California Kisses outfit, the Social Sparkler. She was hooked. It was exactly what she was looking for to make her feel as if every practice was a rectial, and every class was a competition. Her confidence level also went way up, because even if she didn't speak out a lot, her outfit did it for her.

I know a lot of studios have a uniform policy. Most schools in our area do. We are fortunate that our studio allows their dancers to dance in whatever they feel comfortable in; as it should be. Dance is a great way for a child to learn discipline and technique, but it's also a way for them to express themselves. Creative dancewear is just another facet of that expression. Without it my DD would probably have given up on dance long ago.


The Tape Test

One of the most used items in my dance kit this year was something I thought I would only need in an emergency - fashion tape. I bought a 36-pack of pre-cut strips from Capezio's Bunheads line for $10 at my local dance supply store and figured it would get me through 3 competitions and 2 recitals. Between the costumes, leg warmers, arm warmers, and head pieces, I was left with about 6 strips after our first comp. When I first started thinking about assembling The Competition Box, I knew for a fact I wanted to include this dance essential, but in a larger quantity and for a much more reasonable price.

After doing some research, I decided that the best fashion tapes for me to test out would be 3M (white backing) and Sensi-Tak (red backing). 3M seems to be the standard tape being sold in stores (it's what comes in the Bunheads box at a huge markup), while Sensi-Tak is a little sturdier and is supposed to last 3 to 4 times longer than the 3M tape.

I found a wholesaler and ordered each tape in different sizes so I could test them out. I also ordered a few strips with a curved shape, which could be a good option for helping to secure costume pieces around the knees and elbows.

It became clear at the beginning of the testing process that the tape rolls weren't going to cut it. Sure, they offer more flexibility in length, but the pre-cut strips have an extra-long backing allowing for easy removal and a slice in the middle of the front protector film for the same reason. When you're in the middle of a quick change, every second counts. You don't want to be fumbling with fashion tape, especially if you're a little on the clumsy side like I am. Half your tape is wasted before you even start applying it to the costume. I also ruled out the 1" wide tape because it seemed too thick, and the 1/2" wide because it seemed too flimsy to be able to hold anything up effectively.

When I applied both tapes directly to my DD's skin, secured her to her crop top and then let her jump around, they both held up about the same. The real test came when I taped the crop top to a pair of dance tights and swung them around for about a minute. The Sensi-Tak was still going strong, while the 3M started separating.

Removing the tape is a test in itself, and both tapes were easily peeled away from skin and material; however, the Sensi-Tak did come away with more material lint than the 3M. I feel like if this was used with a delicate material, like lace, or came into contact with anything fuzzy or feathery, it would cause some pulling or damage.

I'm torn between these two items. I think I'm going to start using the Sensi-Tak with stronger fabrics, but still keep some 3M strips on hand for when I don't want to jeopardize the integrity of the costume. For this reason, I plan on including both tapes in my kit. The quantity is still up in the air, but I know for a fact that it will be more than the paltry 36 being sold currently.


The Lowdown on Hairspray: Canadian Edition

If there is anything I've learned from basically trying to shellac my DD's hair to her head, it's that  'the most expensive' and 'most recommended by professionals' does not always translate to 'the best'. When it comes to competition 'dos, cheaper has proven to be better. If your kid needs an elaborate style or just has fine/thin hair with a mess of fly-aways (like mine), then you shouldn't look farther than your local Wal-Mart to fill your dance bag.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of products that aren't available to us Canucks, so tried and true staples like Aquanet and Freeze-It aren't realistic recommendations. Listed below are what I think are the 3 best products for competition ready hair:

  • göt2b Glued Blasting Freeze Spray (MSRP $6.96 - Walmart.ca)
    It's all in the name. Glue and Freeze are pretty much the exact words I would use to describe this product. The trick is to apply it when the hair is partially wet and use your hands. The shape of the spray nozzle makes it hard to aim at a specific area, so it's best just to spray it on your palms and work it into the hair. 
  • L'Oreal Paris Elnett Satin ExtraStrong Hairspray (MSRP $9.76 - Walmart.ca)
    This is great when you have to change looks throughout the day. If you have to go from sleek up-do to down and curly, this hairspray doesn't get too stiff to brush through. I find I don't have to use a spray bottle of water just to make the hair malleable again.
  • Aussie Instant Freeze Hairspray (MSRP $3.46 - Walmart.ca)
    To be honest, this is my go-to hairspray if I forget to pack one of the other two. It does a decent job and I can usually find it anywhere, whether it be at a drug store or in another dancer's competition bag. It's got great hold and doesn't cause as much buildup as other drugstore brands.

Unfortunately, because hairspray is considered a hazardous material by most postal services, I don't think I'll be able to offer it in The Competition Box. Perhaps, since it's an easier item to find, I should just stick to sourcing other quality hair necessities.



Wow - so after about 6 months of contemplation, research, and preparation, I think I'm ready to take my little idea public:

I'm a Dance Mom (not the TV kind *shudder*) from Ontario, Canada who has become obsessed with discovering new products for my little dancer, whether it be outfits, makeup, or other supplies. Last season, after I began sourcing and purchasing the necessary competition items for not just my DD, but also the other dancers and dance moms at the studio, the idea for The Competition Box was born.

I have been obsessed with beauty subscription boxes for a while, and my original concept was to design a box catered to dancers only. However, I realized that if a dancer or dance mom can find quality items to begin with, a subscription isn't necessary. All they need is a quality kit to take them through the competition and recital season. My goal is to assemble this kit.

I started this blog to detail the journey of creating my ultimate Competition Box. I will be reviewing not only the items for my dream kit, but also select dancewear, accessories, and the best items I receive in my subscription boxes. These products, while not necessary for competition, should be in any woman's beauty arsenal.

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