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.

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