Worth it? Benefit Brow Bar

Benefit Brow Bar
Benefit Brow Bar

I visited a Benefit Brow Bar at my local Ulta to whip my eyebrows into shape for the first time. I plucked for years (more on that in a minute) but was ready for some professional help. But first, here’s why I eschewed it until my mid-twenties.

Prior (Jaded) Experience

Let’s rewind a handful-or-so (cough) of years. I was getting my nails done and my nail technician offered a brow wax. I had no idea what the heck to do with my eyebrows. For only $7, I figured it would be fine. (Narrator: It was not fine.)

She whisked me to the rear of the salon and plopped me into a chair next to a few vats of warming wax. She grabbed a coworker and spoke to her, gestured to her own brows, and directed her back to me – evidently not everyone was qualified to perform waxing services. Fair enough.

Wordlessly, this new employee tilted my head back in the chair and grabbed a popsicle stick. She didn’t speak to me, ask what I wanted, if I had done it before; immediately, she dipped the stick in the wax and spread it around my brow, applied a cloth, and ripped with no warning. She did this several times, then moved to my left brow. She repeated the same process on the left. When she moved to the tail area of the brow, she pressed the cloth down and yanked again. It was far more painful than the other previous yanks of cloth-and-wax. I opened my eyes, wincing, and noticed her eyes were wide and concerned. “Oops…” she said.

So…that’s how you end up with half of an eyebrow. From the arch to the tail – gone. Thankfully, I wore side bangs at this time (because I had neither the product or the skill to fill in my now-misshapen brows). I eschewed waxing for years and plucked instead. Can you blame me?

Get in Shape

I was scarred (emotionally) for YEARS, so I plucked on my own. I later noticed that reputable area salons and spas in my area offered brow services along but couldn’t help but wonder:

Although someone knows how to effectively rip hair from your body with sticky goo, do they know shaping best practices?

Legs, underarms, and Brazilian waxes don’t exactly require much shaping; many cases like a closeout sale everything must go. That isn’t the case with our eyebrows, though, as they serve to frame our eyes and face.

I discovered that Benefit offers select waxing services at their Brow Bars located in Ulta stores, Macy’s locations, and a half dozen other places. Members of /r/MakeupAddiction on Reddit passionately instruct newcomers to take their their untouched brows to a Benefit Brow Bar to fix them up.

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Worth It? Elma and Sana Argan Oil Review


A couple weeks ago I did a first look at the Elma and Sana Argan Oil, and now I feel as though I can adequately review the product. Fortunately, this won’t be a talk-your-eyes-off-via-text review.

Verdict: Don’t bother with this one, at least not for facial use.

The consistency of this product is thinner, resulting in having to use more product to effectively moisturize. Granted, this is only a 2-4 drops more than you would need to use of the Josie Maran product – but still. On top of feeling thinner, it somehow also feels greasier. Of course it is going to have a bit of slip to it as it is an oil, but it kind of felt like vegetable oil or canola–if I wanted that, I could probably just grab a jug of Crisco. My skin took longer to absorb it – which makes a ton of sense, I know. I used it nightly for two weeks and thought I was crazy for the first few days, but nope – it really did take longer to absorb. The color of the oil is not the same – Elma and Sana Argan Oil is closer to being clear, which suggests additional processing:

Elma and Sana Argan Oil ReviewElma and Sana Argan Oil vs. Josie Maran Argan Oil

On top of that, this oil does have a smell. You will frequently see that Argan Oil on its own should not have a scent. This has a distinct smell, but it is difficult to describe – but it doesn’t smell very natural, and not at all like the odorless Josie Maran. It is neither foul nor particularly offensive, but when you anticipate an odorless product, having an odor is unpleasant.

Furthermore, I feel that this product caused me to break out. It did not cause irritation or redness, but I did develop blemishes during use of it – I typically only get 1-2 small, manageable ones per month (cycle-related), but I have FIVE that are currently healing (non-cycle-related).  My under-eye area is back to being a bit dull.

I’m going back to using Josie! I think this product is an OK body moisturizer is fine for the ends of the hair (if you’re into that – I’m not, but I tried it for science), and it is definitely nice for cuticles, but I don’t recommend it for use on the face. Something about the way they processed this oil doesn’t really let it do what it is supposed to do for your face.

Especially considering the somewhat-illiterate label and website…just pass on this one.

2014 Sephora Sun Safety Kit


Sephora Sun Safety Kit, $32

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Not allergy season, because that part sucks thank-you-very-much-itchy-watery-eyes, but Sephora Sun Safety Kit time. Aka it is warm (finally) in most parts of the states, aka I don’t feel like hibernating constantly. My area in particular had a day reach 90+ a week or so ago, which is kind of uncharacteristic for May (especially considering how cold it was for so long). Warm weather makes it easier to spend time outdoors doing whatever – exercising, barbecuing, gardening, swimming once pools do not feel miserable, just going for a walk to gorge yourself on petit fours at the local bakery…ahem. Recently announced and ALREADY sold out online at Sephora.com, the Sun Safety kit runs $32. Though they will surely restock as they have in previous years, the sun safety kit is still available in some stores (maybe yours, use their little store locator on the right of the product page to see).

If you would like to approach sun exposure with more caution but do not know where to start, try to get your hands on one of these Sephora Sun Safety kits. It has a multitude of sunscreens, bronzers, sunless tanners, and other fun beauty goop. The Sephora Sun Safety Kit contains:

  •  0.06 oz Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Daily Glow Moisture
  •  0.5 oz Peter Thomas Roth Max Sheer All Day Moisture Defense Lotion
  •  0.14 oz Too Faced Chocolate Soleil Medium/Deep Matte Bronzer (note: I own this one and have tried it! It is pretty on many skintones, easily blended if you overdo it, and smells like cocoa!)
  •  0.3 oz Clarins UV Plus HP Multi-Purpose SPF 40 Sunscreen
  •  0.33 oz Murad Oil-Control Mattifier SPF 15 PA++
  •  0.5 oz Tarte Brazilliance Skin Rejuvenating Maracuja Self Tanner (note: Brazillance makes me laugh every.single.time. Haven’t tried it, though!)
  •  0.23 oz Stila Stay All Day 10-in-1 HD Bronzing Beauty Balm SPF 30
  •  Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Glow Pad
  •  0.15 oz bareMinerals READY Touch Up Veil SPF 15 in Translucent (note: bareMinerals does make a solid translucent powder!)
  •  1.69 oz St. Tropez Self Tan Bronzing Mousse (note: I have not tried St. Tropez products, but many consider this sunless tanner to be the sunless tanner.)
  •  0.5 oz Origins A Perfect World SPF 25 Age-Defense Moisturizer
  •  1 oz Supergoop! Sun-Defying Sunscreen Oil SPF 50
  •  0.64 oz Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protection Cream SPF 50+ For Face
  •  0.5 oz Algenist Regenerative Anti-Aging Moisturizer SPF 20
  •  0.08 oz Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment Sunscreen SPF 15 (note: A holy grail item for many, Fresh Sugar lip treatments are awesome, especially chilled. Take advantage of not paying full price!)
  •  0.5 oz Ole Henriksen Protect the Truth SPF 50+ UV Protection

And of course, it also comes with a little travel bag to store all your loot in. The five products that I added notes to make the Sephora Sun Safety Kit well-worth the $32 price tag, and that doesn’t even touch anything else. It is no wonder why it sells out quickly – kits like this are a nice way to find something you like rather than shelling out for a handful of full-sized products that you don’t end up loving. In addition to only being $32, if it becomes available online again soon, eBates if offering 15% Cash Back at Sephora right now!

Though I used to, I do not tan any longer – on top of being expensive, time-consuming, and incompatible with my schedule, my mother had a melanoma diagnosis last year. To show support for mom (who is OK now!) and take better care of myself, I stopped, introduced a decent sunscreen to my routine, and will now only use sunless tanning products to ward away my pastiness. Though I did feel better (mood-wise) while I was tanning and my KP had chilled out, the benefits do not outweigh the risks for me, as far as I am concerned.

Worth it? GlamGlow ThirstyMud

GlamGlow was conceived by a couple in Hollywood who were looking to help out some friends’ skin concerns. What started as a favor, friend-to-friend, ultimately developed into a wildly successful and popular skincare brand. Only available for retail for three years, they have received scads of awards for being awesome and are used personally, in salons/spas, and by the professionals the product was originally intended for.

GlamGlow ThirstyMud

GlamGlow ThirstyMud treatment

I’ve made no bones about the fact that I do not believe in miracle products. The purveyors of the YouthMud Tinglexfoliate and the SuperMud Clearing treatments released GlamGlow ThirstyMud around (I think) holiday season 2013.

Resources I generally trust thought highly of the brand, so when some of these people came forth raving about the GlamGlow ThirstyMud mask, I was intrigued. Though the mask can be applied and removed, the consensus was the same: slap it on before bed. Go to sleep. Wake up and be stunned by how awesome your skin looks (and feels!). Women reported that their husbands and boyfriends (who, per them, do not usually notice) were also noticing and commenting on the difference.

Kicker? The $69 price tag for 1.7 ounces of product. OUCH. I like masks, but that’s over $40 per ounce. Does it have gold in it? I promptly forgot about the product because it is simply too much to ask (for my needs and skin).

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Worth it? bareMinerals Original

In spite of my love of sleep, I always look tired whether I am or not. Being a quasi-professional 8-to-5 sort, I became concerned that this was giving a poor impression to my superiors based on being asked constantly if I was tired, if I was OK, etc (despite the fact that my performance had not suffered). Lacking any significant experience with makeup at that point, I needed help evening out and brightening up.

Last December-into-January-ish, having been inspired by a friend who took the plunge, I wanted to try BareMinerals by Bare Escentuals. I was attracted by its promise of quick, easy application, lack of potentially messy liquids that I didn’t know how to use properly, etc. Oh yes–and it claims to be just so good for your skin. “You can sleep in it,” their marketing frequently suggests. It doesn’t irritate even sensitive, acne-prone skin. It has SPF! This product calms your skin while delivering a beautiful, flawless, radiant finish.

I bit. Potholes in the ordering process aside (that is another discussion entirely), I received my kit which contained a few things but most importantly their Original foundation in Medium Beige (for reference, I am NC15-20ish when I am super pale. Or so I think) and the appropriate tools. Having watched their application video a few times, I was ready to tackle this. After having used it for a while – daily for a few months – here is my assessment:

The products work fine, they are easy to use especially for beginners. Their claims:

Quick application: Yep, it takes less than one minute to do my face with concealing. Nice!

Easy application: Absolutely; you really can’t mess this up. It would take more time and effort to do this poorly than to do it properly. You also do not need any crazy fancy tools or pro skills to use it and achieve a decent result. You can use their brushes or ones you already have.

Flawless, Radiant finish: Debatable. This is going to rely largely on technique and how much you build up your coverage. If you apply too little, you risk not applying enough to cover problem areas such as broken capillaries, etc. On the other hand, though, since this is a loose powder product, it is really easy to look caked-on and not cute if you do not approach with a VERY light hand. Also, “radiant,” in this case is a nice way of saying, “shiny.” If you are oily, go with the matte variety. (I am Combo w\ Oily T-zone and some days the Original can be a little more dewy than I like.) If you will be having serious-business photographs done, grab a different product; it will not look flawless or radiant in high-definition photography, especially since it contains SPF. Otherwise, it does a decent job for day-to-day wear and I was not dissatisfied.

Calms skin: I didn’t have anything to calm down, so this is my own speculation: this glorified dirt probably isn’t going to save the world. There are clay and mineral masks that can, but their compositions and applications differ substantially.

Non-irritant: This is not a hypo-allergenic product. Sensitive-skin users should proceed with caution, as both the Bismuth and cornstarch used in BareMinerals has a history of breaking otherwise-clear users out. This is not common, but it is something to be aware of, especially if you have a known allergies to either.

OK to sleep in: NO. Do not do this! Not even if they beg you. While it is possible (I lack the resources to verify, either way, for science) that it is better for your skin than a traditionally-concocted liquid product, it is still very important to wash it off before bed. It still can and will clog your pores or leave you with other issues (especially if you are prone to irritation) not to mention the fact that your pillowcase will be less-than-pristine. You should not sleep with any makeup on!

All in all, the claims behind BareMinerals are not so ridiculous that you shouldn’t bother. It is a quick, user-friendly solution for day-to-day makeup if that’s what you’re into. I still use it and am happy when I do. But it is neither a miracle product nor is it an acne or troubled skin-remedy. As always, it is important to have realistic expectations. Proceed with caution if you have certain allergies, or if you have sensitive, stubborn skin. Do some homework and try to establish a good skincare routine for your needs – the highest quality makeup in the world can only get you so far.

Have you tried BareMinerals Original or Matte foundations? What was your experience? Share in the comments!