Saturday, February 28, 2015

Pura D'or Shampoo and Conditioner Review

*I received these free to testing/reviewing purposes. All opinions expressed are 100% my own*

As someone with seriously long hair (finally hit down to my butt!) I spend a significant amount of time looking at and trying different hair care products. One thing I've learned is nothing is perfect for everyone or even every situation. Sometimes people need specific products that not everybody else needs. I go through a ton a detangling spray but I have friends with super short hair who never get tangles. I have stick straight hair so I have no need to curly hair mousses whereas other people do. And some people experience thinning hair problems and there are products for that, like the Pura D'or Shampoo and Conditioner set I'm reviewing today.

This set is designed specifically for people with thinning hair to help thicken that hair up and prevent further hair loss. The shampoo is free of the harsh chemicals, like parabens and SLS, that can sometimes contribute to hair loss and contains 12 different DHT blockers to also help prevent hair loss. I've been using it for about a week so not long enough to see if there is a significant difference in the amount of hair I normally lose in a day or not, but I have noticed my hair feels thicker for sure. The shampoo has a really interesting scent, like an Italian spice blend, probably due to the rosemary and sage extracts in it. Because there is no SLS in it, it does not lather up as thickly as regular shampoos do and I did notice that it does not clean your hair super well. If you are a "wash your hair every day" type of person this isn't a problem but I only wash my hair 2-3 times a week so this seemed to have a hard time dealing with dry shampoo and styling product build up after a few days. I wouldn't call that a deal breaker for me, just means I need to keep that in mind when I wash my hair that I may need to focus more on scrubbing my hair than I normally would.

The conditioner is a lavender vanilla scent, which is a pretty great scent combo I have to admit. Both of these are Argan Oil based, and you really notice that with the conditioner. My hair always feels super soft after I use the conditioner, though it has quite a bit of coconut in it (as does the shampoo) so I need to be very careful when I use it. Seems my allergy therapy is paying off though, no major "send me to the hospital" reactions at all. The conditioner is suppose to help manage frizz, but it has been so humid and gross here despite being super cold that the anti-frizz factor never stood a chance. It also helps to boost the shine of your hair, which I did notice, though not as much as if I had used a shine serum.

I also received a little bottle of pure Argan Oil in a draw string pouch, which I was thrilled to receive. I use Argan Oil pretty regularly on the ends of my hair to help with split ends and I also use it as a nail and cuticle oil. This was a nice little bonus item that they send you when you order through their website. You can also get 20% off your first order by using the code START20. The shampoo and conditioner are each $24.99, so not a cheap buy but well worth the price I think.

Friday, February 27, 2015

InstaNatural 100% Pure Essential Oils Review

*I received these free for testing and reviewing purposes. All opinions are 100% my own*

As someone who prefers to make a lot of their own bath products, essential oils are pretty high up on my list of important things to have on hand. But not all oils are created equal and I know certain brands have come under fire for either shady business dealings or not being as pure or natural as they claim to be. InstaNatural, which is a brand I've reviewed quite a few items from and both trust and love, now offers Essential Oils and were gracious enough to offer me two different ones to try out and review for free. And let me just say, my office space smells so good right now because I've had the bottles sitting on it for the last few days while I work on the review. Even my husband mentioned how good it smells.

I received the lemon essential oil and the peppermint essential oil, which are two of my favorite scents. The bottles are fairly large, each 4 fluid oz so will last your average user quite a while. I like that they used brown glass instead of clear glass or even plastic. The glass prevents chemicals leeching into the oil and the dark color helps slow down and prevent light from breaking the product down at a faster rate than it normally would. Each bottle, as you can see, also comes with a dropper built right into the cap, which makes measuring out what you need really simple.

Citrus is probably one of my favorite scents, so the 100% pure cold pressed lemon oil is my favorite out of the two. This is actually made from real lemon rinds, so you can't get more natural than this. The smell is really bright and uplifting and I'm already planning several different DIY projects to share with you guys using this one. The actual liquid is a pale yellow, which is what I would expect from something made from actual lemon rinds. I'm always suspicious of lemon products that are crystal clear but claim to be 100% pure.

The second bottle is the 100% steam distilled peppermint oil, also completely natural. The scent is sharp and obviously menthol, and is my personal favorite for times when I'm having anxiety issues. The liquid is crystal clear with no sign of impurities, which is a good sign. I've already done a DIY project with peppermint oil but I have a few more planned as well, including one for next Tuesday with the lemon oil.

These are completely natural, have no preservatives or other chemicals, are NOT tested on animals, and are made right here in the United States. I'm so happy to know that InstaNatural makes essential oils, I'll have to look and see what other ones they have available for purchase. If you want to purchase these you can find the Lemon Oil here and the Peppermint Oil here. You can also visit their website for more information on the products they offer.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Thursday Thoughts

Wow, this is the last Thursday of February! Was it just me or did that go by super quick? As per my usual, I'm linking up with Jen of Ramblings of a Suburban Mom for her weekly link up.

Let's start out with some blog related things first. I think I'm done messing with the layout of the blog for now, though I need to fix the Instagram Widget today at some point. What do you guys think of the changes I've made? I've also been trying to step up my picture game quite a bit. I'm using PicMonkey to do my editing and I'm trying to take nicer pictures with a blank background instead of my desk. Hopefully the hard work is paying off and you guys like the changes. I like them and am pretty pleased with myself.

I have not finished anything new for my Project Pan, but I'm almost done with the eye gel, the lipstick, and one of the liners. I think those should be done for sure by the end of March. Making good progress on the eyeshadows, though I swear the brown in the jar will last me forever! I will probably repan the blush this weekend to make it easier to use, and other than that no real changes. If you are participating how is your progress going?

A friend recently came back from Vietnam and she brought me back goodies! I LOVE chili jam so I'm excited to try this homemade one. Seriously guys, chili jam on a ham and cream cheese sandwich with romaine lettuce is the best thing in the world. She also got me this really pretty little wooden comb, it just begs to be used in a fancy bun. I'm seriously considering doing hair and makeup tutorials to break up the product reviews a bit. I may regret that decision but everything is a learning experience right?

My latest Birchbox haul arrived last week and I guess I didn't share it. The shaving cream is for my hubby and I highly recommend it for people with sensitive skin. If you want more info let me know down below in the comments. The Yu-Be I'll actually be posting about later, and the tea was just because I love tea (super good flavor). And can I just say I love the extra little goodies Birchbox includes? My mystery sample pack was a specialty hair conditioner and a Camille Beckman hand cream that is do die for, but they also threw it 3 packs of Mighty Tea and a toffee coated pretzel stick that my spawn claimed for our next tea party. Things like that are why I love to order from Birchbox. I actually just places another order the other day so I'll have another haul next week.

My hand is doing significantly better in case you were wondering. I'm finally bruise free and the swelling is basically gone. Now to just get rid of the pain in my ring and middle finger. But glad to be doing better.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

goPURE Youth Glow Eye Gel

*I received this product free for testing/reviewing purposes. All opinions are 100% my own

Finding a good eye gel is kind of like finding the perfect pair of shoes, you really need several different kinds. Sometimes you need running shoes and sometimes you need those heels you've been drooling over for months. Instead of finding the "One Holy Eye Gel" I've decided to find ones that suit my particular needs. Sometimes I need ones for dark circles or fine lines. And sometimes I need one that will depuff my eyes and soothe the skin. A relatively new company by the name of goPURE has a new product called Youth Glow Eye Gel that I'm really digging right now. It's a depuffing, brightening, age fighting wonder machine that smells really good to boot.

Eyes are a sensitive area normally and we've now entered into the start of allergy season here in my neck of the pollen clogged woods. So my eyes are puffy, itchy, and gross looking messes every single morning lately. This eye gel has tons of really good for your skin ingredients, like aloe (my favorite eye depoofer), jojoba oil, Vitamin E, and hyalauronic acid (which is my favorite thing ever) so it really does a great job soothing my eyes first thing in the morning. It can be a little sticky if you apply to much so remember you really only need like a grain of rice per eye. There's also cucumber in it, which is why it smells so good to me, which is also a great eye depuffer.

This is also an anti-aging eye gel, though I haven't used it long enough to tell if it is actually working. It is formulated with Matrixyl 3000, which has apparently shown in clinical studies to make eyes look significantly younger in just a month. The company feels so strongly that their product works that they even offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee promise or you will get your money back. I like it when companies put their money where their mouth is, so bonus points to them.

The bottle is decent sized and has the pump spout design I like, helps to keep things sanitary. Mine did leak a little into the cap during shipping but we've had such extreme temperature fluctuations (shorts weather to below freezing withing a 24 hour time period I kid you not) lately that I can almost guarantee that's why some product leaked out. It just came up through the opening, so not a flaw in the construction. The label design is nice and professional looking, which is something I appreciate. Bad or crappy packaging is a big no-no in my book.

I actually really dig this product and will be placing it in permanent rotation with my skin care items. It is also 100% natural AND paraben free, which can be a big selling point for some people. I personally love that it is made in the USA, I try to support local companies as often as I can. They also have a Facebook Page with product info, specials, and links to interesting articles, so I suggest checking them out for sure. Is this my Holy Grail Eye Gel? To soon to say but I really like it and that's really all that matters.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

DIY Pore Strips

Sometimes we do things in the name of beauty that are really quite painful. Waxing, tweezing, threading, these are suck lets be honest here. Pore strips are another painful but wonderful thing we do to ourselves, I was plucking my eyebrows the other day when I noticed I had quite a few blackheads going on. Well, more like I had been voted Mayor of Blackheadville to be truthful. Being the crafty (and cheap) person I am, I turned to Pinterest to see if I could make some pore strips myself. Turns out you can with just two ingredients you may already own.

To make your own pore stripes you will need:

  • 2 Tablespoons of milk
  • A packet of unflavored gelatin
  • Bowl and fork to mix
  • A paint brush of some type

First you need to measure 2 tablespoons of milk into a microwave safe bowl. Percentage of milk doesn't seem to matter, it just needs to be milk. According to everything I've read the lactic acid in milk will act as a mild exfoliant. 

Now you are going to add one tablespoon of unflavored gelatin to your milk. My packets are about a tablespoon so I just used one packet. No reason to be 100% exact here.

Give everything a good mix, it should be a thick paste that really doesn't look awesome. I personally hate Jello so the smell bugged me quite a bit but for normal non-gelatin hating people you probably won't even notice it.

Now stick the bowl into the microwave for 15 seconds. This will melt the gelatin and make everything nice and warm. It was not to hot for my skin, but you can let it cool for a few seconds if you are concerned. Just remember it will solidify as it cools so don't wait to long.

Use that paint brush (or in my case an ELF foundation brush I don't use anymore) to apply it evenly to your face.

As you can hopefully see, I applied it to my whole face. This was a horrible idea, do NOT apply it to your whole face. Cheeks are to delicate and sensitive of an area for pore strips. Just do your forehead, nose, and chin. Try to avoid your eyebrows better than I did, otherwise you will get a bonus waxing while you are at it.

Wait about 10-15 minutes for it to dry completely. You will know it's done when the gelatin mixture is now rock hard. If you did your whole face like I did that means you will not be able to open your mouth at all, which was a little bit concerning. Now comes the (painful) fun part, peel it off of your skin. For the most part all of mine came off pretty well and did remove quite a bit of my blackheads, as well as any dead skin and tiny hairs I might have had. Any remaining on your skin can be washed away with a wash clothe and some warm water.

This worked pretty well minus my poor decision to put it everywhere. Does it work as well as the actual Biore strips? No, I think the Biore ones are a bit better but, these worked really well and didn't cost me a penny so I'm quite happy with it. On a side note, I'm trying something different with my pictures, any thoughts? 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Mani Monday is just Peachy!

Guess who's hand is much less busted up? That's right! Out of the brace and so long as I'm just chilling at home doing nothing I can un-tape my fingers. Which means I can paint them all pretty like! The weather here has been very spring like and I bought some pretty spring nail polish so I though I'd do an ode to my favorite spring fruit, the peach!

To do this manicure you will need:

  • A base color. I'm using Ulta brand nail polish in the shade Mint Condition, which is a beautiful sky blue.
  • A peach color. I'm using one of my new Ulta polishes, a shade called OH!, which is a shimmery peach color I'll probably use quite a bit in the future.
  • A green color. I'm using my other new Ulta polish, a creamy mint color called Out On A Lime. 
  • Clear top coat, which I finally replaced (go me!)
  • Paint brush or dotting tool. I started with  dotting tool then switched to a brush which ended up being easier.
  • Nail polish remover and q-tips to clean up your edges.

First, paint you nails the base color. I always do 2-3 coats just to make sure there is no nail showing through and everything is even. Let this dry completely before moving onto the next step.

Now using either a dotting tool or a small brush, paint a large dot with your peach color. Once the dot is the correct side drag the bottom down a bit to form the kind of pointed end peaches have. Let this try completely before moving onto the next step.

Now, using your green color, paint two small leaves at the top of each peach. Mine ended up a little wonky but still pretty cure. Let this dry completely before moving onto the next step.

Now top with clear top coat then clean up your edges and your manicure is just peachy! You can do this on as many nails as you want, I did just two because my fingers are still pretty stiff and sore so this was all I could manage.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Face Behind the Blog

Believe it or not, this blog is not run my an awesome robot who knows just what to say every single time. Shocking, I know. This blog has been so much fun to run for the last year and I am so grateful for each and every one of my readers. So I though I'd take a moment to pull back the curtain and give you all a glimpse of the Wizard.

Skyrim is my current jam. Insert arrow to the knee jokes here.

As you can probably tell from my Wizard of Oz allusion I'm a huge reader and an even bigger geek. Dungeons and Dragons, Magic the Gathering, zombies, and cosplay. You name it and I probably do it. Except for LARPing, I haven't done that yet but there's a first for everything. I don't think I've really shown my geeky side on this blog, maybe I should run a series of comic book inspired manicures or makeup looks some time this year.

The two most important people in my life.
As far as my home life goes, I've been married to my husband Zach for almost 8 years now though it feels like we've always been together. We're very in sync most of the time, and he gets me in a way nobody else does. He laughs at my jokes, even the REALLY bad ones, so I love him to pieces. Almost 4 years ago I gave birth to my miracle baby, the child I thought I'd never have after my fight with Ovarian cancer that cost me half my reproductive system. My little boy, Callen, cracks me up everyday. He is currently having an "indoor camp out" in a play tent in his room after having a tea party with Daddy and I. He started taking Taekwondo lessons at the school I teach during the fall, getting to share something that has been a HUGE part of my life (I even met my husband there) has been really special and I hope he grows up loving it as much as I did.

I work at a Taekwondo school in the evenings, in case I haven't mentioned it recently. I've been teaching for almost 12 years now, which makes me feel pretty old to think about. I'm a 3rd degree Black Belt and one day when I can afford it I will test for my 4th. I help with the Tiny Tigers class, which is the class my son is in, and I teach the green belt through pre-black curriculum classes as well as a weapons class (Bo staff). I've done Taekwondo for almost 17 years and I've never regretted doing it at all. Even when I'm busted up and bruised or hobbling around on crutches for almost a year. I love it and can't see myself doing anything else.

We live in lovely Oregon, which is cold and wet 90% of the time but I love it here and will never move out of state. Unless its to my own private island of course. Where I live means within a few hours drive is the ocean, desert area, mountains, and some of the most amazing hiking in the states. I'm also super lucky in that there's an Ulta literally within walking distance. Great for this blog, not so great for the bank account. I also have a second Ulta and a Sephora within a quick drive which is awesome. And a used book store the size of a city block (several stories tall!). We hope to eventually move to the coast, but that probably won't happen for a while.

I hope you guys enjoyed a little peek into my actual life, sometimes its easy to forget that there is an actual person behind the words. Again, thank you so much for actually reading this blog, I am blown away every time I get on and see the page view counter go up and up and up. I am just blown away by the support I've received from people and fellow beauty bloggers. Thank you.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Ulta February 2015 Gift With Purchase Review

My favorite price will always be free, so a free gift with purchase is the best thing ever. Its like a reward for shopping, or an incentive depending on how you look at it. During the summer Ulta did a free bag full of goodies with any $19.50 purchase of Ulta brand stuff (you can see that review here) and they are doing the same type of promotion this month. I was going to purchase the new Rose Gold Palette but my Ulta was out so I just picked up some new nail polishes (debuting Monday for a super cure manicure). There was no difference between the two bags offered so I picked the prettier colored bag. Shall we see what's inside?

The bag itself is very...Eastery. It seriously reminds me of the frilly Easter gowns I use to wear as a child. I will probably save this and put my next giveaway stuff into it like I did with the last bag.

Like last time, a mini bottle of nail polish was included. I actually really like the Ulta brand nail polish and this is a cute spring color so I'm pretty happy with it. I think I'll put it on my toes this weekend. The shade itself is called Peach Parfait.

This was actually one of the items I was excited to try, I LOVE lip crayons and don't have any in this shade, which is OH!. This isn't a full sized tube, making it perfect to through into my purse or stick into my pocket if I need to.

The shade was actually pretty close to how it looks in the tube, and gave my lips a lovely golden coral sheen. Pretty pigmented, but not enough that I was running around with orange lips. And it seemed to last pretty well, survived an hour of me talking and teaching one day without any fading.

I think this is Ulta's attempt at a dupe for the NYX Butter Glosses, though NYX is typically quite a bit cheaper than the Ulta brand stuff. This particular shade is called Thumblina, and as you can see is not a full sized item.

The shade is this pretty pink shade, not super bright but bright enough some people may not like it. It applied well and wasn't really sticky, so I think they did a pretty good job of duping the NYX butter glosses. I don't know how much wear I'll get out of this particular shade but I liked it well enough.

I have not actually tried this mascara yet, but I am currently using and loving the one that came in my last bag, the Super Stretch fiber one. I'm hoping that this one will be decent as well. This is a full sized mascara and retails for $10, so not a bad deal assuming it doesn't suck.

This is where things started to go downhill for the bag for me. Included with the makeup was a set of brushes, an eyeshadow brush, a sponge brush, and an angled blush brush. These are total crap, they went straight to my son to play with. The ones in the last bag weren't the best but were at least usable. These are exactly like the ones that come in those $100 giant makeup kits for tweens. I'd rather they didn't include crappy brushes and stick that value into something else.

This dual ended eyeliner came in the last bag, and it also sucks. One end is brown, the other black, but it smudges and smears horribly. I keep it in my travel bag because if I lose it or break it I won't cry but if I lose my favorite $16 one I'd be seriously crying. This will probably be given to my son to play with and draw whiskers on his face next time we do face painting.

The last bag also included 3 quad palettes and they ended up being surprisingly good. One quad ended up becoming a personal favorite and is why I wanted to buy the Rose Gold palette since it contained those colors. The quad on the left is almost an exact match for the green one from the last bag, while the one on the right is similar to another quad from the last bag. I was a bit disappointed to see repeats (but not of my favorite shades), I felt that was lazy on Ulta's part.

So according to the names on the back only the top right and bottom left are repeats, but the top left is almost exact to the blending shade in the green quad from August. The only new color is the bottom right, that pretty looking copper color.

I knew the blending shade would match my skin, so I wasn't surprised that it doesn't really show up. I was however very surprised at the copper color. It was almost rock hard and I could barely pick up any shadow at all to do the swatch. I may break it up into a lose powder and use it that way. The two greens are repeats so I won't go into them, but they are odd shades most people probably won't use. A frosted lime moss green is not very flattering for most skin tones.

This quad is completely new, though I think the white is similar to the purple quad's blending shade from last bag.

And again some pigmentation/hardness issues. I have this backwards for some reason, so the black in the quad is the lower right swatch. That one was again very hard and barely pigmented. The frosted grey was actually the most pigmented, while the two lightest shades were just kind of there. I had high hopes for this quad, I haven't decided if I will keep it or chuck it yet.

This quad is pretty similar the the purple on in the August bag, but this time all the shades are shimmery. I like a good shimmer so I didn't mind the lack of mattes.

The top left was the rock hard one for this palette, while the bottom right is the stand out winner. I love that shade and will probably use it quite a bit. The other two shades are decent as well, so I'm pretty happy with this quad. I don't know why one shadow out of each was rock hard, the rest of them are buttery soft so I'm a bit baffled. I will also note the cases were difficult to get open this time, like the lids are just a touch to small.

They included a loose eyeshadow this time, which I thought was a nice change from the weird "eyeshadow topper" they used last time.

The shade is Yolo, and is a lovely white gold shimmer. It actually reminds me of a Cailyn shadow I own called Champagne. I liked this one quite a bit and will probably get a fair amount of use out of it.

The bronzer and blush duo this time was much larger and came in an actual compact, which was a nice step up.

These are actually usable this time, unlike the last bag. The bronzer has a bit of a frost to it, but not enough that I would call it shimmery. Same goes for the blush, which is a light baby pink. The blush is a little light for my taste but will make a nice addition to my travel bag. The duo also makes for a nice space saver, and really is a decent size.

They also included a eyebrow kit, which looks a bit like the NYX one. There's a colorless wax on the right and two powders on the right, so you can mix up your perfect shade.

The bottom powder is pretty dark, better suited for dark haired individuals. The top shade is kind of an ashy light brown, probably too dark for blonde's but ok for lighter haired folks. The powder was nice and applied well, the wax just felt a little hard to me. It has been brisk here so it may soften up when the temperature rises. It doesn't replace my favorite eyebrow kit (review coming eventually), but I liked it enough I wouldn't mind using it again or sticking it in my travel bag.

Overall I did not like this as much as the last bag, though there are some great items in it. And since it was free I'm not out any money for the bad products. I think they corrected some of their mistakes from the last bag, but I'd like to see them try not to repeat items next time they do this promotion. I believe this promotion is going on till the beginning of March, so if you want one you still have time to snag one. The "retail" value is $88, so well above the $19.50 you need to spend to receive it.