Beauty Boxes

Birchbox August 2015 Review

Birchbox August 2015 Review

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Birchbox, it’s a monthly beauty subscription service.  For $10 a month with free shipping you get 4 to 6 beauty, grooming and/or lifestyle samples.  You fill out a beauty profile when first signing up, letting them know what your preferences are.  Birchbox also has a rewards points system.  You will earn 1 point for every dollar that you spend in the Birchbox shop, 10 points for every review that you write on samples that you have received in your box and 50 points for every person that you invite who purchases a Birchbox subscription.  100 points = $10 in the Birchbox store.  The points can add up fast!

Here’s what I received in my “Soak it up!” box this month:

Air Repair Complexion Boosting Moisturizer
Full size, $20.  “Packed with antioxidants and humectants, this rich cream hydrates and revitalizes dry or dull skin.”

I wanted to save this sample for an upcoming plane ride so I don’t feel like a lizard during my trip, but I decided to test it out beforehand. It absorbs easily and really sinks into the skin, refreshing and hydrating it.  Very nice for skin that is on the drier side or needs some TLC. 

dr. brandt Microdermabrasion Skin Exfoliant
Full size, $78.  “Breakthrough at-home treatment for a glowing complexion, no pricey derm appointment required.”

I love microdermabrasion scrubs in general and the dr. brant one is no different. It smooths over the face easily and doesn’t fade away quickly like other scrubs. The strong lemony scent is refreshing but a little overwhelming, reminding me a little of lemon floor cleaner.  My skin does look and feel wonderful afterwards. However, there is no way that I can justify paying $78 for a scrub.  I like the Derma E Microdermabrasion scrub better because it has less scent to it.

LAQA & Co. Charm School Kit
Set of 3, $20.  “This creamy crayon delivers a rich, easy-to-apply color for both lips and cheeks.”

I received the color Cray-Cray, a matte peach. First, I tried it on my lips and it was a little scary. Too matte for me, rather chalky looking. After blending a few dots on my cheeks, I was in love. It blended into my skin well, didn’t clump or look patchy and looked awesome all day. Definitely a “love” product for cheeks.

Macadamia Professional Style Extend Dry Shampoo
Full size, $25.  “Weightless, translucent spritz that instantly absorbs product build-up and excess oil to refresh your ‘do.”

I love that this dry shampoo is made with translucent powder. Even though my hair is a light golden brown, I hate the white cast that some dry shampoos can leave. Not this one. My hair was shiny and refreshed after using. The scent was fine, not too strong or overwhelming for me. I will definitely toss this into my pro hair styling kit for work.

R + Co Park Ave Blow Out Balm
Full size, $16-$28.  “This smoothing styling cream adds bounce to your blowout while protecting hair from heat damage.”

BirchBoxAug15-1000268This product is not greasy, slightly on the drier side for blow out balms/creams. I worked a small amount into my hair and did a full blow out with one of my favorite tools of all time, the John Frieda Hot Air Brush. My hair was shiny and bouncy afterwards without the oily feel that other blow out balms can leave.


That’s my Birchbox August 2015 review for you.  My personalized box really didn’t reflect the “Soak it up!” theme, but I don’t really care.  I’m not disappointed with my samples this month, I actually really like everything and will use all of them either for myself or my pro makeup and hair kit.  What did you get in your box?

If you would like to sign up for Birchbox, please use my referral code and I will receive 50 points.  Thanks for helping with my beauty product addiction!

All photo rights:


Matching Bridesmaids Hairstyles

Matching bridesmaids hair styles – a do or a don’t?

Becoming a trend again in the world of weddings is bridal parties with matching or coordinating hair styles.  You have to admit it, there is something really pretty about wedding party photos where all the bridesmaids look like they belong together.  Not looking like clones, unless that’s what the bride wants, but at least looking like they all harmonize with the bride.  Fun and creative photos are also becoming more common with wedding parties.  Why not incorporate matching hair styles as well to make the pictures even better?

Photo courtesy of Jeff Egnaczyk via Flikr Creative Commons

The bridesmaids in the blue dresses all have an up-style with curls, even though they have different lengths of hair.  It looks classy and uniform and goes well with their dresses.

Photo courtesy of Rachel Wilder via Flickr Creative Commons

In the photo above, the bride and her bridesmaids all have different hair cuts and textures, but their wedding day styles are compatible with each other, all up-styles, making them look like they belong together.

Photo courtesy of Shan Owens via Flickr Creative Commons

At first, the above photo is gorgeous.  Everything looks well planned with the dresses, accessories and flower baskets.  All the bridesmaids have a similar style, half up, half down, coordinating with the bride.  All except one…next to the bride on the right.  What happened to her hair?  Did she miss the memo about the half up, half down style?  Her hair looks messy and because of the pose of this photo, it’s covering up some of her face.  How perfect would this photo be if her hair matched the other bridesmaids?

Some things to think of if you are considering having matching hair styles for your bridal party:

  • First, ask your bridesmaids nicely if they would be interested.  Get their input and email photo examples to see if they are on board.
  • If having a hair stylist, who will be paying?  If the bride is paying, then she may have more say, especially if she wants the hair an exact way.  It may be hard to convince a bridesmaid to wear a style that she hates if she has to fork over payment.
  • If the bridesmaids are doing their hair themselves, can they execute the style?  Is it easy to do?  Find a simple tutorial for them on YouTube. 
  • Go with a general style if the bridesmaids are hesitant.  Simple instructions like half up, all down, up-do, parted on the side, incorporate a braid, etc.

photo courtesy of via Flickr Creative Commons

Incorporate something into the hairstyle if they are all going to be different, like flowers or hair clips.  This bridal party, aka…models, all have different dresses but the hair style is the same with big flowers clipped in. 

Most of all, make sure that your bridesmaids are happy with the style.  They put up with a lot during a wedding (bridezillas, spending money on a dress they will never wear again) and they want to feel pretty too. 

Whether matching bridesmaids hairstyles are a do or a don’t in your book, may your wedding day hair styles be gorgeous and your photos be memorable!



Spring/Summer Lip Color Trends 2013

Spring is here and it’s time to stash away your fall/winter lip colors…..again.  Don’t worry, you can pull them back out in October.  I know, every spring we get to hear what the “new” colors are and this year is no different.

Have you noticed that the clothing and makeup trends now are a little reminiscent of the 80’s era?  Florescent clothing in the stores and bright makeup back in style.  Maybe you should have saved some of your day-glow yellow shorts and hot pink tube tops from 1988.

As a lover of lipstick, I am always pleased to hear about what is happening in the lipstick world.  This spring the lipstick trend goes from vivid, bold and bright to muted nude.  Most of the emphasis is on matte shades that jump out and grab you with their intensity.  The colors are happy and care free.




Intense Red





Bright Hot Pink


Deep Berry



When going bright and sassy on the lips, make sure that the rest of your makeup is toned down.  Pair the nude lipstick with a smoky eye so that your eyes are the focus, not the lips.

Spring and summer is also about looking fresh and clean so lighten up on your heavy foundation and thick powder.  Let your skin show.

These colors can be found wherever you buy your favorite makeup.  From inexpensive to pricey brands.  Why not try some of these beautiful colors?  If you absolutely hate it, remember that it comes off with some tissue, it’s not permanent.  Makeup is supposed to be fun and expressive.  Put your bright lipstick on right now and spread some sunshine!

All photos by Tracy Sotirakis


MAC Russian Red Matte Lipstick Review

Photo by Tracy Sotirakis

Ever heard of this stuff?  It’s supposedly THE best red lipstick ever. What makes it so wonderful?  It can be worn by all skin tones, from light to dark.

Photo credit:

Back in 1990, MAC Russian Red lipstick was Madonna’s signature color for her Blonde Ambition tour.  It has been a staple classic red lipstick for many celebrities and makeup artists since then and has a cult type of following, making it one of MAC’s best selling shades.

A tube of Russian Red will set you back $15.00 at the MAC counter in the USA and it is described by MAC as having an “intense bluish-red color” with a subtle vanilla scent.

Some celebrities that reportedly have worn Russian Red:  Dita Von Teese, Kim Kardashian, Gwen Stefani, Angelina Jolie, Christina Hendricks, Scarlett Johannson, Christina Aguilera and Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada.

If you are gutsy enough to wear this intense of a lipstick, make sure that your lips are not dry.  Exfoliate them with a simple scrub made of sugar and olive oil first, then apply a light layer of lip balm.  Dry, flaky lips are not friends with matte lipstick, especially red.

photo by Tracy Sotirakis

*A matching lip liner pencil may be used if you find that colors bleed on your lips.

* To make it last, apply a layer with a lip brush for precision, blot with a tissue and apply another layer.

*For a subtle color wash/stain, apply a light layer with clean fingertips and blot.  Lip balm or gloss can be added if wanted.

*Go easy on the rest of your makeup when going bold with the lips, they should be the focus.  Use lighter shades of eye shadow and keep the blush and bronzer to a minimum.  Thin winged black eye liner looks great with Russian Red lipstick.

*Take your time in applying red lipstick.  Don’t think that you can smear it all over your lips in 5 seconds and it will look fabulous.  It won’t, you’ll look like a clown, literally.  Slow down and apply it with accuracy.

What do you think?  Are you daring enough to try Russian Red?  I know you’ll get compliments if you do!

*Disclaimer:  I was not paid to review this product by anyone, I bought it with my own hard earned money.*


Garnier Skin Renew Miracle Skin Perfector BB Cream Review

Yeah, sometimes I cart this much around.

We have all been hammered by the beauty and fashion magazines lately about BB Creams.  BB stands for Blemish Balm, as they are sold in Asian markets, or Beauty Balm as sold in Western markets.  They are supposed to multitask and be a primer, foundation, sunscreen, moisturizer and serum.  You can wear them alone or with your other favorite moisturizer, foundation or powder.

Are they really worth the hype or are they just another sales pitch for one more product that we can’t possibly live without.  I have so much makeup it’s frightening (or drool inducing), but that’s my job.  See picture to the right and you’ll see what I mean.  Is a BB Cream really going to change my life?  Probably not, but I had to try one anyway.  Those magazine ads really do work.  I had received samples of different brands and I liked them but they always made my skin look a little shiny after a few hours.  For my personal use, I usually like more of a matte look to my skin.  I don’t wear a full coverage foundation, maybe just a tinted moisturizer or a very light coverage foundation.  Too many freckles to cover up and then I just look weird.   BB Creams seem to be marketed to gals like me.

In a beauty magazine recently, they had an ad for Garnier Skin Renew Miracle Skin Perfector BB Cream for Combination to Oily Skin.  My interest sparked.  The ad came with a coupon and a handy color chart.  Most of us know what color spectrum we fall in when the cosmetic companies group us into only 3 different skin tones.  Although, light may not be light enough for you or deep is not deep enough.  Trial and error is sometimes the only way to figure out which color is appropriate for your skin tone.  I went with the Light/Medium for combination to oily skin.  I purchased it at my local gigantic one stop shop for $11.97 and used my $1.00 coupon.

Garnier’s BB Cream Skin Renew for combination to oily skin is supposed to control shine, minimize pores, even skin tone, and hydrate.  It also has SPF 20, which in my opinion is not enough for daily wear (SPF 30 is recommended), but at least it’s something.  It also has “Mineral Perlite + Mineral Pigments”.

I have been wearing it for a few days now and here’s my opinion:  OK, not a life changing “miracle”, but I kind of like it.  The color is a tad dark and a little too beige for me, so I have to use it sparingly and blend well down my neck.  Most BB Creams are supposed to be used very sparingly anyway.  I do really like the fact that it is not dewy like other BB Creams.  It does feel like more of a light coverage foundation.  My skin looks very pretty with it on and I did set it lightly with a loose translucent powder.  I wore it out one day and got caught in a rainstorm and it seemed to hold up pretty well, my hair was another story.  My only note of caution is that some users with very sensitive skin have reported that this product was irritating to them.  I haven’t experienced any blemishes or itchiness.

The texture is not thick at all, not what I would call a “cream” but more of a liquid.   You have to be careful when dispensing it from the bottle, a lot can come out at once.  The smell is alright, it doesn’t really bother me.  After it sets on the skin I can’t smell it.

While this product may not be technically a true BB Cream like the real ones sold in Korea, I will continue to use this bottle of Garnier Skin Renew BB Cream for combination/oily skin.  Are you going to be sucked in also and try a BB Cream for yourself?

** Update:  I have been using this product now for a while and I have come to completely love it.  I even put one in my professional makeup kit and intend on purchasing the darker colors as well.


Wearable Fall 2012 Makeup Trends

What’s happening this fall concerning your makeup?  Trends come and go and it seems like we see a lot of these looks recreated every few years.  What was hot last year may be slightly tweaked to be the newest, greatest thing this year.  Some of these looks only look good on the runway or on the very brave (bright blue eyeshadow!).  Here are a few that are actually wearable by us regular folks.

Smoky Eyes — Especially Browns and Brownish Red
Smoky eyeshadow always seems to be “in”, but this fall brown is making a comeback.  Browns to use would be shimmery golden browns, matte or shimmery chocolates, warm reddish browns or whatever is your preference.  It it’s brown, it’ll work.  Browns look great on all eye colors.

Dark Green Eyeshadow
Remember last year when military green was the coolest thing in clothing?  Now it’s the coolest thing for your eyes.  Dark greens look best on green, brown or hazel eyes, but can look good on blue eyes also, it just depends on the shade of green.  If your eyes are blue, choose a shade that has a tiny hint of blue in it.   If your eyes are green, brown, or hazel, choose a shade that is more of a golden green, khaki or emerald.  If it’s hard to determine if a shade is more golden or blue, take two shades and hold them up against each other.  It’s easier to see the color when it’s against another.  

Flawless Skin
“No makeup” looking makeup.  This look is achieved by using the absolute minimum to achieve your goal of natural looking skin without being too matte.  Start with a tinted moisturizer.  If you don’t have one, mix a bit of your foundation with your moisturizer.  Next, use your fingers to subtly color your cheeks with a cream blush.  If you don’t have cream blush you can substitute with some lipstick, just make sure that it’s not frosted.  Concealer can be lightly used in areas that are in need.  Dust a small amount of powder on your T Zone, keeping your cheeks bare.  Use a neutral skin tone shade of eyeshadow on your eyelids.  A small amount of eyeliner can be used if smudged well into the lash line so there is no definite line.  Two coats of black mascara to bring out your eyes.  Fill in your brows subtly if needed with either a powder or pencil.  Finish off with the lips using either a gloss or subtle lipstick.  No reds or harsh colors here.  The “no makeup” look actually still involves a bit of makeup, but nobody has to know that!

Black Cherry Lips
Think cherry cola, dark ruby, dark raspberry.  These lips are hot and sexy!  Use a lip liner that matches your natural lip color and fill in all the way so the color wears evenly.  Apply your color of choice with a lip brush for the most precise application.  Bold colors need to be accurate and not sloppy.  Bold, dark colors are not the best for very thin lips, it will make them look smaller.  Keep the rest of your makeup subtle, but still using at least two coats of mascara to balance out the face.

Nude Lip Gloss
This one is easy.  Nude lip gloss can go with just about any look or outfit.  Dark eye shadow, colored eye shadow or light eye shadow, it really doesn’t matter.  It’s easy to keep up too, just apply and throw the tube in your purse or pocket.

So there are a few of the looks for fall 2012.  Which ones are you going to try?