Holiday beauty gift sets $50 and under – my picks from Sephora!

Hi friends!

I’m back with my second gift guide of the season. If you missed the first one, I’ll link it here; it was a drugstore beauty gift guide featuring sets all $20 and under. This one focuses on more luxury items so I’d say this is geared to the true beauty-obsessive in your life. I kept it really simple and picked sets that are currently available at Sephora for $50 and under. Since Sephora is probably the biggest beauty retailer in the world, my picks are bound to go out of stock some time after publishing this post, so if you are intrigued by something on this list, I say snatch it quick!

This is more tightly edited than my drugstore list in terms of the number of items featured, but instead I included a broader range of categories which are: haircare, skincare, makeup & beauty tools

Let’s get into it!

HAIRCARE 

Morrocanoil Ultimate Moisture Favorites

MOROCCANOIL ULTIMATE MOISTURE FAVORITES

  • $48.00 ($66.00 value) – Shop here

This gift set contains:

The Moisture Repair Shampoo, the Moisture Repair Conditioner, the Moroccanoil Treatment, & the Hand Cream Fragrance Originale

I love Moroccanoil hair products; most, if not all (?), of their products are infused with argan oil. I think they are great quality and the smell is absolutely amazing to boot. I’ve used a lot of their hair oils & creams since my hair is processed and a bit dry, but this is for anyone who’s craving some extra hydration in their strands. Moroccanoil also started bringing out body products a few years ago and their creams are very luxurious as well so I’m sure the hand cream is gorgeous. 

SKINCARE 

Belif Winter Waterdrop Set
Belif Winter Waterdrop Kit (outer packaging)
Belif Winter Waterdrop Set
Belif Winter Waterdrop Kit (contents)

BELIF WINTER WATERDROP KIT

  • $22.00 ($48.00 value) – Shop here 

This gift set contains:

The Creamy Cleansing Foam Moist, the Hungarian Water Essence, the Moisturizing Eye Bomb, the True Cream Aqua Bomb, & the Aqua Bomb Sleeping Mask

I recently tried some products from Belif this year, and I have to say I’ve fallen in love with this brand! I want to try more myself. I first tried the Aqua Bomb and then the Moisturizing Bomb, and they both rival my love for Clinique Moisture Surge now! I think this is an awesome gift for anyone into skincare and who’s looking to sample the brand. It also looks like there are products for almost every skin type included here, which is great. And the outer packaging is just so adorable! 

MAKEUP 

Pat McGrath Labs Mini Mattetrance Trio in Colour Blitz
Pat McGrath Labs LUST Mini Mattetrance Trio in Colour Blitz
Pat McGrath Labs Mini Mattetrance Trio in Colour Blitz (swatches)
Pat McGrath Labs LUST Mini Mattetrance Trio in Colour Blitz (swatches)
Pat McGrath Labs Mini Mattetrance Trio in Skin Show
Pat McGrath Labs LUST Mini Mattetrance Trio in Skin Show
Pat McGrath Labs Mini Mattetrance Trio in Skin Show (swatches)
Pat McGrath Labs LUST Mini Mattetrance Trio in Skin Show (swatches)

PAT MCGRATH LABS LUST: MINI MATTETRANCE LIPSTICK TRIO

  • $25.00 ($45.00 value) – Shop here

This gift set contains:

Three mini lipsticks in one of two color varieties (each set is sold separately). One color variety is Skin Show, which contains the colors: omi, 1995, & flesh 3. The other color variety is Colour Blitz, which contains the colors: obsessed, full panic, & elson

I’m soooo tempted to buy this for myself! I’ve been interested in trying out Pat McGrath lipsticks since they initially launched, and I feel this would be an awesome place to start. And what value! Three mini’s for only $25.00! These are supposedly amazing quality and the formula promises to be hydrating, lightweight yet extremely opaque. It sounds divine! 

Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector Mini Macaron Set
Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector Pressed Highlighter Mini Macaron Set
Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector Mini Macaron Set
Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector Pressed Highlighter Mini Macaron Set (swatches)

BECCA SHIMMERING SKIN PERFECTOR PRESSED HIGHLIGHTER MINI MACARON SET 

  • $40.00 ($76.00 value) – Shop here 

This gift set contains:

Shimmering Skin Perfector® Pressed Highlighter in Opal (neutral white gold with soft pink pearl), Vanilla Quartz (light gold infused with pink pearl), Rose Quartz (neutral pale pink with soft gold pearl), Prismatic Amethyst (pale lavender with gold, violet, and rose duo-chrome pearls).

You really can’t beat Becca highlighters. They are creamy, blendable and very buildable on the skin. They can be used in a subtle way, but can also be layered up without depositing tons of glitter or sparkle. I like to also use Becca highlighters are eyeshadows as well, and they are equally as lovely used in that way. This kit is perfect for anyone who’s really serious about highlighting, or conversely someone who’s just starting to experiment with highlighting. 

Stila Big Shots Redux Eye Set

STILA BIG SHOTS REDUX EYE KIT

  • $17.00 ($45.00 value) – Shop here 

This gift set contains:

The Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eye Liner in Intense Black, & the HUGE Extreme Lash Mascara.

This kit was originally priced at $25.00, but Sephora marked it down to only $17.00!! My mother is a huge proponent of the Stay All Day Liquid Eye Liner, and has gone through countless tubes (in both black & brown). She only uses waterproof liners these days, and this formula is her failsafe. On the other hand, I’m a big fan of the HUGE Extreme Mascara. I’ve been through at least two tubes at this point. If you like volume & length then this is the mascara for you! This is a perfect gift for either the beauty-obsessive or the beauty-minimalist. 

BEAUTY TOOLS

Sephora Collection Complexion Uncomplicated Brush Set

SEPHORA COLLECTION COMPLEXION: UNCOMPLICATED BRUSH SET

  • $45.00 ($117.00 value) – Shop here

This gift set contains:

Five-piece set with a foundation brush, concealer brush, powder brush, buffing brush, & detailed concealer brush. Plus faux-leather pouch & a PRO Team brush tutorial. 

Sephora brushes are fantastic and this complexion set would be a great gift for someone who perhaps doesn’t wear much eye makeup, but who loves their base products. Great tools are necessary for great makeup!

Will you be treating someone this season to one of these kits? Or do you have other beauty favorites in mind? I’d love to know!

xo, Erica

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Check out my luxury beauty gift picks from Sephora!
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My beauty anti-wishlist, December 2018

Hi friends!

Even though we’re now in the season of giving and receiving, it’s still anti-wishlist time, the December edition! As is the standard now, I’ve rounded up 5 beauty items from newish (I’m really stretching that this time!) launches that I won’t be picking up anytime soon for various reasons. This time I have a really well-rounded list including makeup, skincare, & hair items, so let’s get into it!

I always include this disclaimer, but this is not at all meant to be a bash on these brands or these particular products. This is just stuff that I imagine I wouldn’t get much use from based on my personal preferences, so I thought I’d tell you why.

Catch up with my previous anti-wishlists here: September, October, November.

JAMES CHARLES X MORPHE BRUSHES PALETTE

James Charles x Morphe Brushes Palette

James Charles’ palette launched a few weeks ago in November, and I think it’s already gone in and out of stock a few times. Currently it’s out of stock at Morphe & Ulta, but that doesn’t really matter to me since I won’t be putting my order in. This is probably a really lovely palette, and I appreciate the wide spectrum of colors here. And at $39.00 for 39 colors, it seems very affordable. But the size is just too big for me. I’m not sure where I would store it, and it wouldn’t be able to fit on the surface in my house where I normally apply my makeup. So for me this is a practicality issue, so I’ll take a pass.

DYSON AIRWRAP

Dyson Airwrap

The Dyson Airwrap launched back in October so I’m a little late to the party on this, but to be honest as soon as I saw this I knew it wasn’t for me. If you’re not already familiar, it’s a hair dryer/styling hybrid tool that can come with up to 6 different attachments depending on the model you order: paddle brushes, conical wands, hair dryers, etc. It ranges in price from $500 – $550 depending on the number of attachments, I believe. It boasts a special aerodynamic technology that attracts hair and wraps it around the barrel for minimum effort on your part. (There are tons of videos on the internet demo’ing this product, just look it up.) There are a few reasons why I’m not interested in this tool. Firstly, it’s too big of an investment for me. Secondly, my hair styling routine is very low-maintenance, plus I don’t use a hair dryer; I only use a flat-iron in the morning after my hair air-dries the night before. And lastly, my mom had a bad experience with the original Dyson hair dryer. It literally started to fry her hair! Now I’m scared of Dyson hair products!

CHANTECAILLE 20TH ANNIVERSARY MOONLIT PERLE GLOW POWDER

Chantecaille Moonlit Perle Glow Powder

Now, I’m not saying I’m immune to pricey AF purchases from Chantecaille. (Hint: I have a fun review coming at the end of the month on a Chantecaille product, so keep a look out!) But $125.00 for a glowy setting powder?? No thanks. Hourglass has me covered in that department. To be fair, this is a collector’s item to commemorate the brand’s 20th anniversary this year. I’m sure not many were made, and as it is their website says this is currently out of stock. The pearl packaging and the whole presentation is absolutely beautiful, without a doubt. But I do have (some) limits 😉.

DR. JART+ MASK HEROES

Dr. Jart+ Mask Heroes

This is a limited edition set of 6 of Dr. Jart’s bestselling sheet masks including:

– Hydration Lover Rubber Mask
– Firm Lover Rubber Mask
– Dermask Micro Jet Clearing Solution™ Mask
– Dermask Micro Jet Brightening Solution™ Mask
– Prescriptment Water Replenishment Cotton Sheet Mask
– Pore Minimalist Black Charcoal Sheet Mask

At the present moment, I just don’t reach for sheet masks. I tried a hydrating mask from Garnier a few months ago, but I can’t get past the overly drippy, wet feeling against my skin. I know this will horrify a lot of skincare enthusiasts out there, but don’t judge me too harshly! We all have our things, don’t we? I want to get more into them since I have a few in my stash from The Creme Shop, but I certainly wouldn’t go as far as to buy a set of 6 like this one. However, if you are a Dr. Jart+ fan or a mask enthusiast, this does seem like a really good value for money: 6 masks for only $36.00 when normally it would cost $57.00.

PAT MCGRATH LABS BLITZTRANCE LIPSTICKS

Pat McGrath Labs Blitztrance Lipsticks

I’ve only tried one product from Pat McGrath Labs so far, the Bronze Ambition Eyeshadow Palette which was the first ever in-depth review I did for this blog (you can read it here). I love that palette; the colors, textures, packaging, everything is beautiful! Pat’s brand in general has become synonymous in the beauty community with lush and beautiful (and pricey) products, so I have no doubt these Blitztrance Lipsticks are top-notch in the quality department. However, they’re just not my cup of tea. They are described on the brand’s Instagram as “iridescent lipstick(s) with multidimensional, highshine effects.” But at $38.00 a pop, I just can’t justify purchasing what is essentially a glitter lipstick. I believe the colors shown in the Instagram image above are limited edition by the way (from left to right: Flesh Fatale, Rebel Red, Blitz Gold.) I’m far more interested in trying their Mattetrance Lipstick formula than these.

What’s on your December anti-wishlist? I’d love to know!

xo, Erica

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Check out the beauty products that I won’t be picking up anytime soon and why!

 

Birchbox is coming to Walgreens!

Drugstore beauty is taking another leap into the future! After hearing that CVS Pharmacy partnered with Glamsquad & eSalon to create the “Beauty IRL” store-within-a-store (which I wrote about here), I recently read that its drugstore competitor Walgreens is getting in the game as well. They are partnering with Birchbox, the well-known beauty subscription service, to bring Birchbox boutiques to 11 select Walgreens locations in 6 U.S. cities starting this December! See the image below from Walgreens’ Instagram with city listings/times.

birchboxlaunches

This is very similar to CVS’s “Beauty IRL” concept in that these Birchbox-branded boutiques will “live” within a larger Walgreens store. But while Birchbox (and most other beauty subscription services) are synonymous with mini or sample sizes, these boutiques will be stocked with fullsize makeup, skincare & haircare products from Birchbox’s roster of brands. To be more specific, this partnership will introduce 40 new brands into Walgreens including Sand & Sky, Wander Beauty, Embryolisse, Winky Lux & ARROW, to name a few. How exciting!

Interestingly, the products will be merchandized by need and not by brand inside these Birchbox boutiques, which I think is really cool and unlike a lot of other shopping experiences we know. So if you’re not the biggest beauty shopper nor very brand-loyal, this may be something that excites you.

birchboxwalgreensspace
A rendering of a Birchbox-Walgreens boutique. Image source: Businesswire.com

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A rendering of a Birchbox-Walgreens boutique. Image source: Businesswire.com

Supposedly each boutique will have “Birchbox-trained” beauty consultants to assist you, plus a “BYOB” (Build Your Own Birchbox) section where you can curate your own Birchbox from a selection of beauty mini’s. I think this is such a cool idea as I’ve been a Birchbox customer for a number of years now (and I love a mini anything). And if you don’t live in or near any of the cities listed above, the Birchbox offerings will also be available online at walgreens.com.

I think this will be another great option for beauty shoppers (big or small). It’s awesome to see drugstore retailers making big investments that will ultimately give their customers a different, more exciting experience. I can’t wait to see what comes next!

Are you excited for Birchbox to come to Walgreens? I’d love to know!

Xo, Erica

Sources used: Fastcompany.com, CNBC.com, news.walgreens.com, CEW.org, businesswire.com.

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Birchbox boutiques are coming to 11 Walgreens locations in 6 U.S. cities starting this Dec. 2018!

Has CVS brought us the future of drugstore beauty?

I’m not sure about you, but I’ve read up about CVS a lot recently and it certainly seems like they’re taking an aggressive position when it comes to beauty. Last week I spoke about how they’ve partnered with Kiss Products, Inc. to launch the brand Joah Beauty, bringing K-beauty inspired cosmetics into mass retail. Well, it turns out that CVS is broadening its beauty offerings in a big way through at least two other strategic partnerships. Firstly, they’re collaborating with the on-demand, at-home beauty service company Glamsquad to pilot BeautyIRL (IRL stands for “in real life” by the way), an exciting store-within-a-store concept that reimagines what the beauty aisle of CVS could be. And secondly they’ve also partnered with eSalon, the bespoke hair color company, to bring their Allure award-winning custom color kits to the masses.

Each partnership brings more fun, more personalization and more convenience to the beauty-shopping experience which really hasn’t existed at the mass retail level before.

Totally exciting stuff!

If you’re lucky enough to live in Andover, Massachusetts, Stamford, Connecticut or Florida you may have access to one of these BeautyIRL concept stores right now. So far CVS has made it available at just 4 locations in the U.S. (FL got 2, while MA & CT got 1 each), but there are plans to expand the offerings online and to more store locations by 2019. I have my fingers and toes crossed that one will come to NY soon! (However I’m not horribly far from Stamford, so maybe a field trip is in order 😉.)

So what is BeautyIRL exactly? I believe the idea is this: you feel like you’re walking into a stand-alone beauty retailer but in reality you’re simply wandering into the (enhanced) beauty department of your local CVS. It seems there’s a whole bunch of uber cool offerings in these concept spaces. There’s a “trending” section with up-and-coming indie brands; an expanded K-beauty section; more natural and/or organic products; and a whole section where you can shop just beauty mini’s. If that doesn’t excite you already, well get ready! A whole slew of on-demand, personalized beauty services are also on the menu thanks to Glamsquad including consultations, makeovers, blow-out’s, and various skincare services. Also, in massively big news for me, there were will a “Test-and-Play Hygiene Bar” where you can (finally!) sample and touch your favorite drugstore brands. Oh my gosh, are we finally getting drugstore testers???

But CVS is not stopping at just cosmetics & skincare. You can also now get bespoke hair color kits in the new BeautyIRL locations thanks to their partnership with the e-commerce company eSalon. Color consultants will be on-site to match customers to their perfect hair shade and to operate a device that will create and dispense custom shades. The whole hook is making the product available for immediate purchase.

esalondevice
A bespoke color dispensing device from eSalon in a BeautyIRL space. Image source: CEW.org.

The concept of BeautyIRL builds off CVS’s biggest beauty campaign yet, the “Beauty in Real Life” campaign which initiated earlier this spring. All of the beauty promo imagery from this campaign was released with absolutely no retouching or digital manipulation of any kind to foster more realistic beauty standards. It also featured a diverse roster of “real” women (so no models or celebs) to give the campaign a more relatable feel.

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Image source: Allure

cvsbeautymark
The new CVS Beauty Mark which stands for ‘Beauty Unaltered.’ Image source: CVS Instagram

If the BeautyIRL concept is a success for CVS, I think it will mark a definitive change in drugstore & other mass retail beauty shopping. If you read any article about the future of retail there are a few trends that always get discussed: enhanced experience, more product choice, and more personalization. Consumer expectations are shifting and we generally want more of our in-store shopping experience. CVS is attempting to answer to those needs with their new beauty initiatives. I’m excited to see what happens next!

What do you think about CVS’s beauty initiatives? Would you go into a BeautyIRL space if it was in your local CVS? I’d love to know!

xo, Erica

Sources used: Allure, InStyle, Elite Daily, CEW.org. Cover image source: InStyle.

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New skincare purchases & bits I’m loving

I haven’t written about skincare yet on here, which is probably a big shocker to a lot of other beauty bloggers. Truth be told I rarely change up my very basic skincare routine of eye cream, serum & moisturizer. Don’t skincare routines seem to be getting longer and more complicated as time goes on? It’s all very confusing to me. At the end of the day I think you should be guided only by what your skin needs and what it’s currently doing, rather than by what the new product releases are. By that rationale, I’m guided by my dry, sometimes flakey skin that needs as much moisture and illumination as possible.

I’m just not the biggest skincare connoisseur. I know what works for me and so I tend to be quite product-loyal (not necessarily brand-loyal). Historically, I’ve used both the Garnier SkinActive Ultra Lift Anti-Wrinkle Firming Eye Cream and the No. 7 Protect & Perfect Intense Advanced Serum for years now. (I was quite late to the party on serums in general; back in the day I just used moisturizer and that was it.) But I can’t resist sometimes changing the product line up. For instance, I will change up moisturizers from time to time. I was a big fan of the Chanel Hydra Beauty Creme for a while but then I discovered the more affordable Clinique Moisture Surge range, which is a firm favorite for life.

With that being said, I have made a few sneaky skincare purchases over the past few months that I wanted to talk to you about now. Some of these products have already become favorites, some I’m still testing, and one I haven’t even tried yet. That is how I’m categorizing them for this post. Let’s get into it!

NEW FAVORITES!

Belif The True Cream Aqua & Moisturizing Bombs – Shop here

beliftruecreammoisturebomb
Belif The True Cream Moisturizing Bomb

beliftruecreamaquabomb
Belif The True Cream Aqua Bomb

I spoke about my newfound love of The True Cream Aqua Bomb (and a little about the Moisturizing Bomb) in my earlier post on beauty mini’s, which was a hit with a lot of you. To recap, I didn’t buy either because I redeemed some of my Reward points on two separate Sephora visits, but I would absolutely buy either formula in the full size. You can buy either the standard size (50 ml for $38) or the mini size (25 ml for $22.00) from Sephora.

Belif is a Korean skincare brand I believe (someone correct me if I’m wrong), that has exploded on social media recently. Their products already have reached cult status like that of Tatcha and Laneige. To that point, The Aqua Bomb and The Moisturizing Bomb are both considered ‘Bestsellers’ on Belif’s website. Everything is formulated without parabens, sulfates, phthalates & synthetic preservatives, synthetic dyes & fragrances, mineral oils or animal byproducts.

When I wrote my earlier post I didn’t realize that Aqua Bomb technically wasn’t formulated for dry skin; it’s more suited to normal, combo or oily skin since it has a very lightweight, gel-cream texture. I still felt it hydrated and plumped my skin quite nicely, however I used it during the very humid NY summer when my skin was probably at its best. I’m just about to finish my mini of the Moisturizing Bomb, which is indeed formulated for dry skin. It’s definitely thicker than the Aqua Bomb and is creamier as well.

BITS I’M TESTING!

Charlotte Tilbury Magic Cream – Shop here

charlottetilburymagiccream

I just recently started using the Magic Cream after getting it at Sephora the day of the Charlotte Tilbury launch (and the day I met Charlotte herself!!). I deliberated for a while before putting this on my wishlist since it’s so darn expensive (50 ml for $100!), but I have to say the Sephora employees really talked me into this. The words “revolutionary” and “life-changing” were thrown around a lot, and while I’d like to say that I’m immune to all that sales mumbo-jumbo, clearly I’m not!

This is a very luxurious, thick cream that feels amazing to apply to your face and smells beautiful. The story is this is the secret weapon product that Charlotte formulated and used on models, clients and celebrities before they walk the red carpet. I think this will be a hero product for me going into the fall and winter months due to its richness. I tend to apply it at night before bedtime but you can also use it prior to makeup as Charlotte often promotes; I have yet to use it in that capacity. This gives a beautiful sheen and a feeling of plumpness to my dry skin. I really like it so far and it hasn’t broken me out at this point, but I’ve only been using it for about a week now.

(UPDATE 10/10/19 – sadly, I will be returning this product to Sephora. About a week after writing this post, I noticed little red bumps on my forehead, around my nose & my chin. I stopped using it for a few days to see if my skin would clear up and it did. Then I used it for about 3 more nights just to double-check and sure enough, the little red bumps came back. Such a bummer!)

On charlottetilbury.com there are 3 sizes available (150 ml, 50 ml, & 15 ml), although Sephora just seems to sell the 50 ml tub. The formula has SPF 15, and is gluten-free, paraben-free, sulfate-free & cruelty-free.

Honey Belle Elixir Rejuvenating Facial Oil – Shop here

honeybelleelixirfacialoil

elixirfacialoiltexture

I spoke about the Elixir Facial Oil and about Honey Belle’s backstory in my earlier post detailing my Indie Beauty Expo haul. At the time of writing that post I still had not received this product in the mail, but since then I have incorporated this into my nightly routine. I hadn’t used a facial oil in ages so I was keen to get on that bandwagon again. I found a way to incorporate this product that didn’t extend the time of my normal routine: I combine it with my moisturizer. So far I’ve only added it to the Moisturizing Bomb from Belif and not the Magic Cream; I think the Magic Cream has enough richness on its own.

The smell of the Elixir is quite strongly herbal and ‘homemade’ but I like it. It gives serious shine and glow to the skin which you would expect from an oil. It doesn’t stay tacky for long and seems to absorb into the skin quite nicely, but keep in mind I’m applying this right after my shower so my pores are ready to drink this stuff up. Is it doing amazing things for my skin? I’m not sure at the moment to be honest, but it’s a lovely product that I like using. As the colder months approach and my skin gets drier, I will probably be able to tell more of a difference.

You can grab either the mini size (15 ml) for $15.00, which is pictured above, or the standard size (56 ml) for $34.00. Very affordable organic skincare.

BITS I HAVEN’T USED YET

Fresh Rose Hydrating Eye Gel Cream – Shop here 

freshroseeyecream

I purchased this just recently and it’s currently waiting its turn behind my latest pot of the Garnier eye cream, which I’m about halfway through at the moment. This smells amazing and as the name would suggest, it’s got a gel cream texture (my favorite). I’m new to Fresh skincare but I have high hopes for this little guy. There’s 15 ml of product in there for $41.00 so it’s definitely not cheap; this is actually my first foray into luxury eye cream. According to Fresh’s site, this is a cooling eye treatment that promises oodles of hydration and illumination. Oh, and ‘30 hours of continuous moisture.’ Cool, sign me up! I’ll have to report back 😉.

Fresh products are primarily made from natural ingredients and are cruelty-free.

Have you tried any of the products on this list? What skincare products are you currently loving or trialing? I’d love to know!

Xo, Erica

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