Saturday, February 21, 2015

Memebox Benton Value Set Review

**FYI - Memebox no longer ships to Canada.  I'll leave these reviews for posterity but any links or recommendations are sadly no longer for us :( Many of the products can be found elsewhere - check out my post on where else to shop for k-beauty products!

Here it is:  my very last Memebox post.  I picked up this Benton Value Set for $50 - definitely one of my pricier purchases but I had some Memepoints to offset that cost and was very impressed with how awesome their Snail Bee Essence has been for my skin.  I wanted to try more of their products and knew this would be one of my last Memepurchases so I splurged with Christmas money.

Here is everything in all their packaging - a totally full box which I would expect for that price tag!

And here is everything out of the packaging.  This is basically the whole Snail Bee line which is particularly good for troubled skin (although may cause problems for anyone with a bee venom allergy - spot test first!) as it will help to heal acne, fade acne scars, brighten skin tone and maintain hydration.  For those who are trepidatious about putting snails or bees on their faces, I find that these products have a light scent and don't remind me of these ingredients in scent or texture.  Further, snail mucin (slime) helps with cell regeneration and maintains moisture while bee venom offers anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties! If a skincare product can really do all that for me, I'm okay with bugs and slime!

If I were using all of these products (which I am currently not. . . more on that later), the order in which I am listing these items is the order in which I would use them.  I am basing the value on how much it would cost me to pick these up, in US funds, from a reputable Korean site ( which does ship to Canada (unlike Memebox at the moment) and which offers free shipping.  They may be available for more or less elsewhere but I believe these to be fair values.

Honest Cleansing Foam (Value $12.43, on sale for $11.19)
Benton calls this cleanser "honest" so we can feel assured that this is just what it says - honest, with the finest ingredients and processing.  I haven't started to use this yet as I have a lot of cleansers on the go, including a foaming one.  The one drawback I can already see with this foam is that, despite its claims not to strip moisture, it does have a high ph (at 8.5) and many beauty bloggers have been discussing the importance of a lower ph in cleansers to maintain the skin's natural moisture barrier.  They recommend a ph of 4-6 so as not to strip / dry the skin (more on that here, if you're interested).  Personally, I don't find that my cleansers overly dry my skin - especially not now that I've been taking better care of it - so I will try this once I use something up and we'll see how it goes.

Snail Bee High Content Skin (Value $15.19, on sale for $13.68)
This product is a toner even though it doesn't have that word in the name of it (confusing!).  It is, as most toners, spread over the skin after cleansing.  Most Korean toners are not as drying as the ones we are used to here in the west, rather offering moisture as well as other benefits (like the snails and the bees in this one).  I have not started using this product yet as there is currently a bit of controversy over it.  Some other purchasers discovered floating bits of something inside of their bottles and are concerned about the product.  While Memebox has offered refunds for this product, others have reached out to Benton to find out exactly what is going on and whether or not this is safe to use.  Benton has, to their credit, responded quickly and is doing testing (probably not in small part because of the issues they had last year with a bad batch of essence - google it if you like; it's been discussed thoroughly elsewhere).  My bottle doesn't have any large particles in it but if I squint, I might see some smaller ones (or I might just think I do) so I'm holding off until I hear the results of the testing and/or until any of the small particles get larger.  I'll post an update when there's more info.

Update:  Benton got back to a few of the ladies from MUT with the results of their testing and this product is safe to use.  They even sent along the lab test results to support their statements, not that I can really understand them :) Hooray!

Snail Bee High Content Essence ($34.27 for two bottles, on sale for $23.99)
This is the product that made me interested in this line.  As an essence, this is thicker than the toner but more jelly-like than a cream.  The "high content" comes from the fact that this is 90% snail slime - it is used in place of water.  That much snail with all the goodness that comes from that ingredient, plus the bee venom, makes this an HG (holy grail) product for many (myself included).  This is great stuff and I am happy to have a backup.

Snail Bee High Content Lotion (Value $15.19, on sale for $13.68)
A lotion is a lighter version of a cream, used over essence for moisture plus whatever the active ingredients bring to the table.  I currently have a lotion that I love (the Tosowoong Tea Tree one that came in my Tea Tree Memebox - it helps to control excess oils! Awesome!) but will try this when that one is finished.

Snail Bee High Content Steam Cream (Value $14.43, on sale for $12.99)
A cream is usually the last step of your routine (unless you add a sleeping mask over top at night) and is heavier than a lotion.  This is a steam cream which means it was manufactured at a higher temperature.  The claim is that this helps to combine the ingredients more effectively which means they can be more effective on your skin.  Many bloggers are hailing this as an HG product as well.  I haven't tried it yet as I have an open cream that I want to use up first but I am excited to give it a shot!

and, a few times a week, Snail Bee High Content Mask Pack, 5 included in the box (Value $10.25 for 5 masks, on sale for $9.23)
I don't use masks every day but love to use a nice sheet mask a few times a week.  Those of you who have read my blog in the past know that I find them extra relaxing in the bubble bath, especially since I can't have wine for the next few months :) These masks are ones that I would reach for if my skin is feeling a little troubled.  They are not as moist as many and do not have a particularly discernible smell (good or bad) so they are not my faves.  The snails and bees, however, do wonders at preventing a major breakout when I haven't been as diligent with my skincare.

Overall Value:
The retail value of this set is about $84.63 but, if I purchased all of this today from BNK, I could get it for about the same price including an extra bottle of the essence.  If I end up having to do without the toner, that would obviously reduce the value and the amount of money Memebox would refund me is likely less than the retail value of that product.  Regardless, I am happy with the value.  What I am less happy with is the fact that this is the second potential issue with a Benton product in a year.  It is possible that some of us are a little more wary and cautious when it comes to this brand given the history, but it is also a concern that there could be a genuine issue like this.  I am thus far impressed with the reaction of the company but I will be happier once they live up to their promises and release their test results (and happier still if there is a logical and not scary explanation for the particles!).  I really like the Benton products I have tried thus far and hope that I can continue to support the company and use their products.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Memebox From Jeju Value Set Review

**FYI - Memebox no longer ships to Canada.  I'll leave these reviews for posterity but any links or recommendations are sadly no longer for us :( Many of the products can be found elsewhere - check out my post on where else to shop for k-beauty products!

Memebox is a Korean Beauty Box company which used to ship worldwide.  In the last few weeks, however, they have ceased shipping anywhere outside of Korea, China and the United States.  Apparently there were issues with shipping and customs (although since customers were paying for shipping, and often paying the customs fees as well, I don't get that excuse) so they decided only to ship to those countries in which they have a physical presence.  While this is certainly their prerogative as a business, the way in which this was handled ruffled more than a few feathers in the international community.  Many long-time customers who had spent hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars with Memebox received an email on a Friday evening indicating the change and offering a limited time to continue to purchase items.  Those who were affiliates or who had points to use up were offered a chance to spend them before the cut-off date or a payout through PayPal.  Needless to say, there were a lot of hurt feelings (mine included, see my post on this topic) and many of us will not be returning to Memebox if/when they resume shipping to our countries.

This Value Set was ordered prior to the Canada-shut out and was almost a restock of a box I had missed out on.  I say "almost" because the "From Jeju" box included one item that was not included in this value set. . . although Memebox sent out the same product card as if it were included (and I forgot to take a picture of it).  Weird.  Anyway, this value set ended up costing a bit less than the box because of the missing item, at $19.  I'll take it :)

For those unfamiliar with the "Jeju" in "From Jeju", it is an island province of South Korea which is famous for the World Heritage Site Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes.  The climate makes for interesting plant life (some of which should be highlighted in this box!) and absolutely breathtaking pictures.  Seriously, Google it. . . I'll wait.  Finished? All right, let's get down to business.

This Value Set contains 6 items (one more than recent Memebox offerings), all of which are full size.  The missing item, for those interested, was the Jeju Hallabong Ade Energy Peeling Toner, from The Yeon, made from hallabong (a citrus fruit cultivated on Jeju Island).  While I do like a good toner, I have enough peeling products and am not too sad not to get this. . . especially considering all the great things I did receive in this set.

Skindeco Volcanic Pore Clay Heating Mask ($33 value)

This clay mask does many of the same things as other clay masks:  controls oil, removes dirt and tightens up pores.  In short, it deep cleans and soothes skin like mine. . . which is why I have another clay mask currently in use and am waiting on using this one.  The unique feature of this particular mask is that it is a heating mask which means it will heat up to draw even more gunk out of pores.  I'm looking forward to trying that out.

The Yeon Jeju Canola Honey Silky Hand Cream ($5 value)

Who doesn't need a good hand cream? While I haven't opened this yet because I have a few hand creams on the go, this will totally get used.  

Skincure SanDaWha Natural Mild Cleansing Oil ($10 value)

This little container is full size and make no mistake, a little bit of this product goes a long way.  For those unfamiliar with the idea of an oil cleanser, they are used as part of a two-step cleansing process.  An oil cleanser like this one is used on dry skin to melt away make-up and impurities, water is added to emulsify the product and then it is rinsed off.  It is then followed with another cleanser (often a foaming product).  This has a pleasant scent and does remove even waterproof make-up with ease.  I find rinsing sufficiently to be really important (especially around the eye area) even though it will be followed by another cleanser.  This is a nice product and I am excited to compare it to the oil balm cleanser I have currently making its way through customs!

Etude House Soothing & Clean Green Tea Mask Pack ($1 value)

I love sheet masks and Green Tea is one my absolute fave skin care ingredients for my skin.  Not only does it smell lovely and soothing, it is also gentle, soothing and moisturizing for my skin.  This is my favourite kind of product - I just wish there was more than one!

Secret Nature From Jeju Serum ($33 value)

A serum is generally used after an essence, before a lotion / cream (basically, skincare products sould be layered from lightest to heaviest).  This one claims to provide moisture and nutrition through its "Jeju complex" (organic broccoli, carrot, aloe and asparagus extracts).  I have a serum on the go so haven't opened this one yet but I'm excited to try it out.  The packaging on this feels luxe and I'm a sucker for a nice package (lol).

Etude House Clear & Moist Green Tea Blending Sleeping Cream ($2)

This is a sleeping pack and they are used as the last step in your nighttime routine.  For me, this means:  oil cleanse, foaming/gel/milky cleanse, essence, serum, lotion, eye cream, night cream and then this goes over top in a thin layer.  It helps to seal in the other products and many offer bonuses like intense moisture, wrinkle repair, etc.  This product comes in a little spoon package and when the handle is broken off, it becomes a spatula which can be used to mix the cream together.  While Memebox says the cream can be applied with this spatula, the packaging says not to do that so I just used my fingers.  This actually holds a lot of product - enough for 2-3 uses I would say (I did 2 but found that I also had enough to moisturize my hands and neck each time as well!).  I loved this and have already ordered more from Tester Korea (in a variety of flavours) :)

Overall Verdict:

This value set has an $84 value according to Memebox, which may well be inflated (as many of their valuations are).  For me, it is definitely worth the $19 cost.  I have loved everything I used in this box so far and have even ordered one of the products again! The items I haven't used yet sound exciting and are appropriate for my skin type - which means I will use them and won't end up giving them away.  While the toner would have been a nice addition, I don't really miss it.

As stated at the beginning of this post, this is the end of Memebox for me.  I have one more value set to review for you (the Benton Value Set) that I ordered at the same time as this one.  Beyond that, I have orders making their way here from both Rose Rose Shop and Tester Korea.  I am happy that I discovered Memebox and also kind of appreciate that I am being pushed to make my own choices about products now that I know a little more about k-beauty.  I am, however, shocked and disappointed that a company that I really liked would make such a poor decision, imho.  We'll see how it works for them.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Ipsy February 2015 Review

Unlike last month, not only did my Ipsy bag arrive at its usual time (during the second week of the month for me), but I am also together enough to get this review put together within a week of receiving it! Don't get used to it - I'm never this organized in my personal life no matter how hard I try!  But enough about my lack of time/motivation/whatever, let's get to it, shall we?

Ipsy, is a monthly subscription service which sends you 5 make-up, skin care or hair care items per month packaged in a make-up bag.  The products are often deluxe sample sizes but there are usually a few full-size items as well.  The cost is $10 per month with free shipping if you happen to live in the states but for those of us in Canada, add $4.95 shipping as well as exchange.  There are savings to be had if you subscribe to a longer period, though.  I paid for a year up front which worked out to $184.33 Canadian funds, or $15.36 per month.

If this review piques your interest in Ipsy, please consider using my referral link :)  I'd appreciate it!  There is usually a waiting list but they often offer ways to skip the line.

Here is what came in my Ipsy bag this month:

Not going to lie, I misplaced the card that describes the theme of the month (most likely, my son decided it was his and squirreled it away somewhere).  I also took way fewer photos than usual as my camera was almost out of juice.  Seriously, need to get a new camera and/or just keep the thing plugged in more often.

So, when I first saw these items in my Glam Room, I wasn't super excited - the blush and eyelash curler were the most exciting of the bunch but the rest just didn't float my boat.  In person, I'm a lot happier.

Here's what I got:

City Color Cosmetics Creamy Lip Stain in "Flirtini" (FULL SIZE, $4.99 value)

At first, I thought this was going to be a bit too vibrant for daily use and I'm not a huge fan of lip products that have a sponge-tipped applicator.  But I do like this.  A lot.  It's not sticky like a gloss.  It dries down pretty matte and the colour is much more raspberry than flourescent.  On me, it is a great colour - sort of like my-lips-but-better when it dries.  While I didn't take many pics, I did decide to do swatches this time.  Flirtini is on the left.  And no, that's not swatched on white paper - that's my arm (seriously pale here).

ModelCo BLUSH Cheek Powder in "Cosmopolitan" (Ballerina Pink) (FULL SIZE? $22 value??)

The uncertainty in the valuation here is in whether or not this is full size.  If it is, that's the value, but the ModelCo website doesn't seem to state how large their blushes are.  It does look like it might be full size, though.  This could have come in a peachy shade, which I was actually hoping for as I don't have one, but I got the pink.  Not disappointed though as this is actually a really nice pink on me (see the swatch above, on the right) and a solid product.  I do find it to be quite pigmented so a little goes a long way. . . and this is a pretty large blush!

Emite Make-Up Professional Eye Lash Curler, plus refill pads (FULL SIZE, obviously, $25 value + $3 for refills)

I have never owned an eyelash curler and am excited to try this one out.  It feels like a much nicer quality than the one my sister owned when we were in high school (that I borrowed frequently, lol).  Bonus points for the refill pads!

Eva NYC Up All Night Volumizing Spray (FULL SIZE $10 value)

This should be used on damp hair before blow drying.  I don't blow-dry my hair often / at all so that's unlikely to ever happen.  It can also be used on dry hair as a revitalizing mist.  I might try that.  I don't have hair products as a "like" on my quiz so I'm not sure why I keep getting them.  I know that they pick the bag that's the best fit for me but this is still a bit of a waste for me.  If it works on my hair, dry, I'll keep it.  Otherwise, this will go to a new home.

Mitchell and Peach Fine Radiance Face Oil (10ml = approximately $25 value, 20ml costs £30 on their website, excluding shipping,which is about $57.50 Canadian right now)

Sometimes figuring out values for these products is simple.  Sometimes it's not.  This valuation is a bit of a guess since I couldn't easily find a Canadian site selling this.  It might be worth a little more or a little less but I think $25 is a pretty reasonable guess (although not a reasonable cost!).  This is a facial oil that you massage into your skin before your day/night cream.  I have more than enough excellent skin care products at the moment plus an oil like this is not a great idea for my skin type.  I also found it to be pretty strongly scented which doesn't excite me.  I passed this on to my mom who is excited to try it since she has never used any skincare products outside of cream and eye cream.

Overall Verdict:
Holy value, Batman! This is definitely the most value I have ever received in an Ipsy bag at about $90! Even if that blush is not full size and I discount the value of the face oil, this is still a pretty high value bag! Most of that value comes from the fact that so many of these items are full size and that the eyelash curler is not a cheapo.  While I can't say that every product is a total win for me, I love the lip tint and blush.  I'm really happy with the eyelash curler and will try the volumizing spray.  Hopefully my mom likes the face oil (and the collagen sleeping pack I gave her that I couldn't bring myself to use!) as it seems like a nice product and I do like the company.

What did you get in your Ipsy bag this month?  And, as always, if this review is drawing you to Ipsy, I'd love it if you would use  my referral link.  Thanks!

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Organizing a (well, my) Toddler

Ugh! So toddlers are messy.  They don't like to keep their belongings in any semblance of order - especially if you ask them to.  Your house will look like a toy store exploded in your living room and no matter how often you (and child. . . and husband) put things away, as soon as you turn around it's like it never happened.

So what's a mom to do?

Full disclosure, I am a contradiction - I would love for my house to always look perfect like a magazine photoshoot. . . but I regularly put off doing anything about it.  Every now and again I get into do-things-mode and re-organize or paint or repurpose furniture or something else designer-y.  But not regularly.  And especially not lately since pregnancy fatigue, working full time, directing a musical and family stuff seems to be taking up my everything.

But I have discovered a secret that works for our family and for our, particular, toddler.  I have no idea if this will work for anyone else but I'll throw it out there just in case!

My son does not like to put things away when asked.  He does, however, seem to like each item to have a specific home and will occasionally put things back where he found them, unprompted.  We are hoping to foster this behaviour :)

To help out in this endeavour, we have done a few things over the last week that seem to be working for us:

- We already own a nice squishy ottoman with a hinged lid and room for storage inside.  It's in our living room and we had been using it to store other items.  Not anymore! We emptied it out and filled it with DS's upstairs toys.  It might just be the novelty but so far he happily opens it, takes out a toy, plays and then returns it to pick out something new.

- Lately we also have instituted a rule that all toys have to go away before dinnertime so DS and Daddy put everything back in its spot before we eat.

- We find saying "Let's put this back in its spot" works better for our son than "Let's put this away" or phrasing it as a direction instead of a group activity.  It's a small thing but it makes a difference for our specific toddler.

- I don't know if other people have this issue but why, in the name of all that is logical and right in the world, do some toy manufacturers make toys with lots of little parts and no storage?? Like, why doesn't that puzzle have a box? This game which involves little cards - no box? no bag? What made that seem like a good idea?? Our solution:  make-up bags!! Since joining Ipsy (most recent review here), I have a ton of make-up bags.  I have also "won" a bunch at bridal / baby showers, etc. I do not often use them for their intended purpose.  Instead of throwing them in a closet, they now house puzzles, games, crayons, stamps, pencil crayons, etc. DS likes his little bags and because they are all different colours and designs, he is quickly learning what is inside of each.  Plus, they feel a little more special than zip-loc bags.  Love this!

I'm not sure if it's just the novelty that is helping with this issue. . . or if it's just that our particular child tends to be fastidious and orderly.  He does like to sort items and line up his toys, for example.  I am certainly not saying this is a magic bullet for parenting troubles but I love when things just seem to click for our family and wanted to share just in case, maybe, it might work for yours :)

Do you have any exciting parenting hacks to share? Hit the comments.  I'd love to hear them!

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Ipsy January 2015 Review

It's only February 1 - totally reasonable time for an Ipsy review! It was a little later arriving this month than usual (by like 2-3 days but still, that's totally my excuse!).

Ipsy, is a monthly subscription service which sends you 5 make-up, skin care or hair care items per month packaged in a make-up bag.  The products are often deluxe sample sizes but there are usually a few full-size items as well.  The cost is $10 per month with free shipping if you happen to live in the states but for those of us in Canada, add $4.95 shipping as well as exchange.  There are savings to be had if you subscribe to a longer period, though.  I paid for a year up front which worked out to $184.33 Canadian funds, or $15.36 per month.

If this review piques your interest in Ipsy, please consider using my referral link :)  I'd appreciate it!  There is usually a waiting list but they often offer ways to skip the line.

Here is what came in my Ipsy bag this month:

The theme this month was "A fresh start" which feels appropriate for January. . . although I always find the actual products' connection to the theme to be tenuous at best.  The bag is two-toned this month:  blue on one side, white on the other with an orangey-pink zipper and tab.  It is not my favourite and feels a little plasticky.

Two skincare products to start!

LA Fresh Eco-Beauty Be Good. Good Day. Day Moisturizer ($12 value - LA Fresh sells 50g for $40 on their website)

This is actually a pretty neat little sample package.  I like that it is resealable and that I don't have to tear it apart like most cream samples.  I am currently a little picky about what I use on my face and don't want to mess with my k-beauty routine right now so I'm not using this as a day cream.  I did try it out as a hand and body lotion and am happy with it for that purpose.  It is light, non-greasy and has a light scent (kind of like cucumbers?).  If I weren't so happy with my current face products, I could see myself using this as a day cream.  I am pleasantly surprised by this and would try more LA Fresh products based on what I see on their website.

Malin + Goetz Mojito Lip Balm (FULL SIZE! $12 value)

My favourite thing this month :) The scent and flavour of this is really nice and despite being a squeezy-jelly type of lip balm, this isn't sticky or messy.  This is another company I hadn't heard of but that has some nice-looking products on their website.

And now, three make-up products:

Hikari Mechanical Eye Liner in Storm (FULL SIZE! $13 value)

For those who have issues with the brand Be a Bombshell, apparently Hikari is pretty much the same company.  That said, I don't have issues with BaB and I don't hate this product.  I'm surprised at the alleged value since it doesn't seem like a really high-end brand or high-quality liner but it is serviceable.  Storm is a slate grey which used to be my go-to liner shade and which I haven't worn in a long time so that makes me pretty happy.  I also like that it's a twist up liner so I don't have to sharpen it :) There were some complaints that this was hard and difficult to apply but mine doesn't seem to have that problem so I'm okay with this.  I do feel like I've been getting a lot of eyeliner from Ipsy but at least it's in a variety of shades!

Manna Kadar Sheer Glo ($7.83 value for this 0.27oz sample - 1oz is $29 on their website)

Not my favourite.  I don't really use bronzers or highlighters or anything like that.  I usually get enough glow from my sometimes-oily skin! I'm sure this would make somebody happy but I'm just not a huge fan.  I'll use it, when I think of it, maybe. . .

Pacifica Natural Mineral Coconut Eye Shadow in Treasure ($3.18 value for this 2.5g sample - a trio with a total weight of 11g is $14 on their website)

Some Ipsters got a lighter shade of this.  I wish I did.  This is the second time that Ipsy has sent me a bronzey-brown eye shadow / eye base and it's still not my colour.  I will try this one out since I actually do like the formulation of it - it feels very smooth and is not highly pigmented so it might work for a little shimmer or highlight.  I also like this company but I would rather have received another of their products.  The value on this is questionable since all I could find on their website was a trio of these and then I had to do some math.  Judging by other blogs, this has been assigned an array of values - who knows what's accurate?

Overall Verdict:

The value of my Ipsy products this month is about $48 which is, I think, one of my highest value bags to date :) While I don't love everything, I do feel that I will get my money's worth out of these products - especially the lip balm and eye liner.  I will use the moisturizer as the most expensive hand cream I own :) I'm still not sold on highlighters or bronze eye shadow but thankfully these were not the bulk of the value of the bag this month.  I will not be happy if I receive more of these next month, though.