Category: reviews

This $12 Moisturizer Saved My Winter Skin – Maison Jules Haul Spring 2017

March 16

This Elf Nourishing Night Cream is a winter skin life-saver

Winter dryness is no joke in Boston. Going outside without gloves can mean cracked skin for the next few days. I think I’ve found a cheap solution–completely by accident. I ordered a bunch of makeup from Target for my theater group and Target ended up gifting me a free e.l.f. Nourishing Night Cream with my order.

I was surprised to find that the cream moisturized really well for its $12 price tag. It doesn’t absorb as easily as my “Holy Grail” L’Occitane cream ($22), but it dries completely in about 15-20 seconds, which is pretty good for a moisturizer that doesn’t leave a trace. It also doesn’t smell as good as other lotions (it really just smells like a tub of cream) but it would be perfect for people who hate scented products.

It’s hard to take pictures of skincare creams, because you shouldn’t see a residue if they are actually effective, but I took the following photo (without any foundation or makeup) to show you the luminance from the cream alone. Excuse my wet hair!

ELF Nourishing Night Cream moisturizer review

The e.l.f. cream gives you a nice glowy sheen but isn’t oily. I can put on makeup within 30 seconds of applying the cream. I’ve started using it in the morning and at night after my serum.

In the picture above, I’m also wearing a scalloped blouse ($31) from one of my favorite brands, Maison Jules (this post is entirely not sponsored–I’ve posted about Maison Jules before here). Above is one of my favorites from their new Spring line.

I also love the little boucle jacket ($52) below. It looks so Chanel-like, but for 1/100 of the price!

Chanel-like jacket dupe from Maison Jules

Maison Jules is only carried at Macy’s, and on my seasonal pilgrimage to Macy’s, I also picked up this Ralph Lauren bow-back dress and I can’t wait to wear it to cocktail receptions:

Bow back Ralph Lauren black dress

I’ve yet to find a trendy, feminine line that encapsulates my style as well as Maison Jules has. I always joke that I should ask Maison Jules to sponsor me given that I buy their entire collection every season. Expect more haul posts in the future!

Maison Jules is almost always on sale, so keep your eye on these spring pieces:

Best (and Worst) Holiday Beauty Gifts

December 6

Best and worst last-minute beauty gifts

When you need a last-minute gift, beauty items are an easy way out: who doesn’t love new lip colors or pretty packaging? To help you navigate the best and worst holiday beauty gifts, I thought I’d merge a review post into a shopping post. My recommendations are all items that I have tested.

Holiday beauty gifts to avoid

First up, a general tip: avoid anything in a tub. The contents will dry out faster, and you risk contamination every time you dip your finger inside.

  • I do have to say that the Pressed Serum pictured above is the only moisturizer that works for me, but it looks gross after a few uses.

Instead, try gifting sprays! They’re more sanitary and last longer.

  • Plus, this Ouai wave spray (from the Kardashian’s hair stylist) gives you nice beachy waves with just a few spritzes and scrunches.

Best holiday beauty gifts

Avoid: Glosses. I don’t care if they’re “in” right now. Gloss + winter wind + hair = bad, sticky hair day.

  • The gloss above is Smith and Cult; although I love the packaging, there’s no denying the stickiness.

Gift: A lip color that’s more substantial yet still retains shine.

  • Dior makes a beautiful gloss/satin lipstick. Not only is the color beautiful (I’m wearing it here and here), but the tube proudly displays “DIOR” and looks lovely on anyone’s vanity.
  • In fact, the light pink sheer shade always sells out in Korea, apparently.

Dior Addict Lip Fluid

Above is a close-up of the packaging—anyone would love to see that design on their vanity!

Worst beauty splurge items

Now onto more specific items to avoid:

  • Personally, I dislike the FRESH line of lip tint/balms. They smell sickly sweet and seem really drying, even though they do come in lovely colors and have a fantastic marketing campaign.

Instead, try gifting Jo Malone’s lip balm.

  • Jo is famous for its candles, but you get the same brand name on a great lip balm for much less $$.
  • And I have to say that Jo’s is the best, most nourishing lip balm I have tried—even better than Rosebud’s famous lip balm.

Best makeup and beauty holiday gifts

Lastly, I wanted to end with two items that I believe would make great gifts, no matter who you’re gifting.

Hope this helps cross a few beauty gifts off your list! If you have any questions about the products here, just comment: I have over 90 lipsticks, 20 blushes etc, so I know which ones to avoid and which ones to buy!

Strut Boldly – European Wax Center Review

October 4
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Thank you to European Wax Center® for sponsoring this post and my visit.

Occasionally, I like to have a moment of silence for how horrendous my eyebrows looked a few years ago:

Before pic - European Wax Center brow wax review

It’s not surprising that my blog didn’t take off with those caterpillars on my face. I overcompensated for my sparse brows by trying to make them resemble sideways parentheses. Without any shape, they ended up overwhelming my features.

Imagine my apprehension when European Wax Center® asked me to visit one of their centers in Boston to wax my eyebrows. I barely had any eyebrows and now they wanted to remove more? However, I realized that I could at least learn a lot from an appointment, since I was still so amateurish at doing my own brows.

EWC browfection eyebrow wax reviewEver since my eyelid surgery, I’ve been scared of anything coming near my eyes. I mentioned this concern to the waxer assisting me and she reassured me that the procedure barely hurt or tugged at my lid. In fact, she informed me that EWC uses a hard wax called Comfort Wax™, which tugs off quickly and pretty painlessly.

I have had my brows threaded before, and I think that was far more painful than the wax I received, plus the skin around brows wasn’t red afterwards because of the serum that she applied afterwards.

EWC strut boldly eye brow wax review

BAM. Do you see the difference? After using the Ready.Set.Brow. groomer, I now have a clear shape to my brows and my worries about losing my brows were put to rest.

Strut Boldly eyebrow duo and angled brow brush

EWC also gifted me several items to maintain my brows. My favorite has to be the Browfection™ Brow Powder Duo (the little quad that is half taupe and half black to match any brow color) and the Brow Pals Dual-Ended brush.

I no longer have to guess where to apply anything because I just follow the shape that the EWC professionals have already sculpted. I’m really thankful for their guidance (because did you see how heavy-handed I was before??)

Strut your strut - EWC eyebrow wax review

That night, I immediately took my brows out to a runway show at Boston Fashion Week. I felt confident enough to speak to several designers and even take pictures on the runway before the models showed up, and I’d like to think my new strut was a little bit due to how rocking my eyebrows were.

EWC is offering a FREE brow, underarm, or bikini line wax for first-time guests, and you can get $5 off the products I showcased above if you show this post at your local EWC center until December 31st.

Also, for a limited time only, if you spend $49 or more on products and services you can score a free tote until October 31st (limited to two per customer). Go forth and strut!

Joules Wellies Rainboots Review

April 10
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Joules navy floral rainboot review

One of the first purchases I made when I came to Boston last year was a pair of rain boots. I knew I needed something to survive the slush and snow. What I didn’t know was that Boston winter lasts from November to mid-April, which means I could wear rain boots for almost half the year. Luckily, I had the foresight to choose a pair of colorful Joules wellies that would match any outfit and turn out to be one heck of a great investment . . .

(Just to let you know, this post is not sponsored in any way—I’m writing this for readers who are genuinely curious about whether or not Joules wellies live up to their one-year warranty).

Two things attracted me to these Joules boots. First of all, the print is gorgeous and fairly unique. Both Joules and Hunter boots hail from Britain, but unlike the solid-colored Hunter wellies I see everywhere in Boston, these boots add punches of color to a drab winter outfit.

I’ve had tons of girls WEARING Hunter boots come up to me and compliment the intricate crest and flowers splayed across my boot. (And it doesn’t hurt that Joules boots are about $50 or $75, compared to $100 or $120 for Hunter boots).

I will say that one difference between Joules and Hunter boots is that Joules has a more forgiving shaft width, which means that women with wider calves can fit better into Joules boots. You can also stuff some thick socks into these boots without feeling like you’re wearing a sausage casing.

Joules floral rain boots review

Above, you can see how the boots looked when I got them last year. Joules boots are lined with contrasting fabric inside (mine was lined with red and white stripes), and the boots come in a box that was papered over with yellow floral print. As far as presentation goes, Joules gets an A+ off the bat.

Each boot also comes with a small logo plate in front of the boot, much like the HUNTER logo on Hunter boots. The bottoms are also raised and padded with extra rubber.

The second reason I chose Joules was because its boots are backed with a 12-month warranty. On the Joules website, it states:

  • “All Joules Rain boots purchased through our shops, via Joules mail order, official stockists or on are guaranteed to the original purchaser for 12 months from the date of purchase against manufacturing faults and imperfections.”

Rain boots are one of those items that you can’t be sure of until you put them to the test, so I felt a little better knowing that these boots were backed up with a warranty just in case I discovered a leak. And oh boy, did I put these boots to the test . . .

Joules rain boots wellies in slush and snow

These pictures are taken from my daily walk to school. As you can see, I have to maintain footing on fresh snow powder as well as wade through slushy puddles. I have not slipped in these boots yet, thanks to the traction on the bottom of the wellies.

In case you aren’t completely sold on the warranty, you can get Joules rain boots at Nordstrom and at Target (you can find a navy floral boot very similar to mine at Target right now). Both stores are known for their generous return policies, so you get double protection in case you wear out your boot—which hasn’t happened to me yet!

Joules navy floral wellies rain boots review

After a year of wear, you can see that the color has faded a little at the bottom of the boot, but I’m betting a lot of that is just dust and a quick wash will rejuvenate the boot.

Other than that, no amount of ice has pierced the boot, despite the heavy winter wear. The only downside is that my socks will sometimes get wet at the tip if I continuously stand or wade through water for more than 10 minutes (yep, Boston weather sucks). I feel like this is completely fair, however: these are just rubber boots, not boots made out of impenetrable diamond.

I have no doubt that these boots will last me another 12 months while maintaining their vivid colors. My only complaint is that Joules has so many beautiful color options available right now, and I can’t justify another purchase since my wellies have held up so well! But if you are experiencing April showers, and want some joyful boots to perk up your rainy mood, here are the patterns I have my eyes on:

Joules pink polka dot mint bow back wellies

Bow tie rainboots // Pink polka dot rainboots // Black and white floral

Mint and pink // Dog print // Pink floral boots

Elevated Prices, Depressing Quality – Cupcakes and Cashmere Clothing Line Review Summer 2015

July 14
Cupcakes and Cashmere clothing line summer 2015 review and quality
When Cupcakes and Cashmere blogger Emily Schuman announced that she was releasing a clothing line, I knew I had to go check it out. Designing a clothing line is the ultimate achievement for any fashion blogger, and Emily’s designs are already selling out at retailers like Nordstrom and Shopbop.
I decided to stop by my local Nordstrom and “grade” her clothing designs to see if Emily’s collaboration is worth the price tag. Since most of the pieces seem to retail for >$50, I wanted to make sure that I would be investing in quality clothes, not just a brand name.
Cupcakes and Cashmere clothing line at Nordstrom review for Pacific dress
The first piece I picked up was this “Pacific” stripe dress with an asymmetric detail down the side. Black and white stripe dresses are hard to mess up, and I thought this would be a worthy investment, even if the price clocked in at above $100.
What I liked: I loved the feel and weight of Emily’s “Pacific” dress: the cloth is nice and thick, reminiscent of Banana Republic dresses. The length is not too short and still youthful.
What I disliked: The cut of the dress was puzzling. It was too broad up top (my chest area was loose) but the bottom skirt part was too tight (see the rightmost picture). At $110 a pop, I’d only recommend this dress for broad-shouldered yet skinny-hipped women.
Santa Anna skirt review from Cupcakes and Cashmere summer 2015 clothing brand
The Cupcakes and Cashmere “Santa Ana” skirt (excuse the typo in the graphic) instantly caught my eye on the rack. I could see myself getting a lot of mileage out of the skirt’s bright, punchy color and accordion pleats.
What I liked: The dress isn’t too sheer, and the material feels lovely sashaying around your legs.
What I didn’t like: Do you see how ragged that hem is? Before you accuse me of wearing the skirt lopsided, I had the tag in the back and the elastic waistband was sitting evenly on my hips. I had to give this skirt a C+ overall score because the asymmetric hem indicated that this garment had not been quality-checked, and there was no way I was going to pay $115 for a badly-sewn skirt.
Cupcakes and Cashmere clothing line review for Presidio jacket and Laurel dress
The “Presidio” jacket and the “Laurel” dress were made to be worn together, as the ads for the Cupcakes and Cashmere clothing line demonstrated. However, I didn’t feel the Cupcakes and Cashmere magic when I tried either of them on.

What I liked: The jacket was made solidly, with a drawstring waist and zipper. The jacket boasted four, nicely-sized pockets and the sleeves were perfect for rolling.

What I disliked: Notice I didn’t say anything about the dress yet. That’s because I couldn’t find much to like. The fit was all right, for a drop-waist dress. The material though, was a whole ‘nother story. Imagine the thin polyester you get at Forever21 or H&M. Now imagine something even thinner. This dress was see-through, even with the slip—a sure sign of bad quality.

And don’t let me get started on the slip. This slip was garbage, by which I mean that this slip is one of those plastic slips that you discard as soon as you get home, in order to wear a real slip with your new dress. As tacky as the 80’s—and the dress would cost me $110! No thanks!

Cupcakes and Cashmere brand clothing line review

The last piece that my Nordstrom carried was this “Huntington” button back floral blouse. At $85, it wasn’t cheap, but it also cost less than the plastic slip-dress from hell.

What I liked: The pattern is pretty, and the fit is suitably boxy. The buttons all the way up the back of the shirt were a lovely detail.

What I disliked: I have seen this exact top at H&M before, I swear. Boxy tops are a dime-a-dozen, and the thin polyester of this top didn’t deserve my weekly allowance.

As a Cupcakes and Cashmere reader, I was severely disappointed by this summer 2015 clothing line release, especially given that Cupcakes and Cashmere boasts the tagline “elevate everyday life.” The quality of the items were not elevated, that’s for sure, and the designs could be found elsewhere for less. I’m sure other fans will pay for the C&C brand name, but I can’t justify the price tag for the bad quality of the items I tried on.