In the Buff

One great thing about Essie polishes?  The saturation of color–most of them are totally opaque with just two coats.  One terrible thing about Essie polishes?  The saturation of color.  Sure, Garden Variety looked gorgeous the few days I was sporting it, but post-removal, my nails looked like those of a dead girl.

Ah, hell no.
I blue myself!

This simply cannot do.  Usually the discoloration will go away on its own after a few days of letting your nails have a chance to breath, but this is something I cannot do for the following reasons:

1.  I have bitten my nails since birth and when they remain nude, I have nothing stopping me from gnawing them to the quick.

2.  Touching my bare nails when they’re wet gives me that nails-on-a-chalkboard feeling.  So, naturally, I cannot stop myself from doing so and am in an eternal state of goosebumps.

3. My nail game is on point.

So I have found a tried and true solution to get these babies back in manicure form and will now kindly bestow that gift unto you.

STEP 1:

Gather your things.  This highly scientific procedure requires a bowl, hot water, a spoonful of baking soda, and some lemon juice.

Incredibly scientific.
Science ruuuuules.

Or, say, you don’t have lemon juice and are really comfortable at home in your pajamas and just can’t bear to bring yourself to change into shorts and sunglasses and brave the 75 degree day?  Lime juice works too.  Also, get your nail tools handy; I’m talking file, clippers, cuticle trimmer, and buffer.

That's right, we're pulling out the big guns.
That’s right, we’re pulling out the big guns.

STEP 2:

Pour some water in your bowl, place it in the microwave, and heat it for about a minute.  Make sure it’s hot enough to have a little steam coming off the top, but not to the point of boiling.  We only want to soften the skin, not remove fingerprints.  Unless, of course, you need to do that too–no judgments.

STEP 3:

Add a tablespoon of baking soda and about two teaspoons or so of your lemon (or lime) juice to the warm water.  Stir thoroughly.

STEP 4:

Soak ’em.

Soak 'em reeeeal good.
Soak ’em reeeeal good.

STEP 5:

After about three to five minutes, remove your hands from the water and pat dry.  Now you can do the trimming and cleaning and removing of dead skin and nails that I enjoy in a grotesque kind of way.  I have a particular fondness for cleaning up my cuticles so that is where I begin.  I also may like to gently trim up the dead skin around my nails with my clippers which is really normal and not gross or weird at all.  After that I trim/clean under my nails and file them into a square shape.  With the exception of my pointer finger, my nails naturally grow in this way, so I do not typically need to clip them to create this effect.  If you do not have perfect nails–as I do–I hear Tweezerman makes some great straight-edged nail clippers.  Again, I have had no need for these, but you might.  And that’s okay!

STEP 6:

Now that you have the gross stuff out of the way (but, it was kinda fun too, right?), dip your nails back into that warm water for another minute.  Remove, pat dry, and buff the stain right off of them.  You want to make sure you don’t push down too hard while completing this step as you are technically damaging your nail by sanding off the top layer.  Treat your nails the way Drake would a date–be gentle and take your time.

STEP 7:

All that’s left at this point is a final washing and drying of your hands, application of a top coat, lotionizing of your hands and cuticles, and viola!

So fresh and so clean.
So fresh and so clean, clean.

Finished product!  The process is so easy, cheap, and quick enough to where I don’t even mind staining my nails.  Which is good, because I have three shoe boxes full of polishes waiting to do just that.

January Birchbox

So you know how January went by extra slow, kinda like how time stretched and elongated in the black hole in Interstellar, or while watching the movie Interstellar?  Well it seems as though that long yawn of a month was a once in a lifetime thing, because February is back to moving at hyper speed.  I obviously could not keep up with this chaos and am sad to say I have already received two new Birchboxes and have yet to review either one!  I really am the worst.  However, I figure all of you out there are just as frazzled as I am by how time and nature must play with man so, and will give me a pass and continue to love me and laugh at my cutting wit and share my hilarity with your friends and coworkers and launch me into celebrity blogdom.

So here we go.  January Birchbox!

Pretty in pink.
Pretty in pink.

Isn’t their packaging just too much?  That confetti-patterned box, the hot pink tissue, the color-coordinated products? Mm, if I were just a hair more superficial that alone would compel me to give it a good review.  But I’m not.  SO LET’S TEAR THIS BABY APART.

Whish?  More like Psssssh.
Whish? More like Psssssh.

1.  Whish Shave Crave Shaving Cream:  Here is a list of things that could be used as shaving cream that cost less than this full-sized product:

  • Skintimate Shaving Cream
  • Organic Coconut Oil
  • Paul Mitchell conditioner
  • L’Occitane Shea Butter
  • Raw Honey infused with Lavender
  • Truffle Oil
  • Bottled tears of an albino tiger

Basically anything that is liquid and can safely be rubbed onto human skin would be a better buy.  Yes it smells good (my sample was grapefruit acai), and yes it is moisturizing, but is it worth $20?  And no, I didn’t mistype.  Ladies and–well, probably just more ladies–a full-sized Whish Shaving Cream costs $20 for a 5 oz container.  In no world should that exist.  If you are dying for an expensive shaving product that smells like grapefruit, here’s an idea: buy the Burt’s Bees Deep Conditioner.  It too is 5 oz, will be highly moisturizing, and, at $8 a bottle, will nicely serve as an overpriced shaving cream.  Problem solved.

Cleopatra, comin' atcha.
Cleopatra, comin’ atcha.

2. Tocca Crema Da Mano in Cleopatra:  For those of you uncultured swine out there who do not speak Italian, this is a fancy little hand cream.  I recognized this brand from Anthropologie; I tend to ogle over their lotions and drawer knobs since they’re the only things I can afford, so I know their stock pretty well.  This lotion is ethereal in scent.  It smells like a summer day on the Amalfi Coast–light, bright, sunny, and buoyant.  It is a blend of grapefruit and cucumber which really adds to this fantasy I’m creating–I can see it now, me sipping a greyhound, nibbling at a salad of cucumber, tomato, and basil while Paolo, my Italian fling turned husband turned secret heir to the Ferrari fortune is enraptured by my grace, charm, and wit…

As a lotion, it is only sufficient.  It feels a little too sticky when applying and doesn’t hold much moisture.  I liked it more for the rich girl, jetsetting fantasies it provided me with than for actual practical use, but that might be reason enough to purchase a full-size.

Sorry this picture is so boring.
Sorry this picture is so boring.

3.  Harvey Prince Perfume–Sincerely:  I’ve never really been a perfume girl.  Most of the time they just end up giving me a headache, and the ones I do like are usually intended for octogenarians; I act old enough as it is, I don’t need that added layer.  However, during my aforementioned explorations in the bath and body displays at Anthropologie, I did end up finding a scent that was the right balance between cranky-indie-bookworm and bunko-playing-cat-lady.  It is called Wish by Lollia and is described by its maker as “Warm Vanilla Bean and Rice Flower delicately frosted with sugared pastille. Jasmine Leaves sweetened with Sugar Cane. Comforting Ylang Ylang and the sheerest of Amber Woods complete the scene, creating the most luxurious of fragrant escapes,” and is described by me as sweet with a hint of floral (sometimes less is more, Lollia).  I really loved that combo and think of that scent as “me,” but it does feel a little heavy in the spring and summer when I really just want something with a little less weight.  That is why I was ever so happy to receive this perfume sample.  Harvey Prince’s Sincerely is like the cinnamon gum-chewing, tv-watching, loud-laughing cousin of Wish.  The scent profile is a little different–consisting of Indian tuberose, Turkish cyclamen, and Spanish mandarin–and errs on the side of spiciness.  However, it does have the same sugary, flowery vibe.  The reviews for this product on Birchbox are mixed–some say it seems a bit “mature” for their tastes–which means I should probably file it away with my cat sweaters and elastic-waisted pants until I hit 65.  So I will not buy the full-sized product, but I think I’ll just enjoy this sample while it lasts.

ajnfksjdf
Who needs the Naked palette?  JK!  I do!

4.  Coastal Scents Revealed Palette: Girls love all things naked.  And they like the eyeshadow palette too (thank you, thank you, I’ll be here all week).  For real though, even girls who don’t really understand makeup love the Naked 2 palette.  It has the perfect spread of neutral colors and a few slightly fun, night-on-the-town shadows that I and the other previously mentioned ladies will most likely never touch (Really?  Silver?  Do they think that goes with any living human’s skin tone?)  The only thing the Naked 2 is missing are some matte tones.  That’s where this sample comes in.  According to the online reviews I’ve seen, the Coastal Scents Revealed palette is the poor girl’s Naked, but is even more comprehensive.  Not only are there a handful of matte shadows, but it has incredibly accurate dupes for both the Naked 1 and 2 palettes!  What’s even better?  It only costs $20.  The same price as that goddamn Whish shaving cream (unbelievable.  Just completely out of control).  Obviously I was very eager to try this out and see if the quality was even half as good as Urban Decay’s.  Conclusion: it was.  And maybe more than half as good.  Like, 65%.  Which is really saying something.  Here’s a super not awkward picture of me wearing the shades.

Hey guys!  It's really weird to take pictures of your own eyes.  Just thought you should know.
Hey guys!  Just taking a totally normal zoomed-in selfie.  

And here’s an even more average, not weird or uncomfortable at all, close-up picture, so you can get a better idea of the colors on skin:

Forgive me, I know not what I do.
Forgive me, I know not what I do.

I used the beigy tan color (top right in the sample) and it was a perfect tone for my skin, adding just a little darkness and slight mystery.  I err on the dark side (according to the Pottermore’s expertly calibrated Sorting Hat, I am a Slytherin after all; it only makes sense) and loved the depth of this color.  I applied the darkest shade (bottom right) to the outer corner of my eyelid and admittedly used a color from the Naked 2 for the crease.  All in all, it was a really great look for the day time and could easily be vamped up for the night, if you happen to be one of those people who leaves the house after sundown.  I’ve been reaching for this little sample just about every morning so I think I may splurge and buy the actual product when this runs out.

The most generic bottle of hairspray in existence.
The most generic bottle of hairspray with the most generic name in existence.  

5.  Number 4 Non-Aerosol Hairspray:  I’m going to be frank with you: I have no way of giving this product an accurate review.  My hair has only held a curl once in my entire life and that was only because a gay man did it with a straightener.  That beautiful mane of curls stayed for approximately 48 hours before I was forced to shower them away, water mingling with the tears I shed for the beauty I would never get back…

That being said, I did spritz this on my hair when it was french braided and pinned at the nape of my neck.  From what I could tell, the spray held up well in the heat (I was out all day in the scorching San Diego Winter sun), and didn’t harden and make my hair helmet-like.  And that’s probably as good of a hairspray review you will ever receive from me.

Alright my lovelies, I still have one more Birchbox to cast judgement upon and another one soon on its heels.  This is not the last you will hear from me!

December Birchbox

Even though I hate the 1%, I wish I were one of them from time to time.  I don’t envy their Ferraris or their Teslas, rather the comfort they have in knowing that their car will make it from point A to point B without breaking down.  I want to be able to buy a new pair of jeans every once in a while; I’m not even asking for Gucci, maybe just Gap.  Simply put, I would like a little bit of luxury in my life.  However, I reside somewhere within the 80-99% and don’t have quite as many options.  So I decided on the best form of Poor Girl Pampering: Birchbox.  Here’s the deal: you pay $10 a month and they send you 4-6 samples of beauty products based on the preferences and styles outlined in your profile.  It’s simple, fun, and gives me hope that some day I can afford the full-sized products.  I have finally tried out all the products in my December box and shall review them so that you too can see what may be worth investing in once you marry rich or finally figure your life out.

Here is my Birchbox:

Ta-daa!
Ta-daa!

1.  Juara Tumeric Antioxidant Radiance Mask:  This is one of the products I was really excited to try.  I’ve never done a mask before but I have always pictured it as the pinnacle of relaxation.  I blame Hollywood as I do for most skewed images of things because it’s easy and makes me feel righteous.  But let’s be honest, when you think of a mask, what comes to mind? I conjure up an image of Samantha from Sex in the City donning one while soaking in a bath, room lit only by candles, sipping a glass of wine while a long-haired Spanish model 15 years her junior massages her feet.  Glamour to the extreme.  I wanted to create that spa-like don’t-fuck-with-me-during-beauty-time vibe but all I had was a robe, wine, and Sam Smith on Spotify.

lala
Satin robe and $5 wine.  Classy as shit.

I made it work.

Since this was my first time applying one, I wasn’t sure how much to put on.  I kind of slathered it until there was a smooth, creamy layer evenly across my face.  This mask was supposed to stay moist rather than harden and crack or whatever (I guess they do that?), so I took that as a plus.  About halfway through application, my face began to feel warm.  When I was done with application, the heat had elevated to a raging burn.

This can't be good.
Am I pretty yet?

My mind automatically darted back to the time 6 years ago when I decided to have a similarly relaxing evening and drew myself a bubble bath.  Accompanied by The Sound and the Fury and a nice glass of chardonnay, I remember smiling complacently.  “This is it, Gina,” I thought.  “This is the life you will lead.”  The next morning I awoke in an itchy panic, stumbling to a mirror to discover my skin was bright red, miniature hives cascading in a grotesque mountain range from my forehead to the soles of my feet.  The long-sleeved turtleneck maxi dress and floppy hat of Amal-sized proportions could not even save me embarrassment.  Those were a dark and shameful two days that I never wish to recreate.  And for the record, oatmeal baths are not as rewarding as bubble baths.

Fortunately, the Juara mask is formulated for sensitive skin and after about 5 minutes of deep-breathing and empty promises to a handful of deities (sorry Buddha, I’m still going to eat pork), the tingling of the mask began to fade; by the end of the full 15-minute treatment, my skin felt perfectly normal.  I rinsed it off as instructed (which was actually quite difficult to do considering how thick, creamy, and non-lathery the formula is) and was quite pleased with the results.

You can see the difference too, right?
You can see the difference too, right?  I’m not crazy?

Though uncertain whether it’s reality or my delusions of grandeur speaking, I swear my pores looked smaller, and my skin looked brighter and healthier.  I would definitely consider investing in this product if not for the effect than for the fact that it helps me perpetrate the illusion of a glamorous lifestyle.
BRASS TACKS:  I was given a 0.5 oz sample which provided me with about three masks.  The instructions say to use it 1-2 times a week.  The retail value of the 3 oz container is $35.  Oh God.  This is an actual time where I need math in real life.  Give me a minute.
…..
Okay.  So you’d get about 18 masks out of a full sized product.  That’s about 9 weeks worth of masks.  I guess that’s not so bad.  Also, shout out to Mrs. Anderson, my 9th grade math teacher, for teaching me enough algebra to figure that out.

2.  Acure Organics Sensitive Facial Cleanser Argan Oil + Probiotic:  Along with my mask, I received a face wash also for sensitive skin–I’m not going to read too much into it.  The wash reminded me of the Neutrogena Deep Clean Cream Cleanser–it doesn’t lather and feels a little heavy.  It didn’t make my skin dry or break out or anything which is always a worry with new skin care products (reference above bubble bath story), but it didn’t have a particularly positive effect either.  I think I will stick to my regimen of my good ole’ orange Neutrogena Facial Cleanser and St. Ive’s Green Tea scrub every couple of days.

3. Vasanti Kajal Extreme Intense Eye Pencil:  I was a little disappointed to see this product in my box, not because I don’t enjoy a good eyeliner, but because I don’t believe in wearing one in the color rose gold.  I swatched it on my skin though and besides it being a really pretty color, it stayed put until I washed it off with soap, so I figured I would give it a try.  I decided to use it at as double eyeliner–lining my usual black cat eye for a night out.  I used Chopper from my Naked 2 palette for my eyeshadow and it created a shimmery, iridescent look.  I wore it out to the boyfriend’s show at Hard Rock and, being the lazy girl I am, slept with it on.  It stayed remarkably well.  I retouched the next morning and was happily surprised by how well it translated to day-wear.

Mmhmm, fly as hell.
Mmhmm, fly as hell.

So I will never wear this alone, but it was a pretty fun addition to my makeup collection.  And isn’t that the whole point of a Birchbox?

4.  W3LL PEOPLE Bio Brightener Stick:  This is the only product I don’t see myself using at all.  Unfamiliar with where this stuff is supposed to brighten me up, I had to google it.  From what I could find, it is supposed to serve as a highlighter and an under-eye concealer-esque brightening thing.  I tried it out on the spots I usually highlight around my eye–under the brow bone and in the inner corner.  It was pretty dim compared to what I usually use (Bootycall again found in the Naked 2 palette).  I tried it under my eye and it gave me a pallid spooky tone, like a middle-aged ghost.  The only spot it looked halfway decent is on my cupid’s bow, but it rubs off quickly.  Not a fan, W3LL PEOPLE, of your product or your name.

5.  Davine’s Replumping Shampoo, Conditioner, and Hair Filler Superactive:  I will admit, I wrongly judged this sample.  When I first saw it, I was disappointed.  A little one time use packet of shampoo and conditioner?  Some weird spray?  Don’t they KNOW my hair is incapable of being prodded into doing anything I want it to?  Also, THE fuck does Replumping Hair Filler Superactive mean?  Well, Past Gina, it means it will give your hair a normal texture.  It means that this weird mid-winter hot dryness will not cause your strands to stick to your face with electricity or fly up in an untamable Einsteinian fashion.  It means the grease that usually begins its daily crawl from your roots downward is halted or at least slowed.  It means you feel good about your hair, for a few days at least.  My only complaint is that the spray smells incredibly strong.  It’s as though they took every salon product, boiled them down all together, and made a concentrate.  They then injected that concentrate with poison.  That is how this smells.  The scent fades a few hours later, and with it goes the headache and nausea.

Volume like I've never seent
Volume like I never seent

The effects of the product are supposed to last for 6-8 days, making this product super cost-effective.  Here’s the best thing about it–I received a 50 ml sample.  The full-sized product is 100 ml and sells at $39.95.  See that?  The box more than paid for itself with just one product.  Cheap girls for the win!