Stephy Loves…

July Recap: Best Purchases of the Month

A few of my favorite items purchased in July. Wrinkled backdrop courtesy of Hemi the Hindrance, Feline Overlord Extraordinaire.

It’s a little hard to believe July is already over. This month has been a roller coaster, between losing the job at the fabric store (less disappointing than it sounds, honestly–I hated that place with a passion!), finding out that what has been wrong with my knee for close to two years is a  torn meniscus that would have been a lot easier to fix if the original doctor had taken it seriously, having the insurance refuse to cover my MRI, and a couple of days that were just total losses. But I’ve had a few real wins this month, too: turns out that my shoulder is fixable (after my knee–gotta get that deductible met first!), and I finally got my ish together and linked up my Twitter, Instagram, and FB pages to the blog–yay productivity! I’ve also brought home a few real wins in terms of items I’ve bought, so here’s a quick recap of my favorites from this month.

Tarte Double Duty Empowered Hybrid Gel Foundation

Being prone to cystic acne, I have found that products heavy on cyclopentasiloxane or cyclohexasiloxane will absolutely wreak havoc on my skin. That’s good to know, except one or the other is in almost everything! So finding Tarte Double Duty Empowered Hybrid Gel Foundation ($39,, which contains neither AND does not contain the coconut derivatives that I react to (still contains caprylic/capric triglycerides, so watch out if you’re more sensitive than I am), would have been enough of a find just for that reason. But the shade Fair Beige is one of the best color matches I’ve been able to find, and it goes on flawlessly without feeling caked on. It’s also quite pigmented, so a little goes a long way, and the coverage is to die for. It even contains hyaluronic acid to help keep water in. It also comes in an excellent range of colors, from Porcelain all the way to Mahogany, so most people will be able to find a shade to fit, and the food names are in the light-medium to medium range (i.e., my Scots-Irish mother) rather than objectifying and othering women of color. And the icing on the cake is that it’s 17 dollars less than the Hourglass foundation that gave me a comparable result!

MAC Fresh Moroccan lipstick

After a traumatic experience interviewing for a job with MAC several years ago, I had sworn off the brand for a long time. However, I’m starting to come around on their products, especially MAC Fresh Moroccan lipstick ($17.50, Nordstrom). This color could be a “nude” on someone darker than I am, and that’s how it is marketed, but on me it shows up as a lovely rosy brown. I particularly like the frosted finish, because I have been wearing mattes for so long that I am a little bored with them. Wear time is as expected for a standard bullet lipstick, but the color is just too perfect for words.

In addition, the staff at the MAC counter at the Nordstrom near me (SouthPark Charlotte) is excellent. I absolutely adore their customer service. In fact, that’s how I got this lipstick. I went for their National Lipstick Day giveaway last weekend, and I stood in line with everybody and her sister only to end up with a dark blue lipstick that really wasn’t me. I figured since I was there and they had given me something for free, I might as well browse the colors available to buy. There was a customer throwing an absolute hissy fit because she had gone to the wrong entrance and missed the free lipsticks. She was threatening to call corporate, call the local news, get a lawyer, all over a free lipstick. I gave her mine, trying to shut her up. It didn’t work, but the employee who was being abused and the department manager were both so appreciative that when I tried to purchase this lipstick, they gave it to me for free. After all the years I spent in retail, I can appreciate how stressful an event like that is (flashbacks to my years at Radio Shack and the iPhone launch days), so I was so impressed that they went out of their way to do right by me.

Tarte Picture Perfect eyelash curler

Having hypermobile joints in my fingers comes with extra joint wear and tear, so I have osteoarthritis in my fingers that makes the “pull the trigger” motion of regular eyelash curlers difficult and painful for me. The flat, paddle-shaped handles of the lash curler in the Tarte Picture Perfect Duo ($18, Sephora) use a different motion, more of the “blah blah blah” gesture that doesn’t involve curling my sore fingers. This is the same set as the Lights Camera Lashes mascara I discussed in my last two posts. The mascara isn’t exactly HG, but the curler definitely is. The only thing I would improve would be that I would like to see Tarte sell individual replacement pads for the curler.

Leaders Insolution Bye Bye to Dry Sheet Mask

Leaders Insolution Bye Bye to Dry Sheet Mask ($5, Leaders USA) is amazing for days when my skin needs a little extra kick of hydration. It absorbs well without being sticky, and leaves my skin plumped and smooth. I haven’t found a Leaders cotton mask yet that I haven’t loved, though I would recommend caution if you’re sensitive to fragrance, because they all have a very specific “Leaders scent.” (They also make a line of coconut gel masks that I will not be trying for obvious reasons.) The great thing about this is that while the box of 10 retails for $48 on their website, I scored the box at Marshall’s for only $6.99. YES PLEASE.

Sun Bum SPF30 Lip Balm

Sun Bum Lip Balm SPF30 ($3.99, Ulta) is how I’m trying to get into the habit of wearing sunscreen on my lips. It’s so easy to remember on my face and arms, but I tend to neglect sun protection for my lips. Most of the other sunscreen lip balms I have found have coconut oil in them or have that dodgy Chapstick flavor, but this one I can actually stand to wear, and it gives a fair amount of moisture. I haven’t really made it a habit yet, but I’m trying!

Nyx Away We Glow highlighter in Crystal Glare

NYX Cosmetics Away We Glow Liquid Highlighter in Crystal Glare ($7, NYX Cosmetics) is one of the few highlighters I have found that is actually light enough to show up on my pasty skin without being a glaring true white. They describe the color as a “white champagne pearl” shade, which is jut about right. This is my day-to-day shimmer highlight lately, with the true whites saved for evening when I really want my skin to pop. The champagne tone is a nice neutral, too, neither too pink nor too gold. The soft applicator makes it easy to place exactly where I want it, and you can’t beat that price!

Belif Moisturizing and Firming Eye Cream

Belif Moisturizing and Firming Eye Cream ($48, Sephora) is the eye cream I have been looking for. I’m not much worried about what an eye cream can do for my dark circles, because when they’re genetic like mine are, there really isn’t much that skin care can do. However, the things that do concern me about my eye area are the slight drooping and creasing that I’m starting to see, and since my grandma had to have an eye lift to save her vision and I have those same hooded eyes, I’m careful about sag. This is thick and rich enough to plump my skin and keep it where it belongs, without being greasy or containing any of the coconut ingredients that I have to worry about. I bought the trial size as part of this set for $20, and while I wasn’t as impressed with some of the other products in the set (the foaming cleanser contains coconut ingredients and has been adopted out to a good home, and the aqua bomb cream is too alcohol-heavy to be right for my dehydration-prone skin), the cost was worth it just for this eye cream. I’ll definitely use the essence, and probably the toner, but the eye cream absolutely blew me away. I got it Friday, today is Tuesday, and I’m already seeing a difference in hydration.

I also have to give a shoutout to Belif’s social media team. I had taken part in a sample event back at the beginning of July and never received my samples. I made a comment about it on one of their Instagram posts today and had a response from them in the time it took to get up and feed the dogs. As soon as I re-sent them my address, I had a confirmation that they were sending out the samples within minutes. The whole interaction took less than half an hour, even with handling all the other social media stuff they have going on. They look out for people, and you know I always respect that.

Sulwhasoo Balancing Water EX

Sulwhasoo Balancing Water EX ($58, Sulwhasoo) really surprised me. I ordered a sample bundle because I wanted to try the emulsion that came with it, thinking that there was no way I would use a toner with this much alcohol. Surprisingly, though, it doesn’t dry me out or irritate my skin, and it does fabulous things for my skin texture.

I have already talked about my two major lash finds in previous posts, so I’m not going to go back over it here. Suffice to say that as much love as I have for the Smashbox lash primer and Marc Jacobs mascara separately, they absolutely slay when used together.

All in all, July had some pretty big wins. As always, not everything I brought home hit it out of the park (looking at you, Belif Aqua Bomb), but there were some finds in this that I will definitely repurchase.


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