First things first: if you aren’t subscribed to the Ultamate Rewards program at Ulta and the Beauty Insider program at Sephora, you need to be. If nothing else, they give you a free gift, no purchase necessary, every year on your birthday. Due to a mix-up at Sephora in which I was initially given the wrong birthday gift (wanted skincare, got color), I ended up with both gifts this year. This is part of the reason that, despite the better points program, I will never be fully loyal to Ulta: the customer service at Sephora blows Ulta out of the water every time. I’ve had to call corporate twice this year about problems at Ulta because the employee giving me attitude was the manager on duty, but Sephora rocks it every time. There is also a Jack Black skin care gift for men, but realistically, skin care marketed specifically to men tends to be rather lackluster. (There’s this cultural assumption that getting guys to use a different product to wash their faces than they use to wash their butts is enough of a challenge and that taking real care of their faces is too much to ask, which I find upsetting. Everyone’s body is worth taking care of.) So I have the Caudalie skin care gift and the Tarte color gift from Sephora, and the NYX Happy Birthday eyeshadow palette from Ulta. For the sake of convenience, I’m going to go from best to worst with this.
Sephora x Caudalie Skin Care Birthday Gift
I have been wanting to try products from Caudalie for a while, because I’m fascinated by the different things they manage to do with various parts of the grapevine. This gift includes the Vinosource Moisturizing Sorbet and the Vinoperfect Radiance Serum, both of which I have enjoyed using. I actually swapped with a friend to get a second tube of the moisturizer, because it is amazing. I use the serum for moisture as well, because I can’t effectively assess the benefits of the proprietary grapevine shoot extract used in it. I’m guessing it would give the same antioxidant effect as any other part of the grapevine, since the whole plant contains some degree of resveratrol, but I know for sure that squalane is a readily absorbed moisturizing ingredient.
The thing that makes the Moisturizing Sorbet such a lovely product to use is the whipped texture. It definitely packs a punch of hydration, but in an airy, whipped formula that doesn’t feel heavy or greasy. It’s just perfect for this time of year, and I’m thrilled with it. It doesn’t even trigger any of my weird skin sensitivities, which is HARD when one of them is cyclopentasiloxane–that stuff is in EVERYTHING! The serum is nice, but I don’t know that I will repurchase it. The moisturizer, on the other hand, is a must-have for me. I would advise that if you’re sensitive to fragrance, you avoid this set, as both products have fragrance pretty high on the ingredients list.
Sephora x Tarte Birthday Color Gift
I have mixed feelings about the Tarte color gift from Sephora. This is the one that I was initially given, that I didn’t want. Typically I’m a Tarte fangirl. I own a couple of their mascaras, several lip colors, and the foundation that I absolutely swear by. With that said, this set was a bit uninspiring. The blush is a very wearable neutral color that works with a variety of skin tones and stays put all day. However, if I’m going to wear one of the Tarteist lip paints, I prefer the Quick Dry Matte over the formula of the Creamy Matte, which never quite dries down enough to stay put. The other problem with this lip color is that the shade isn’t the most flattering for me .Obviously a color called Birthday Suit is going to be a nude, but on me, I would look more alive wearing nothing at all. It’s my lips, but deader. I honestly would have been happier with the color gift if it had been the blush by itself, because then I wouldn’t have the disappointment of the lip color. Better yet, take the Tarteist Lip Wardrobe Volume II, take out the Quick Dry Matte Lip Paint in Rosé that comes in that, and use that for the lip color. It gives a little more life to the lips instead of looking completely bare and draining the color from my face. Also note if you are scent-sensitive that the lip color contains limonene and peppermint oil, which does give it a slight scent; the blush should be fine for you. Overall, the gift is worth getting if you’ll use the blush, but the lip color is a bust.
Ulta x Nyx Happy Birthday Eyeshadow Palette
This is the one I had the highest hopes for at first, because it’s extremely rare to get a full size palette for free, even in a drugstore brand like NYX. I also wear my NYX Cosmic Metals eyeshadow palette fairly often, and have been pleased with the formula for the price, even if it’s not as pigmented as the nicer brands. That said, this palette’s colors are the worst for me. Three of the light-colored shimmers are completely invisible on me, and the rest of the colors are just too warm. I know that golds and browns and oranges are super popular in the eyeshadow world right now, with the Urban Decay Naked Heat and the Smashbox Cover Shot Ablaze having recently come out. However, my coloring just doesn’t work well with super-warm without some coolness to balance it out. This also doesn’t seem to be the same formula as the Cosmic Metals shadows, as it isn’t nearly as pigmented or as blendable. On someone with warmer coloring, who has the patience to do a full eyeshadow look with wet brushes, this might do well. However, if you get it and don’t care for it, don’t write NYX shadows off entirely. They aren’t all like this.
It’s always nice to get something for free, and I do appreciate the fact that they’re doing something like this for their customers. Let’s be real, though–the reason they do this is to sell product. I will definitely repurchase the Caudalie moisturizer, and the serum and the Tarte blush are distinct possibilities. As for the other two products, I probably won’t even finish what I have of them. A yes and two maybes isn’t bad out of five products, though.