Category Archives: Cheap Finds

DUPE ALERT: Louboutin Susanna vs. Nine West Nanura Pumps

Good morning, lovely people!

A few months ago, I came across the Christian Louboutin Susanna Pumps and fell in instant love with their criss-cross ankle strap and sexy pointed toe. This, I thought, is the kind of genius shape that made Mr. Louboutin a staple. However, my two reasons for not jumping on them then and there were (1) I did not want to settle for black leather–God knows I have enough black heels–and (2) they were, of course, out of stock everywhere in my size.

Then, just a week ago, I discovered the Nine West Nanura Pumps, which had a suspiciously familiar gorgeous shape as well as two additional color options. Well, needless to say, I ordered them immediately and I have since been waiting patiently to share this review with you.

Now, I am going to do a point-by-point comparison of the differences between the two, amended by action shots. Hopefully this helps give you an idea.

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Price: CL $845 vs. NW $99.99 (but on sale now!)

Heel: CL 4 in. (but feels taller) vs. NW 3.75 in. (but feels shorter)

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Sizing: my size was CL 37 vs. NW 6

Leather: Unfortunately, NW in this case skimped on leather quality. NW: thin and stretchy vs. CL: thicker and sturdy 

Toebox: Now this was the dealbreaker for me. CLs have mastered the art of the curved pointed toe, but the NW felt too long in the front and too flat in terms of leather (my toes would definitely leave unseemly stretch marks there). If you have large feet, I would highly recommend against the NW. Winner: CL.

Colors: CL has 6 (black leather, nude leather, multicolor suede, animal patent, green patent, spiked) and NW has 3 (black leather, nude suede, blue suede). I personally like the NW suede best.

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VERDICT: NW made an admirable dupe which may work for those who prefer lower heels, but for me, the curves of the arch and toebox are dealbreakers.

Review: NYX Butter Gloss (ft. Buxom)

Morning, beauty lovers! It is such a gorgeous summer day here by the marina that I feel it appropriate to rave about yet another favorite in my beauty bag: NYX Butter Gloss.

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NYX Butter Gloss, $5

Now, anyone who puts anything on their face on a daily basis probably knows about this gem of a brand and its many wonderful products. NYX thrives on the art of duping existing formulas and selling them on a much more reasonable price point, and we love them for it. This particular product, the ever-popular Butter Gloss, could be a dupe for many brands, but I like to use it as a backup for my favorite lip gloss of all time: Buxom Full-On Lip Cream.

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Let me detour here for a second and give a quick overview of this incredible product. Buxom Lip Cream comes in a sleek, durable tube in two sizes (+1, I personally only buy the smallest size of any lip product for easy transport). As the name suggests, it goes on thick and creamy (+1) and begins to tingle almost immediately. This is supposedly an indication of “plumping action,” but as a rising surgeon, let me please disclose my professional cynicism toward any claims of this sort. Nonetheless, I enjoy the tingling. The color payout is very good (+1, see image above for my personal favorite, White Russian), and stays on longer than you want even through continuous sipping of hot caffeinated beverages (+1). Thus, with an inevitable -1 for the $20 price tag, Buxom gets a cushy +3 total from me.

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Classic NYX Butter Gloss Colors

Okay, back to NYX. Unlike its wallet-draining competition, this brand always gets the pricing right. At $5 a piece, I am able to buy four for the price of one Buxom and distribute them across my bags, pockets, and vehicles to my heart’s content (+1). In addition, NYX has produced an impressive arsenal of colors since its induction (+1, see image for the original 12). My personal favorite here is Creme Brûlée, of which I own about 5, with Madeleine being a distant second. You can see in the picture below that they offer very different looks, with Creme Brûlée being a more pink neutral that matches my natural lips very well versus Madeleine staining slightly darker and browner for a more apparent look.

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Fortune Cookie, Creme Brûlée, and Madeleine

Now, I find that while NYX still goes on thick and glossy (+1), it does produce a slight stickiness under certain conditions (-1), though this is not often. And the initial pigment distribution, while delightful (+1), does wear off much faster than Buxom (-1). So if you plan on trekking through wind with your hair down and ready to stick to your face, or continuously sipping hot beverages while praying that your lips stay presentable, perhaps skip the NYX (or really lip gloss altogether for the first scenario). Oh, and for the “plumping” addicts: don’t forget there is no tingling with this one.

And thus, the final sum for NYX Butter Gloss is +1 for price, +1 for color choice, +1 for application, -1 for stickiness, +1 for pigment, and -1 for durability = +3 total.

That means a tie for NYX vs. Buxom, which probably explains why I keep purchasing them both.

Happy Sunday!

I’M BACK…with DRY SHAMPOO

…and armed with over a year of other new products!

I apologize for the brief hiatus that involved some of the most stressful months of my life, but c’est la vie on the lower steps of the long ladder of medicine. Thankfully, increasing limits on time mean increasing pressure to cut down my routine to the best products possible. Thus, in the spirit of the time constraints on the modern worker, I present to you a modern remedy: dry shampoo.

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Dove Dry Shampoo, $3

I previously had a passing tryst with Dove Dry Shampoo that I stole from my sister in high school, during the dry winter months when my hair got overly shiny in a day. See, at the time, I found the idea of this convenient, root-only and wash-free method of hair care life-changing. However, looking back, I simply liked this product for being yet the only representative of its kind in my life and not because it stands out in any way from its competition. I felt that, at a low price point (+1), Dove did a decent job temporarily clearing shine from my roots (+1); however, one bottle barely made it two weeks (-1) and it left some residue in my hair (-2 for being the most abhorrent quality of dry shampoos). Thus, I would give it a sad total of -1.

Now, my newest go-to product all these years later is completely random find that has since gained popularity: Batiste Instant Hair Refresh.

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Batiste Dry Shampoo, $4

I met Batiste in the unrelated aisles of some wholesale beauty shop, and I will shamelessly admit that the only reason I picked it up was the promise of a coconut scent (I sternly believe that this aroma of the heavens is dismally underrepresented in the beauty world). Plus, at less than $4, it wasn’t a huge gamble. Well, my darlings, that little gamble paid off large. Once you have the handle of the shake-and-spray technique from a proper distance, Batiste does a great job covering the whole scalp (+1) and gives you piece of mind for the whole day (+1). The one thing I dislike is still the awful dandruff-like residue I sometimes get if I spray or brush just slightly wrong, which seems to be the bane of all dry shampoo existence (-1). Still, given the low price (+1) and of course the amazing scent (+1), that nevertheless gives a satisfactory total of +3.

Well, I’m off to spray my roots and head into a lovely 16-hour shift at the ICU. Watch for the many more beauty posts to come this week!

Review: Brow Liners from Anastasia, Prestige, Essence, and more (Blonde)

Hello again, everyone! I will be starting the year off with a review of one of the biggest trends right now: brow liner.

To be honest, I have never been very into bold or thick eyebrows; they usually look too harsh to me. I also do not love overly defined brows and prefer a natural look. However, I find that shaping your brows gently just to convey that subtle “put-together” feel can make a significant difference in your overall look.

Now, if you are blonde like me, or have light brows, you already know the pain of trying to find a liner that is neither dark nor brassy. My hair is currently a cool, ashy dark blonde, and every single “blonde” or “taupe” pencil I have tried comes off–if not brown, which is 90% of time–borderline orange. Some brands that I can list off the top of my head for you to not even bother considering are: MAC, Urban Decay, Stila, Sephora, Make Up For Ever, and any drugstore brand. Please feel free to prove me wrong.

Though I got seriously discouraged after facing strike after strike in the higher quality brands, I decided to try to pursue the elusive Anastasia Beverly Hills brow pencil. The reason I could not try this right away was that they are always out of stock at my local Sephora, but I managed to finally snag it at Macy’s. And my verdict? Maybe a 3/5. The consistency is decent (unlike many) and the color is the best out of the aforementioned brands, but to me, it is still brassy and a bit dry. I also tried their blonde Brow Gel, which is simply a sparkly golden mess.

The one higher-end brand that I had left to test before going to the next step was Too Faced, whose liner a trusted friend swears by, but I could not find their brow liner anywhere. I am not sure if they are discontinued.

Anyway, I then proceeded to dive into obscure cheap brands that I could afford to blow money on, because I figured I had nothing left to lose if my only other option was to settle for Anastasia. This turned out to be my smartest decision thus far. I found two high-rated brands, Prestige and Essence, on Ulta’s website (not in store though), and as they were around $4 and $2 respectively, I ordered them both in their lightest Blonde shade.

Prestige Brow Liner, Prestige Brow Gel, and Essence Brow Liner
Prestige Brow Liner, Prestige Brow Gel, and Essence Brow Liner

Right off the bat, the liners are extremely similar in packaging, size, and presentation. I like that they both come with a little brow brush, which never hurts to use. I also received a Prestige Brow Gel as a nice bonus.

Prestige on right, Essence on left
Prestige on left, Essence on right

Here are what the colors look like. This is exactly how they came since I have not sharpened either of them yet, though clearly Essence needs some of that sharpener (can you already tell which one I like more?). The main thing to note here is that, although their colors are similar, Prestige has sparkles in it!! This is essentially a dealbreaker for me–I hated it in MAC’s liners and so many of the gels, too. Why would anyone want glittery brows on a daily basis? If not for the sparkles, I actually thought Prestige’s color looked more taupe and promising than the slightly warmer Essence.

Well, my dears, I should have learned after all those trials: no matter how neutral a brow pencil looks, it will always look warmer on you. When I put both brands on, the winner became glaringly clear.

Prestige on right, Essence on left
Prestige on left, Essence on right
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Essence on top, Prestige on bottom, after an hour on my hand

As you can see, Prestige is so brassy, it hurts. It is more like a bad shimmery bronze eyeliner than a brow liner. I have tried using it a few times to give it a second chance, but it only gets oranger as the day wears on. And it is longer lasting and buildable (see above pic), so it looks darker as well. 2/5

On the other hand, Essence looks more like a stain than a liner, and appears more natural on blonde brows than any other pencil, cream, or gel that I have tried. The color first seems too brown when you overapply it, but it spreads out and ends up looking the best on. The one con is that it is not long wearing in terms of staying put in a sharp outline, but I am fine with this since, as I’ve stated, I prefer a more natural look anyway. Plus, I strongly suspect that this could be improved with primer. And at less than $2, I don’t know how you can beat the performance. 4/5

Bottom Line: Essence > Anastasia in my opinion, and I would not recommend Prestige at all.

Hope everyone is off to a good start on their new year!

Review: Maybelline Instant Age Rewind Eraser Foundation

If you frequent beauty blogs (especially a specifically talented vlogger who swears by this stuff), you have no doubt come across this Maybelline foundation as a recurring drugstore mention. I know I did, hence, as always, I put the hype to the test–over the course of an entire semester.

Maybelline Instant Age Rewind Eraser Foundation

Even going to the store to pick up a stick, I already had trouble choosing a shade to match my light/medium skin. The color selection is extremely limited (-1, there were maybe 6 or so in store), which for me already takes away from 50% of the foundation’s use: i.e. evening skin tone. However, in the name of blogging, I picked out 190 Nude and carried on.

Applicator

The foundation itself is typically sized with a unique container as shown above. If you’re weirded out by the fact that nothing on there actually reads “foundation,” you’re probably onto something. I would have had no idea without blogger tips, especially since there is a concealer that comes in an identical but smaller package.

Anyway, I actually like the applicator tip for its ease of use (+1). The twist mechanism is interesting, but it was not difficult to use and I did not feel that it was eating up the foundation. In fact, I would say that even the very last layer that I just finished using the other day got out when I twisted down enough. I usually chose to swirl bits of the liquid directly onto my face using the applicator and then even it out as I wished with my buffing brush. Overall, a no-mess application (+1).

Now for performance. Here is where the review begins to slope downward. Even from the first use, I knew the foundation was way too liquidy and sheer (-1) to be anywhere near Holy Grail status for me. I usually had to spread a thin, runny layer all over my face, wait for it to dry, dab another light layer over the spots I really wanted covered, wait some more, and then cake on finishing powder to make sure I stayed matte and put. Even then, coverage was medium at best (-1) and I was shiny within hours (-1). Now, I by no means have dry skin, so I’m not speaking to those of you who do, but I’m also no oil well. My skin is mostly normal with some oilier areas, but this foundation makes it look like shine central without powder. Yet again, in the name of beauty and completeness, I endured three months with this thing.

Also, to return to the color problem: yes, the color did end up looking a bit dark and too beige on me, but this was easier to fix by blending it into my neck area and using concealer and highlighting powder in conjunction with it. Still, it’s not a great color.

All in all, I do not really recommend this foundation unless you have extremely dry skin, want light coverage, and one of the shades luckily happens to match you well. My final rating is -1 for limited color choice, +1 for ease of use, +1 for cleanliness, -1 for texture, -1 for coverage, and –1 for shine for a grand total of -2. Ouch–but hey, we have to be picky when it comes to what we put on our face every day.

Merry Christmas Eve!

Review: Smashbox Primer vs. Monistat Anti-Chafing Gel (Dupe?)

You read correctly–bloggers have been going crazy about this Monistat gel (for which I still do not completely understand the intended purpose) as a dupe for the popular Smashbox Photofinish Primer, so I put the hype to the test.

Let me start by noting that I do not use Smashbox primer, nor have I ever bought it. I have tried it multiple times in trial sizes, and it’s ok, but it did not do enough for me to justify either the cost or the effort of putting it on. With this hype, though, I figured $6 was worth a retry. (Also, I have combination skin with zero need for extra moisture, hence your dry skin experience may be different.)

Monistat Gel

When you first squeeze out a pump, you will get excited. Wow, this thing really looks like Smashbox. You will analyze the clear blob, maybe take a careful sniff. Hey, it also smells like it. Then, with a deep breath, you will finally pat it on. Success–it feels like it too!

You will then continue with your makeup routine, maybe some concealer, some foundation, some powder. You will tell yourself that it basically looks as Smashbox would, and, feeling like the smart shopper you are, go ahead and go for the well-deserved self-pat on the back. You just saved $30!

Yet, deep down, you’ll know something is off. Maybe it’s the slightly cloudier way it dries. The sheen it leaves before you go for the powder. Or just the fact that you are putting the #1 name in vaginal creams on your face. Whichever it is, you’ll begin to see a little runniness as hours pass, and by the end of the day, you will be questioning whether you had ever put on primer that morning at all. Was it all a dream?

Half-serious stories aside, this gel was somewhat less great than Smashbox on the performance side (more runny, less durable -1), and also broke me out a bit (-2!). It didn’t do much in the way of smoothing anything either, but then again, neither does Photofinish. To me, the only possible worth is that my undereye concealer did stay on somewhat longer with this under it, so we’ll go ahead and donate +1.

An okay dupe if you love Smashbox and will forgo a few performance points, but not for me.