Honest Beauty Reviews + Dispatches.

By: Jen Shoop

*Excuse the fuzz on my desktop above, but I looked down from my screen for a second and liked the artful spread in front of me. (Isn’t the Flyte 7.0 packaging gorgeous?) Earrings off because I was wearing my headphones at my desk. I need a dish for them now!

A few weeks ago, my Internet friend Alex Steele shared a thoughtful roundup of gifts for men who say they don’t need anything, and one of her recommendations was slippers. She explained: “I figured this out because Nate tries to steal mine! I (we) like my cheap Costco ones.” I thought this was a clever prompt for divining useful gifts for a loved one, and, curious, I asked my Magpies: “What’s something your husband steals from you?” (Nosy as ever, would love for your to share your own response to this in the comments.)

I was surprised to find that about half of the answers were skincare products — eye cream, face wash, hand cream, shower products, hairspray, and even one “Laneige lip mask”! (Other common response: phone charger. Which makes me think all our husbands need rechargeable, external phone batteries in their stockings. Mr. Magpie was, by the way, appalled that I had not consulted with him when I bought mine in advance of my Atlanta trip. I’m pretty sure he would have preferred I buy the Apple brand one. Take that as you will.) Anyhow, what an interesting theme? I’m sure some of you gender scholars have systemic thoughts on why this might be (“beauty” is such a gendered space!), and we could sustain a long conversation about it, but my pragmatic side is simply suggesting that when you go to buy your husband his holiday gifts, don’t overlook the items he’s constantly stealing from you. These will make great stocking stuffers.

I would not split hairs about buying things that are specifically marketed to men when shopping for your husband, either. For example, Mr. Magpie and I share face wash. We’ve been testing a fleet of different brands and often have differing opinions on them, but our perspectives rarely have to do with things I would classify as “male” versus “female” points of differentiation. It’s usually more about feel and scent. I love the Motif face wash. It’s creamy and hydrating with tiny but sporadic microbeads (e.g., not nearly as dense in beads as Tata Harper) in it, and I’m obsessed with the way my face looks and feels afterward — soft, hydrated, prepped. Mr. Magpie doesn’t care for the creaminess and I think is after more of a foaming, fresh feel. Mr. Magpie has been using and liking this Vetted DermLab cleanser while I work through the Motif, but I think his preferred one this year was Youth to the People, which I also really, really liked. It gives you that squeaky-clean, fresh-faced feeling — but without the dryness. He did not like the Goop diffusion line cleanser. I was pleased with it, especially given price-point, once I figured out you really need to wet your face and lather up the product in your hands first, but he found the scent deeply off-putting.

Anyhow, if your husband also pilfers from your medicine cabinet, a few products I would recommend tucking into his stocking. Not that it really matters, but I think the packaging on all of these are pretty gender neutral. More importantly, they all work.

+Eye creamBiossance. I’ve been really hard on this beauty category and continue to hunt for something that will totally blow my mind, but this has grown on me as I’ve used it over the past few months. I’ve now reached for it over several other brands for months on end. It is hydrating but quick to absorb. Right now, you can buy this special set where you’ll get two for $76 (vs one for $56). Perfect solution — you can each have one in your beauty cabinet.

+Face washYouth to the People, per my notes (and Mr. Magpie’s approval) above.

+Hand creamAesop. Honestly, this would be something good to buy in bulk — like 3-5 of them to give away as gifts to those “oops I forgot to get something” or “I want to get her something, but I have no idea what.” Anyway, this is a divine product, and the scent is orange-herbal; he’ll love it. You can also splurge and buy the bigger size that he can work through throughout the year. Mr. Magpie typically applies hand cream after washing his face, before bed, so I think this would be a good product to nest into his routine. Just keep the pump bottle right next to the hand soap at his sink.

+Shower productsOribe or Roz hair care will please just about anyone on the planet. Great lather (Roz even better than Oribe IMO), luxurious scents, tried-and-true results. I stayed at the Waldorf Astoria in Buckhead (Atlanta) last week and they had Aesop shampoo and conditioner in the bathroom. I was really impressed with that, too, and they have great, herbal-leaning scents. (I think that their travel set of shampoo / conditioner / balm / cleanser would be a nice gift for a frequent traveler.) For body wash, we’ve used Molton Brown for ages and ages. It really is the best — it lathers up so nicely and lasts forever. Plus, great scents that Mr. Magpie likes, like Black Pepper.

Before we move on from this subject, may I also implore you to tuck one of Kiehl’s Superbly Efficient Deodorants into your man’s stocking? Mr. Magpie speaks (!) in (!!) exclamation (!!!) points about this product. Here are his enthusiastic endorsements: 1) does not stain shirts; 2) does not smell strongly — he hated that his old deodorants smelled like, well, deodorants; 3) lasts a super long time. He loves this so much he has a subscribe and save arrangement with them!

On to a scattershot roundup of other beauty insights and reviews:

+I just received a few products from new-to-me beauty brand Flyte7.0 and noticed that they’re already running a 30% off promotion (no code required) for Black Friday. I’m liking this high-shine lipstick product — very hydrating and easy to apply, and the color Das Model is a perfect “barely there / natural” color — and this illuminating primer. (The primer falls in the same category as RMS Beauty’s Radiance Serum, which I still love, but has a thinner consistency that makes it easier to apply.) As I get older, I feel like I have needed lip color / lip product and brow gel more and more. Does anyone else feel this way? These two products (brow gel and lip color) seem to frame my face better and make me look more youthful. I don’t like to use that word, youthful, in the context of beauty, because — well, I’m 39 and I look 39 and that’s OK! But I do think elements of “youthfulness” are appealing and worth working towards in a beauty regimen, e.g., brightness, glow, balance, evenness. In this case, I’m finding the brow and lip products bring vivacity, color, and evenness to my visage in ways that perhaps I used to naturally achieve? Anyway, I think lip products might be my most-purchased beauty category at the moment. For years, lip color was an afterthought, typically applied when going out in the evening but routinely skipped during the day. Now, I must have something on my lips. I’m still obsessed with UBeauty’s lip plasma and wear that most of the time (the Lady color is absolutely perfect). It meets my baseline criteria of “can I apply this without a mirror?” and “is it hydrating?” but has the added benefit of plumping/filling lips and leaving the prettiest, most natural color. I love it so much, I brought a tube of it down to Atlanta for one of my girlfriends last weekend. The Flyte lip color passes my baseline criteria, too, and I love the color options. Early impressions are favorable.

+On the brow front: I’m still completely obsessed with Kosas AirBrow. It’s one of those unicorn all-in-one products — fills, gels, colors — but is virtually fool-proof. I’ve also been using the Westman Atelier brown pencil when I’m really getting done up because it does a great job of totally filling in/shaping areas that are looking a tad sparse. Like all women who lived through the late 90s/early aughts, I completely overplucked and still have a bald spot beneath my right eyebrow. (I’m determined to keep my daughter away from her brows forever.) This product is so helpful for that situation, and also for evening out my two brows, which are not symmetrical. It requires a steady, focused hand but I’m learning.

+I also have a couple of new items I’m using from Merit: their new 1980 brow gel, their clean lash mascara, and their signature lip color (in Millennial). Several of these items are included in their limited edition “Gloss Set,” which the brand recently told me is close to selling out. It’s a good buy if you want to sample/test a few different products in one go — note that some of the products are mini/travel size. ICYMI: I’m obsessed with Merit. I’ve been leaning on their complexion stick daily for the past few months (See my five-minute, five-product everyday makeup routine here) and still love their flush balms. I alternate between those and Goop Colorblurs. Of the new products I’m currently testing, I’m most impressed by their clean mascara. It separates lashes better than any other mascara I’ve tried. I feel like one swipe multiplies your lashline. Heads up: I just received a mailer that says you can get 20% off sitewide Nov 18-21 using code PRIVATE20, so you might want to load your cart now and buy tomorrow.

+I’ve already raved about these products this week and I know many of you have already purchased, but get thee to Hanni. Their concept is “shower care / skincare for the lazy girl,” and I love the way all of their products perform double duty or cut application time in half. For example, their splash salve is applied in-shower, and takes the place of post-shower lotion, while their water balm is a hydrating mist that requires none of the process of applying lotion, waiting for it to absorb, etc. I don’t know why it is that these feel like such a dynamic revolution for me, but they really do seem to be simplifying my shower time. I also absolutely LOVE the results. Your skin feels like a goddess’? I just got out of the shower a few minutes ago and I swear to God, my skin has never felt so smooth and silky. You need these. You can buy the duo here.

+Julia Amory just re-stocked her site with her amazing toiletry sets in new patterns and sizes. They just updated the sizing so the largest one is really big — could fit a hair dryer! I really love these because they’re lined and have a few pockets on the inside (great, I find, for stowing things like serums that you don’t want clanking around, prone to spillage), and you can toss them in the laundry when they get dirty. (I launder on a gentle cycle with regular detergent and then leave to air dry). I also find the sizes helpful and generally easy to wedge in wherever you have space in your suitcase. Finally, the patterns are so joyful! Strong upvote for these. I will also say my best friend was using the Dagne Dover toiletry case last weekend and I slightly envied the brush pouch she had. (The large DD case comes with a long, thin narrow sub-pouch perfect for makeup brushes!) However, you can also buy a silicon makeup brush pouch for $11 here — this appeals because you can then simply rinse out the interior every few trips. I added this to the “travel gear” section of my Amazon shop, along with a few other recommendations that have been trickling in since I wrote this post. (For example, one of you recommended this ultra-compact pill case perfect for medicines and supplements while in transit.)

+This is a total and unnecessary splurge, but I received these Noble Panacea radiance serum doses as a gift and…they’re amazing. I would probably not buy myself, but mama mia do I feel lucky to have them. I’ve been tossing a few in my makeup bag when traveling so I don’t need to pack or decant one of my serums, and each mini pouch contains the perfect amount of serum for a single use. The serum itself is divine. Skin looks glossy, gleaming, happy, radiant. Ay! A major splurge but delightful.

+Really, really love these eye masks from Jillian Dempsey. I’ve been throwing one in my suitcase for travel and they actually brighten and enliven the eye area, making it look as though you are better rested than you are. I tucked one of these into the parcel I gifted my girlfriend in ATL (along with the UBeauty lip plasma). A true delight. I also have in my medicine cabinet Goop’s eye masks but haven’t yet dipped into them. I heard such good things! I might stop using the Dempsey ones and try the Goop ones instead, because the Dempseys are great for gifting and travel! Might as well conserve them.

+As I’ve written about before, I like to remove my makeup with a beauty balm and then cleanse. I find this process thoroughly removes all of my makeup (sometimes I need to use a q-tip dipped into an eye makeup remover to get all traces of mascara, too). I’ve tried a few different balms and my favorites are Farmacy and Unnaturally Natural. I’m just about to try Versed’s formula. Price is right! Has anyone tried this brand? I’m intrigued.

+Still using and reluctantly liking Augustinus Bader’s Rich Cream. I’d wanted to try this product forever but had major sticker shock. I received a bottle as a part of a PR package and could not wait to test. A few weeks in — I think it’s an incredible moisturizer. I love the results. But I do think I’ll have trouble legitimizing the price on a re-order. The TL;DR: it’s a great face cream, but not convinced it’s worth the price? We shall see once I finish this bottle…

P.S. Finding a gentle headspace.

P.P.S. Notes on making (really good) cocktails at home.

P.P.P.S. A few weeks ago, I looked into the mirror and saw my grandmother in my own reflection. Thoughts on the experience.

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6 thoughts on “Honest Beauty Reviews + Dispatches.

  1. RE: Versed balm, I found that it’s a really solid dupe for my holy grail (but holy cow expensive) Eve Lom balm cleanser. The scent is really herbal/spa-like. The formula isn’t as thick, I’d liken it more to sherbet, and it didn’t irritate my sensitive skin!

  2. My husband steals my sunglasses! I’ve resorted to Amazon dupes after having many pricier ones left scratched and stretched out, ha!

  3. I purchased the Roz hair care set when you first posted that someone recommended it to you. Has been life changing for me! Can’t recommend enough

    1. I’m so glad to hear this! I’ve also been using it constantly since it arrived and love SO much. Especially love the lather!


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