Reviews

Beauty Blender Dupe?! Basic Beauty Tools Review

Although the beauty blender is a holy grail in the beauty community, its high price tag leaves us all wanting and searching for an affordable dupe. SPOILER ALERT: As someone who has tried many different “dupes,” I can say with certainty that this is definitely one of the best sponges I have tried, so it is definitely worth checking out! Not to mention that the sponge holder is probably the best thing to ever happen to us beauty lovers. Keep reading for my full thoughts. 

*DISCLAIMER: These products were sent to me complimentary with the intent of creating this blog post; however, this does not change or influence my opinion in any way. 

The Spongedry, $18.99


Personally, I have struggled in the past with finding ways to store my beauty sponges. But finally, my prayers have been answered… ok, maybe this is a bit dramatic, but I am so happy that they made this product and that it is now a part of my life. The Spongedry is a holder for your beauty sponge, so you don’t have to leave it thrown on your vanity, or sitting in a dusty drawer. Not only does this keep your sponge clean, but you can save vanity space by placing your sponge in its little home, instead of lying around in the way of your beautiful setup. You can also use the Spongedry as a place to allow your sponge to dry after washing it, instead of sitting on a damp towel or on the nearest flat surface so it doesn’t roll away. It is not flimsy at all, but it is not super heavy to the point where it would be inconvenient to move to another spot or travel with. Speaking of travel, this bad boy is foldable, so you can fold in its rings until it is flat and take it with you on your next vacation (so you don’t lose your precious beauty sponge in your hotel room). Just for its ingenuity alone, I totally think all of us need this product in our lives.

Foundation Blender, $6.99


Let me just cut to the chase with this one, because I know what you are all wondering: is this a beauty blender dupe? Well, not exactly… but they are reallllly close. The only thing I have to say is that I feel it does absorb more foundation than the beauty blender, but not to the point where it is a con, I am just comparing it to the beauty blender. They both expand well when wet, and have the same amount of maintenance, when it comes to cleaning them. They are also just as soft, and just as bouncy when applying your foundation. This is not one of those sponges that even after running them under water and towel drying them, they still manage to feel like something Patrick Star would like to live under. This sponge also does have one flat side, where the beauty blender does not, which does come in handy for blending out concealer. A beauty blender retails for $20, and this retails for $7 – for the $13 difference, this sponge is well worth its value.

I know this is a bit shorter of a post for me, but I just really enjoy these products and have nothing but love to give to them. If you’re interested in checking out these products (which I highly recommend!) you can do so here. If you want to try out both the Spongedry & the foundation blender, if you purchase just the Spongedry, you get a free foundation blender! Sounds like a great value, right? But wait, there’s more! Use code SPONGEDRY15 to get 15% on top of that. Yep, you read that right. You’re welcome. Please comment your thoughts below, and thank you for reading!

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Reviews

Get It or Gimmick? Reviewing Pixi & Pop! Beauty Products You Need to Know About

Recently, the drugstore has been climbing in their price point, when it comes to beauty and makeup. However, the drugstore has also been stepping up their game, when it comes to the quality of the product. In my experience, some drugstore items have been on par with, if not better than, more high end products that you would find at Sephora or Bloomingdales, even. The products that I have tried recently from Pixi and Pop Beauty are no exception. In case you weren’t aware, Pop! Beauty is a sister brand to Pop Beauty, so this is why I am combining them into one large review. Pixi can be found at Target and Pop! Beauty can be found at Walgreens. Although the price point is a bit higher than your average drugstore makeup item, the quality is definitely there. Keep reading to see which products were standouts that you need to go out and snatch up!

*  The products featured in this post were sent as PR courtesy of YCC Agency. However, this does not change my opinion of the product! 

Pixi Pretties

Book of Beauty: Touch of Blush, $24


This set of 6 blushes ranging from light, pinky tones to rich, mauve tones is the most standout product out of the bunch. This blush is not overly pigmented, but it is perfectly buildable and blendable. Personally, I prefer blushes that can be built up, so I don’t end up with clown face, because let’s face it, we all get carried away with pretty blushes sometimes. 6 blushes for $24 is $4 per blush, so personally, I think this is a steal and totally worth the splurge,

Glow Mud Mask, $22


If you are a mask addict like myself, you will love this mask just as much as I do. It is a traditional mud mask that you apply evenly all over your face, let it sit for 15 minutes, then you wash it off. It definitely softens my face and leaves my skin smooth – however, I wouldn’t necessarily say it leaves my face glowy immediately after using it. Personally, my skin tends to be more dry, so any mud mask such as this one does dry out my skin. However, it does pull out any dirt or impurities in my face, so as long as you moisturize after, this mask is well worth it. 

MatteLast Liquid Lips, $14


If you are in need of a liquid lipstick that will last all day and stay matte, these are a great option. While these are not the best liquid lipsticks I’ve ever tried, I do really enjoy them and totally recommend them. These are a great example of a product that performs identically to a more high end product at a way better price point! I am not making a specific comparison here, but the quality could easily be that of a more expensive liquid lipstick.

Glow-y Powder, $16


Before I was sent this shade (pictured below, Rome Rose), I was previously sent the shade London Lustre, which is a light white gold, whereas this is a pinky gold. Rome Rose is too dark to be a highlighter on me – however, I love it as a glowy blush, or a blush topper. The shade London Lustre, however, is one of my go-to highlights on a daily basis. It is soft & creamy, lasts all day, and is pretty glowy for a drugstore highlight. I would recommend both of these shades to anyone who is darker than me, but if you are super fair like myself, just keep in mind Rome Rose will be a bit dark. 

Pop Beauties

Plump Pout Gloss, $16


Of all the products, I think this was probably the most disappointing. The color and sheen are gorgeous, however, I found that this gloss did bleed on me (without lip liner) and had no significant plumping effect (that I noticed, anyway). For a lip gloss, this is a bit pricey, when you could get an e.l.f. one that performs a lot better. Personally, I would skip this one, although I am obsessed with the cute shape and the matte black top.

Velvet Powder Base, $22


When I first saw this product on social media, I was immediately intrigued by the cute packaging and the nice shade range. However, I was a bit put off by the price tag attached to it. Now that I have tried it myself, I can easily say this is my favorite product of the bunch. This powder does have good coverage, but it does not cake up or look heavy on the skin. It is a super soft powder that I think could work for a lot of different skin types. I do have combination skin, and I mainly put this in my t-zone to keep it from getting oily, as well as under my eyes, which works very well. If you couldn’t tell already, I am obsessed with this powder and I think everyone needs it.

Body Beam Base, $12


I really love the fact that Pop came out with an affordable body glow type product, as I rarely see those in the drugstore. For the price alone, I think everyone needs to try this product. However, if you’re looking for a blinding highlight for your body, this is not the product for you. Honestly, this was what I was expecting when I used it, and was disappointed when I realized that was not what this was. I can still appreciate it for what it is, which is a subtle sheen that gives your body a healthy glow, rather than a beaming one.

So, are they worth it?

Is that even a question? Of course they are! I know the prices are intimidating for the drugstore, but even if you just get one item at a time, both of these companies are seriously great quality and definitely at least worth checking out. Thank you for reading, as always, I really appreciate you taking your time to read! Please leave a comment with your thoughts and with your recommendations from these brands. Love you all! xx

Instagram

Down With the Bloggers: What Instagram DOESN’T Want You To Know About Its Recent Changes

Before I get into the nitty gritty of this, you’re probably still feeling the sting of the harshness of the title of this post. Let me just preface this by saying that as a blogger who started on Instagram, obviously I do love Instagram and use it on a daily basis. However, recently I have noticed a lot of fellow beauty bloggers becoming frustrated with recent changes Instagram has made, myself included. If you have noticed a recent decrease in engagement, feel like your posts go unseen, are having trouble gaining new followers, or are just feeling like you are not progressing with your Instagram in general, keep reading as I tell you why I think Instagram is purposely trying to sabotage bloggers.

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A lot of fellow bloggers on Instagram have struggled with something called shadowbanning. In case you haven’t heard of it previously, shadowbanning is when you use certain hashtags on a post, but when you go to click on that hashtag, your post is not visible to any other Instagrams but your own. Essentially, it is called a shadowban because they don’t tell you personally that your post has been banned from certain hashtags; rather, they do it “in the shadows,” so to speak (AKA, they do it behind your back). Ideally, this will prevent spam accounts from getting attention from using hashtags by repeatedly using the same wildly popular hashtags. However, the problem is that it is also affecting us bloggers who genuinely work hard on our posts, just to have no one see them, and to have no idea that it is happening makes matters even worse.

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When the non-spam accounts of Instagram gathered in an uproar when we discovered what was happening, this was the response we got:

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Honestly, I am not even sure where to begin to point out all of the things that are kind of unacceptable in this response. You do not have the resources available? Really? So where exactly has all that revenue that you have raked in from the millions of ads you have added to our feeds? (Yes, millions – you read that correctly.) Then after that, the rest of the response is essentially telling us all to go screw ourselves (forgive the crudeness) because our creativity should be good enough to attract attention to our brands. Sorry, but when there are so many people trying to fit into the SAME niche where we ALL have good quality, creative content to share, unfortunately that is not enough to attract new people to what we are creating every day. 

So, Instagram, what do we have to work with here? Good, quality content that is nearly impossible to get seen by a new audience because of a hashtag issue that you supposedly cannot fix? They claim that their potential solution is ‘improving your content’, but conveniently, if you pay to promote a post, you are nearly guaranteed to have your post reach that new audience that your hashtags will no longer show your post to! Coincidence? I think not. Personally, I think Instagram is using shadowbanning as a way to deter blogger’s growth and force them to pay for their posts to be promoted. I understand Instagram is a business and this is the new way of the world, but claiming that you are working on an issue that you most likely put in place for monetary gain is definitely not okay, in my book.

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Last year, Instagram changed its algorithm from most recent posts at the top to… something else. Although Instagram will not release the exact nature of its new algorithm, this new algorithm is is designed to show you the most relevant posts to your personal interests first. They do this most likely based on a combination of multiple factors, such as your interactions with other accounts, how popular the post is, and whether or not it was posted recently. One supposed major factor to this algorithm is how much interaction a post gets in a short amount of time. The more instantaneous interaction a post gets, the more likely it is to appear towards the top of someone’s feed. In theory, this feature would work in order to filter out low quality posts on Instagram that no one interacts with, in order to keep everyone’s feed to quality content that is relevant to their interests. 

Personally, I can see the benefits of this new algorithm, ideally. However, there is one thing that kind of interferes with this actually working: the promoted posts I mentioned earlier. Like I said before, around last Christmas, Instagram added TENS OF MILLIONS of ads to everyone’s Instagram feeds. So, basically every time you go to load the next section of your Instagram feed, you will see at least one ad. Although this doesn’t sound like much, when you think about how many of our non-promoted posts that get pushed further down due to the bombardment of ads on our feeds, it really starts to add up. For us as bloggers, this is critical, due to this new algorithm. Unless our posts get instantaneous engagement, we will be pushed even further down our followers’ Instagram feeds, on top of how far down we were already pushed by ads. Hopefully you will begin to see what I have unfortunately realized: Instagram is letting bloggers suffer in order to make a buck.

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Is it a personal attack on bloggers and media influencers, per say? Maybe not. However, if you think about it, the more offput we are as bloggers, the more Instagram has to gain. If we do not grow, brands will be less likely to go directly to us for their advertising needs (sponsored posts, reviews, PR, etc.) and they will go through Instagram instead, who has many different forms of ads to supply (promoted posts, Insta story ads, etc). In a sense, bloggers are competing with Instagram to work with brands. Rather than working with us and encouraging our growth, like Youtube does for its users, Instagram is essentially allowing greed to drive its actions. It is a sad reality, because if you think about it, Instagram’s wild popularity is due, in part, to us bloggers and social media influencers who bust our asses producing quality content to draw other users in to use the app more frequently. Rather than working with us, Instagram is working against us. 

I sincerely apologize that this blog post is a more negative one, but so many people are curious as to what is going on with Instagram lately, why their accounts are seemingly doing worse and worse, and I genuinely feel that this is the truth, and our community deserves the right to know what is really going on, rather than what Instagram wants us to believe. Although this is mostly speculative, I have found articles online that seem to support my beliefs (which I have not linked due to a lack of time needed, but Google has all the resources you need if you want to do some fact checking). If you do not agree with me, that is totally understandable and I will not hold that against you. This just seems like a reasonable conclusion, as the timing of their new changes and the decrease in engagement happen to coincide, and keep in mind that Instagram is a business, so these kinds of actions are not entirely implausible. Please let me know your thoughts below! Make sure you follow my blog for new updates, and follow my social media (Twitter & Instagram) for flatlays, reviews, makeup news & more. Thanks for reading! Mwah!

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PR

A Beginner’s Guide to Receiving PR: How Bloggers Can Appeal to their Favorite Brands

Being a single blogger in a sea of Manny MUAs and Jaclyn Hills can be pretty intimidating, especially when they show a new huge PR haul with free name brand goodies on a daily basis. You can’t help but wonder, ‘How can I get some of that stuff myself?’ Well, now you can stop wondering, because I’m here to help. While I am no Youtube or Instagram star, I am a relatively small beauty blogger who has been fortunate enough to receive a generous amount of PR, despite my smaller following. I am constantly receiving questions from YOU beauties about how I am fortunate enough to receive this PR, so I was inspired to start this blog and share my experience so we can all share the fortune.

How do I get in touch with brands?

“How do you begin getting PR?” – @attractiveanalysis

My best advice that I can give to this question is this: Do not wait for brands to come to YOU. As I mentioned before, we are all lost in a sea of beauty bloggers, desperately trying to get a fabulous pink sparkly boat that is one of our favorite brands to hear our whistle blowing and maybe stop to bring us on board. *cue Titanic theme song*


The best life saver in this situation (besides a floating metal door) is to introduce yourself via email. If you do not have a professional email dedicated to your blog already, I highly suggest creating one. I would advise against giving a personal email or an email that you previously used, as it is easy for important emails from brand representatives to get lost in those endless emails from Bed Bath & Beyond reminding you to use your 20% off coupon.

Once you have your own email set up, the next step is to find the brand’s contact email. If you discover a brand via Instagram, they will typically have an email button on their profile, if their profile is a business profile.


If they do not have an email button, they may have their email in their bio. If there is no sign of an email anywhere on their Instagram profile, the last step would be to check the brand’s website. Typically, a brand will have a Contact Us tab on the bottom of every page of their website, or under their Menu tabs. 


Here, you may encounter one of two things: the email address you were looking for, or a contact form to fill out. A contact form will typically ask for your name, the subject of your inquiry, your email and/or phone number, and your message for the company. Fill out everything carefully and accurately, and cross your fingers that the brand will get back to you via the email address you provided.


Why should brands work with me?

Now that you know how to get in touch with the brand you’re interested in working with, the next concern is what to write in the email. Before you get to the main body of the email, make sure you fill in the subject line. It may seem arbitrary of me to remind you of this, but this is the first thing that the brand representative sees from you in their inbox, so you want to be professional and to the point. In a few words at most, let the brand know why you are emailing them and what the email is about. If it is about PR, I would include the term PR in the subject line, so they can direct you to the correct members of their team, if necessary. 


Now, we finally get to start writing the actual email. I would recommend starting off the email with a professional, yet friendly greeting. You don’t need to be too formal, as you want some of your personality to shine through the email, and you don’t want to sound like a robot! You can say something such as Good morning/afternoon/evening, Greetings, Hello, etc.


As for the substance of the email, this is the most important, and most personal, part of the whole process! This is when you get to appeal to the brand and tell them why they should work with you. This is the part that I leave up to you! Although we are all lost in a sea of bloggers, this does not mean we are lost to ourselves. No one knows you better than you! So highlight your unique qualities, your blog’s strengths, what services you provide (reviews, product shots, blog posts, etc.) and anything else that makes you as a blog stand out. Also, be sure to mention if you have prior experience working with brands similar to the one you are reaching out to, and even if you don’t, don’t let that deter you from reaching out! We all have to start somewhere, right? 

Which brands do I reach out to?

“Do you use the company’s products and feature them on your Instagram page prior to asking for PR?” – @cosmeticsbychristina

It is easy to get caught up in bigger bloggers/Youtubers PR hauls from huge companies like Urban Decay and Tarte. While I do think that we can all get to that level of success if we work hard enough, if you are just starting out as a blogger, or don’t have much experience with PR, it is probably best to start off small and work your way up with stepping stones. As your blog grows, more opportunities will be given to you & more of these bigger, high end brands will have you on board. Until you get to that point, look to work with smaller, indie brands who are trying to make a name for themselves, just like you. If you have smaller brands that you know & love, try reaching out to them, first. If you can review products you are already familiar with, you can then go on to review products & brands that are totally new to you with even more accuracy! To answer Christina’s question, I do tend to work more with brands that I never have tried before – however, it has allowed me to discover new favorite brands and new holy grail products. However, do not reach out to new brands with the goal of receiving as much free stuff as possible. While the feeling of receiving free product is exciting, if your heart is in it for the wrong reasons, it will show through everything you do. I say this because it is good to reach out to new brands to try out their product, but do it for the right reasons!

As beauty bloggers, when we receive new makeup goodies, we are always inclined to share it with our followers right away. A good way to do it is through Snapchat or Instagram stories, so we can vlog us unboxing our new product. As beauty bloggers, we also love to see what goodies other fellow makeup addicts get, so we can see if we need to get it for ourselves! Watching other people’s unboxings is a great way to discover new brands, especially if it is a PR unboxing! If they are a similar account to yours, or have a similar follower count, it is more likely that brand will be willing to work with you, as well. 

Another part of being a beauty blogger is to, of course, post about any PR that we receive, or new makeup purchases we are excited about. Staying active and scrolling down your Instagram feed will ensure that you see other bloggers posts about new PR they receive, as well as PR that they are getting around to reviewing. In both unboxings and regular posts, be sure to check who is tagged in the picture, as that will give you access to the brands’ Instagram page so you can check out their posts, website, and eventually email them with PR inquiries. 

What is a PR firm?

“How do you begin to work with PR firms? I have reached out to quite a few of them and did not hear back.” – @glamourandgiggles

To my understanding, a PR firm is basically a middle man for a company and people of interest to that company, who they would want to send complimentary product to. The PR firm is hired by the company to seek out people like celebrities and social media stars or beauty bloggers who would be beneficial to the company if they shared their product. PR firms also do things like organize events, and even more than that, but for the purpose of a beauty blogger, you will most likely be dealing with them for PR inquiries. In my experience, PR firms may be a little more tricky to get a hold of than the companies they may represent. They are less likely to have Instagrams, and more likely to have websites. Of the ones I have found on Instagram, only a handful have corresponded with me, or responded to me at all. However, the couple that I have worked with have been beyond generous and such a wonderful experience.  In terms of PR firms, my best advice is to not be discouraged if you do not get much of a response, as some of them do focus more on planning events and getting written exposure for their brands, rather than exposure through social media. Try to find the diamond in the rough and you will get a PR firm that will work best with you!

I really hope that this post was helpful to those of you who are curious, confused, or scared of PR, or even those who are experienced with PR! This is just a basic beginner’s guide, and I do plan on making more posts in the future about PR, how to improve your Instagram, and much more. If you have any specific questions, feel free to leave them here, or on my Instagram @beautyandabeatface, linked above & next to this post. Until next time!