Review: Dr. Jart+ Premium Beauty Balm SPF 45 PA+++

Since May is National Skin Cancer Awareness Month (right, I knew that, of course I knew that, how dare you suggest that my previous posts on sunscreen were just happy coincidences), I thought I might as well keep on with another review of a tinted sunscreen. Or a tinted primer with sunscreen. Or a sunscreen primer that’s tinted. Whatever.

If you cruise around the billions and billions of makeup blogs on the interwebz, you are sure to come across a mention or two of a mysterious product called a BB (beauty balm) cream, which hails from the Asian markets. BB creams are touted to moisturize, act as a primer, provide sunscreen, lighten the skin, heal blemishes and minor skin injuries, act as a tinted moisturizer, record all of your favorite shows on TV, do your dishes, change the oil in your car, bake oatmeal cookies, walk the dog, and predict the winner of America’s Next Top Model (DidYouWatchThatLastCycleOhMyGodSheTotallyDidn’tDeserveToWin). I am only slightly exaggerating. They’re like Jesus in a tube.

Since these are so popular in the Asian market, you would figure it would only be a matter of time before they are released into the wild — which is to say, into the slavering barbaric lands of the West. And indeed, within the last several weeks, the eagle has landed for a couple of these products. Unfortunately, saith the blogosphere, these Westernized BB creams lack most of the awesome power of the originals. Having never tried the originals (but hoping to pick one up someday), I can’t vouch for that. However — just because they aren’t the same as Asian BB creams doesn’t mean they aren’t worth exploring in their own right. I am here today to defend one of these products: Dr. Jart+ Premium Beauty Balm SPF 45 PA+++.

First of all, I don’t know why Dr. Jart+ has a + after his name. It makes me want to add something there too. You know, like Ke$ha. I could be Vøxy. Or, Vöxy. Or Voxyº, which symbolizes that I am hot hot hot. Or Voxy± to signify my ambivalence about something. Ideas?

Right. On to the actual review. Forget anything that you might have heard about what other BB creams are like and just see if you like this product for what it is. I have to say, I really love it. (Løve it.)

I would describe this as a tinted primer with SPF. It is heavy on the silicone, so those who are not ‘cone-a-holics may want to avoid this one. It is also, I am delighted to say, definitely, defiantly pink in tone. Hä! We çool-tonéd girlß will tâke contró£ oƒ the wö®l∂ 1 of thésè dª¥z. You wait and see.

While in Hell recently, I used it as a primer in the morning over a liquid sunscreen by Cosmedix, and used the previously-reviewed e.l.f. mineral powder sunscreen as a finishing powder and for touchups during the day. The combination worked great; I didn’t come home with any tanning of facial skin. Now that I am no longer in Hell, and neither the heat nor the UV exposure are quite as extreme, I can eliminate the Cosmedix and just go with the Dr. Jart and the e.l.f.

As a primer, I find it not *quite* sufficient for the areas of my face that really need help in terms of camouflaging larger pores — that is to say, my nose and surrounding territories. This is easily remedied by applying my favorite primer (Too Faced Primed & Poreless) either on top or beneath the Dr. Jart. That is seriously my only complaint about the product. The color is a great match for me; it has enough coverage to even out skin tone but not so much that it looks fake-ly opaque; it wears well through the day; it’s easy to blend — in short, it’s a big tube of WIN. (No Jesus, though. Sorry.)

For those who are wondering about the “+++” business, this is one part of the Asian-market sunscreen effectiveness designation. Not for them our measly UVA/UVB  or “SPF 15” designations (though the Dr. Jart people do tell us that this is SPF 45). US sunscreen designations tell us the strength of the UVB protection, but not that of the UVA protection; we are merely warned to choose a sunscreen that says it has “broad spectrum” protection. The PA system (which comes in +, ++, or +++) is like its European compatriot PPD (Persistent Pigment Darkening) in that it measures the strength of protection against UVA rays, the part of American sunscreen designations that’s woefully missing. PA+ products offer “some” UVA protection, and correspond to a European PPD grade of 2-4. (Note that’s not at all the same as an SPF of 2-4!) PA++ products are generally what’s touted as your everyday sunscreen, and correspond to European PPD 4-8. PA+++ is the top mark and corresponds to European PPD of 8 or above; obviously this is the kind you want to pick up if you can get it. The product under review today both has an SPF of 45 (UVB) and is designated PA+++ … so, definitely worth picking up from a protection point of view.

This was a dream to apply and blended well with my skin (but remember, I am both light and pink). It lasted all day but was not stubborn when it came time to remove it. The packaging is neat and clean, with a pump top under the black cap. I do wonder a little bit how well the pump will dispense product when the tube starts to approach empty, but that’s a problem for a future date. I will definitely repurchase this, since it can fulfill most of the functions of my foundation and gives a higher level of sun protection to boot. Note that I’m thinking of it as a foundation replacement, not a primer replacement — I’ll still use my Primed and Poreless in conjunction with it to make sure that areas that need extra primer coverage are, well, covered.

The blurriness in the photo at the top is not that I was drunk while I was taking the picture (come on, you were thinking it, you know you were) but is instead due to the odd way the printing is applied to the tube. It’s cool-looking but doesn’t photograph well.



Dr. Jart+ Premium Beauty Balm SPF 45 PA+++: $39 at Sephora

Provenance: Purchased

Price/Value Ratio (high-end: poor/fair/good/excellent): Fair. A bit pricey.

Purchase again? Yes (though I’ll also be checking out other BB creams as they hit the U.S. market)

(Have you used this product? Love it? Hate it? Want it? Give a holler in the comments!)

Review: NARS Smudgeproof Eyeshadow Base

September 1, 2010

Dear Diary,

I think I have to leave Too Faced Shadow Insurance. We’ve been together for such a long time, and it’s been great, but I just wonder whether there’s anything better out there. What if TFSI isn’t The One? How will I know if I never try being with other primers?

There’s a really sleek-looking new guy in town: NARS Smudgeproof Eyeshadow Base. I think I want to give it a shot with him and see how it works out. He was giving me the eye in Sephora the other day and I think next time I’m there I’m going to have to take him home with me.


September 4, 2010

Dear Diary,

I told TFSI I needed to “take a break.” It didn’t go well. There were tears, and accusations, and throwing things, and now he just sits on my counter, glaring. I tried to cover him up with some Kleenex so he didn’t have to see me with NARS but I could feel his disapproval anyway.

NARS is definitely smooth. A sharp dresser — black-and-white is always classic! — and very elegant. Goes on smooth, but two minutes later he’s virtually disappeared! I’m not sure if that’s a plus or a minus.


September 18, 2010

Dear Diary,

It’s been two weeks with NARS now. Although he promises he’ll stick around, I’m not so sure he really lives up to his word. I mean, he’s still there at the end of the day and all, but life doesn’t seem as vivid anymore. Colors don’t seem as bright. And I’m pretty sure I caught him creasing a few days ago. Not cool. Not cool at all.

TFSI has retreated to the back of the counter and is now resentful and sullen. I think he is enlisting my cleansers in a glaring campaign. The bathroom does not feel very friendly these days.


September 30, 2010

Dear Diary,

That’s it! I’m done with NARS. He is a smooth talker but in the end he’s just not for me. Oh, dear TFSI, I can’t believe how foolish I was! Can you ever forgive me? You make everything seem more colorful, and when you say you won’t leave me, I know it’s true. NARS wasn’t as trustworthy as you are — and I know it’s petty, but I really never liked his, er, applicator. And you know I’m not in it for the money, but you are a much better value than he is (with you, I get 0.35 oz of translucent mocha goodness for $18, and NARS only gives me 0.26 oz for $24).

Forgive me, my darling! I’ll love you forever!





NARS Smudgeproof Eyeshadow Base: $24

Provenance: Purchased

Price/Value Ratio (high-end: poor/fair/good/excellent): Poor to fair. The other major players in the eye primer market cost less per oz.

Purchase again? No! Come scoglio immoto resta contra i venti e la tempesta, così ognor quest’alma è forte, nella fede è nell’amor. (Get your opera on here.)

(Have you used this product? Love it? Hate it? Want it? Give a holler in the comments!)

Review: Benefit That Gal Primer

Before I went on my Benefit Boycott, I had already picked up a container of their That Gal primer. Since it’s summer and I wanted to try a lighter primer (and, OK, because I could no longer return it), I got it out and road-tested it for a couple of days.

That Gal is a primer meant to “brighten” skin, which, based on the color of the product, evidently means “turn it pink” in Benefit-speak. Luckily, it fails in this regard. It actually fails in pretty much every regard. At least it’s consistent.

That Gal is a very pink primer that fortunately goes on lighter than it appears. However, on skin the color just seems to disappear (I had to use quite a bit for the swatch), so there is no brightening effect at all that I can see — and since my skin is on the fair side, you would think that results would show up on me. There is some silicone in it, though not a ton, so there is a slight smoothing effect, but the product feels light, which is about its only virtue.

So you can’t see it, and you can’t feel it. You wouldn’t even know you’re wearing it — and neither will anyone else because (at least on me) it had absolutely zero effect on improving the canvas of my skin for makeup, brightening the skin, or extending the wear-length of my makeup. Fail.

And, to add insult to insult, I also hate the dispensing mechanism. It reminds me of a Play-Doh toy that was advertised when I was a child. It surely was not called the Play-Doh Fake Meat Grinder And Extruder, but it ought to have been.

Photos and swatches:


Benefit That Gal: $28

Provenance: Purchased.

Price/Value Ratio (high-end: poor/fair/good/excellent): Poor.

Purchase again? Well, let me think about it … no.

(Have you used this product? Love it? Hate it? Want it? Give a holler in the comments!)

Review: Smashbox Iconic Eyes Kit


Dear Smashbox, I was *so* not going to get this kit. Really. Wasn’t gonna do it. Then you sucked me in with that gorgeous, gorgeous picture of the blue-and-brown smoky eye. And I admit it, I was tempted. Mostly because of the blue. That’s a really nice shade of blue. And then unfortunately I happened to stop by ULTA to pick up some facial cleanser (my brand of which they no longer appear to carry, WTF?) and there was the display/tester setup of the products in this kit. And because I was annoyed about not being able to get my facial cleanser, I decided that I would just test out that blue shadow, you know, just to see. Because the trip shouldn’t have been for nothing, right? And dammit AGAIN, that blue was a really nice shade on my hand. And the other colors in that palette were nice too. Crap. Smashbox, you suck.

Of course I bought it. What do you think I am made of, stone?

So. This little wonder-in-a-box contains the following: a mirrored eyeshadow quad (the shades seem, oddly, to be unnamed, but there’s a blue, a chocolate brown, and two highlighter shades, one peachy, one pinkish), a dual cream liner pot in “Infamous” (blue/brown), a deluxe sample size of Smashbox’s Photo Finish eyelid primer, a full-size Bionic Mascara, and two brushes (one shadow, one flat liner). Really, it’s quite a lot of product for $47, and it comes with instructions on how to create the various looks shown on the front of the box.

The four shades in the shadow quad are all quite nice; the darker shades are well-pigmented and the blue maintains its blue color and doesn’t go grey on skin (a pet peeve of mine about blue shadows). The highlighter colors are very light; it’s possible to blend the shadows to get a nice gradient from light to dark but you will need a bit of patience since they’re so far apart to start with.

I was excited to try the Photo Finish lid primer, and I used it instead of my regular TFSI. Unfortunately, this wasn’t a win for me, since I had some creasing and some color loss in the shadow as the day went on.

I haven’t had a huge amount of luck with Smashbox creme eyeliners; on me they have tended to smudge and fade. But, as with another recent review product, I haven’t tried them since I started wearing MAC paint pots as eyeshadow bases. So I’ll be trying them again, hopefully with better results. The brown half of the liner is a nice rich color; the blue half looks great in the pot but does that thing that I hate and turns to blue-grey on my skin. (I’ll be sticking with my MAC Petrol Blue Pearlglide eyeliner pencil for a blue liner.)

I haven’t broken out the mascara yet, only because I already have a mascara open and since they go bad more quickly than other cosmetics I like to only have one going at a time. In case you are curious, the “Bionic”-ness of it is explained by Smashbox as follows: “BIONIC is the first-ever ionic formula mascara. The primary ingredient in BIONIC is a chain molecule with a positive charge. The friction caused by sweeping the mascara brush across lashes causes a negative charge. Since opposites attract, the positively charged formula adheres to the negatively charged lashes for a dramatic effect that lasts all day.” (We will ignore the fact that the first listed ingredient in the mascara is, er, water.) Since the Bionic mascara is also sold on its own, I may review it when I get around to changing mascaras.

I like Smashbox brushes a lot, though I’d have preferred a slanted liner brush to a squared-off one, since I find these easier to use in applying cream liners. The shadow brush is nice: not too large, grabs product well, blends well, no prickly bristles on sensitive eyelid skin.

Products and swatches:

Liner shades on left, shadow on right. You can hardly even see the two highlighter shades on my skin; that’s how light they are.


Smashbox Iconic Eyes Kit: $47

Provenance: Purchased.

Price/Value Ratio (high-end: poor/fair/good/excellent): Good. If all of the products were as good as the shadow, it’d be Excellent.

Purchase again? Yes; in general I like their kits though I rarely have 100% success with all the products in them.

(Have you used these products? Love ’em? Hate ’em? Want ’em? Give a holler in the comments!)

Review: Too Faced Lip Insurance Lip Primer

“No matter how wet or sweaty you get – your lips aren’t going anywhere!”

Oh, wait, sorry — wrong product. (Sorry; I’m still laughing about that.)

As a fan of Too Faced Primed and Poreless facial primer and Shadow Insurance eyelid primer, I was chomping at the bit (sort-of pun sort-of intended) to try their new Lip Insurance lip primer. Result: hat trick for Too Faced on the primer front. This is an excellent and really useful product.

I love lip color, but, as an inherently lazy creature, hate to reapply. Seriously, I can research and write a book, do a 16-hour grading marathon, and spend hours on getting the color just exactly right in a visual art project, but apparently slapping on a second coat of lip gloss after lunch is just too demanding a task. This really does increase the wearlength of lipsticks, glosses, and stains.

Lip Insurance is a thin whitish cream that you apply to clean lips with a doe-foot applicator. Upon application it turns basically colorless and helps to smooth and fill in lip lines. It’s best to have your lipstick or gloss laid out and ready to go before applying, because if you apply this product and then spend five minutes picking out a lipstick, your lips will be dry and crunchy by the time you get the lipstick on. (Ask me how I know.)

I have to say I was really surprised by how well this product works. Anything but a long-wearing stain is usually off my lips in less than two hours, and this got my lipstick and gloss through a good four hours — and that’s four hours of talking and eating and doing all of the things you’re not supposed to do if you want your lipstick to last (which is, basically, everything). Yes, I lost some shine and color, but it was much better than the without-primer version.

I haven’t yet tried this with a bright red lipstick that might feather, so I can’t say whether or not it helps with lipstick bleeding outside the lip line. I have tried it with regular lipsticks, glosses, and balms, and it’s worked great with all three. This is a great product for everyday use, and would be especially useful before an event or party at which you need to look put-together for a long time but don’t want to be sneaking off every ten minutes to re-prettify your pout. Definitely a keeper.


Too Faced Lip Insurance: $19 (The photo on Too Faced’s site shows a brush applicator but mine is a doe-foot, so there must have been some change in the product design; it also says the color is “colorless,” which it is, but then it shows a color that is far from colorless. Just so you know.)

Provenance: Purchased

Price/Value Ratio (high-end: poor/fair/good/excellent): Good, so far. We’ll see how long the tube lasts.

Purchase again? Yes.

(Have you used this product? Love it? Hate it? Want it? Give a holler in the comments!)

Review: MAC Paint Pots

These have come up in the comments recently, so I thought I’d do a brief review/how-to on them.

MAC Paint Pots are opaquely pigmented creams that are most often used as eyeshadow bases. Colors range from neutrals to brights and finishes from matte to shimmer. (The shades in the permanent collection tend to be neutrals; brights tend to be part of LE releases.) Their major selling point is that they make eyeshadow color more intense and last longer while also preventing or reducing creasing. I apply mine over TFSI and have only had one creasing problem, ever; it was with a cream shadow and I haven’t had a single problem with creasing using powder shadows since I added a paint pot to my makeup routine. Shadows last all day with the same intensity and color they had when you first applied them. These are great little products.

That said, there are some tricks to working with them.

If you’re just starting with these, I recommend beginning with one of the neutral colors. If you are light-skinned with pink undertones (like me), try Painterly; if you’re light-skinned with yellow undertones, try Soft Ochre. (I use both of these depending on what I’m going to put on top; if I’m going to do a bronze eye, I use Soft Ochre; purple or nude eyes get Painterly.) If these are too light for you, try Groundwork (which MAC describes as “midtone neutral taupe”) or Quite Natural (chocolate brown). The opacity of the paint pot will totally cover up eyelid redness or veins. Magic, I tell you!

The biggest complaint you will hear about paint pots is that they can dry out and then need to be re-creamified with Visine. (See: Dear Cosmetics Companies, Please Make Your Products Smaller And Charge Less For Them So We Do Not Waste Money On Products That We Will Never See The Bottom Of.) In order to prevent this, the interwebz cosmetics community has come up with the superstition that if you store them upside down, this won’t happen. Of course this makes no difference at all — but it does allow you to see which color is which if you have a bunch of them in your makeup drawer. In general I like MAC’s packaging, but those big opaque black lids do make it difficult to distinguish different shades of the same product from one another.

I try to stave off the drying-out problem by applying with a damp brush, and so far this has worked well for me. This is a product for which a brush is far superior than fingertips for application.

First I apply my TFSI, and after about a minute, when I’m sure it’s dry, I run a flat concealer brush under the faucet briefly, wipe the excess water on my arm, and swipe it several times across the face of the product. I apply to one eyelid at a time, being sure to blend the edges out well and quickly — once it sets, it’s set, so you will want to be sure you have really blended it well and have gotten it all the way down to the lash line on the upper lid. You can also try using it as a concealer — for me it works better in the inner corner of the eye than as an undereye concealer, but your mileage may vary. As it dries, it will develop a slightly sticky texture (which is why fingertips aren’t so great for application; you end up pulling on the skin of the eyelid a lot and the application tends to be blotchy). You will get the best results if you start applying eye products before it gets too dry, so I next apply an all-over eye color in something that is as close as possible to whichever paint pot I’m using. Most of the time the paint pot is Painterly, and most of the time the eye color is MAC Brule. This serves as a nearly-invisible setting powder, and now the canvas is perfectly prepped for the application of other colors.

Shadows applied to a lid prepped with a paint pot keep their color and intensity all day — it’s really impressive. TFSI by itself does a great job of keeping shadow on the lid, but there is some fading. With a paint pot underneath, the shadows not only stay on the lid, but they keep their color without graying out.

The darker or brighter shades are fun to use under particular eyeshadow colors. Rubenesque is a light rosy-peachy-gold shimmer; Indianwood is an antiqued bronze; Coral Crepe (new with this spring’s collections) is, well, coral.

Swatches of Soft Ochre and Painterly:

Soft Ochre:


Man, fingers are funny-looking things, huh?


MAC Paint Pots: $16.50

Provenance: Purchased.

Price/Value Ratio (mid-range: poor/fair/good/excellent): Good.

Purchase again? Yes, this is a must-have for me.

(Have you used this product? Love it? Hate it? Want it? Give a holler in the comments!)

Review: Tarte Clean Slate Primer

If you like silicone primers, and are interested in one that a) is colorless, and 2) purports to have skin-rejuvenating abilities to boot, then get thee out posthaste and trade thy chickens and goats for Tarte’s Clean Slate Primer. It costs $30, so I don’t know exactly how many chickens and goats that would be, but it can’t be very many.

In the “Voxy’s Favorite Primers” cagematch, this is proving an equal competitor to Too Faced’s Primed and Poreless primer in terms of performance. They are both silicone-based and leave a very smooth finish. Too Faced’s primer is also $30, or the equivalent number of chickens and goats, but it is only 1 oz. whereas the Tarte Clean Slate is 1.16 oz., so the Tarte is a little bit better value for the money. Performance-wise, they’re about equal; I don’t notice a significant difference between them.

If you are new to primers, they go on between moisturizer and foundation, and help your foundation, bronzer, and/or blush to last longer. I was anti-primer for a long time, since I hadn’t found any that made a difference for me, and then the Too Faced product won me over. (They are also the makers of Too Faced Shadow Insurance [TFSI], which is a great eyeshadow primer, and they’ve just come out with Lip Insurance, which is a primer for … well, I bet you can guess. I’m hoping the Lip Insurance will be in stock at Sephora next time I’m there so I can test it!) I also use them under tinted moisturizers, since I think of TMs as basically just a kind of foundation, and they really do make a difference. This product has a silicone base; they’ve just come out with a non-silicone primer as well (part of their ReCreate line), so if you are not a fan of silicone you might want to try that one instead.

Does it have “skin-rejuvenating” abilities? I can’t really say; I slather a lot of other products on my face every day and so it’s pretty hard to tell. It doesn’t seem to be doing me any harm, though, so I suppose that’s a step in the right direction.


Tarte Clean Slate Primer: $30

Provenance: Purchased.

Price/Value Ratio (high-end: poor/fair/good/excellent): Good. Of course things could always cost a little less in terms of chickens and goats, but this is acceptable, and I really like the product.

Purchase again? Yes, but this and Primed & Poreless are going to have to share the love.

(Have you used this product? Love it? Hate it? Want it? Give a holler in the comments!)

Beauty on the Cheap: 3 Foxalicious Upgrades to the $50 Challenge

So let’s say you already have some of those things I mentioned yesterday. Let’s assume that somewhere in your life you managed to acquire a lip gloss, or a blush, or a tube of foundation that you like. Now you’re probably rattling around with all sorts of loose change in your pockets, since you didn’t spend all of your $50, and wondering what else you could buy.

Why yes, of course I have suggestions. ;)

These suggestions are going to go a bit beyond the basic. So if you already have the elements of a starter kit and are ready to add a product or two, keep reading. I’m no longer working within the $50 limit, but I am keeping this to drugstore products only.


L’Oreal has just come out with a really, really nice primer that’s newly available at Target. It’s called the L’Oreal Studio Secrets Secret No. 1 Magic Perfecting Base, and it normally retails for $10.99 (right now it’s 10% off at my Target and online). I haven’t seen it anywhere else yet, but I’m sure it’s on the way. Both Targets at which I’ve seen the product also have a tester available in the display, so you can try it on the back of your hand. I was so impressed with it that I bought one (again, the fact that it was on sale and I had a small Target gift card burning a hole in my removable wallet helped) and will do a full review of it soon. It has the same smooth silicon texture as high-end primers. If you’re interested in seeing what a primer is like, this is the one I’d recommend starting with. It looks pink in the container, but when it’s on your skin it’s translucent and basically colorless, so don’t be put off by that. This would go on before your foundation.

Cream Blush

I love a nice cream or gel blush, and the Almay SmartShade ones are really nice for drugstore products. They have terrifically long staying power, and although it’s certainly possible to apply them boldly, I was also really impressed by how subtly they can be used and still last all day. There are three shades: Pink Rose (light-medium pink), Natural (more peachy/brown-toned), and Berry (slightly deeper pink). There’s also a bronzer if you’d like to experiment with that. These are all $8.39 at (I forgot to price them at Target; sorry!).

Finishing Powder

A liquid/cream foundation is nice, but sometimes you want a dusting of powder on top to blend products, cover any remaining shine, give a soft-focus effect, or create a velvety texture. For a drugstore product, one of the best choices (in my humble opinion) is Cover Girl Professional Loose Powder (about $5.25-$5.50 depending on where you shop). These powders are translucent rather than opaquely pigmented, so they’re not good as a foundation unless you are quite young and have excellent skin to start out with — you just don’t get a lot of coverage. But if your skin is good and you just want something to use to reduce shine, they’re an excellent choice, and because they are translucent, they work well as a finishing powder over other makeup. Please throw the poofy thing out immediately. Use the fluffiest powder brush you have, or a skunk brush if you happen to own one (note: not actually made from skunk).

L’Oreal also makes one of these in their Bare Naturale line; it’s called Bare Naturale Mineral Finish and it comes in two slightly tinted shades (Translucent and Translucent Medium), one shimmery shade (Luminizing) and one mattifying shade (called, er, Mattifying). I use the palest tinted shade, the Translucent, as one of the ingredients in my custom mineral powder blend; it sheers out the mixture and makes it a little less opaque. The Mattifying shade is one I haven’t tried but it seems to be similar to the Make Up For Ever HD powder that I reviewed previously — it’s also silica-based, although it has considerably more ingredients than the MUFE product. (One of those ingredients is carnauba wax, and I can’t quite figure out what that’s doing in a mattifying powder since it is more often used to hold emulsions together and make them shiny — think lipstick.) These are all $12.49 at Target.

So there are some variations for you. I’d love to hear about any other great drugstore finds and/or steals you’ve discovered, so please post them in the comments!

Review: Benefit Stay Don’t Stray Eye Primer

I recently read some internet posts by Benefit sales associates describing Benefit’s aggressive sales practices (as in: your job is to go forth into other departments of, say, Nordstrom’s, and come up to women while they are looking at, say, shoes, and pull them over to the Benefit counter and try to sell them, say, makeup) that make me not really want to buy anything else from this company, and that kind of make me regret having bought the few Benefit products I already own. I don’t want to encourage any company that advocates such aggressive sales tactics. It’s rude.

Nevertheless, I thought I should finish this review I started of Benefit’s Stay Don’t Stray Eye Primer, and we’ll see how likely I am to buy or review Benefit products in future.

I am a staunch fan of Too Faced Shadow Insurance eyeshadow primer (which I have reviewed previously), so it would take a lot to get me to abandon that product. However, when I swatched this product at Sephora, I was impressed by the coverage, and so I thought I would add it to my arsenal. (My TFSI was a little jealous at first but has gotten over it.)

Benefit’s Stay Don’t Stray primer is supposed to be a combination primer and concealer, which is what’s attractive about it. According to Benefit, you can use it both on the eyelid and on the undereye area. Whereas TFSI goes on a sheer cappuccino color but dries nude, Stay Don’t Stray goes on a sort of light camel color (definitely more yellow than pink) and stays that way. It’s relatively opaque. TFSI does not offer anything in the way of coverage, really, but does provide a nice smooth canvas for eyeshadows and helps the color stay fresh.

The pump takes some getting used to, as it is really better thought of not as a “pump” at all. If you use it like a regular pump, which is to say by putting your finger on the top of it and pressing down, you will get far, far too much product, even if you try to use a very light touch. Instead, tap the top of the pump with your index finger several times, like maybe 10-20, until you start to see product appear at the spout. You can keep tapping to get the amount you want. It seems weird, but it works. (The very first time you use the product, you might want to try the traditional pump method, just to make sure product is flowing all the way up the pump, but after that, the tapping method works infinitely better.)

If you have oily skin, or are eighteen and have perfect skin, you will probably like this product a lot. If, like me, you are not eighteen (shocker, I know) and/or have drier skin, this may not be a good choice for you. With TFSI, eyeshadows apply very smoothly. Stay Don’t Stray leaves the lid much drier and very matte, so I have a harder time getting a smooth application. Similar complaints about dryness are often made about Urban Decay Primer Potion, so I suspect it’s a deliberate choice of formulation on Benefit’s part rather than some sort of weird unanticipated side effect. Due to the trouble with blending, I haven’t tried it with any complicated eye makeup looks, just with a simple 2-shade look (lighter on the lid, darker in the crease) and with pencil and gel eyeliners. Shadows do not seem to wander off my eyelid, but I don’t think the staying power is any better than TFSI. Because Stay Don’t Stray is yellow-toned and opaque, however, it does brilliantly cover redness/purpleness at the upper lash line, which I sometimes have in the morning after a bad night, so I’m definitely keeping it around to cover that.

It does cover undereye circles if they aren’t too dark, but I’ve had trouble combining it with other products, again because of the dryness. It makes any other concealer that I’ve tried with or on top of it (liquid, cream, or powder) get dry and crusty and settle into lines — but by itself it isn’t quite enough for me. Maybe in the summer, when dryness is less of an issue, this will work better for me. In the meanwhile, I’ll keep it for covering severe red/purpleness on the upper eyelid near the lash line, but I’m sticking with TFSI as a shadow primer and sticking with my regular undereye concealers for dark circles.

For this amount of money, I’d say skip it unless you either a) are a Benefit-aholic, or 2) have eyelids that are oily enough that TFSI doesn’t work for you.

And watch out the next time you go to a department store shoe section! You may be ambushed by a Benefit sales associate hiding behind the clearance rack. Bring pepper spray.


Benefit Stay Don’t Stray Eye Primer: $24

Provenance: Purchased

Price/Value Ratio (high-end: poor/fair/good/excellent): Good. Given how little you use, it will probably last a long time. Wish it were about $5 cheaper.

Purchase again? Probably not; other products serve my needs better. Also, feeling pretty anti-Benefit at the moment.

(Have you used this product? Love it? Hate it? Want it? Give a holler in the comments!)

Review: Josie Maran Argan Primer Mist

Lemming, meet Fox.

So I finally got my little paws on Josie Maran’s brand spanking new Argan Primer Mist. You know I’ve been jonesing for a spray-on serum of some sort for quite awhile, and I had some high hopes for this one, which contains the much-hyped argan oil, supposedly the most exciting cosmetic event since the discovery of cold cream.

Argan oil is produced by putting Argonauts in a blender and … no, of course I’m kidding. Really. The argan tree is native to Morocco, where it has managed to survive since the earth’s Tertiary Age, which ended a mere ~2.6 million years ago. Wikipedia has some interesting things to say about argan oil, such as that in days of yore it used to be produced by picking undigested argan pits out of goat feces and then grinding and pressing them to get the oil out. But don’t worry! Wikipedia says the argan oil used in modern products has “most likely” been harvested and processed in a “verifiably clean and sanitary way.” Most likely.

Anyway, argan oil is full of all of the kinds of things that are good for skin: vitamin E, squalene, carotenes, etc. And, you can also eat it, which I didn’t know. I wonder what it tastes like. (No, I am not going to squirt my Argan Primer Mist in my mouth, so don’t even think about daring me to.)

While I was waiting for this product to arrive in my mailbox, I just happened to find myself in a brick-and-mortar Sephora (other people find themselves on mountaintops or vision quests; I find myself in Sephora… that’s probably indicative of something) and I tested the pure argan oil on my hand. I wanted there to be light suddenly streaming down from heaven and a choir of angels and clouds and stuff, but it was sort of anticlimactic. The oil was — an oil. A light oil that absorbed into my skin and … pretty much did nothing for it. I asked the sales associate whether it’s meant to be applied directly to skin, and she said, in that certain way that says I don’t really know exactly what you’re supposed to do with it, but I bet the more things I can come up with, the more likely it is I can convince you to buy some, “Sure, you can put it right on your skin, or, uh, you can mix it with your moisturizer, or, uh, you can use it on your cuticles, or, uh, hey, have you tried these Josie Maran facial wipes?”

I did not purchase.

Anyhoo, I’m of two minds about the Argan Primer Mist. Mind number one says that it’s way too expensive and isn’t the magic product I hoped it would be. Mind number two notes that it does have an effect, that it’s not a completely useless product, and that maybe the more I use it the more results I will see.

I have tried using this two ways. First, as the package directs, by spritzing it on over moisturizer and before applying makeup. But I can’t really get much effect out of it that way, and it doesn’t seem to really do much for me as a primer. The other way I’ve tried it is after using my cleanser and toner; I spray my face a few times and pat it into the skin before applying other serums and moisturizers. This way seems to work better for me, at least so far. There is a difference in my skin when I subsequently apply another product; it feels like more moisture is retained in the skin. Of course, since we’re still in winter, and indoor heating sucks all of the moisture out of one’s skin anyway, I’m not sure whether there’s a net gain. I have also heard that you could spritz it over your made-up face as a sort of “refresher” in the middle of the day, but I’ve never really been on that train. I kind of think that after spending half an hour on making your face up, it’s kind of silly to spritz it with water midday. But there must be people for whom that works well and doesn’t result in spotty, runny makeup.

So the jury is still out on this. I might find that I notice more of a payoff in springtime as the weather gets warmer and less dry. I’m going to keep using it but at this point am uncertain about buying another bottle.


Josie Maran Argan Primer Mist: $36 at Sephora

Provenance: Purchased,

Price/Value Ratio (high-end: poor/fair/good/excellent): Poor to fair. Spritz-on things should not cost $36.

Purchase again? Highly debatable. Depends which of my two minds is in charge that day.

(Have you used this product? Love it? Hate it? Want it? Give a holler in the comments!)