Review: Urban Decay Melt Down Makeup Remover

Things about which I am skeptical:

1. A picture is really “worth a thousand words.” Doesn’t it depend on what words they are?

2. Beyonce really had “one of the best videos of all time

3. Makeup removers are really a necessary part of everyone’s cleansing regimen

As fascinating as #1 and #2 are, and indeed they are nothing short of riveting, they are a) not the subject of this blog, and b) probably best discussed after a couple of martinis. So let us instead turn to #3, which (in case you have forgotten) is the one about makeup removers.

I’ve never been a believer in makeup removers — either their necessity or their effectiveness. It has always seemed to me that if your cleanser isn’t taking off your makeup, it’s not a very good cleanser. This has become even more true since I picked up a Clarisonic. I’ve tried many makeup removers over the years (mostly because they tend to come in gift-with-purchase kits whether you want them or not) and I haven’t found any that really changed my mind, including the cult favorite Lancome Bi-Facil. Many of them leave their own residue that’s as much trouble to remove as the makeup was in the first place, which seems like kind of a clever trick, if you ask me.

Sephora and ULTA have makeup removal stations for those of us who are avid in-store swatchers (ULTA is a little less conscientious about this, which is annoying when you have sixteen different long-wear eyeliner swatches on your hand and you don’t want to wear them for the next eight hours). Sephora uses their own brand eye makeup remover; I don’t know what ULTA uses because half the time they don’t have any. My local CCO, however, has a really very nice one that was a cream, not a liquid. Oho, said I, what a good idea. It’s like a hand cream that happens to dissolve makeup. You didn’t even need to tissue it off, really. (Note: this was for hand swatches, not makeup removal on the face!) I’m pretty sure that this was Estee Lauder’s Take It Away Total Makeup Remover, but since I wasn’t really in the market for a makeup remover and my visits to the CCO are fairly infrequent, it dropped off my radar pretty quickly.

Until I met Urban Decay’s new Melt Down Makeup Remover, that is. I’m a sucker for the word “melt” in conjunction with cleansing. I spent months mooning over an Adrien Arpel Coconut Makeup Melt cleanser just because it contained both the word “coconut” and the word “melt” in its title. So I couldn’t resist testing this UD product in-store, and when I realized how like the CCO’s Estee Lauder product it was, I had to pick it up and give it a try.

Result: I’m really pleasantly surprised by the performance of this product. I don’t use it every day, only when I’ve done something complicated with eye makeup or made several applications of mineral sunscreen during the day, but it works really well. It’s the texture of a hand cream, and has a scent I can’t quite identify. A little bit like anise, maybe, but it’s mild enough not to be an issue for me. I apply it to a dry face using my fingers, massage it in, and then tissue it off. I do always follow up with my regular cleanser and Clarisonic, but my skin is noticeably softer after cleansing on days I’ve used this as a remover beforehand. My only complaint is that I always underestimate how big of a dollop I need, and so I think I’ll probably run out sooner rather than later.

Is it really a necessary part of cleansing? Nah. I can get clean with my regular cleanser and a Clarisonic. But it does make the job a little easier when I’ve got heavy eye makeup on — or, as previously noted, that e.l.f. mineral sunscreen which is a pain in the neck to get off.

Swatch! (just so you can see the texture)


Urban Decay Melt Down Makeup Remover: $24

Provenance: Purchased.

Price/Value Ratio (mid-range: poor/fair/good/excellent): Poor. See below.

Purchase again? Surprisingly, no, in spite of my favorable review. UD’s charging $24 for 2.5 oz, while the Estee Lauder I originally liked runs at $22 for a whopping 6.7 oz. Now that I’ve got the EL back on my radar, and it’s a considerably better bargain to boot, I’ll be picking up that one instead.

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


Review: philosophy The Winter Escape Gift Set

The Angel and the Devil: A Play in One Very Short Scene

The role of the Angel on Voxy’s Shoulder will be played tonight, as it is every night, by a Sophisticated Lady.

The role of the Devil on Voxy’s Other Shoulder will be played, as usual, by Little Voxy, a very vocal inner six-year-old who likes everything that sparkles, has rhinestones, is pink, and/or smells like cake (or anything in the same general family as cake, which includes pretty much everything that can be found in the baking aisle at the supermarket).

Little Voxy: Hey! Philosophy has a new winter gift set out! It has peppermint hot cocoa body wash in it! And MARSHMALLOW body cream and lip gloss!

Sophisticated Lady: You know that We do not like philosophy.

Little Voxy: But it’s on sale! A really big sale! And it’s marshmallow! That’s my favorite! I mean, besides cake, of course.

Sophisticated Lady: It does not matter. We have tried the products and We do not like them. Also, We have bath products coming out of Our ears.

Little Voxy: Oh. OK. Hey, look over there!

Sophisticated Lady: What? <turns elegantly coiffed head away briefly>

Little Voxy: <swiping credit card> Oh, uh, nothing. I just thought I saw something sensible and boring over there that you might like.

Sophisticated Lady: <sniffs disapprovingly>

Little Voxy: Never mind. Please, go back to what you were telling me about cashmere twinsets and pearl chokers. It was so very interesting. I will just hop on the computer here and take some notes in my web browser, so as not to miss anything. Don’t mind me.

~~ FIN ~~

So, that’s how I ended up with the philosophy Winter Escape gift set. You cannot turn your back on Little Voxy for one minute, apparently. And in her defense, it was a really good sale.

The Winter Escape gift set includes a 4-oz. container of Peppermint Hot Cocoa 3-in-1 (shampoo/shower gel/bubble bath), a tube of Melting Marshmallow Cream lip shine, and a 2-oz. container of Melting Marshmallow Cream body soufflé. I do love foody bath products, and as I think I’ve mentioned before, my primary complaint about philosophy’s bath products is that they are specifically engineered not to leave scent on your skin after they are rinsed off. This has always seemed to me to be a waste of a good fragrance. I don’t want to smell like cinnamon buns for three minutes in the shower; I want to smell like cinnamon buns all day.

And so what really made me buy this was that it had products in which the scent was designed to last: the lip shine and the body soufflé. And I have a terrible, terrible weakness for things that are marshmallow-scented (Little Voxy definitely rules the roost here). So this seemed like a win right out of the gate, yes?


The 3-in-1 body wash is just fine. It does, indeed, smell like peppermint hot cocoa. Yay. And, in accordance with the rest of their bath products, the second you rinse it off it becomes merely an olfactory memory.

The marshmallow body soufflé was a huge disappointment. First of all, it doesn’t really smell like marshmallows. If you waved it under my nose without telling me what it was and asked me to identify it, I would have said it smells like hot cocoa sweetened with powdered sugar. It is sweet, but it doesn’t have that particular marshmallow scent that I love. The skin-feel of the product is also disappointing. I expect something that’s called a soufflé to have a little more body to it — this is a lotion that when applied almost immediately becomes very wet, watery, and thin-feeling. During the absorption period my hands were extremely sticky, and a little bit of residue remained on my hands even after the product was long-dry. I didn’t find that it had any significant moisturizing value at all, even though the ingredient list has a lot of the right things in it. It just wasn’t for me.

The best-performing product out of the lot is the marshmallow lip shine, but even it doesn’t quite live up to expectations. This one does, at least, smell like marshmallows, and tastes reasonably like them, too. (You’re not supposed to eat it, of course, but you do end up tasting it when you talk or lick your lips or whatnot.) It is shiny, and has a little bit of iridescent sparkle in it that is unobtrusive and doesn’t make you look like you went bobbing for apples in a tub full of glitter. It’s not terribly long-lasting, and it’s a little thicker and heavier on my lips than I’d like, like marshmallow-flavored Vaseline.

I also have to mention the packaging, which is both cute and annoying. It’s cute because the interior of the box it comes in is like a room in a dollhouse version of a log cabin: there’s a little fireplace and a little window with little snowflakes falling outside, and it’s all very precious. It’s annoying because the damn thing is triangular and therefore you can’t stack anything on top of it. What I would really like to do is send it to my friend in Canada so she can use it as a stage for her Foucault and Jane Austen finger puppets.

So, all in all, a disappointment for me. I’ll use the products up, but next time I am tempted by one of these philosophy sets I’m going to have to distract Little Voxy with strawberry-frosted cupcakes with edible glitter so that we don’t have another one of these incidents.


philosophy The Winter Escape gift set: $19

Provenance: Purchased.

Price/Value Ratio (high-end: poor/fair/good/excellent): Well, if you liked the products, you would probably say Excellent, especially at the sale price. You do get a full-size tube of lip shine and the body soufflé container is generous enough in size that you would get some mileage out of it. I don’t think it deserves a Poor price/value rating just because I didn’t like the products, especially since I sort-of knew what I was getting into.

Purchase again? I won’t repurchase, but if you like philosophy products, it’s a good deal.

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

Review: pHisoderm Anti-Blemish Gel Facial Wash

pHisoderm 2I love my Clarisonic. Did I mention that?

The only — and I mean the only — drawback to it is that it eats cleanser. Positively devours the stuff. Then it bangs its fists on the table and yells, “MOAR!” The thing is insatiable.

The best way I’ve found to use it is to first lather up my face with cleanser, then wet the brush and rub it into my palm (both to get out the extra water and to pick up some of the lather), and then load an extra squirt of cleanser directly onto the brush before turning it on. This ensures that I’ve got enough product on my face and the brush to get a really good cleansing.

It became evident after only a few days of Clarisonic ownership that my beloved Dermalogica Special Gel Cleanser, my previous Holy Grail facial wash, was just not going to cut it. I adore the Dermalogica, but at $48 for 16.9 oz., I couldn’t afford to go squirting that away willy-nilly — especially since when I was not trying to use the Clarisonic with it, I needed less than a pea-sized amount to clean my face. Having to load up the brush with two or three whole pumps of cleanser in order to get the brush to lather made me wince every time. I needed an inexpensive alternative that I could afford to use freely with the Clarisonic without fretting about how much it was costing me to wash my face every day.

I can’t remember what made me pick this up the first time at ULTA. I think there was probably a “save $2 now!” coupon sticker on it. I’d never used anything by pHisoderm and in general I’m not a huge fan of BHA cleansers, of which this is one. But it fit the bill in terms of price, so I thought I’d try it, and much to my surprise, it is almost as good as the Dermalogica. Really.

My skin used to be dry but in recent years has drifted towards normal/combination, so I wanted a cleanser that would really get rid of dirt and makeup without stripping all of the natural moisture from my face. The pHisoderm Anti-Blemish Gel Facial Wash does that, and does it very well. On days when I’ve used heavier makeup, like an all-over primer or a liquid foundation, I usually do an initial quick wash with this cleanser using just my plain old hands, then rinse that off and have a second go-round with the Clarisonic. This process gets off just about everything. Only rarely do I need to use makeup remover to get off the last traces of eyeshadow or mascara.

The best thing about this cleanser, other than the price — no, even better than the price, which is $4.79 for 6 oz. at — is that it leaves my face as soft and smooth as my Dermalogica cleanser … which, if you recall, is $48 for 16.9 oz. That means that the price per ounce … well, math skillz were a few weeks ago, but at any rate the pHisoderm is a much better bargain.

[Oh, okay, fine! I can hear you rolling your eyes. I’ll do the stupid math. Dermalogica = $2.84 per ounce; pHisoderm = $0.80 per ounce. Happy?]

The only fly in the pHisoderm ointment is that if you get this cleanser in your eyes it does sting and cause irritation (as do many other cleansers). I run into this more often than you might think because by the time I’ve lathered my face, wet the Clarisonic brush head, loaded it up with product, and gone through a cleansing cycle, the lather has been on my face for something approaching two minutes, and you have to figure that at some point some of it is going to trickle close enough to your eye to cause irritation.

The Anti-Blemish Gel Facial Wash is also a BHA cleanser, as I mentioned above, but I’m with those who say that BHAs in cleansers are not effective because the cleanser doesn’t stay on your skin long enough for the BHA to be absorbed. (For the life of me I cannot figure out why they still make and sell BHA cleansers. Oh, right: filthy lucre.) So BHA in a cleanser is never something that draws me. Rather, I like this cleanser in spite of the fact that it contains BHA (2%, for those who are wondering).

I’m not getting rid of my Dermalogica cleanser, which leaves my skin even a tiny bit softer and which does not irritate my eyes if I accidentally whack myself while washing, but I only use it now when I’m taking a morning off from the Clarisonic. I have enough room in my heart for both the Dermalogica and the pHisoderm. Enough room on my bathroom counter, though… well, that’s a different problem.


pHisoderm Anti-Blemish Gel Facial Wash: $4.79 at

Provenance: Purchased

Price/Value Ratio (drugstore: poor/fair/good/excellent): Excellent

Purchase again? Yes, but don’t tell my Dermalogica.

(Have you used this product? Love it? Hate it? Want it? Let us know in the comments!)