Saturday, July 30, 2011

BIRCHBOX -- July 2011


Hey everyone! So I wanted to share what was in my July BirchBox with you.. along with some cool new information that I've learned about the BirchBox website and program!

Here's what was in my box this month:


And now for the new info:
  • When you sign up with the site, you complete a member profile where it asks you about your skin and hair type, your skin tone, your preferences on products and more.. all so that they can custom tailor each box to suit your needs best. And you can update your profile at any time! So you'll never have to worry about getting a foundation that's 7 shades too dark that you won't be able to use!
  • You can buy full-size products of the items you receive in your box directly from the site! No trying to track down some obscure place to find a product you love.. they have it right there for you along with products from past boxes and other awesome stuff!
  • There are TONS of ways to earn BirchBox points that are used for merchandise credit on the site! Remember that every 100 points gets you a $10 credit to buy products!
    • You get 10 points automatically every month that you're subscribed.
    • Every month you can fill out a quick response survey on every product they sent you and earn 10 points per survey! My 4 surveys took me under 5 minutes total to complete.
    • Refer your friends! For every friend that signs up for BirchBox through you, you earn 50 points.
    • And lastly.. you earn 1 point for every $1 spent on full-sized products in their online store, so it's really like getting money back every time you shop!

I'm so obsessed with BirchBox, it's ridiculous! I'm already anxiously awaiting my August box! I'll be sure to let y'all know what I get as soon as it comes!

♥ M

Friday, July 29, 2011

FRIDAY FAVORITES -- 2 Seriously Underrated Polishes!


Happy Friday, everyone! Today I'd like you to meet Wet N Wild's 'Blue Wants to be a Millionaire' and 'Hannah Pinktana'.. they are undoubtedly two of the most underrated polishes in my collection. Both are sheer, but have enough color to give a boost to any pastel polish they're layered over. They also have a lot of very fine holographic glitter that is smaller in size than ChG's 'Fairy Dust', but there's not enough glitter in them for them to be considered "holographic".

One thing  I love about 'Hannah Pinktana' is that even though it clearly leans more purple than pink, it looks fabulous layered over both pink and purple polishes! Here's an example of what I mean, using OPI's 'Sweetheart Pink', 'Hannah Pinktana' and Sinful Color's 'Verbena'.

2 coats of each polish, 1 coat of WnW on nails 2 and 4. No top coat.
Click to enlarge so you can see the texture of the polish better.
I had a visitor when I was trying to take pictures this morning. It seems that my "photo spot" is also Earl's "sunbathing" spot and we both decided to use it at the same time...

See what I mean? And he totally knew he was blocking my light... Jerk.
Ahh, the joys of having pets. Anyways, here's a mani from my vault using 'BWtbaM' layered over Hard Candy's 'Sky'. Just look at what a gorgeous color that is! I was inspired by Amanda's Dandelion Nails from MaD Manis. Let me know if you want to see a tutorial on this and I'll make one!

Amanda's dandelions look much better than mine, but I wanted to try it!
Also, please excuse my cuticles. They're still recovering from the abuse they took at my nail salon. :(

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Do you have any underrated polishes in your collection that need more love? If so, let me know what they are! Hope everyone has a great weekend, as always! Chris' mom is coming up and we're going out to dinner tonight, so I'm very excited about that. It's always nice to see McMom! (That's what we call her because our last name is McCullough and it differentiates her from my mom, haha!)

♥ M

Thursday, July 28, 2011

NAIL MAIL!


Hey everyone! So I've received some really fun nail mail over the past few days that I wanted to share with you! First up is from my friend Stephanie over at Imperfectly Painted. She was sweet enough to see that she had some doubles of polishes that are on my wish list and sent the extras my way. 

From L-R: Zoya Tallulah, ChG Rose Among Thorns, Pure Ice Spit Fire, Zoya Minka & Zoya Shay.
I had no clue what Steph sent, so I was super excited to receive her package! I'd never seen Tallulah in person before but I love shimmery blue polishes and I wanted her for the name.. because Tallulah Bankhead is fantastic. Anyways, I was literally drooling when I unwrapped her. She's gorgeous!

Rose Among Thorns and Spit Fire are two polishes that shouldn't be hard to find but have constantly eluded me. Every time I go to Wal-Mart or Sally's they're out of stock. I don't understand it! I had similar trouble with ChG Dorothy Who? It took me MONTHS to track that one down.

And lastly, I fell in love with the Touch Collection from Zoya as soon as it came out. Something about the shimmer got me hooked! I received a mini Pandora in my BirchBox this month and I was really wanting to get Shay and Minka to complete the collection.. so this was perfect timing!

Next up.. I received a promotional package from the wholesale nail supply website Nail De Royal. The name may look familiar.. they've been linked in my sidebar for a while now! My fabulous NDR contact, Hazelle, reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in receiving some products to use in nail art tutorials. Once I checked out their site, I was blown away.. y'all they have everything!

I'm waiting to schedule a job interview, so I probably won't be using these right away, but I will do a tutorial for you soon and I'll give you all the details about Nail De Royal then. In the mean time, here's what I received:
From L-R: Zoya Pheobe, Omega Labs Striper, Isis Nebu & Isis Sphinx.
I'm so happy to have Pheobe! Yet another polish from my wish list that I can cross off! I'm really excited to find a way to incorporate the matte texture of the polish into a design somehow. And the striper polish is such a pretty hot pink color! Unfortunately, it doesn't have a color or number on it.. so I'm not sure what it is. If you're curious, let me know and I'll find it out for you. Last are the two glitters. Nebu is a holographic gold and Sphinx is an iridescent lemon yellow.

Here's a closeup of Nebu's texture. See how it has hexagonal holo glitter mixed in with the very fine gold glitter? When I pulled these out I was originally like "Hmmm... What am I supposed to do with these?!" so I looked online. They can be used in acrylic and gel nails and in nail art. Since I've had them, I think I've come up with a couple of fun ways to use them so stay tuned! 

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Again, many many thanks go out to Stephanie and Nail De Royal! They've helped make my week a lot more colorful and I can't wait to fully play with everything!

♥ M

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

REVIEW -- Sally Hansen Vita Surge Cuticle Gel


After reviewing elf's Nourishing Cuticle Pen, I decided to search for something else that would repair my cuticles. Naturally, I turned to Sally Hansen because it's one of the most trusted drugstore brands for nail care products. I was torn between the Vita Surge Cuticle Gel and the Vitamin E Nail & Cuticle Oil. Both were the same price, but I was eventually won over by the gimmick of the orange gel and my thought that it would absorb faster than the oil.

So how did it hold up? Read on to find out!

THE PRODUCT:
I had saved my package so that I would have all of the product info to share with you. Unfortunately, I went on a cleaning rampage over the weekend and I'm 98.7% positive that I accidentally threw it out. Oops. So I'm having to go with what I can find online.. Sorry!

Vita Surge is available wherever Sally Hansen nail products are sold and retails for an average of $6.99. I snagged my bottle from CVS. The bottle contains an orange gel with dark orange beads that dissolve when you rub the product in. The cap contains a wide, doe-foot sponge tip applicator.

Here's the product info I found online:
Instantly condition and smooth cuticles! A fast-absorbing gel formula that nourishes dry, ragged cuticles. Leaves no color. Multi-active bead infused formula instantly releases a surge of nourishing Vitamin E and Botanical Extracts to condition and hydrate cuticles. Restores dry cuticles so they look and feel smooth and healthy. 
APPLICATION TIPS: Shake gently. Apply daily over bare nails or dry nail color. Massage in with applicator or finger. Reapply as needed. 
 MY RESULTS:
Last Thursday I got my nails filled. I had a new nail tech that I didn't care for... She spent more time buffing and sanding my cuticles than she did my actual nails, plus she only half-filled my acrylics and left the tips of my nails impossibly thin. After complaining to the salon manager (who is also my normal tech), he offered to fix my nails for me. But somehow he thought I said I wanted my nails thinner instead of thicker, so he continued to sand and file my nails down even more. By the time I corrected him and he fixed my nails appropriately, my cuticles had been buffed, filed and sanded three separate times in the span of an hour and the skin was red and literally worn off in some places. My poor cuticles were raw, red and screaming in pain. I immediately ran to the nearest drugstore and started looking for relief.

Like I said, I was thinking that the gel would absorb quickly and would be less messy than the Vitamin E Cuticle Oil. And I'm not going to lie.. I was intrigued by the beads in the gel and the promise that it dries clear.

I didn't pay much attention to the applicator in the store. I assumed it would be a normal polish brush. Instead, I pulled out a very wide doe-tip sponge applicator. It applies a decent amount of product and I can apply gel to several fingers before needing to reach for the bottle again. The gel has a very light sort-of-orange-ish smell and the beads dissolve as soon as you start rubbing the gel into your fingers.

However, the gel does not absorb instantly. I feel like I spend forever rubbing it into my cuticles. It also doesn't absorb completely or dry clear. It leaves a sticky, orange-tinted film behind. And I assure you the film is tinted. I was wearing white nail polish and it turned a disgusting pale orange color. I absolutely can't deal with anything sticky on my hands, so I had to wash my hands not long after applying the gel to remove the residue. I had to eventually suck it up and have applied the gel twice a day (once right after getting out of the shower and once before bed) to help my cuticles.

FINAL VERDICT & RATING :
Even though I don't like the gel itself, I can say that it has legitimately helped repair my mutilated cuticles. My shredded skin has repaired itself and is now smooth and hydrated, so it is something I would recommend to a friend. I'm just not in love with the product itself. For me, the sticky residue of the gel is more of a turn-off than the lingering orange color. Therefore, I won't be buying it again for my own use... for that reason, I'm going to give it a 3.5 out of 5. Vita Surge definitely outperforms elf's Cuticle Pen (which scored a 3 out of 5), but I can't justify giving it a significantly higher score because I don't truly love it.

RATING 3.5 out of 5 STARS

Have you tried Vita Surge and had a better experience than I have? Or do you have a favorite cuticle cream that you think I should try? Let me know!

♥ M

Monday, July 25, 2011

REVIEW -- Wet N Wild Color Icon 6 Pan Eyeshadows


Today's review is going to be a fun one! I'm sharing four Wet N Wild Color Icon 6 Pan Eyeshadows with you. And since I've been a horrible beauty blogger and not given you swatches of the other makeup products I've reviewed (I know, I know. Shame on me. I'm sorry!) I'm going to make a point of swatching every makeup product I review from now on.. so you can see everything in action!

Originally, I wanted to make this review a cross-over review with my YouTube channel, so the actual product review would be in video form. Unfortunately, I've tried to film over 8 times and each one has been a complete failure in one way or another.. so I'm officially throwing in the towel on the video at the moment.

But now, on to the review!

THE PRODUCTS:
Wet N Wild Color Icon 6 Pans retail for $4.99 and can be found at CVS, Rite Aid, and other WnW retailers. Each palette contains 3 matte eyeshadows on the left and 3 shimmer or glitter shadows on the right so that you can create versatile looks. I received all four 6 pans for review. They are: GreedPrideLust and Vanity.

All of the shadows are swatched for you below in the same order they are in the palette. No primer has been used. Also, I know that some of the shades don't show up extremely well.. I assure you it's because I'm tan and they just blend in with my skin tone, not because the shadows aren't pigmented!

Click to enlarge.
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REVIEW: 
The first thing I noticed about the Color Icon palettes is that, like I said before, each palette has 3 matte eye shadows. It's so rare to find matte shadows in drugstore products.. so I was especially eager to try them out, even though I'm not a big fan of mattes. The second thing I noticed was the color variety of the palettes. WnW has covered all of your necessities: 2 neutral palettes and 2 colored ones. On the neutral side, you have a cooler smokey eye palette (Greed) and a warm bronze palette (Vanity). For colored options, you have a cool palette (Pride) and a warm smokey palette (Lust).

Once I opened the palettes, I encountered another surprise: each palette comes with a sponge tip applicator and a little mini eyeshadow brush. I thought that was adorable! I've never seen a drugstore palette come with a brush before, so it was a pleasant surprise. I took my initial pictures and then I started swatching.

By now, I'm sure that you all know how much I love WnW nail polish.. but would you be surprised to know that I've never tried their eyeshadows? These are my first! As I was swatching, I was amazed at how soft, smooth and highly pigmented the shadows are. Again, I want to remind you that the pictures above are swatched without any primer! And it took virtually no effort to build up the color intensities in the those pictures.

Now that I've spent the past 11 days playing with the palettes, I'm ready to give you my detailed opinion on each one. The eyeshadow base I use NYX Jumbo Eye Pencil in Cottage Cheese, which is a white shimmer. I find the white really brings out the pigmentation of the shadows and also adds a nice subtle sheen to the mattes.

GREED -- I'm not sure I completely understand the color selection of this palette, but I love all of the colors! The only thing that would make this better is if it had a true shimmer highlight color because I find myself having to reach for another palette. But I don't think I'd be willing to give up the shimmer lavender to get a highlight color because it looks amazing as a crease color when using the peach colors on the lid.

PRIDE -- Honestly, this is the palette that I will probably use the least. It's not that I dislike it; I'm just not a huge fan of wearing blue or green eyeshadows. I've tried, but I just don't feel like I can pull them off.. especially because I have blue eyes. But I've played with this 3 times so far, and the last time I ended up with a look that Chris really liked. His exact response was "Ooooh, you look like a mermaid! So pretty!" So.. who knows? I might end up using this more frequently than I suspect! My only complaint on this one is that the top right shimmer is the hardest color to use. It's almost like there's no "base" color for the shimmer.. It's just a shimmery pressed powder. This was the only palette I had an actual "problem" with any of the shadows.

LUST -- This is by far my favorite palette out of the collection. In fact, it was my Friday Favorite last week! The shadows are great, and I love how I can layer the palette with another one that I already have to increase its versatility. Lust also has my favorite highlight color out of all the palettes. The top right shimmer is so fantastic I can't even begin to describe it in a way that would do it justice. Even if I don't use the palette, I've been reaching for it solely to use the highlight.

VANITY -- Vanity is my second favorite palette. What can I say?! I love a good neutral bronze look! This is the palette I find myself reaching for the most besides Lust. In fact, it's even replaced my other Holy Grail neutral palette, L.A. Colors' Cafe Au Lait. This is perfect to wear for meetings or a job interview (Which I will hopefully be having soon! Cross your fingers for me! ♥) or for a summer evening out. It gives my blue eyes such a radiant glow, especially when paired with a little bit of bronzer.

FINAL VERDICT:
The versatility of these palettes is great. You can choose matte looks, shimmery looks, or a combination of both. The blendability of the shadows is superb, and I like that they have minimal to no fallout. As I've said, they are extremely pigmented, and you can even layer the shimmers over the mattes to deepen the intensity of the colors if you desire.

I have been using the bottom two shadows of each palette to tightline my bottom lashes, and it creates such a gorgeous look and helps to tie everything together.

As I said, my only "problem" with any of the palettes was the top right shadow in Pride because it has no depth to the color and is instead almost straight shimmer. However, as I've been typing this, I got the idea to try using it as a topper over some of the matte eyeshadows to add some extra sparkle to them. I'll definitely try that over the next few days and let you know how that works out!

However, at the moment, because of that one shadow.. I can't justify giving these palettes a perfect score.. even though I soooo want to. But I'm pleased to share that I have found a CVS in my area that carries these Color Icon palettes and they will definitely be something that I purchase again! (And again!)

RATING:

4.95 out of 5 stars
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If you would like more information about these or any other Wet N Wild products, you can visit their website. And I would like to thank them for providing these palettes for me to review. I can't believe it's taken me this long to try their eyeshadows!

So what do you about Wet N Wild? As always, I love to hear your thoughts! 

♥ M

Friday, July 22, 2011

FRIDAY FAVORITES -- Wet N Wild Color Icon 'Lust' 6 Pan


Hello everyone! Happy Friday! Today's Friday Favorite is a new product (to me) that I'm absolutely loving! It's Wet N Wild's Color Icon 6 Pan in Lust.

Now, I don't want to go into too much detail because I'm working on a full review of the entire 6 Pan line that I'll have up for you soon, but when I was sitting down to think of my favorite product for the week.. it was undoubtedly this one.

Lust has been my go-to eyeshadow 4 out of the 8 days I've had it, if that tells you anything. The colors by themselves are fantastic, but I also love layering the Wet N Wild palette with L.A. Color's Sweet Pleasures 6 Pan to create a much more pink-toned, iridescent look.


Last thing I want to share with you is how much the bottom right color in Lust resembles another Wet N Wild product that I absolutely adore.. and I'm not sure if it was an intentional decision on the company's part. Look at that color again in comparison to their Night Prowl nail polish. I know it's difficult to see, but the polish is this gorgeous purple glitter suspended in a black jelly base. My first thought when I saw the Lust palette was "OMG, THEY MADE NIGHT PROWL INTO AN EYESHADOW!" And it makes a fabulous eye liner!


Alright, enough spoilers! I'm going to go get ready for my day and try to re-shoot the video portion of my review. I tried uploading it yesterday, but YouTube said it couldn't be processed and when I tried to open it again on my laptop, the file had been corrupted. Needless to say, I was not a happy girl.

I'll link the full review here when it's done!

♥ M

Monday, July 18, 2011

ASK MANDY -- Successful Beauty Blogging Tips! (Part 2)


Because I have even more blogging tips to share with you, I'm going to do a part 2! You can read Part 1 here.
  • Always keep your readers in mind.
    • As I said in the previous post, your blog is for your readers. That's not saying that it can't be an extension of you.. but if you have a bright yellow background and white text and you are constantly getting complaints that no one can read your posts then you might want to put your design preferences aside in favor of appeasing your readers.
    • Don't be afraid to interact with them, either. If someone leaves a question on one of your posts, do your best to answer it. Now, I understand that when you're getting hundreds of comments on every post it's impossible to personally reply to everyone, but at least make an effort.
  • Make your blog more "sticky."
    • People will stumble on your blog through a variety of different ways and you need to find methods to keep them engaged in your content so that they will want to follow you. An easy way of doing this is to put a list of your "Top Posts" or "Popular Posts" in your side bar. Or use a widget like LinkWithin, which will link your previous related posts at the bottom of each new entry.
  • Find a good mix of quality and quantity.
    • Posting 6 times a day is great.. if that's what you want to do. However, make sure that each of those posts are well-written and thoughtful, not just fluff to get more page views. I've found that my monthly page views drop significantly when I post less than an average of one entry per day during the month. So yes, it's true that quantity drives site traffic, but again.. try to find a sweet spot of quality and quantity. There may be days (like today) where I post 3 entries and then I'll take 2 days off. It's up to you to decide how you work best.
  • Get products to review without breaking your budget.
    • Never underestimate the power of budget-friendly brands like e.l.f.. Say you buy 10 $1 products.. depending on your style of blogging, that can provide you with more than 11 different posts! One haul where you show your new goodies and give your initial feedback on the products and why you bought them.. and one full review per product once you've had time to test them out. Plus you could even get more posts later by using the products in FOTD/EOTD/NOTD posts or comparison/dupe posts between similar products. And your grand total? $10. Budget-friendly beauty blogging is all about being creative with what you have on hand.
    • Get samples! Beauty websites like Ulta and Sephora give you free samples when you order online.. and also when you're in store. As long as the sample size you receive is adequate enough to determine how well the product will really perform for you, there's no harm in using it for a review. And if you only have enough for one use, you can make it clear that you received a one-time sample and give your preliminary thoughts on the product along with whether you would actually buy it or not. If you would buy it (and do end up with it), post a follow-up review once you've had time to fully evaluate it!
    • Speaking of samples, sign up for a BirchBox or Luxe Box where you can get 4-5 deluxe samples of premium brands shipped straight to your door every month! You can read more about both of these programs here.

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Well, I think I've now exhausted all of my useful information regarding the ins and outs of beauty blogging. However, if there's a topic you would like to know more about that I've overlooked, please feel free to ask!

♥ M

SPECIAL OFFERS -- Birchbox and Luxe Box.. Have You Heard of These?!

I seriously don't know what I would do without my dear friend Christina over at Red Lip Gloss.. not only is she super sweet but she also tips me off to some of the best things ever.

Case in point: The Birchbox. For a $10 monthly fee, you can get 4-5 deluxe samples of premium brands (NARS, Benefit, etc) shipped straight to your door. Ladies, are you swooning yet? It's okay.. it's a completely normal response! 

Birchbox works likes a magazine subscription, where you are automatically renewed every month at $10 per box. You can cancel at any time, and every month you are subscribed you earn 10 loyalty points. When you reach 100 points, you get a $10 site credit to buy a full-size version of any of the products they've sent you! How fun is that?!

I've already subscribed for my July box and it will be shipped (FOR FREE!) on July 10th! I can't wait!

Unfortunately, the Birchbox is only available for US Residents. However, for my Canadian beauties, there is the Luxe Box by Loose Button! It's the exact same thing, but costs $12 CAN.


Look how cute it is! I'm in love with the packaging of both boxes! So thanks again to Christina for this amazing find! 

♥ M

ASK MANDY -- Successful Beauty Blogging Tips!


Welcome to my newest blog installment: ASK MANDY! I'll be taking your most requested questions from Facebook, Twitter and YouTube and answering them. Sounds like fun, right? Today's post will discuss tips for beauty bloggers!

Granted, I'm a relatively new blogger myself (4 months and 1 week today!) BUT that doesn't mean I haven't learned a thing or two along the way. Also, I did a lot of research on blogging before I even started one of my own, which I feel helped me tremendously.

Here's what I've learned so far:
  • Find your niche.
    • So you want to be a beauty blogger. That's great. But what about "beauty" intrigues you? Do you like nails? Hair? Makeup? Skin care? Of course, it's certainly fine to have a well-rounded beauty blog and cover all of those topics if you truly love them all.. but it always helps to narrow your focus so that you stay on track.
  • Decide what to post.
    • I strongly suggest keeping up with trends. Now would be a good time to subscribe to email newsletters of brands that truly interest you. Not only will you get the latest press releases from them, but you'll have first hand (and sometimes breaking) information that you can pass on to your readers!
    • As far as daily posting goes, just write about whatever interests you but always keep your readers in mind. (You're not writing your blog for you, you're writing it for them. And if no one is reading it.. then what's the point?) For instance: sometimes I feel like I have too many nail polish posts so I'll go ahead and write an entry but save it to post the following week.
    • Lastly, keep a list of posts that you want to write to help yourself stay organized and on-track. Sometimes ideas come to me when I'm out shopping. I always keep a journal with me and I jot the topic down so that I don't forget it. Nothing's worse than having a brilliant idea for a post and then not being able to remember what it was!
      • This also helps for when you're just plain out of ideas, too! If you have a list of standby topics, you'll never have to worry about not knowing what to write!
  • Promote yourself... the right way.
    • Visiting other blogs and spamming their comments with "Great blog! Please visit mine!" is, well, just plain tacky and rude. While there's certainly nothing wrong with forming relationships with other bloggers, spamming will never get you far. Especially if the blog you're spamming isn't even in the same niche as yours. Instead, try leaving a comment that provides thoughtful insight on the post you're commenting on. A blogger is much more willing to check out (and follow) your blog when you've shown theirs respect.
      • I've had several well-known bloggers that I follow actually follow me back by simply leaving well-written comments on their posts without ever linking my blog. Once you've established your reputation as someone who is sincere and interested in a mutual topic, most people will want to check out your work for themselves.
    • Some bloggers will actually give you space to promote your blog either on their blog rolls or they will have "Plug Yourself" days where you can leave your blog info and they will post it to their followers. Another version is a permanent post where you can link your blog info.
    • Find forums and websites that promote blogs in general or blogs in your niche and respectfully ask if there's a way you can be added to their blogging list or get a link added on their site. Most sites will ask that you "trade buttons," meaning that you place a button on your sidebar that links back to their site in exchange for being posted on their site.
      • Here are some sites to get you started. Granted, some aren't sites that you can trade space on, but you can post content from your blog, or meet similarly interested people in forums and share your blog that way! 
      • Also look for submission Tumblrs, WordPress and Blogger blogs in your niche. Since I do a lot of nail art, I submitted one of my posts to a nail art Tumblr. It was featured and right after being posted on the Tumblr.. that one post got over 1500 page views in under 4 hours!
  • Get connected!
    • Once you've gotten followers, set up a Facebook page or Twitter account (or both!) for your blog! Not only will it help promote your content, but it gives you another way to interact with your readers.
    • Also set up an email strictly for your blog. This will help you (again) stay organized with your blog account, Feedburner account, and any readers, companies or PR Reps that contact you. Just make sure that you check it regularly, or have it synced/forwarding to an account that you DO check regularly. Plus this will protect the privacy and integrity of your personal email and make you look more professional to companies that might be interested in contacting you.
    • Set up an RSS Feed! This is so crucial! Feedburner is a great option and easy to set up and use. Feeds are used to streamline content across the web so that it's all in one place for people to access. Many people won't follow you with GFC (Google Friend Connect) but WILL sign up for your RSS Feed. If you look at my current numbers, you'll see that I have almost as many Feedburner subscribers as I do GFC followers!
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
    • I'm going to be completely honest and tell you that I'm still figuring out how this works. If you'd like to learn more about it, I suggest reading up on it here. What I can tell you is this: The higher your blog comes up in a search result, the better the likelihood of it being visited. Thus, when you're titling your posts (for the reader, not for you.. remember?) avoid titles like "My Favorite Hair Products" and instead choose something like "Must Have Hair Products!"
      • If you were doing a search for hair care products, which of those 2 posts would you click on? ...My point exactly. :)
  • Be sincere.
    • Yes, by now everyone knows that beauty bloggers have the potential to get a lot of free swag to review. However, if you're only blogging to get free stuff it's going to be very apparent and you're probably going to end up very disappointed. Companies aren't just going to start blowing up your email and offering you free stuff right off the bat.
    • And let's say you are sent products to review.. be completely honest about them. If you don't like them and don't feel you can give a generally positive review, contact the company and talk to them about it. You might end up having to send the product back, but it's better than publishing a review that you don't believe in. Remember, reputation is EVERYTHING to a blogger. Once people suspect that you're just trying to shove promoted products down their throat your credibility will be ruined.
  • Speaking of getting free stuff...
    • Use labels as your friend. Whenever you mention a brand in a post, tag it. Once you've built up a repertoire of work, then it's much easier to approach a company and say "I've been a loyal user for some time, and I would be interested in reviewing X product for my blog. It would be relevant to my readers for [this reason]. And here is a selection of my work so far that features your company." (Just.. make sure you haven't completely and repeatedly slammed them and trashed their products.) Also be sure to give them the link to their tag, and your website stats. 
      • However, and I don't mean this to sound discouraging.. expect not to hear back from them. Their HR/PR people get hundreds, if not thousands of emails like yours every single day.. and someone has to sort through them all. It's possible that yours will get lost in the shuffle, that you simply don't have enough of a following yet, or that they aren't accepting any new reviewers at that time.
    • Another way to try to get products to review is to watch company Facebook and Twitter pages. One company tweeted that they were looking for new reviewers a while back. I sent them an email like the one I described above and they sent out a mass email saying that they usually pick bloggers with a following of 300+ and YouTubers with 4000+ subscribers. I'm nowhere near those figures. However, they were so impressed with some of my posts featuring their products that they decided to send me products to review anyways!
    • And the last way to get products for review is to let the companies contact you. Most of the YouTubers and Bloggers I know who constantly get free products are approached by companies and PR Reps because they've established their reputation. Again, be honest and sincere in your efforts and success should come.
- - - - - * - - - - -

Whew! That was a lot! ...And took forever. But I hope it's been at least somewhat helpful to those of you who have just started your own beauty blog, or have wanted to but didn't know where to start. If you have more questions (about anything!) be sure to leave them in the comments and I'll answer them as well!

Want more beauty blogging tips? Check out Part 2 here!

♥ M

NOTD -- Sally Hansen 'After Midnight' with Silver Accent


I was inspired by Stephanie over at Imperfectly Painted to use a fall color for my nails this time. Also, I've been too lazy to go get my nails filled and dark polishes help to disguise my new nail growth. Thus, I decided to pull out one of my severely underused polishes: Sally Hansen's 'After Midnight'.

I can't remember how long it's been since 'After Midnight' came out, but I do remember that it was limited edition and it was one of the first "non-blacks" I ever saw. It was on an endcap at Ulta and it was this gorgeous shimmery black-blue and I knew I had to have it.


You can see how it looks almost (but not quite) black in the bottle. And below you can see the gorgeous shimmer it has.


Unfortunately, the shimmer gets completely lost somewhere between bottle and nail. Once applied, 'After Midnight' appears to be a creme, which is borderline tragic. And, coincidentally, probably why I never use it as much as I should. The formula is decent. A little thin; definitely not a one-coater. You'll need at least 2 to even it out. I used 3 for my nails to try and disguise my nail growth a little more.

And lastly, I had to do my left ring finger accent nail. I went with a silver because I'm still debating on whether or not I want to add silver shatter to my other nine nails. The silver nail is 2 coats of L.A. Colors 'Live', 2 coats of OPI DS 'Coronation' and 2 coats of Essie 'Carnival'. I'm really loving the contrast of the creme blue-black with the double holo of 'Coronation' (regular holo) and 'Carnival' (holo glitter in a clear base).

Oh, I know this is limited edition but I've seen it available on Amazon for $1.99 if you're interested in scoring your own bottle. 

Happy Monday and hope everyone had a fabulous weekend!

♥ M

Saturday, July 16, 2011

FRIDAY FAVORITES -- HARRY POTTER


EDIT: Yes, I know it's no longer Friday. I had written this post yesterday and somehow it didn't get posted (?) even though I swear I hit the 'Publish Post' button. I'm not waiting another week to post this, so it's going up on Saturday. My apologies!

*sigh* It all ends. Today. And no, this time we're not talking about The Rapture... we're talking about a decade of wizardry and magic. A decade of imagination. An end of an era.

Okay, enough sap, right? But.. really. How much more poignant can it get than "The boy who lived... come to die." Oh. My. Gosh. That right there is enough to make me sob!

My parents got me the first 4 Harry Potter books for Christmas my sophomore year in high school. Yes, I entered the wizarding world much later than all of my friends. But once I started reading, I couldn't put it down. And my love affair continued with the movies and the subsequent books as they came out. In fact, Chris actually bought me the last 2 books, even though he knew that meant he wouldn't see or hear from me until I'd finished them. :)

Despite Chris and I not being big moviegoers, we agreed that we had to see HP 7.2 in theatres the day it came out. We went right after Chris got off of work this morning, and.. the movie is perfection. Absolutely perfection. Although I admit that part of me almost didn't want to see it because that means... it's over.

But I knew I couldn't not see it, so of course we went. I was tense in my seat for almost the entire movie, and naturally I bawled like I knew I would. (Bring tissues when you see it. Seriously.) 

And now it's over and I'm a little depressed. I keep hoping that J.K. Rowling will start a series about all of the new kids (James, Albus, Lily, etc) and their adventures at Hogwarts, but I know it probably won't happen.

♥ M

REVIEW -- e.l.f. Nourishing Cuticle Pen

I think I've been using too much acetone on my nails. My cuticles (which I never have a problem with) have become dry and unsightly as of late. Yuck, right? So while the bestie and I were at Target, I decided to grab e.l.f.'s Nourishing Cuticle Pen to see if I could get a $1 fix for my issue.

THE PRODUCT:
Like other e.l.f.'s products, this one is available at Target and retails for $1. Unfortunately, neither the packaging nor the pen itself state how much actual oil is in the pen, but I can tell you that it is a cruelty free product. As you can see in the picture above, the pen has a maker-type chisel tip. The pen itself is sleek and compact and would be great to throw in a purse.

The packaging says:
Relieve dry nails and flaky cuticles. The unique pen delivery system moisturizes cuticles effectively, and the quick dry formula allows for a no mess application. Fortified with Vitamins E, A, C, Pro-Vitamin B5 and Aloe, this fast-acting complex deeply hydrates, nourishes and seals in moisture. The result is softer, easy to manage cuticles and healthy hydrated nails.
DIRECTIONS: Remove cap. Brush onto cuticles and bare nails as often as needed. 
 MY RESULTS:
The chisel tip is exactly how you'd expect it to be: hard. However, I thought the oil in the product would also make it moist. Eh, not so much. Granted, you can see the oil on your skin, but very little is actually dispensed at a time. And I've tried everything.. shaking the pen, pressing down on the tip, storing the pen upside down.. nothing seems to create a better product flow.

I use the pen my cuticles and the sides and free edge of my nails. You can also use it on your actual nails, but since I have acrylics that wouldn't do me much good. I suspect that the firm tip would also be convenient for pushing your cuticles back, but I haven't used it to do so.

Even though the pen lacks the moisture pay-off I was expecting, I can say a few positive things about the formula. It's non-greasy, absorbs almost instantly, and has no scent. And I suppose it has improved the condition of my cuticles somewhat.

FINAL VERDICT:
For a dollar, I can't completely begrudge this product, but I'll be honest and say it's not one of my personal favorites from e.l.f. I'll probably end up throwing this pen in my purse for quick on-the-go touch ups, as the formula is no-mess and quick to absorb, but I don't think I will repurchase it. I'm also going to look for another "main" product to use at home to fully repair my cuticles.

RATING:

And now.. I have a new rating system for products I review! I give this one.. 3 out of 5 stars.

♥ M

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

DIY -- Get a Salon Perfect Manicure at Home!

One of the questions I'm asked most often is how I manage to get my manicures so "perfect" (aka neat) without flooding my cuticles or getting polish all down the sides of my nails. Well, today I'm going to share my secret with you!

First, let's talk about how to paint your nails. Lacquerized has a fabulous diagram on how to paint your nails correctly. I know, I know. It seems like the most obvious thing, but I've found that many beauties don't know how to polish properly, and it really does eliminate a lot of extra clean up.

Yea, the text is small. Click to enlarge.

Once you've properly painted your nails, either your bottom line at your cuticle won't be perfectly straight, or you'll have gotten a little polish on the skin around the sides of your nail. It's inevitable, trust me. Now, here's the pro tip to getting that perfect manicure... (Lacquerized and many other nail bloggers use this technique. I've learned it from them!)


Yup. A brush! The one I use is an angled eyeliner brush from Target and is pictured above. However, you can use whatever brush you want. Generally speaking, a medium-sized flat brush that isn't too stiff is what you're going for. Once you've found your perfect brush, I suggest getting backups. You'll be putting your brush(es) through a lot of wear and tear and they'll need to be replaced every so often. So now that you've got your brush.. what do you do with it?


Grab some pure acetone. Whether you leave it in the bottle or decide to pour a little bit into a glass dish is up to you. Just remember that acetone is VERY caustic and will eat through plastic and take the finish off of wood or whatever it comes into contact with. Therefore, if you do decide to pour some acetone into a glass dish, it's best to let the remnants evaporate instead of pouring it down the sink or toilet.. I don't know what would happen to your plumbing, and I honestly wouldn't take the risk.

Ok. Once you have your acetone, dip your brush in it and then dab off the excess on a cotton pad or paper towel. If you have too much acetone on your brush, it will flood your cuticle and start dissolving polish that you don't want dissolved. Once your brush is ready to go, lightly run it across the edge of polish that you want to clean up. The key is to remove polish without applying any pressure. You'll also need to wipe your brush onto your cotton pad or paper towel every so often because the polish will start to accumulate in the brush.

And that's it! Clean up usually takes me around 5-7 minutes, unless I'm working with a dark color, a glitter, blues or reds. They don't tend to clean up very well. Lastly, I usually wait about 10-15 minutes for my nails to completely dry before I attempt any clean up. Your wet polish won't mix well with the acetone!

After I clean up, I apply a top coat (Seche Vite) to my nail and make sure to swipe it along the free edge of my nail as well. This will help extend your mani by protecting your polish against any tip wear for at least a couple of days!

Finish up your manicure by treating your cuticles to some extra love because acetone can be extremely drying.. and your perfect manicure is ready to be flaunted!

♥ M

Top 10 Award!


I want to say thanks to my dear friend Christina over at Red Lip Gloss for nominating me for another blog award! I have told y'all about her blog so many times, but it truly is one of my favorites! And.. fun fact: she also has a dance background (like me!). So thank you again to Christina!

The rules for this award are simple:
  • Link back to the person who nominated you.
  • Nominate 10 other bloggers.
  • List your 10 favorite beauty products.
So here are my 10 favorite beauty products of the moment!

Bath & Body Works 'P.S. I Love You' Shower Gel -- I currently have 3 bottles of B&BW shower gels in rotation, but this is the one I'm reaching for most often. The scent is light, floral, and slightly spicy. It's a perfectly feminine scent!

Ocean Potion 'Ever Glow' Daily Moisturizer with Gentle Skin Darkeners -- I've reviewed this before, but it is still definitely a favorite. Amazing orange creamsicle scent, easy to apply, fabulous looking results.. and ridiculously cheap. What's not to love?!


It's a 10 'Miracle Leave-In Product' -- Again, another product that I've done a full review on. It's a 10 seriously is a miracle in a bottle. I'm still working my way through my sample of this, but it has done wonders for my dry, damaged, and seriously abused hair. Not to mention, it's helped eliminate 2 other products from my hair care routine! How can you beat that?!


Hard Candy 'Sheer Envy' Skin Perfecting Primer -- So this post is making me realize that I only review products I love... but I guess that's not a bad thing. Sheer Envy helps keep my oily T-Zone in check all day and helps my foundation/tinted moisturizer and concealer apply flawlessly. I can't believe it took me this long to start using a face primer! Also, this is a fantastic dupe for Smashbox's Photo Finish primer, in case you're interested!


Essence Lip Gloss -- This has basically become the only brand of lip gloss that I use. It's $1.99 for a huge tube at Ulta, and the colors are great, long-lasting, non-drying and not sticky. So.. it's basically the perfect lip gloss! I have 3 favorite colors (a nude; a very pale, sheer, glitter pink (pictured above); and a hot pink) that I have multiples of for home and my purse.


NYX Jumbo Eye Pencils -- The one I have and use most often is 'Cottage Cheese' (pictured above) although I do have other colors as well. These are a great as an eyeshadow base, and the pencil application makes them so convenient!


L.A. Colors 'Cafe Au Lait' 6 Palette Eyeshadow -- I got this (along with several other L.A. Colors palettes) at the Dollar Tree and I honestly wasn't expecting much. Unfortunately, I haven't even used my other palettes yet because I can't stop using this one! It's the perfect nude palette, and when combined with the NYX Cottage Cheese Jumbo Eye Pencil above, it turns into the most gorgeous daily natural look.


Palladio 'Pure Black' Herbal Eyeliner -- Here's another previously reviewed product. This waterproof eyeliner is swim and sweat proof, and stays put on my waterline for up to 8 hours. Plus, it is one of the most intense and "true" blacks I've seen in a crayon eyeliner.


EOS 'Sweet Mint' Smooth Sphere -- This little blue "egg" has become my holy grail of lip balm. The formula is amazing and oh-so moisturizing, and the mint flavor is amazing. It's tingly and sweet and.. seriously, just perfection.


China Glaze 'Always A Bridesmaid' -- It wouldn't be right if I didn't include a polish in my beauty favorites! 'Always A Bridesmaid' is a polish I'm dying to get my hands on. Right now, it's my go-to polish every time I get my nails filled and it's the perfect "cleanse the palette" nail color.

And now for the bloggers I'm nominating:

Erika at Chloe's Nails
Deniz at Emerald Sparkled
Hannah Michelle at Hannah Michelle's Beauty Blog
Stacie at Kawaii Nail Art
Jane at Nailside
Michèle at Lacquerized

Again, many thanks to Christina for my newest award! And if you haven't checked out the bloggers I've nominated, you definitely should! They all have absolutely fantastic blogs!

♥ M