Thursday, April 26, 2018

Daily Carrier & Essential Oils Routine

Someone on a social network asked me if I actually use all the oils I talk about on the blog (and I talk about them a lot). Answer: Yes. Well, most of them.

I try to review a lot of oils, then if something works, I keep that in the arsenal. Sometimes, an oil that doesn't work for me I can give to a friend. If an oil doesn't work well as is, it might be good for mixing into another oil or one of my other products. When I got my first bottle of Tea Tree oil, I liked it but only used it for cleaning and disinfecting stuff. Once I got into the Manuka oil, I realized that I could use the Tea Tree with it on my psoriasis. Manuka oil tends to be pricey so I will "stretch" it by adding Tea Tree.

Because I wanted to show what I use and how I took so photos just now. Looking at all of them set out like this instead of separated into the different cabinets, I can see why that person wondered about my usage. There are a lot of oils, but they all have a different role in my regimen.

Here's what I use a lot of the time for either my skin or hair (I keep these in the pantry or the fridge):

These are the ones that I keep somewhere near me all the time because I use them so much for my hair and skin:

Then there are the other favorites that I use all the time in the diffuser:

So, yes, I do use a lot of oils and I use them every day. I didn't even snap photos of the honey and coconut and olive oils from the kitchen, but I use those as edibles and as topicals. Where most people use a lot of brand name products for their hair and skin and other care routines, I use oils. I clean my face with oils, I use oils over lotions for body moisturizing; I use oils on my hair and for my cleaning around the house. I even use a couple of the oils for getting rid of pests and insects. And I didn't even take a photo of the Neem oil that I sometimes wipe along my open windowsills to keep out the spiders and other icky-crawlies. As well as ingesting it, I use the honey on my face and hair (and to stop cold sores). I will put the coconut oil in coffee and tea and food, of course. The olive oil is something I use to cook with, to clean the leaves of my plants, and, sometimes, to moisturize my hair and body.

When I do use brand name shampoos, lotions, and hair products, I often end up adding one or more of the oils to them.

Recently, I started back using bar soap, but only because I found a wonderful brand of soap is oil-based. One of my neighbors noticed all the oils in my bathroom and I had to laugh when I explained what I used a lot of them for. I did tell her that I remember hearing someone say that if you can't eat something, you shouldn't put it on your skin. Well, my oils are not all safe to eat, but I can look up where they came from without needing a degree in chemistry.

If any of you use other oils and natural things, do let me know about.


Wednesday, April 25, 2018

**REVIEW** Abyssinian Oil

Abyssinian Oil (I love the name) is also known as Crambe oil.  Crambe abyssinica is an annual oilseed crop of the family Brassicaceae.We're not going too deep down the road of boring, but I just wanted to give you the names so you could do your own research later. Basically, you may hear Abyssinian oil called Crambe seed oil or Abyssinian mustard. Now you know that.

This is the oil I am using.

 I got this from Amazon but my angel sponsor and I have started to look more at Piping Rock for products, especially oils. Products are cheaper and, so far, I've not had a bad experience in quality or service. By the way, I have written a review of Piping Rock and will publish it soon...

Another quick note about the oil is that it's native to Abyssinia (formerly Ethiopia), but can also be found across other parts Europe and the United States. Eastern Africa is where it originated.

I had heard so much about this oil in the past few years, but when I was looking for something to add shine to my hair, the name popped up again. I've been using it for a few weeks now and I can tell you some of the benefits I read about and some of the benefits I've personally experienced.

  • Adds a good non-greasy shine to my hair without inhibiting the styling and curls. 
  • Makes my hair feel good. Even with my super-curly style, the strands feel smoother. The oil worked better for me after I had deep-conditioned my hair.
  • I noticed a lot less breakage after the first few days. I still lose hair when detangling and styling but nowhere near as much as before using the oil.
  • My hair is becoming less dry the more I use the oil to style it. I usually need to reapply a lot of my hair moisturizers every day; since starting with the oil, I can go 2 and sometimes 3 days before I get a lot of drying. I'm trying not to let it go that far, but when I do, the oil is helping.
  • Makes my styling easier and longer lasting. I use some water first, then the oil, before I flat-twist or Bantu knot my hair a for overnight. The curls are lasting longer. I think this is due to better moisture retention.
  • This stuff seems like it's great for all hair types, from 1A to 4C. Someone I know has 2A hair and I have told her about this. She currently uses a very popular (and expensive) "silk" oil treatment. The Abyssinian oil seems as if it could totally replace that other stuff with all the many ingredients. I'm suggesting the same for my niece, Gabby, who has her mother's type of 2C hair but always wants more shine and split end protection.
  • I can use it on my skin as well as on my hair. I don't use it on areas affected by psoriasis, but I like using it on my face and neck.
  • The oil is one of the most absorbent I've used on my skin. I like to dampen my face and neck, then apply the oil. Afterward, I don't need to use anything else. I will add sunscreen if I'm going to be outside.
  • Some people recommend using it on the cuticles. I have not tried this yet, but the next time I give myself a manicure, it's on the list.
  • Another way I plan to use the oil is by adding it to my conditioners. Apparently, the oil is high in erucic acid (which gives products a lot of "slip"). It's also said to mimic the effects of silicone. That's great in a natural oil.
Abyssinian oil has been compared to Argan oil but I find that I like the texture of the Abyssinian for my hair while Argam is thicker and, IMO, better for problem skin areas. Also, I think that this could be used by folks with 1A and other straighter hair types as a leave-in and shining treatment where Argan can weigh down some of those hair types. I also don't want to forget to mention that Abyssinian oil is touted to have a long shelf life - as long as up to a year after being opened.

So, yeah, this is a nice oil to have in your arsenal. If you go over to Amazon and price several brands of the oil, then check prices at Piping Rock, I think that you will do what I did and go with P.R. I can't wait to publish the review I've written about that site. 

After I post this, I will be doing a light trimming of the ends of my hair, then treating them with Abyssinian and Pumpkin oils. If I'm really good, I will actually tie on my silk scarf before I hit the pillows!


P.S.: I have learned that Broccoli Seed oil is another hair oil with lots of benefits. If anyone has tried that oil, let me know about it.

Monday, April 23, 2018

**REVIEW** Sephora's Play Box Subscription

UPDATE: If you sign up for Birchbox because you read about it here, please use this link so that I get acknowledged Trudy Sent Me!

Of the many subscription boxes in the beauty and skincare categories, there aren't tons that are as affordable as the Birchbox and Sephora Play boxes. I mean, if you want to try new products every month, you really can't beat 10 bucks for some good-sized samples. I had decided that if I was going to join the subscription craze, I would only choose one box. Budget, budget, broke is my version of duck, duck, goose!

I've tried and reviewed the April Birchbox. I hope to try out Ipsy or another box in this price range. Today though, I am going to review the Sephora Play April 2018 box that I recently received.

It's finally here! Finally...

The box took forever to arrive but when I checked the dates, I can see that Birchbox took 10 days from the order date to deliver and Play took 11 days. So, they are about equal there. Since I do have Birchbox to compare to this one, that is what I will do throughout this post. Let's go look at what came in the April Play box.

6  items + the bag

With Birchbox, I got the cute little collectible box to use. Sephora sent this little bag.

very flimsy material

Birchbox wins this round. While I thought a bag would be more versatile to reuse than a box, this one is a cheap little Dollar Store type of thing that I'll probably just tuck some socks or maybe some laundry quarters in. It wasn't that cute to me. I was really hoping the other box items were going to be much better. So let's see...

.33 oz each packet

I have not used this shampoo/conditioner sample set from Living Proof's Perfect Hair Day line. The samples were a good size and I will review them once I try them out on my next wash day. The 8oz shampoo and 8 oz conditioner sizes are priced at $26 each.

 I give Sephora Play credit for including such a nice sample size of the product. I have thick, afro-curly (er, sometimes nappy) hair and I think the shampoo would be enough for a wash. I would probably have to dilute the conditioner to saturate all my hair from root to tip.

Next up is the item with the best name ever:

This one is the  Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial. Not only do I love the name, but I really liked the product. I used this on my chin and nose area. It tingled a little bit but not strongly and not for long. I left it on for 15 minutes instead of the 20 as instructed because I was worried it might be too drying. When I rinsed, I was super surprised at how good my treated skin felt. It's like it sucked close off the larger pores and my nose was really smooth and I kept touching it!  Normally, I don't use products like this. Most of you all know me by now and know that I would rather do a treatment with essential oil or use something from my kitchen.

I was so excited about this product that I scooted online with a quickness to check the price for a full-size. That stopped me right in my broke little tracks. This is priced at $80 for a 1.69oz/50ml pump (so this 15ml sample is worth about $24). That's just ridiculous. I'd have to be a drunk woman to put that in my cart. Besides, I can buy a lot of Manuka honey for that much money and it's all natural and what I don't use on my face, I could eat. Thank you, Sephora for the generous sized sample, but I can never buy more of this so... Whatever. Moving on.

The Purity Pore Extractor Mask is another item I haven't yet tried. My face was still so clean from the Drunk Elephant that I decided to wait a couple of days before I use the mask but I tested the clay on the back of my hand. It has some fine granules in the texture that were easy to wipe away once the clay dried. The mask dries quickly and the clay adhered to my hand until I rinsed it off. It wasn't sticky or unpleasant while rinsing as so many similar products can be. Since I liked the way the skin on my hand felt afterward, I think I would like this - but only on the nose and chin areas. My skin is too sensitive for any type of astringents or scrubs anywhere else. So I do like this item but, once again, I had sticker shock when I checked the price. It's $35 for 2.5 ounces. This is why I am glad to be a natural product gal. I have to be thankful, I guess that Sephora did supply a 5ml sample.

Next up is the Sephora Rouge Cream lipstick in the shade called The Red.

It's a great lipstick with good texture and a coverage that I love. One problem: that red is more for Marilyn Monroe/Rita Hayworth while I need something more Danai Gurira/Lupita Nyong'o or at the very least, Angela Basset after she's been in the sun for a few hours.

This photo doesn't fully capture how wrong the shade is on me. I even checked with my neighbor and she was like, "Uh... yeah. No. Not that shade. Not on you." I think what she wanted to say is that this shade makes me look like a starving harlot. There is just a touch too much orange in it to suit me. Usually, I can wear a deep red (though I prefer a more non-vampish color now that I'm on the upper side of 50). I think that I will save this and use it to mix with another unwanted shade to use as an eye color. I dunno.

That shade of lipstick is not
going with that shade of grey hair!
This was a big disappointment to me because I wanted to like this lipstick and I feel Sephora ignored my Profile when choosing the shade. I mean, they ask your shade and I entered mine as the darkest they had. ~sigh~ To add insult, this lipstick is one of the actually affordable ($12.50) items in the box.

The PeterThomas Roth Skin to Die For mattifying primer sounded interesting. I watched the little video that Sephora had up and was impressed with the difference the primer made on the model. On me, it felt great but didn't make much of a visible difference. I would be curious to see if it works as touted to eventually improve one's skin. I'm pretty happy with my skin so I will pass. The price is not that bad ($28 for 1oz), depending on how much and how often it would need to be applied.

For the very last of the items, I have to say that, once again, I was not thrilled. I was still hopeful though, even as I got down to the last item in the box. This gloss is from a favorite brand:

I adore Urban Decay and was glad that the box included their Hi-Fi Shine Ultra Cushion Lip Gloss, but...

... once again - for what? The third or fourth time? - I was not crazy about the color Sephora chose to send me. They're reading (or not reading) of my profile reminds me of the 80's when every drugstore makeup artist wanted to put vivid, shimmery blue eyeshadow on my black face.

If Sephora just wanted to send me a daring, lighter color gloss, they could have gone with the shade of Naked. I would have been very happy to get that or, better yet, the Beso, or the 1993. The one they sent was the SPL. It doesn't even have a cool name. And to beat it all, the stuff is a glittery-sparkling, minty-tasting concoction. Ugh. It's like something that a little kid would get for their doll. To be honest, I could have gotten past the glitter and the mint, but that bright pink... And unlike most glosses (because, yes, I do own gloss in light pink shades) this was pretty heavily colored. If the red lipstick made my lips look weird, this gloss made them look chapped as if I was in need of a lot of water. I gave it to my Caucasian sister-in-law and I haven't seen her wearing it yet.

I don't want to forget that the Play box did include a card with 50 Beauty Insider Points. That's a Plus. The downside is that I would not be able to get the offered extra 50 points because there is no store near me to walk into. So there's that. Birchbox just straight up gives you a discount if you decide to purchase something you've sampled. Now, that's what I'm talking about.

Decisions, decisions...
Birchbox vs Sephora Play

I told you all that I could only (barely) afford to do one box. If I wasn't waiting to try Ipsy, and the decision was to be between Birchbox and Play, Birchbox would be the winner by miles and miles. Sure, they sent a hair product I would never use, but it's not as if I wouldn't use it if I styled my hair differently. I feel like they paid more attention to my profile.

I already made sure to cancel the Play subscription so that I don't get stuck with a second box or payment. When I reviewed FabFitFun, I knew it was a subscription I'd keep if I could afford it. The Play box is just $10 and I know the products weren't cheap, but I had no regrets canceling. I think that Sephora often falls short on paying attention to customers. I'm I've posted about the $50 perfume certificate I never got to use because Sephora ran out of the perfume I wanted and never honored it. It's like they robbed my niece of the money she meant me to have.

Well. Sephora, I guess you kinda, sorta, maybe tried.


Friday, April 20, 2018

**QUICK POST** Manuka Oil Healing Psoriasis

(NOTE: Blogger wigged out and deleted my whole post after I published and auto-posted to G-Plus. So, here I go, re-creating the whole thing!)

It's never easy to be publicly vulnerable, but I want to post some Before and After photos of my psoriasis-plagued feet to illustrate how Manuka Oil is helping to heal them. First, let me tell you a few things:

  1. I think the psoriasis started about 5 years ago.
  2. The affected skin gets scaly and itchy. It flakes so badly that it's visible in my shoes and socks.
  3. I've tried the long-term use of an RX ointment and an RX cream.
  4. Before I left Alaska, I was going to the dermatologist 3 times a week for UVB treatments. This went on for about 2 1/2 - 3 months.
  5. I've ordered balms and creams online. Some helped the appearance. Some didn't work at all.
  6. The last thing I used (and still do) really helped the appearance of my feet and gave some relief from the itch. Plus, it smells great.
  7. I ordered the Manuka Oil on 4/11/18 and started using it immediately. 
Bottom line is, nothing healed the psoriasis until I started with the Manuka oil. I was seeing a difference in the skin of my feet the morning after the first night-time application of the oil. It was so immediate.

Please understand that I am not a medical professional of any kind. Do your research and check with your medical care providers before using this or anything. I am only here to tell what this oil did for me.

By the way, I am in the habit of taking photos of my feet for other product reviews and/or so that my family and close friends can see what's happening. Now, here are the photos. 

 I realize the lighting is different for each picture. That's because I hadn't anticipated using the first one for this post. You can though clearly see that the skin is much less dry and flaky and actually is healing back to normal. I expect that in the next few weeks, I can stop hiding my feet altogether.

 Those are photos of the brand of oil I happen to be using. I am not being reimbursed in any way whatsoever for mentioning them, but I will be buying this particular oil again. It's from Inn & Co. You can read the review I recently did (again, not reimbursed or compensated in any way by the brand or seller) to get an idea why I will stick with this brand.

If anyone else has had success with Manuka Oil (or other products) to treat psoriasis, drop me an email or leave a comment.


Thursday, April 19, 2018

**REVIEW** Birchbox April 2018

UPDATE: If you sign up for Birchbox because of this post, please let me get the referral points by using this link: TRUDY SENT ME!

The Birchbox I told you all was coming... arrived.

This was courtesy of my angel sponsor but, let me tell you what, I will be continuing this subscription. It exceeded my expectations.

The cute little collectible, um "upcycle-able" box is adorable and the contents were pretty awesome. For a $10/mo subscription, this is what the April 2018 box contained listed with the full-size prices:

1. Beautaniq Beauty Fill + Tame Brow Gel ($12)

This was one of my 2 faves in this box. Though I don't wear full-face makeup that often, I do like to do my eyes and lips. I hace unruly brows and I am a mess when it comes to shaping them. This gel has a brush that made it easy even for me to get my brows to behave. The shade would be best for when I over-pluck or shave the brows, but I would have preferred the Clear.

2. Briogeo Rosarco Blow Dry Perfection & Heat Protectant Crème ($24)

This was totally out of my beauty profile range. I wear my hair afro-curly and try never to use any kind of heat other than to deep condition. That being said, I can tell you that this product smells awesome. When I applied a little of it to my hand to check the texture, I found it to be very light and it didn't leave even the trace of a film on my skin. I hope that helps anyone who is looking for some kind of information about the product.

3. Clarins Multi-Active Day Cream SPF 20 - All Skin Types ($54)

First, let me say that I wanted to like this and I mostly did. Two things about it turned me off: 1 - there is a fragrance in it and I don't like fragrance on my face unless it's an essential oil I'm using for a specific purpose. 2 - Did ya see that price? OMG. If I had loved the crap out of this, I'd have to find it sold by a tenth of a milliliter.

I can say that it's the lightest and best-textured day cream I've seen outside of the Avon Anew that I typically use.

4. Eyeko Skinny Liquid Eyeliner ($22)

I love, love, love a good liner. This one is so easy to use because of the felt tip pen-like applicator. If you can write, you can use this. Mine came in black and it's a true rich black. I don't use eyeliner every day, but when I do, this will be the one.

5. Smashbox Cosmetics Insta-Matte Lipstick Transformer ($24)

This is another of the products that I wanted to like. I do like the way it goes on - very smooth and non-sticky - and I loved that, once applied, it didn't dry out my lips the way a lot of matte-ifying products can. The one thing that put me off is that I am so particular about the shades of my lip products and this changed the shade ever so slightly. Maybe it will work better with some of the shades I want to change anyway, but it's not for my regular lipsticks. On the other hand, this is a super product for those who can have a little bit of variety in the lip color.

6. BONUS Lipstick Queen Frog Prince Lipstick ($25)

Remember I said I had 2 favorites in this box? This is the other one. This is my top fave and it wasn't one of the box samples. It was the bonus gift. 

You can see that the lipstick itself is green (frog prince green?) but when it reacts with my body ph or heat, it turns the faintest shade of blush red that's perfect for my complexion. I said today that I always envied people who have those naturally shaded lips. Now I can have that same look and the gift/sample is actually going to last me a while.

Free's Birchbox Rating

So that was my first box. It will be up to me to pay for it from now on and I think that, if I can swing it, it will be totally worth it. Based on this month's box, I give Birchbox a 5-star rating. It's affordable for most people, the samples are of a good size, and the items are all interesting.

If you are interested, you can use this link to sign up. Please do becasue I will get points as the referrer :-)

Another Plus to the Birchbox is that you get a discount when you purchase anything you have sampled. Also, you earn other rewards. This is from the Birchbox site:
"Each time you shop with Birchbox, you automatically get rewarded! The minute you create an account, you can start earning Points to spend on full-size favorites and gift subscriptions. Even better news: You’re on your way to bigger perks. The more you shop, the closer you’ll be to qualifying for our VIP Aces tier, which gives you access to exclusive added benefits."


DISCLOSURE The products reviewed in this post were paid for by an "angel" sponsor who is in no way affiliated with either product or brand or seller. My opinions are not influenced by the "angel".

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

**REVIEW** ScentSplit Decant Perfumes

For anyone who loves perfume but lives on a tight budget - or is just very careful with their money - the best services are those that sell decanted fragrances.

Q: What is a decant?
A: Perfume that is taken from a bottle and put into a smaller bottle.

I wanted to try some fragrances that use Tonka Bean as a part of the scent. When I checked around, I found 3 perfumes that sounded promising. They were on the ScentSplit site:
  • Fève Délicieuse by Dior
  • AMEN Pure Tonka from Thierry Mugler
  • Tonka Imperiale from my favorite - Guerlain 
This is the thing, I can't afford to even look at any of those perfumes at the store. Decant purchases is definitely the way to go.

Here's what the decants cost vs what a bottle would cost in a store like Nordstrom or Neiman Marcus:
  • Fève Délicieuse 1ml decant = $4.99 vs $210 for 4.5oz
  • AMEN Pure Tonka 6ml = $16.99 vs $90.00 for 3.4oz
  • Tonka Imperiale 1ml decant = $7.99 vs $260.00 for 2.5oz
I can't remember where I read the catchline of "when you want to date a fragrance, not marry it", but it's perfect for this post.

Since this review is for the ScentSplit service, I won't get all into how much I love these perfumes, but... I love these perfumes. Guerlain wins out again though as my forever-will-be favorite. Tonka Bean must be included in all my future scents! Now, on to the Pros and Cons of ScentSplit.


They have a fabulous selection of fragrances to choose from. I looked at a couple of different services to do a review on and chose this one to start because of the crazy amount of choices.
This is only HALF the brands shown

The prices are great and you are given enough size choices to afford at least a sample of something.

My package was nicely wrapped to protect the contents. Inside the mailing box, was the actual box of my items. This was wrapped so prettily, it was like getting a gift.

Fragrance Quality
When you open the gift box, your items are inside, covered with and nestled in paper. I removed the top layer to take the photo.

The fragrances houses on ScentSplit are on the higher end and more classic types. I have nothing against the celebrity or passing-trendy scents, but I prefer names that withstand time. ScentSplit has a nice mix while some other services seemed to favor "younger" scents.

All three of the scents I ordered are of wonderful quality. I had the opportunity to sniff a bottle of the Tonka Imperiale when I hit the stores in Arizona last year. I know that the decant I ordered and received is the real deal. 

This is the 6ml spray bottle -

The sprayer is nice and fine and is great for not wasting any of this perfume.

The 1ml sample tube is capped very tightly. That's great because you don't want any of your fragrance to leak, but it was tough to open it. I'd rather have it tightly sealed like it is though.

 Not only were the prices reasonable, but the shipping wasn't bad. It was $4.99 for the small box with USPS 1st Class Postage.


Using ScentSplit is such a great way to make enjoying fragrances an affordable adventure. It's a shame that the site needs so much improvement. From the point of putting in an order to awaiting delivery, I kept notes of my frustrations:
  • The website needs an overhaul. Trying to sign up for an account is silly because the first option at the top left of the page doesn't work. You have to go to the middle top of the page at "Your Account" and work from there. Also, if you order without creating an account, you can't merge any order info once you do set up an account. It's just unnecessarily complex.

  • Order delays are not readily addressed. I ordered on the 4th of the month and there were no online updates or tracking info provided by the 9th. I had gotten a Thank You email from the owner so I used the Reply function to ask about the delay. He let me know that one of my items was on back order and he was very nice about offering to change my order or cancel with a full refund. My issue was not the delay as much as it was not being kept informed about delays. If this order had been for a date-specific gift, I'd be so late.
  • When I did get a tracking number, I couldn't copy/paste it to check up on the updates for myself. The way the site is set up, you can't copy information. Okay. The postage fees were for 1st Class USPS. I got the package on the 16th. The Order Page wasn't updated with all the information until the packaged was delivered...

Yay or Nay?

So, basically, I would rate ScentSplit very high on quality of the product, but that website needs work. I hope that in the future, deliveries will be more timely and I think they will be barring any back ordering issues. The presentation of my items was so beautiful that I have to give it a 10-star rating. It just about makes up for the hassles of dealing with the website. (NOTE: I was just informed that the ScentSplit site is one of those hosted sites. That may be the cause of the issues I'm fussing about. Not the fault of ScentSplit then. My bad.)

Based on my overall experience and satisfaction with the product, I will definitely be referring my friends and family to use this service. I will be checking out other similar decant sites though. 

I give this a 4-star rating overall. The product more than makes up for the site issues.


Monday, April 16, 2018

**REVIEW** FabFitFun Starter Box

So. I finally broke down and tried this particular subscription box. I didn't even think about trying the fifty-dollar seasonal box, but I had a coupon to try the Starter box for $19.00.

INSERT PHOTO of the box outside

The box had some really good items in it and was well worth the intro $19.00 but I would never even consider paying fifty bucks for even a quarterly subscription beauty box.  Also, I happened to love everything I got in the Starter box but I looked back over some of the past boxes and wasn't impressed with the contents I saw.

This Starter box though... It was pretty nice. Let's take a look.

The box outside my door looked festive enough. It wasn't that heavy though so I was super curious to open it.

The teasing just never ends. I like the care that was taken to nicely wrap the contents. Just like getting a gift. Well, one that you pay for anyway.

I'm not kidding about the tease. It seems to go on and on. The magazine inside was nice and there's the thoughtful note included.

Whew. Finally, right? It's almost like Christmas. You pay for the gift, but the element of surprise is fun. For about ten seconds, I was a little disappointed.  I saw these 3 items and thought, is that it?

Actually, there was more. Four items in total. I think that every box includes a bag of some kind. This one did not disappoint, but I can't help but...

I would personally never pay $62 for this one, as cute as it is. I think the name is the reason for the high price tag.

There's a cute and sassy little tasselI like and the strap is a good length. I couldn't wait to fill this one up. There are no inner pockets but I managed to fit my phone, wallet, some tissues, lip gloss, a tube of lotion, and a perfume roller inside easily enough. I do like this bag more than I expected to.  Simple and classy.

This Ahava hand cream... This is some luscious stuff. I have a thing for Dead Sea minerals and this lotion's ingredient list includes mineral waters and dead sea water. It feels wonderful and is immediately hydrating. I would definitely buy more of this in the future, but I don't know if I can afford the $33 price tag. I will be looking forward to seeing more products from the brand.

Doucce is a new brand name to me. I'm seeing more of the products. The tubes are so sleek and chic looking. What surprised me was how much I like this lip stain duo. I have issues with most lip stain products. Either they are very drying or, depending on the color, they look dry. This is a medium brown color, which I didn't think would suit my complexion.

It is a bit lighter than I like when I wear just the stain and it tended to look muddy-ish, but when I add the gloss, it looks nice and I have paid more for a good lipstick. Now, if I just do my hair the rest of my makeup and clean my bathroom mirror...

that's toothpaste on the mirror, not something in my hair

I saved my all-time favorite from this box for last. I LOVE the smell of this Marrakesh oil. If I could find a matching perfume, I'd stock up. This does add some shine to my hair, but the scent just makes me happy.

I can tell that the pricing given was pretty accurate because everywhere I priced this oil, it is as shown; $22.99.

Love the smell of this oil!!!

Honestly, everything in the box was good quality, and quality does cost. I really like that they include a bag. I needed a crossbody bag and the Summer & Rose bag replaces the poor, worn-out, raggedy thing that I've been carrying.


Is Fab Fit Fun worth it? I guess it all depends on your budget and the kinds of items you like getting in a box subscription. Fab Fit Fun is just way out of my budget at that $50 each for the Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall boxes.

If I could afford the FFF subscription, I would try it at least for a year. Since I cannot afford FFF, courtesy of my angel sponsor, I am trying out at least one each of the cheaper boxes from Birch and Sephora Play. I will be reviewing those as soon as they come in.


Saturday, April 14, 2018

**REVIEW** Manuka, Manuka, Manuka

As promised, I am going to review a product that I have been talking about forever: Manuka - but not just the honey. Thanks to my "angel", I have a small bottle of the oil and a jar of the honey. So, let's get to it.

I didn't get the EcoBee brand that I have talked about before because, as I told you, I have an angel purchaser. When someone else is footing the bill, I try hard to look for the best price as well as a quality item. I still want to try the EcoBee brand, but that's for another time. For now, I went with the Steens. The first reason is that they passed all the tests of being UMF-certified and licensed as an authentic Manuka brand. The next reason is that, after reading a ton of reviews and doing some other light research, I was impressed with the quality. Now, about the details:

The Taste

Not the usual off-the-shelf texture, sweetness, or color. The honey has a grainy-ness that you can see, but it's not very noticeable on the tongue. Its flavor is more molasses-sweet than table sugar-sweet (but doesn't taste like molasses). If I have to relate the taste to a sugar, it would be more a raw-sugar-sweetness. Though the product page talks about the "bee bread" being included, don't expect what you get with a brand like Really Raw where some of the comb and propolis is very visible when you open the jar. With the Steens Manuka, all that seems to be blended into the honey itself. The coloring is almost that of a very dark peanut butter:

This best captures the color of the honey

Also, I have to mention that this jar was clearly labeled with the UMF rating and country of origin. Even more important, it was sealed for safety in every way.

The Smell

I chose the least expensive jar of Steens. If you remember from my other posts, I talked about the much-lauded UMF rating system.This one is UMF 10+ and cost about $25 for 12 ounces (so around $2/ounce). The other choices on Amazon are UMF 15+ (approx $55)  and 20+ (approx $120). If I had chosen either of those, I would not have been able to choose other products to review for this period. Even my angel has a budget.

A good texture, even after refrigeration

Of course, I can't, for now, check the honey for certain benefits - such as faster healing of sores/wounds. What I could test immediately was for whether or not it would give me an energy boost. Not only did I try this, but I had my brother give it a test also. Result: he felt more energy than I did. I did feel a slight boost during the day that I took 2 teaspoons, but that could be psycho-whatchacallit. My brother has been on a new work schedule that is disrupting his sleep and he said he definitely got a boost the second time he tried 2 teaspoons - one in the morning and one at midday. So, okay.

It's going to probably take me a while of taking my daily teaspoon of this before I can say yay or nay about the benefits. Right now, I am trying to work the honey into my intermittent fasting routine. I like to add some to cucumber water and out it in the fridge overnight to chill. That way, I have a nice big helping of water for first thing in the morning. On the days when I fast - like I will be doing tomorrow - I make up at least 3 jars of the drink to have in between cups of (ugh) unsweetened lemon or mint tea.

In addition to the 10/15/20 UMF Manuka, there are other products at the Steens site.

One last thing about the quality and authenticity of the honey. There is a trace code on each jar that allows consumers to track and trace the origin of their particular jar of honey. If you want to see a test of this tracing feature, head over to here and try out the sample code. I was able to trace mine, but I couldn't zoom in on the map itself.

While Manuka honey has a UMF rating system, the essential oil has a different grading system.

This Inn & Co Manuka Oil I have is rated at  MβTK 25+ Certified.  MβTK stands for Manuka Oil ßeta triketones. I won't get deep into it because it will make my head hurt, but the triketones are important because - according to the NIH and other sources - of their antimicrobial activities.

Getting away from all the technical details and five-dollar words, I was mainly interested in the oil for these touted benefits (especially the ones I italicized):

  • Proven to Kill Bacteria And Other Microbes – 30 TIMES MORE Effective Than Tea Tree Oil
  • Laboratory Tested and Proven Effective Against 35+ Bacteria Harmful To Humans: Streptococci, Staphylococcus aureus (Staph), Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), as well as Pathogenic Fungi.
  • Anti-inflammatory – Treats Aching and Stiff Joints, Strained and Painful Muscles, Back Aches, and Arthritis Pain. Rubbing Just A Few Drops May Help Relieve and Alleviate the Symptoms.
  • Cicatrisant /Cytophylatic– The Oil Helps Scars and After Marks on the Skin Fade Away Promoting New Cell Growth and Healing of Wounds
  • Relaxant/ Aromatherapy – Has Remarkable Soothing and Relaxing Effects. Helps Fight Depression, Anxiety, Anger, Stress, Nervousness, and Disturbances As It Provides a Relaxed Feeling. 

I have actually been using the oil for almost a week so I can speak to the benefits I have enjoyed.

  • Psoriasis on my feet is showing a lot of improvement. I've been using other balms and oils that soothed the skin and gave it a better appearance. This oil after just one treatment seems to be clearing up the problem areas. There is a lot less of the scaling and flaking. I've been using the amazing Pumpkin Seed oil as a carrier and adding just a small drop of the Manuka for each foot. 
  • Again, using the tiniest drop or two in my humidifier, this oil does have a calming effect. I've started using it every night to help me sleep better. Side note about humidifiers: they will set off your smoke detector. I learned that at this morning around 4am...
  • I added about a drop of this to about 3 tablespoons of my hair twist cream and it seems that I got more shine as a result. I've read that the oil is a dandruff remedy as well as a hair growth treatment.
  • To test the oil as an underarm deodorant, I rubbed some manuka and coconut oil on my palms then rubbed under my pits. Works.
  • To test this as an alternative to feminine hygiene spray, I dabbed a small bit of the manuka onto the sticky side of my panty liner. This makes me nervous though because who knows what kind of personal hell it would be to get this oil on your private parts. I have decided to get a fine-misting spray bottle to mix some 10 parts filtered water with 1 part manuka oil to spray my freshly laundered panties and let dry before wearing. If anyone else decides to use the oil as a personal hygiene deodorant, all I can say is, be careful and know the potential risks. LOL
I have added a little bit of the oil (about 5 full drops) to a 1-quart spray bottle and I use it to clean counters in the kitchen and bathroom and to spray the shower curtains with. 

The only halfway negative thing I can say about the oil is that the smell can be strong and has a medicinal tinge to it. I notice it most when using it in the humidifier. On the other hand, the smell dissipates quickly into the air and it also does not linger too long when applied to the skin. I don't find the smell "nasty" like with some highly beneficial oils (hello, Neem), but it isn't a perfume-like oil.

To Summarize

Do I think that these products live up to the hype? Yes. Surprisingly, it is the Manuka oil that I plan to purchase for myself in the future. I am getting a lot of use from this bottle - from use on my skin, hair, in the air, and for cleaning. The honey will last longer and I can see myself not having to replenish the stash for another couple of months.

When I think of the cost of these products, I have to look at the overall use and value. They are worth what they cost in health and mental well-being. The oil is my favorite.

To leave you with something to think about, while I was doing a bit of research on these two products, I discovered that there is still another type of honey to be looked into. It's called Kanuka honey. Kanuka, not Manuka. Seriously. I will have check that out much later. I already have to finish reviewing the products my angel has lined up for the next few weeks.

It might be a minute before I do get to the other reviews. I've been dealing with yet another health issue the past couple of weeks and am just now starting to bounce back. Hang tight though because I have some good stuff coming up - not to mention the May Giveaway...


DISCLOSURE The products reviewed in this post were paid for by an "angel" sponsor who is in no way affiliated with either product or brand or seller. My opinions are not influenced by the "angel".