The Libbie Club: an honest first impression (and some hints & tips)

Subscription and sample boxes aren't new, but the Libbie Club is one with a bit of a twist. It was launched last year by the people behind Latest In Beauty, who actually do fairly decent beauty boxes; most contain a good ratio of full size to sample size products. For control freaks like me (at least when it comes to beauty products) is that there are no surprises! I liked their previous Caudalie box, and British Beauty Blogger's Dream Box III was full of products I still use today.

 March 2016 box from The Libble Club: Nude Double Dose of Genius oil and moisturising milk, The Hero Project Hyasoft Instant Moisture Boost, and Ciate London Mistress nail paint.

March 2016 box from The Libble Club: Nude Double Dose of Genius oil and moisturising milk, The Hero Project Hyasoft Instant Moisture Boost, and Ciate London Mistress nail paint.

The difference with the Libbie Club (UK and Ireland only) is that after you pay the £20 joining fee, you receive your first box and get the subsequent boxes for free... but only if you review the products and, most importantly, share the offers from your personal Libbie Club page in order to "convert" other buyers.

I am of two minds about this. On the one hand, it rewards people who have the social capital to be able to "convert" potential customers, whether that be through social media, a blog, or word of mouth. On the other, it seems a little unfair that someone who converts 200 people ends up with the same reward (i.e. next month's box) as someone who converts two. I suppose it levels the playing field! Granted, they do reward top sellers with more products, and there may be other kinds of rewards as well that I'm not aware of yet. 

Hint #1: once you hit the "share" button, the site counts it as sharing - you don't actually have to hit Tweet, post to Facebook or email anyone.

I feel a bit ick about trying to "sell" to family and friends, which is why I've limited any sharing to my twitter (@brushandbullet). I'm also hesitant to push it on my Instagram or here on the blog -- there's a reason I haven't approached PR companies and brands, as I like the freedom from obligation (even if I wouldn't be paid, I feel like there would be a different level of expectation if I was being sent free product). But hey! At least it's a different story from direct selling for brands, or multi-level marketing.

 Becca Beach Tint in Watermelon and Ultimate Colour Gloss in Palm Breeze 

Becca Beach Tint in Watermelon and Ultimate Colour Gloss in Palm Breeze 

One issue I have is that products sell out, and the popular ones do so quickly! Like, I would have recommended the Nude Skincare Double Dose of Genius kit (my short review here) but it was gone by the time I went to share the offer (it was a good one too -- basically half the retail value for the amount of product). There's no indication when, or indeed if the product would be coming back into stock. 

Hint #2: purchasing from your own page counts as a sale! Which is how I got the April box -- I got the Becca Beach Tint in Watermelon which comes with a free Palm Breeze lip gloss.

Another issue: there doesn't seem to be the functionality to add a review for products which you can buy separately (the Becca Beach Tint is an example). I quite liked writing the short reviews (no direct link, but click through and you'll see "My Reviews") and it would be good to be able to do so for all products, not just the ones that came in the monthly boxes. I generally spend between five to eight hours on each or my blog posts, including conception, research, photography, writing, and editing, and I feel like short reviews like those pose less of a mental barrier. I'm not as precious about the writing and I think it's encouraging me to do more with my blog.

 April 2016 box from The Libbie Club: Bee Good Cream Cleanser, The Hero Project Glow Drops, and Eyeko Fat Liquid Liner.

April 2016 box from The Libbie Club: Bee Good Cream Cleanser, The Hero Project Glow Drops, and Eyeko Fat Liquid Liner.

The thing is? I legitimately like the products I've received from The Libbie Club so far. The Nude travel size kit was a win. Ciate London's Mistress is my first ever jelly finish nail polish, and I'm definitely going to look for more (shame the shareable offer is for a £30 "Mani Must Have" kit; the polish comes free with it). The Eyeko Fat Liquid Eyeliner would work well for me in the winter when I don't have oily eyelids! At the moment, it starts smudging about four hours in, but it's an inky, opaque black, applies really smoothly, and doesn't lift off when applying over the top of any existing product. (There's currently a free mini mascara offer on that one.)

Hint #3: I found it a little hard accessing my account information. It wasn't immediately obvious to me: click on the "My Account" link on the left hand side bar to edit your profile and see past orders. 

 The Libbie Club dashboard screenshot: click on "My Account" at the top left to access your account details. Hey, it wasn't super obvious to me as i was expecting it to sit on the top right!

The Libbie Club dashboard screenshot: click on "My Account" at the top left to access your account details. Hey, it wasn't super obvious to me as i was expecting it to sit on the top right!

They've also started featuring The Hero Project, a new brand which appears to come under the Pangaea Laboratories umbrella; those guys own Medik8, a cosmeceutical/professional skincare brand, and Progen, which does hair thickening and growth products.

 The Hero Project Hyasoft Instant Moisture Boost: a clear gel which absorbs instantly -- great on my oily skin as a serum step, but most will probably need an actual moisturiser on top. Also pictured: Coronary Blues by Fintan Whelan (I picked this up at the  King and McGaw  pop up in Old Street a few months back, but it's also on their website).

The Hero Project Hyasoft Instant Moisture Boost: a clear gel which absorbs instantly -- great on my oily skin as a serum step, but most will probably need an actual moisturiser on top. Also pictured: Coronary Blues by Fintan Whelan (I picked this up at the King and McGaw pop up in Old Street a few months back, but it's also on their website).

The Hero Project has launched only two products so far. I really like the Glow Drops from the April box (a dry-touch blend of ten oils which smells predominantly of rose and geranium to me), and the Hyasoft Instant Moisture Boost from the March box is a nice little addition to my current nightly routine.

 The Hero Project Glow Drops. Also pictured:  Gold Triangle screen print by Quantum Design  (I got this in Bristol, but she has an etsy!)

The Hero Project Glow Drops. Also pictured: Gold Triangle screen print by Quantum Design (I got this in Bristol, but she has an etsy!)

I haven't decided whether I'll buy something to qualify for the next box yet, although I've got my eye on the Caudalie Instant Detox Mask (it's 20% off and the best price I've seen on UK sites).

What do you think -- would you think about joining something like this? Have you ever bought stuff off an acquaintance's recommendation? That's what I read blogs for, but there are definitely bloggers I trust more than others!

Flashback: read my thoughts on beauty boxes from all the way back in 2014!

Hourglass Ambient Lighting Edit: review, swatches, intense internal debate

Sometimes, the heart wants what it wants. 

And this year, as the season of beauty holiday limited editions opened with an avalanche of sneak peeks on Instagram, my heart wanted the Hourglass Ambient Lighting Edit palette.

 Size comparison: almost 10 grams of Luminous Light Ambient Lighting Powder, versus the 1.4 grams x 6 in the Ambient Lighting Edit palette. But so pretty AMIRITE?

Size comparison: almost 10 grams of Luminous Light Ambient Lighting Powder, versus the 1.4 grams x 6 in the Ambient Lighting Edit palette. But so pretty AMIRITE?

Logically, I knew it was a bad deal - in terms of value you'd be much better off getting the Ambient Lighting Blush or Powder palettes (see Temptalia's breakdown), plus you'd get pans of a size you could actually fit powder and bronzer brushes into. 

But in terms of unit price, I could own six of the Ambient Lighting range - powders, blushes, and a bronzer -- for only £9 more than one of the trio palettes. I use Luminous Light, which weighs in at just under ten grams, at least two to three times a week, and two years on I still haven't hit pan. So I knew that the amount contained in each pan in the palette (roughly 1.5 grams) would last me a decent amount of time, even with regular use. I mean, when was the last time I finished a highlighter, blusher or bronzer? Uh, never. 

Anyway, I've been pretty restrained in my makeup buying this year, focusing in on a few big hits (as in "to my wallet: and "products that made a big splash") and limiting my impulse purchases. Just because Boots always has 3 for 2 promos on doesn't mean I NEED ALL THE THINGS, and I get that smug sense of satisfaction every time I walk away. Why not reward my self-control with a £65 palette? 

(Don't answer that.)

 Closeup on Mood Exposure and Luminous Flush Ambient Lighting Blushes in the Edit

Closeup on Mood Exposure and Luminous Flush Ambient Lighting Blushes in the Edit

Let's be clear: if you already own one of the trio palettes, or even a couple of the individual products, I wouldn't bother with this. Only if you are head-over-heels obsessed with the range, or maybe wanted one for travel, would I even remotely think of recommending this. They're just too similar on the skin -- to each other, and to other highlighting or finishing powders and blushes. If you're the kind of person who would buy into a brand like Hourglass, you likely have all the requisite products to put together your own edit.

 Closeup on Iridescent Light, a highlighter exclusive to the Ambient Lighting Edit palette. It's pretty similar to Luminous Light on me!

Closeup on Iridescent Light, a highlighter exclusive to the Ambient Lighting Edit palette. It's pretty similar to Luminous Light on me!

I've been using it almost every time I've worn makeup for the past month, and I'm really pleased with it. These powders don't emphasize my big pores and don't read as greasy on my oily skin. Dim Light and Diffused Light are great as setting powders, and the stuff is fine milled and translucent enough to work for my NC35-ish skintone. I was worried that it would have obvious particles of shimmer, but they are so fine that they translate as more of a sheen than sparkle. 

 My attempt at swatching the Ambient Lighting Powders: in the foreground is Luminous Light, then the peachy one is Dim Light, followed by Iridescent Light and the more yellow-y Diffused Light

My attempt at swatching the Ambient Lighting Powders: in the foreground is Luminous Light, then the peachy one is Dim Light, followed by Iridescent Light and the more yellow-y Diffused Light

Iridescent LIght is a soft, subtle highlighter, although I find that it's really similar to Luminous Light, if that helps anyone decide for or against the palette. I really like the effect it gives, both on its own and over the top of blushes. It's absolutely a good pick for a sophisticated, rather than a shiny, disco beam highlight. 

Despite appearances, the blushes actually read pretty similarly on the cheeks -- Mood Exposure leans more deep and plummy while Luminous Flush is a touch more warm pink. Both have a satin texture, although I find that Luminous Flush has a touch more micro-shimmer than Mood Exposure. I was surprised by the wear time on these -- on Friday (during my descent into zombie flu) I could see it on my cheeks at least ten hours after I put it on!

 Swatches of Mood Exposure, Luminous Flush, and Luminous Bronze Light on NC30 skin

Swatches of Mood Exposure, Luminous Flush, and Luminous Bronze Light on NC30 skin

The Luminous Bronze Light bronzer performs similarly, and I find that it complements the two blushes well. There's a bit more shimmer in this compared to all of the other products, but again, it doesn't scream, "Look at my glitzy tanned cheekbones. Natural, right?".

 Closeup on Luminous Bronze Light in the Edit palette

Closeup on Luminous Bronze Light in the Edit palette

I'll likely post face shots of all six products used in context at some stage. The thing about finishing powder-type products is that they're so hard to capture -- they're definitely a makeup lover's thing, rather than a must have. But there's something to be said about beautiful objects in and of themselves, and man, have Hourglass captured my heart on this one. 

Is this just Fantascene: the NARS x Steven Klein Pop-Up Store experience

Nars invokes a certain image of beauty, and have a knack of taking the overtly sexual and invoking something more edgy and cerebral. Auxiliary Beauty recently wrote a post about Urban Decay's Revolution Lipstick in 69, and made the comparison to the names from the Nars Guy Bourdin collaboration -- UD's name choice just seems lazy and crude in contrast. Sure, Orgasm and Deep Throat are as obvious as they come, but I suspect things were a little different when they were starting out back in '96. 

François Nars also shoots his brand's advertising campaigns, and I think he does well in choosing great collaborators for some of their limited editions -- they don't feel like a marketing gimmick, and the product development often feels more fully fleshed than, say, MAC's limited editions. Their previous photographer collaborations were a little hit and miss: the Andy Warhol collection suffered from poor product quality, and the Guy Bourdin range was controversial due to the glamourisation of violence to women in his imagery. (Related: I really respected Christine of Temptalia's discussion of the topic.) 

  Killer Heel  print, hung opposite the video installation

Killer Heel print, hung opposite the video installation

Steven Klein, Nars' latest collaborator, isn't without his controversies, either -- hello, blackface in French Vogue! Just about every one of his shoots featuring Lara Stone! I'm no art or photography aficionado, but I think there's a fine line between exploring and commenting on some of these challenging ideas, and glamourizing them (and as often is the case, exploiting them for commercial gain). There's something about Klein's subjects and settings, though, a plastic, almost alien quality that reminds me of Blade Runner (is Replicant Beauty a thing? It should be) -- it makes his imagery more abstract to me, and is challenging in a less blatantly violent way.  

 Replicant Beauty! This look was very similar to the main collection imagery.

Replicant Beauty! This look was very similar to the main collection imagery.

Soho, London, was basically the perfect place to host a Nars x Steven Klein pop up store for their Fantascene Holiday Collection. While gentrification has well and truly set in (my friend Ryan, Essex native and Soho regular, is forever bemoaning the Crossrail development), there are still classics like the Soho Original (bookshop-cum-sex store SEE WHAT I DID THERE) and establishments filled with sordid goings on. The pop-up was kind of a gallery setting featuring the Steven Klein imagery used on the products and in the campaign. There was a tiny bar out back serving red-hued cocktails, a photo booth, and a room featuring the Killer Heels looping video installation. The products themselves were laid out on plinths alongside the corresponding visuals, and you could of course play with them -- makeup artists were on hand to help.

Nars Steven Klein Pop Up 👠🚙

A video posted by Teresa (@brushandbullet) on

I mentioned in my Anti-Haul post that I considered the One Shocking Moment palette, but went for the Hourglass Ambient Lighting Edit instead. When I visited the pop-up I swatched it, and asked a MUA to apply some of it on my face, and now I'm glad I went for the Hourglass. I wasn't so keen on the Paloma contouring duo included, already own Laguna, and while the blush shades were beautiful, I felt like I owned similar colours already.

Nars Steven Klein An Abnormal Female Lip Coffret

So the palette was an easy one to forego, but I kind of fell in love with the An Abnormal Female Bullet Lip Pencil Set. One day I'll write a post about the reasoning behind my blog name, and Klein himself has referred to the inspiration behind the product design in interviews -- there are some obvious parallels to be drawn between lipsticks and bullets. The red-tipped, brass-toned packaging is solidly made and weighted at the tip, and there's nothing flimsy about it.

 From top: Nars Dragon Girl, 413 BLKR, and Sex Machine on NC30 skin

From top: Nars Dragon Girl, 413 BLKR, and Sex Machine on NC30 skin

All three of the Velvet Matte Lip Pencils in the set are permanent and full size -- Sex Machine, 413 BLKR, and Dragon Girl -- and the whole thing retails for £45 (the pencils are normally £19 each). A while ago I commented on Auxiliary Beauty's (can you tell she's a favourite?) MAC Giambattista Valli Eugenie post that the range contained what are basically the Platonic ideals of all of the main lipstick colour families. The An Abnormal Female set is similar -- there's the mauve-y pink, a bright fuschia pink, and a punchy red. What would "complete the set" for me would be an orange or orange-leaning red, an oxblood, and a nude (I would never wear a pale pink like Bianca B).

 From top: Nars Mysterious Red and Dragon Girl on NC30 skin

From top: Nars Mysterious Red and Dragon Girl on NC30 skin

I already owned a Velvet Matte Lip Pencil as I was lucky enough to snatch one up when Liberty gave away a hundred Mysterious Reds at their Nars counter, and I adore it. For reference, Dragon Girl is a touch more cool-toned than Mysterious Red, and not as deep -- I'll show lip shots and review the set later once I've had the chance to wear them. The set is exclusive in the UK to the Nars website (and the Pop-Up store, which has now closed). The One Shocking Moment palette is exclusive to Space.NK and the Nars website in the UK, and Sephora in the States.

I'd love to hear your thoughts and opinions on the collection, and let me know: have you picked up anything from the holiday collections recently? I think I've got all I want!

 Nars x Steven Klein collaboration imagery

Nars x Steven Klein collaboration imagery

Nars Steven Klein An Abnormal Female Lip Coffret pencils

The Anti-Haul: What I Didn't Buy

For a very brief period I ran a tumblr blog called Things I Did Not Buy. The idea came from a frugal, beat-your-consumerist-tendencies tip I read somewhere: you see something you want but really don't need, put it on a 30-day wishlist, and if you're still thinking about it after that then you let yourself purchase it. The tumblr was pretty short-lived because I realised that Pinterest was a much cleaner way of presenting something like that visually, and the rest of it could just go on a list on my phone or notebook, which would make it easier to forget about whatever it was that I wanted to buy in the first place.

I've been thinking a lot about minimalism over the past few years, and have tried to not give in to the BUY BUY BUY urges I get every now and then. There seems to be a lot of this going around, spurred on I'm sure in no small part by Marie Kondo's Life-Changing Magic of Tidying, which many of the bloggers I follow have been talking about (read Liz's heartfelt review at the Beauty Reductionista). I haven't read the book, but I went through a phase of reading a bunch of minimalism blogs, and a lot of that thinking has stuck around in my brain. 

All of this to say: I have stopped myself from buying a lot of stuff over the past wee while, with the major rate-limiting factor being that I just haven't had the spare cash for it. Most of it has gone towards a personal trainer for the past couple of months, which has been amazing -- more on that another time, maybe. Anyway, I wanted to get my low-spend progress down on the blog to help spur myself along! So, here are some beauty-related items that I stopped myself from buying over the past few months -- an anti-haul*, if you will.

L'Oreal now have a Pink series to their Collection Exclusive range. I swatched them all in-store, and was almost tempted to walk away with the Blake and Liya (the latter is exclusive to Superdrug) by the 3 for 2 offer. I came to my senses though, and realised that I already have a ridiculous number of lipsticks. Time to give them more love instead of buying more!

My favourite MAC formula is the Mattene (previous mentioned here and in a swatch panel here), so I was super tempted by the recent Macnificent Me collection. Personal Pick, a mid-toned cool pink, turned out to be not that special when I swatched in person, and while I like the idea of wearing a deep purple like Own the Look, I'm not sure that I wanted to pay £17.50 for the privilege. 

H&M have recently launched a 700-odd piece beauty range. I have high hopes, especially considering they're the same people behind the & Other Stories brand, whose beauty range I love (previously mentioned here, here, and here). The Velvet Lip Cream in Le Beau Monde caught my eye because it reminded me of the Sephora Color Lip Last in West End Swirl, which, as previously mentioned, is completely awful to wear. I don't think I own any shades like the Gossamer Lip Stain in Centre of Attention, a bright fuschia. 

Other things that I put in the H&M cart (twice! I walked away from this stuff twice!) include the powder and angled blusher brushes -- I've realised that I much prefer angled brushes for blush to the normal rounded shape; the Revelation Shower Oil -- I thought this would be good for winter; the True Matte Finishing Powder, because I'm running low on my MAC MSFN and Bourjois Healthy Balance powders; two of the blushes -- the Pure Velvet Cream Blusher in Sunny Peach and the Pure Radiance Powder Blusher in Sunrise Pink; two of the Eye Colour-To-Go pencils in Plummy Tones (again, I don't own anything like this) and Chantilly (I've been wanting a white eyeshadow base). Problem is I currently have a 20% off voucher for H&M calling my name from my wallet...

I had a hard time choosing between the Nars Steve Klein One Shocking Moment Cheek Studio Palette and the Hourglass Ambient Lighting Edit for my one splurge in the leadup to the Holiday season. In the end I went for the Hourglass, but I may still yet change my mind and exchange it...

As for the Real Techniques Collector's Edition Eyelining Set -- I nearly purchased this from a TK Maxx for £15 (it retails for £20), but decided I had enough liner brushes at my disposal. FYI for UK purchasers, it's cheaper from the Real Techniques website, even after accounting for import taxes.

What about you? What have you put back on the shelf lately, literally or figuratively?

N.B. I used to spend a stupid amount of time on tumblr. It was a great little community, but a couple of years ago I started to spend less time scrolling through the dashboard, until half-way through last year when I just stopped visiting altogether. Here is my original tumblr blog, if you feel like a stalk through the archives!

*I know that this isn't an original phrase, but after it came to me I had a quick Google, and there doesn't seem to be consistent usage of it in beauty blogging or elsewhere. We're going with it.