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!

Zombie flu pick-me-ups: what's on my sick day tabletop (feat. Caudalie, Paula's Choice, Homeoplasmine, The Body Shop, L'Occitane, This Works)

Where: Southbank, London
When: last Friday, the first night of the Southbank Centre Christmas Market
What: mulled wine, all permutations of fat and carb combinations, and a screening of Tarantino's True Romance at the BFI

Basically a recipe for a great night, yeah?

It was just too bad, then, that I was starting to look and feel like a viral outbreak movie character, right before they turn into a zombie: cold, pale, sweaty, nauesous. Not even a double-shot hot toddy helped. I held it together until I got home, and spent the weekend feverish, aching, and doing my best impression of a consumptive invalid.

I wish I'd taken a photo of my bedside table -- think Tracey Emin's My Bed, but with more phlegmy tissues and less vodka #lifestyleblogger. Here are a few products that made me feel vaguely human.

The ones that smell good: This Works deep sleep heavenly candle and the Caudalie Beauty Elixir

The ones that smell good: This Works deep sleep heavenly candle and the Caudalie Beauty Elixir

Put this one in the not-sure-if-it-does-anything-but-it-smells-good category: This Works deep sleep heavenly candle isn't quite as soporific as the pillow spray in the same range, but I think the lavender and chamomile made me feel more zen than zombie.

The Caudalie Beauty Elixir is an old favourite (Six Word Review here), and I recently won a bottle from their stand at Stylist Live (which I also won tickets to -- just as well, because it so wasn't worth the £25!). The rosemary and mint essential oils act like a less repellent Vicks Vaporub (although I think Will feels differently...), and the citrus and rose components also help make it a good pick-me-up. It does contain alcohol, though -- it might be that or the essential oils that make my raw nose sting, so I spray it on my neck instead. 

The French pharmacy loves: Homeoplasmine and Embryolisse Creme Nutritive Douceur Mains

The French pharmacy loves: Homeoplasmine and Embryolisse Creme Nutritive Douceur Mains

On the subject of sore noses (and cracked lips because of all the mouthbreathing, holy crap), I like Homeoplasmine. This stuff is basically Vaseline, but... it's fancy French Vaseline! I picked this up when I was in Paris earlier this year -- totally an Into The Gloss-provoked purchase -- and it's a really good all-purpose balm. There's no smell, and it's far less greasy than actual Vaseline. (I've previously written about similar balms here and here.)

Another French pharmacy pick-up was the Embryolisse Creme Nutritive Douceur Mains. While lightweight, it's really quite softening and hydrating and non-greasy -- basically all I want in a hand cream but often have a hard time finding.

Is it a bird? Is it an amoeba? No, it's the Body Shop's Luxury Face Flannel!

Is it a bird? Is it an amoeba? No, it's the Body Shop's Luxury Face Flannel!

I barely washed my face (or showered, for that matter. YOU'RE WELCOME), but when I did I used the Body Shop's Luxury Face Flannel. This isn't your traditional terry cloth flannel or thin, rough muslin cloth. It's made from PVA, which makes it ultra smooth and soft after you wet it. I've been using it for a few months now, and it's so great for sensitive skin. I normally use it to remove my cleanser, and it's good at taking off makeup. Since it's basically plastic, it also dries fast and stiff which means you can mould it into weird shapes if you so desire.

The nourishing skincare: L'Occitane Pivoine Sublime Perfecting Cream and Paula's Choice 2% BHA Liquid

The nourishing skincare: L'Occitane Pivoine Sublime Perfecting Cream and Paula's Choice 2% BHA Liquid

Skincare-wise, I stuck with my usual Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid (previously reviewed here). This helped get rid of the flakies and cleared up any blocked pores. I always feel like I look better the day after I use it! L'Occitane were giving away luxury-sized samples of their moisturisers recently, so I tried out the Pivoine Sublime Perfecting Cream. It's a gel-cream formula which absorbs quickly and dries to a matte finish, and has a light rose scent. I haven't tried it under makeup yet, but I have a feeling it would work well on my oily skin. The pot format grosses me out a little -- pump bottles all the way -- but hey, that's what preservatives are for, right?

BRB, looking for my brain: I need it back at work this week!

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.

Let's Get Scientific-al: squalane and niacinamide, ingredients my skin loves

I'm no skincare expert, but after years of reading ingredient lists I've worked out what my skin likes. There's the retinols, salicylic acid, and alpha hydroxy acids (see my previous post on my skincare routine), but I've noticed squalane and niacinamide cropping up in several of my recent favourites.

Healthy skin contains a bunch of fats, sugars, and proteins known as Natural Moisturising Factors (NMF), which help to trap water and keep it hydrated. One of these molecules is squalene, which is an essential part of the production of sterols like cholesterol, vitamin D, and sex hormones. (It's also present in snot, FYI.) Commercially it's derived from shark liver oil, but it seems that most companies now use squalane, a closely related molecule which is mainly derived from plant sources like olives -- cruelty free, and much kinder on the environment. 

Niacinamide (AKA nicotinamide, vitamin B3, or nicotinic amide) is a cell communicating ingredient, which means it tells skin cells how to behave properly -- like your parents teaching you to share and say thank you. In particular, niacinamide derivatives act as antioxidants and are involved in DNA damage repair. It also acts to increase skin's barrier function and helping to improve the appearance of inflammatory skin conditions like rosacea and acne. Basically, it's fab for anti-ageing purposes.

I have combination skin -- visible pores, oily through the t-zone, and a few patches prone to dryness. My main skin concerns are post inflammatory hyperpigmentation (the marks left behind after acne) and moisturising my skin without overloading it. I've found the following products to work well for me, and all contain either squalane or niacinamide, or both.

Bio Beaute by Nuxe Flash Perfection Beautifying Serum and Pixi Flawless and Poreless mattifying primer

Bio Beaute by Nuxe Flash Perfection Beautifying Serum and Pixi Flawless and Poreless mattifying primer

Both the Bio Beaute by Nuxe Flash Perfection Beautifying Serum and the Pixi Flawless & Poreless Primer (previously) contain squalane, and I've been using them as daytime moisturisers and/or primers under makeup. Both are really lightweight lotions (the Pixi is just a touch thicker), but don't overload my skin. The only problem with the Nuxe is that it seems to only be available in Europe -- I haven't seen it here in the UK.

Olay Total Effects 7-in-1 CC Cream in Light to Medium SPF 15 and Night Firming Moisturiser

Olay Total Effects 7-in-1 CC Cream in Light to Medium SPF 15 and Night Firming Moisturiser

Olay is one of the few brands at the "drugstore" level which uses good anti-ageing ingredients like niacinamide. I've been liking their Total Effects range, particularly the Pore Minimizer CC Cream (previously) and the Night Firming Moisturiser. The CC Cream provides lightweight coverage and lasts pretty well if I put a layer of powder (like MAC MSFN) on top. I don't use the Night cream daily at the moment, as I prefer a lighter serum, but I'll use it on dryer days -- it leaves my skin balanced and "plump" feeling, without feeling greasy.

La Roche-Posay Toleriane Ultra Contour Yeux eye cream and Effaclar Duo[+] moisturiser

La Roche-Posay Toleriane Ultra Contour Yeux eye cream and Effaclar Duo[+] moisturiser

La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo[+] and Toleriane Ultra eye cream are both pretty new to me, and contain both squalane and niacinamide. I've been using the Effaclar Duo[+] almost every day, both day and night, as an all over moisturiser, and I feel like I've seen a noticeable difference in my post-acne marks. It's perfect as a lightweight moisturiser for oily skins, and it contains salicylic acid for your pore unclogging needs. The Toleriane Ultra eye cream is basically identical in texture to the Effaclar, and the great thing is that it's super lightweight and unscented -- both issues I've had with other eye creams. I don't have many under-eye issues, so I can't comment on its effects on under eye circles or wrinkles, but it's definitely helped with the dryness (when I remember to put it on).

Have you used any of these, or other products containing squalane and niacinamide?