Sephora Play: March 2017

No matter how many makeup box subscription ads Instagram slips into your feed, nothing is more effective than someone telling you to sign up for that shit.

In my case, my enabler was Bonnie, one of my fellow bridesmaids at my sister’s wedding in January. “They come with cute bags and they send you stuff that’s actually really good,” she promised of Ipsy and Birchbox.

“I think I need to try that,” I said, and I like to keep promises. At least the ones I make to myself in a downtown Seattle blowout salon surrounded in contour supplies.

I tried to sign up for the aforementioned Ipsy, but like most subscription beauty boxes, I spent 15 minutes entering my shipping/credit card/birth certificate information, along with their “getting to know you” quiz (I’m a pale 32-year-old with baby fine hair that still somehow manages to frizz, plus zits and wrinkles at the same time, AMA) before being informed that “oh shoot! I’m on the waitlist!” Which is a bitter test of wills to see who will break first: the company, that would perhaps like to cash in on your pledged $10-20 a month, or you, anxious subscriber, who can leap over the waitlist into whatever VIP land actually receives a monthly shipment for the mere price of spamming the fuck out of your friends and family on Facebook. Not by just sharing the site to your wall and then hastily changing the settings to Private. Oh no. The beauty box industry is WAAAAY smarter than you, dear Influencer. They want full contact list and posting access. They want you to send your contacts private advertising MESSAGES.

And I’m sorry. I have a line, and it cuts right through Selling Myself as a Social Media Spambot for $10 Worth of Makeup Samples.

So I put my name into Ipsy, Sephora Play and Boxy Charm, and then I waited. I tried to forget about the mystery boxes that could be potentially showing up on my doorstep packed with all the things I never even knew I needed in life, but the thought wouldn’t leave. I wistfully clicked over to my Junk folder, hoping an Acceptance was hibernating amongst the Redfin house listings and Bed, Bath and Beyond coupons.

February arrived, and I lurked on the Box Spoiler pages, trying to tell myself I didn’t want the NARS tiny gloss or the Bumble and Bumble blow-dry cream. That’s cool. Whatever, boxes. I’ve still got my $10 to blow on Starbucks drinks I don’t even want but keep buying because I can’t resist the allure of collecting all the stars and earning more shitty coffee drinks I never wanted in the first place.

Sephora Play was the first (and so far only) company to break, and let me know via several ecstatic emails that I’d been granted clearance into their special club of mass mailings (My tongue naturally goes to cheek, but I was legitimately giddy). Then, just as mysteriously as I was invited, the black striped box arrived without so much as a shipping notification.


The theme was obviously Glowing, which is a welcome suggestion given this, the most gray and miserable and wet and cold Oregon winter in recent memory. I’ve already been to the MAC counter once this year looking for a cure for my “flat” face. “I just feel like my complexion is lifeless,” I told the associate.

“Yeah, I can see that.”

She then tried to talk me out of using my Kiehl’s moisturizer, which was straight-up disrespectful. Kiehl’s kept my skin from shriveling up like a Craisin in Tucson. Me and my Kiehl’s have seen some shit.

I turned on Solange. I made some tea. I tried to herd Max the cat away, but he could sense that whatever was in the black striped box was a sacred treasure, and thus needed to be destroyed.


First up, a generous sized bottle of Living Proof texturizer.



I torture my hair on a daily basis to give it some semblance of body, so this is perfect for me. The fold-out tips sheet that Sephora sent along with the box recommended spraying it on the roots for some mid-day lift, which did calm some of the post-curling midday frizzes.

Next up, another generous sample of Bobbi Brown stick eyeshadow in a glittering bronze.


Basically every woman I’ve ever known has raved about Bobbi Brown’s makeup, but I skipped her counter on my personal Clinique > Benefit > NARS > Smashbox > MAC journey. Sephora recommends using the stick as a contouring tool or as an eyeshadow. I thought it could breathe a little new life into my MAC brown 3×3 palette, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

Next, a Glow ever-so-slightly Glamglow tinted moisturizer.


I don’t really understand tinted moisturizer. Who has this perfect skin that hardly needs a gradient of color to face the world?

Erg, open mind. I keep forgetting. Okay.

What the hell is this?


What it is is the world’s skimpiest jar of something called “finishing balm.” Good luck finishing off anything or anybody with this, portioned out like it’s La Mer. You’re supposed to run it over contoured cheekbones or whatever to make them glowier.

Speaking of:


Inside this cute little box that speaks to my marketing-professional-at-a-lighting-company day job aesthetic is a small but mighty stick of Benefit Watt’s Up highlighter. As mentioned above, Benefit was on my trajectory of favorite makeup brands leading up to my eventual marriage to MAC, and I was a high school sucker for their adorable packaging and moxie-packed fonts. I remember selling off some of my favorite Sailor Moon goodies on eBay so I could afford a compact they sold that looked like a miniature hand mirror and packed powder behind the glass and lipstick in the handle.

What turned me away? Like Clinique, the pigments just weren’t strong enough to roll hard with me. They went on light and flaked away. But then again, it’s been, ugh, like 15 years, so I’m willing to give them the…BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT.

There’s also a perfume sample, but this is trash. I am that girl in your office that will rain the fires of HR hell down upon you for spraying this noxious crap.

The next day I did what I do every morning before work: I left extremely early so that I’d miss as much of the on-ramp backup onto I-5 as possible, sat in the parking lot, and did my makeup. Car makeup > bathroom makeup. I stand by that with all my soul.

I switched out my beloved Kiehl’s moisturizer with the Glamglow, and it does come out in a lovely shade. And smells like the carved coconut drinks you’d Instagram in a resort pool on a pineapple-shaped floatie. Ugh. How does one take a vacation every week?

(Oh yeah! Become president in 2017!)


It was refreshing, and smooth, and my foundation settled nicely atop it. My only issue? The fragrance. About 20 minutes of sitting with that rummy drink on my face and I wanted to burn it all off.


Next, what would turn out to be my favorite of the bunch, the Bobbi Brown stick. I brushed it into the V of my outer eyelid corners, over the top left and middle left shades in the above palette (the former up to the brow line, and the latter on the lid). It blended so neatly, I may be converted. Or at least, open to a new member of the eye routine posse. The most basic posse you’re likely to encounter.

I used the Benefit Watt’s Up along my jawline, which is where I normally apply my MAC Mineralize Skinfinish powder.

There’s a teensy bit of pigment happening, but not much, and not at a level where I’m confident that it will wear all day (spoiler alert: it did not). It looks like my 20-year-old self was right about Benefit after all; it’s just not strong enough to hang with me and my theater makeup friends.

Which sucks because I’m a total sucker for cute packaging gimmicks and punny names.


Thanks to Sephora Play for bringing a smidge of glow to the Fifty Shades of March Weekdays. You make me wistful for those days when I’ll be bitching about how it’s NEVER this hot in Portland and we’re all certainly doomed.


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