Ben Nye Final Seal Matte Makeup Sealer

Ben Nye’s Final Seal is the fixing spray to end all fixing sprays. If you’re headed to an event that you know is going to elicit sweating or even a bit of drizzling rain, or you simply just don’t want your makeup to come off… like… ever… then this is the product for you.

A 2oz bottle will run you about $16, which seems expensive at first blush, but one or two sprays are really all it takes for the product to work, so it should last a long time. This comes in a plastic spray bottle. I wanted to note that, though the packaging itself is not unusual, the liquid inside of it can be very temperamental when you take it out of room temperature conditions. When it gets too cold, it “freezes” around the sprayer, making the sprayer difficult to push down on. The sprayer will also freeze in place if you don’t remove excess product that may have dripped down around it.

The sprayer is a little more powerful than just a “mist”, so one of two sprays — top and bottom — should catch the entire face. Make SURE you close your eyes while you spray this, since the very first ingredient of this is denatured alcohol. You may experience a bit of stinging after applying this, but that should diminish in under a minute. The spray leaves sort of a “net” sensation, like your skin is locked into place. This is also unnoticeable after the first few minutes.

In my personal experience, I’ve been able to wear this from 8 in the morning until 9pm at night. Around the end of the wear time, I did notice a bit of foundation cracking around my lips, but this may have been because I had applied Vitamin C in the morning, as usual — which, as an exfoliant, pushes the old skin up, thus cracking the makeup. But it wasn’t anything that couldn’t be salvaged had I chose to keep it on longer. Both my eyeliner and mascara stayed put, as well.

The true test of a transfer-proof foundation or fixing spray are my winter coats. The zippers tend to end right at my chin, so the material of the jacket is directly under my chin/neck area, a prime area for makeup to rub off. No makeup residue on my jacket after using Final Seal!

This product, sadly, is not really good for the long haul for use on your skin. Alcohol denat is the first ingredient, which will inevitably dry out your skin, even if there is a layer of foundation between your skin and this spray. I will say I broke out substantially less after using Final Seal versus Skindinavia’s finishing spray, perhaps due to the comparatively short and simplistic ingredient listing, whereas Skindinavia had included far more preservatives. Still — Final Seal is not great for my skin.

So, acne-sufferers, use this product with caution. But this really is a phenomenal fixing spray and probably the first I’ve used where I felt 100% confident that my makeup would stay all day. I recommend for anyone seeking to lock their look in! ~A

Perceived efficacy: 5/5

Longevity: 5/5

How much I actually like this product: 4/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: No

How to Look like Daenerys Targaryen: Toners that will Make Your Hair Turn White

First of all, Daenerys’ hair is a wig. So, step one, buy a wig. You’re done!

But for those of you who have achieved (or are born with!) that very pale blonde, you have other more temporary options available to you. There’s a handful of different toners on the market, and they can be quite confusing to navigate. Below, I’m going to touch on three different toners and my experience with them.

A couple tips before we get started (that may or may not differ from every other tutorial out there)

  1. There’s a lot support for the idea that toner will apply more evenly if your hair is damp, but I don’t agree with that, especially if your hair already has bleach damage. Chances are, if the porosity of your hair is high, the fact that it’s holding in more water than usual is going to cause your color to distribute more unevenly.
  2. I do, however, highly condone coating your dry hair in oil — specifically, coconut oil (although I will admit I’ve tried Paul Mitchell’s Skinny Serum as well and that helped me a lot as well). This minimizes damage, and also, in my experience, allowed the color to spread more evenly. Here’s my usual schedule: bleach roots (if necessary) -> rinse -> wait until hair is fully dry -> apply oil -> tone on 20 volume for 25 minutes -> rinse.
  3. If your hair is currently darker than medium blonde, then a toner won’t get you to white hair. But anything higher in level than that, you can probably achieve it by playing around with the different colored toners, and what counteracts your hair color on the color wheel. For example, I’ve been able to achieve white while my hair was still bordering on orange — I just had to use T-14 instead of T-18.

Wella T-18 – $6.99 at Sally’s Beauty Supply

I’m reviewing this toner first because Wella T-18 is, in my mind, the standard for how a toner should produce color, and even then, there are still a lot of issues inherent in the product. It is extremely harsh, and will more than likely create extra damage to your hair. The smell is borderline intolerable. All that suffering and the longevity is still pretty darn short — maybe a week of nice color, at best.

But the color!! Assuming you’ve done a good job of making sure the toner is fully saturating every single strand of hair, the color will deliver as promised. T-18 will make your hair white. If your hair isn’t quite pal yellow yet, mixing T-14 and T-18 will also make your hair white. Want to go slightly silver/gray? Pop some 050 violet additive into your T-18, and, voila, silver!

For a beginner, I would definitely try out the Wella line before veering into anything else, just make sure you have some sort of protecting oil over your hair before you apply it. Overall Wella Score: Color: 4 out of 5, longevity: 2 out of 5, healthy for hair: 1.5 out of 5.

Blond Brilliance Toner: Platinum – $5.99 at Sally’s Beauty Supply

There were a lot of references to Blond Brilliance being the less harsh, and better smelling alternative to Wella, with just as good of color payout. I agree that this absolutely does smell better, in fact, it’s a little floral-y. I did notice a little less breakage in my hair with this product compared to the Wella toner (although, at the end of the day, if you’re using 20 developer, there’s bound to still be at least a little breakage).

The color payout is… weird. The application is all well and good with the toner turning the expected purple, but after washing, you may notice that your light blonde hair is now stained green and blue and gray, particularly the finer pieces of hair. Ugh! Better not leave the house for a few days and bust out the clarifying wash, you might think. I advise you to wait until the third day: you may find the whitest white hair you have ever seen in your life. And it lasts for over two weeks!

This toner does not excel at saturation or spreading color as evenly as Wella does. Also, the nasty bruise-color your hair acquires in the first couple days after application makes this almost not worth it. I’d recommend this to anyone prepared to wait a couple days to see the true results, and someone willing to do the legwork in making sure every single strand is coated fully. Overall Blond Brilliance Score: Color: 4.4 out of 5, longevity: 3 out of 5, healthy for hair: 3.5 out of 5.

Manic Panic Semi-Permanent Virgin Snow White Toner – $10.99 at Sally’s Beauty Supply

It is really tempting to just use semi-permanent dye in between touch ups of toner or bleach, since it’s far less damaging than toner. You don’t even need to use developer, and it’s super easy to saturate your hair with!

But I’m convinced you need to have level 12 hair to even think about using this — and yes, I said 12, not 10. At which point, you probably already have the level you want… anyway? I think there was a bit of a white tinge to my super-fine and light pieces in the front, but other than that, there was nothing. Even if I could see the color, it would have washed out very quickly, since Manic Panic is not intended to stay around — two or three days, if I was lucky.

Some users swear this is also good for conditioning your hair, but I don’t really think that that’s true. Regardless of whether or not there’s conditioner in this product, Manic Panic still contains concentrated dye which, like all dye, is not great for your hair staying hydrated in the long run. Honestly, I would probably tell most people to skip Manic Panic in their quest for white hair, especially at it’s price point. Overall Manic Panic Virgin Snow Score: Color: 0 out of 5, longevity: 0 out of 5, healthy for hair: 3 out of 5.

The quest for Daenerys’s hair is a difficult one, and a damaging one as well. But with a little patience, conditioning treatments and a lot of trial and error, it can be done! ~A

The Best and Worst of Products for Blondes

This is my first year alive on earth of being a platinum blonde. The learning curve is steep after years of black dye, which required essentially no maintenance besides root touch up every 3-4 weeks. But now, I’m up to my ears in products that are intended to repair damage, or to tone my hair to keep the brassiness at bay. Here’s my short list of a product that really works, and one that misses the mark.

Best: Shiny Silver Ultra Conditioning Shampoo. I’ve tried many a purple and blue shampoo since bayalaging my hair, but this shampoo is the only one that’s caused me to do a double take in the mirror after my hair’s dried. It really works! It looked as though I had just re-toned it. Not only that, but the toned, silvery-blonde color actually persisted for the next few days after use, instead of reverting back to brassy by the end of the day.

Of course, the reason this product works so well is because it is super-concentrated. Despite the fact you wash this product out after 2-3 minutes, it still takes a toll on your hair — it may feel a bit rough and dry, not unlike the results of a regular toner, although to a much lesser extent (it’s recommended to keep shampooing to a minimum anyways when you bleach your hair). Another thing I don’t love about this product is that isopropyl and benzyl alcohol both make an appearance, which may also contribute to the drying effect.

Still, if you feel like your hair is in a healthy enough state and you’re ready to stamp out some brassiness without completely re-toning, I absolutely recommend this $10 buy.

Worst: It’s a 10 Miracle Leave-in for Blondes. This smells nice, but does it work? Only if you love crunchy hair! Even if are a light-handed spritzer, and you comb this through your hair in hopes of distributing evenly, this will cause your hair to clump up. A leave-in conditioner should be a little bit lighter, and less waxy than this one is.

I also didn’t experience that this product neutralized any brassiness at all, of any color. In fact, I think it almost enhanced the areas where a bit of yellow was coming through, which is an issue since my end goal is white-blonde. And, since this leave-in causes so much build-up and sticks around even after you try to wash it out, it seems like this wrecks the white-blonde color long term, or at least until you tone again.

I think this might only be beneficial to users who are trying to maintain yellow blonde, and perhaps have healthier hair that allows the leave-in to permeate the hair shaft more evenly, instead of clumping up. Otherwise, I’d skip this $14 leave-in. Weirdly, though, I still stan the original non-blonde version of It’s a 10 leave-in… ~A

Pravana The Perfect Blonde Conditioner

For the next couple days I will be running a mini-series on products for blondes! I’ve gone through a smorgasbord of shampoos, conditioners, toners and leave-ins to figure out what will get my level 10’ish hair to silver or white, and I’d like to be able to share some of newfound blonde knowledge (or maybe lack thereof…) with my readers.

Before I jump into this review, I wanted to note that this conditioner will only really “work” if your hair is already at level 9 or 10. Even darker pigments of yellow won’t get cancelled out by this toning shampoo, which, given the strength of this conditioner, is sort of disappointing. If your hair is more a golden or orange tone than light yellow, I’d recommend a blue conditioner instead (which Pravana also carries).

I also had to learn the hard way that just because it’s a purple conditioner, doesn’t imply your hair is going to come out softer or more hydrated! Purple conditioners, while not as stripping and concentrated with dye as the shampoos, can still cause damage, just to a lesser degree than a flat-out toner would do. I would definitely follow up the use of a purple conditioner with another non-toning conditioner, and possibly a hair mask the next day.

Onto the review of the product itself! It’s about $12 for a somewhat smaller-than-usual bottle of shampoo. Although this conditioner is a bit thicker than other toning conditioners I’ve tried, the product still gets absorbed by the hair pretty quickly, so I feel as though I keep needing to go back to the bottle to get more. Fortunately, since you should only really use this conditioner once or twice a week max, the bottle will last a long time.

This conditioner gives better results if your hair is wet to begin with (also it’s SO freakin’ hard to saturate your hair with this conditioner when it’s dry!), so I’ll rinse my hair first, and then apply the conditioner. I’ll wait two minutes before rinsing again to remove the product.

The color payout of this conditioner is, as expected, a little less dramatic than using a purple shampoo. The lightest pieces of blonde will have less of a yellow tint, and reflect a bit more white/bright than before — but I don’t think this product completely masters the art of cancelling out yellow. I’d recommend avoiding this around your root area, or anywhere where you have level 7-8 bits of hair, because it will turn those areas a somewhat putrid yellow-potato color.

Again, you don’t completely avoid damage by using this conditioner. It’s very rough on the roots of your hair, or anywhere where you have fine pieces of hair. I have experienced breakage from using this around those areas, or areas that were already weak to begin with (keeping in mind that I bleached the daylights out of my hair — if you have stronger hair than mine, you might not experience this issue to the same degree).

I think this conditioner is really great anyone with brunette hair, and bayalage (level 9+) highlights around the base, since this doesn’t seem to play well with the different colors around the root level. I was impressed by how “bright” the lightest pieces became, so I know it does work, but this conditioner is way too temperamental around the slightest shade of gold. The longevity is ok for a conditioner — up to four days of “bright” blonde — but I’m not really sure it’s worth the damage to my hair. ~A

Perceived efficacy: 2.5/5

Longevity: 3.5/5

How much I actually like this product: 3/5

Bio-Oil Specialist Skin Care – Price Increase and Fakes, a 2020 Update

There’s been a recent uptick in Bio-Oil’s popularity, and I can’t help but wonder if some of the hub-bub is also related to their remarkably sharp price increase! Bio-Oil has been on the market for a little over thirty years, and remains a well known and liked skincare product because the stuff actually works. I reviewed Bio-Oil previously, in fact (link to original review here); while I don’t think it’s a miracle product for scarring, it is a great introduction into oils you can apply to your skin. It was worth $9, for sure. A quick walk into Walgreens last week, however, revealed the new price tag was $17 for the same amount of product.

I was a little peeved at the $17 price tag, but realizing the price was roughly the same as Amazon’s current going rate, I threw in the towel and purchased it. I do really like the stuff, after all, and sometimes a girl is too lazy to drive across town to Target/wait three days for shipping!

Foolishly, I also believed that Walgreens would pick from a relatively reputable stock for their beauty products, but I suppose to only reputable retailer would be Bio-Oil themselves. I should have opened the box in the store to inspect the product. But I didn’t. I got home and sure enough, upon opening the bottle, discovered that I may have had a dupe on my hands.

Sign 1 Fake: Super thin, almost water-like consistency. The real Bio-Oil is more like… oil. It slips and slides around your skin, and doesn’t immediately absorb, but the fake is much more thin. Upon further Googling for signs of a fake, I realized the fakes will also “bubble” if you shook them. Yep. It did that too.

Sign 2 of Fake: the smell. This had a faint whiff of like… antiseptic, kind of. Like the stuff they use to sterilie everything at the doctor’s office. Definitely not the light, faintly floral smell of Bio-Oil.

Sign 3 of Fake: A little more Googling informed me that the color will appear more pink than orange. This was definitely pink.

I didn’t even want to try putting this on my face for the sake of “science” and seeing what it would do. The antiseptic smell convinced me that I would more or less be putting mouthwash on my face.

It’s tough to find a good source for Bio-Oil, since the regular consumer cannot buy directly from the manufacturer themselves. Bio-Oil is easy to find at almost any supermarket and drugstore, but again, even drugstores I view as reputable aren’t immune to buying bad stock. With that said, if you’re going to buy Bio-Oil, I highly recommend skipping Amazon altogether, since Amazon is the king of fake products. I’ve had more comfort and assurance of quality products from Ulta, Vitamin Shoppe and GNC.

I know the frustration of buying fake products, so I hope this will bring a level of awareness to new Bio-Oil converts! It’s a great product, so long as it’s the real product! ~A

(Don’t forget to check out my original review here!)

Pixi H20 Skindrink

Potential new holy grail moisturizer, comin’ right up! Pixi Skindrink is like a thicker, tackier version of Bio-Oil that I never knew I needed — and also cheaper alternative ($19 for full size) than the very similar Dr Lin Hydrating Gel, which now retails for $30. Geez, I can’t believe I used to buy Dr. Lin moisturizer for like, $7 at one point of my life. Anyways! I love Skindrink, and although I’ve only been using it for a few weeks, I already know it will be a re-buy of mine.

This is a clear gel that comes out of a push-top tube. It’s very easy to spread, and one pump should cover the entirety of your face. This has a noticeable rose- or soap- like smell, but fades after thirty minutes of wear.

You’ll probably notice that this moisturizer does not dry down after application — it will feel greasy, and still easy to disturb after application. Even when it’s “dry”, it’s extremely tacky, not unlike many paraffin or petroleum type moisturizers that are used as occlusives. So I only recommend Skindrink as a last step in your nightly routine, or if you don’t plan on wearing makeup that day. It’s all worth the slight discomfort of a greasy face, though. When I wake up in the morning, my skin feels bouncy and smooth!

I haven’t broken out from this, and this is probably thanks to the somewhat tame ingredient listing, with glycerin and silicones at the top of the list to keep moisture in. There’s no irritating alcohols — in fact, there’s not even a single fatty alcohol either (such as cetearyl alcohol), which is hard to come by when looking for a moisturizer.

The Pixi website suggests you can put this moisturizer in the refrigerator to maximize the “cooling” effect Skindrink provides (which will occur even without the refrigeration, just to a lesser degree). Combining the simple ingredient listing and the cooling effect that should come as a relief for those with sensitive skin, I’d absolutely recommend Skindrink to acne sufferers.

I know this was a pretty short review, but it’s a pretty simple moisturizer with a single function — to retain moisture — and Skindrink does that function very well. This was my first venture into Pixi skincare products, and I’m excited to try out more by them! ~A

Perceived efficacy: 5/5

Longevity: 5/5

How much I actually like this product: 5/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: Yes

Clinique Acne Solutions Liquid Makeup

I have high standards for Clinique. It’s been around forever, and it’s pricy, for usually good reason — Clinique generally has high-quality products. But, for $30, this bottle of foundation is just meh.

I was looking for something with a little more oil control than my usual foundations, and perhaps something a little lighter in general. Herein lies my great foundation conundrum. I always want something that’s heavy enough to cover all my blemishes, but light enough to make me not feel like I’m super-clogging my pores. This is basically an impossible ask, and equally impossible to find. This foundation was no exception: it did not meet both of those criteria.

But it is light, for sure. This comes out of the tube with very little pressure needed on the bottle. It’s somewhat watery, but not runny. It spreads easily, but absorbs quickly into the skin, so I kept finding myself needing to get more product out of the tube to cover my entire face.

What I do like about this foundation is that it’s buildable. It won’t necessarily cause issues if you try to apply layers shortly after the other, but I recommend waiting for each layer to set for at least five minutes, because the foundation will thicken and show a bit more coverage in that time. But don’t mistake buildable for “can become full coverage” — it’s still incredibly light, and won’t cover deeper-set scars.

The foundation has a natural matte finish that lasts… maybe five hours. It does do it’s job in the time it’s on. It maintains an even finish with minimal creasing (although it absolutely is NOT transfer proof so, try to avoid touching your face), and it does control oil as stated. It doesn’t feel heavy while it’s on. But once that five hour mark hits… POOF! It’s just gone, somehow. As if you never put it on. (Although, to be fair, I would prefer makeup to “suddenly vanish” instead leaving patchy areas of foundation behind…)

Now let’s discuss the acne-fighting feature of this foundation. This contains salicylic acid, a BHA. I don’t think this really improved my blemishes or overall skin quality at all, despite the BHA. I didn’t experience any burning, per se, but neither the lightness of the foundation’s weight or the addition of BHA’s were beneficial to me in this case. I continued to break out just the same, as always 🙂 Other users could potentially experience burning from this foundation because of the BHAs. And, finally, BHA’s conflict with Vitamin C if used at the same time. This is terrible for me, lover of Vitamin C treatments in my morning routines.

To wrap up my review of Clinique’s Acne Solutions Foundation in a few shorter sentences: Is it a light makeup? Yes. Does it last a long time? No. Does it fight acne? Not for me, personally. This won’t be a rebuy of mine.

If you still think this foundation seems like a good fit for you, my most favorite YouTube MUA thataylaa did a review of it here. Her experience was a bit different from mine, but the video does a great job of showing the finish. ~A

Perceived efficacy: 2.5/5

Longevity: 2/5

How much I actually like this product: 2.5/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: If intolerant to exfoliants, no