Sephora’s Response to COVID-19

It’s no secret that every business is struggling right now in the wake of COVID-19. Furloughs and lay-offs are happening en masse, and will continue to happen in just about every business sector out there for the next few weeks or months, besides perhaps grocers and general merchandising big-box chain stores.

While lay offs and furloughs can absolutely tank morale for employees and those with interests in the business alike, these types of moves unfortunately make financial sense for companies who are preparing for an extended period of income loss. The (kind of) silver lining: Given the current unemployment offerings, in many cases, an individual will gain more from unemployment wages than they would have from working — at least for a few months.

Still, it’s a scary time for everyone. And how Sephora, somewhat coldly, responded to their employees in the wake of COVID-19 — by abruptly laying 3,000 employees off via a three-minute conference call — was unfortunately not terribly shocking to me after three or four years worth of their tone-deaf scandals. I mean… A phone call for 3,000 people?! Perhaps they should have tried something slightly more personal like having their district manager contact the worker directly…? I don’t know what else to suggest, but surely there was a better way than that.

Sure, Sephora did bump up the wages of their distribution workers, who are undoubtedly working under taxing circumstances now that the volume of ordering online has dramatically increased. And that’s a good thing. But so did Ulta. Not only that, but Ulta was evidently in a good enough financial position to make a commitment to continue paying all their workers their salary and healthcare benefits, at least until the middle of April.

Of course, Ulta could very well do the same thing as Sephora did, as the month progresses, and pull the rug out from under many of their employees. Again, in these times, it sadly makes financial sense to ensure that the company can return to operation after COVID-19 passes. But if this is the case, I hope that Ulta is not as tone-deaf as Sephora was in doing so. And I hope that both stores are ethical enough to recall most, or all, of these workers in this scenario, once the companies are once again financially solvent.

You can argue that Ulta and Sephora cannot be compared — they sell different types of products. But they are both nonetheless a beauty store, and, as should any good retailer, be concerned for their public image. Starting from the fake Sunday Riley reviews, to the racial profiling scandal, to their continued support of Kat Von D — adding a callous, impersonal mass-firing call to the mix doesn’t exactly help their reputation. ~A

It Cosmetics CC+ Cream Illumination SPF 50+

It Cosmetics CC Cream would be on my list of top foundations ever, but it’s non-compliance with dry skin and it’s inability to stack with other common products is a huge deterrent from me from buying any in the future. Not only that, but the apparent popularity of this $40 foundation has spurred a flood of cheaper fakes/dupes on the market which, sadly, perform the same, if not better than the original.

But first I’ll talk a little about the genuine product, straight from Ulta (which, hopefully, isn’t in the business of selling fakes). This comes in a soft plastic tube with a push-top. The tube is fairly large, but the product goes quickly, since the push-top tends to push out more than you actually need.

Applying this CC Cream is really satisfying. The color is very glowy and radiant. Although the shade range is incredibly limited for this CC Cream, I experienced with both the light and light-medium that the color can sort of “adjust” to your skin tone, within reason. This is helped by the fact that this isn’t full coverage to begin with, as you would expect from a CC cream — however, this still did a pretty good job of neutralizing any of my red tones from scarring. Even better, this foundation plays well with any product you put under it and doesn’t pill. …or so I thought.

I’ll walk you through a work day with this CC cream. I could hold my head up high at my desk and in the hallways, knowing I was only wearing a CC cream, and that my skin looked and felt great. Until hour four: I looked in the bathroom mirror and found the dreaded flaking around my lips and my nose. And it was bad. Sure, I know those areas of my face are a little drier to begin with, but yikes. The scaliness seemed to only worsen as I attempted to “buff it out” with a small dab of concealer. Eventually, I gave up. By hour eight, the CC cream was beginning to break down, and my entire face had become incredibly oily, except for the dry areas, which were still scaley and flaking off more by the second. Gross!

Artistic rendering of the author

After a few days of trial and error, I discovered that this product performs much better when you don’t use Vitamin C. Sure, I get that Vit C is an exfoliant and can cause a bit more dramatic of a skin turnover in drier areas, but I’ve never had this bad of an issue with “clinging to dry spots” with any other foundation. I also suspect I might have some sensitivity to the sunscreen component that was added into this product, since there are a lot of sunscreens, in general, that I don’t tolerate well.

It’s a huge shame that this product doesn’t perform as well after the first few hours, because it’s everything I would want in a CC cream, or even a foundation. It’s glowy. It’s just enough coverage to hide discoloration. There are no drying alcohols. There’s a ton of good stuff packed into this bottle like hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, and sunscreen.

As for the fakes? The fakes are sold all over Ebay and Amazon. A mark of a fake, without having the actual product in your hands is one or both of the following: a price point under $20, or the seller offering only the light, or medium shade. With a few exceptions of the font being slightly out of place on the packaging of the fakes, the imitation of the actual product is pretty darn good, except you will notice there is LITERALLY no shade differential between light and medium. They are the same color.

And sadly, they perform a bit better than the real It Cosmetics. Although the dry-cling still persists, the coverage is just as good (albeit a bit more “stubborn” to apply, since it’s not as fluid as the original), and also doesn’t devolve into a greasy mess by hour four like the original. I don’t condone buying a fake, and my purchase of these was purely accidental and ignoring of the adage “too good to be true” — and for all I know, these fakes could be pumped with arsenic, or something!

It Cosmetics truly has a great product on their hands with this CC Cream. The finish of this foundation is great, and I’ve never broken out from it. But I can’t recommend it to anyone with dry skin, anyone with sensitivities to zinc/titanium oxides, or anyone that wants to incorporate Vitamin C into their routine. That’s a lot of groups to have to exclude for a foundation! ~A

Perceived efficacy: 3.75/5

Longevity: 1.5/5

How much I actually like this product: 3.5/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: For acne-prine skin, yes — for dry skin, no

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!)

Olay Regenerist Micro Sculpting Cream

Olay Regenerist Micro Sculpting

Wanted to see what the hype was all about, since this is one of the more popular lines of moisturizers on the market. Picked this up online for $13 (Ulta is selling for $28, but Walmart says $10 for the same amount of product, huh? Not sure if it’s a newer formulation or what, but, anyway…). Love the packaging, heavy glass-like bottle and there’s a good amount of product inside.

The product is a really smooth feeling, white cream with very light fragrance. The texture of it is cashmere-ish, as much as a moisturizer can be. I like that about it. It initially looks like it absorbs into the skin pretty well.

Until the next morning, that is. Nice, white patches of “dry” skin start showing up (although it’s actually just dried product). This isn’t an issue if you’re going to hop in the shower and wash the remnants off anyway, but it is ill-advised to wear this out during the day, even though the jar instructs you to use it morning and night. I made this mistake and used this prior to putting makeup on, and then I went to work. Not only did my foundation pill when put over this moisturizer, but it started to pill and dry up on it’s own through the day, causing more little white, “dry” spots on my skin. UGH.

My skin definitely feels softer after using it — likely from the paraffin? — and it looks smoother overall, but these effects are just temporary and disappears once the product is washed off. I’m not convinced that it’s doing anything long-term. I also feel like this would be a problematic product for people with mature or wrinkled skin.  On the plus side, it hasn’t broken me out! It also has niacinamide in it, which is neat, although I’m not sure if it’s enough to make a difference.

This probably will not be a re-buy of mine, but it does feel nice, and isn’t the worst thing on the market as far as night creams go. Just as long as you’re only using it as a night cream… ~A

A note from future A: I forgot to mention that this has benzyl alcohol in the ingredient listing. Not cool!

Perceived efficacy: 3/5

Longevity: 5/5 (although, if used as a day cream, this longevity is actually problematic!)

How much I actually like this product: 3/5

Essence Make Me Brow Gel Mascara

Essence Make Me

This will be a quickie review, since there’s not a whole lot to say about brow gel. I grabbed this at Ulta awhile ago when I saw it priced for $3. Considering that price, it’s been great — it was a staple in my makeup bag when the tube was new, and I think it would be ideal for travelling, due to the size.

The initial color on this is great — brown is actually brown, not black. Unfortunately once you get halfway down the tube, that color seems to fade and it’s much less intense than when the package was first opened. The staying power on this gel is pretty impressive throughout the day — it doesn’t flake off, and the color only starts to disappear around the 7-8 hour mark (which is usually when I stop caring, anyway).

I’ve NEVER had an issue with this product smearing, even immediately after application — this is a big one for me because my hair gets in my face a lot and I rub my eyes way more than I should. The wand is perfect size for my not-so-big natural eyebrows, which makes the application much simpler.

Make Me Brow Brow Gel is cheaper in Ulta than on Amazon, but if you need to take the Amazon route, click here: https://amzn.to/2VxQrdP

Perceived efficacy: 4/5

Longevity: 3.5/5

How much I actually like this product: 4/5