Love at first sight is nice but sometimes a little time is needed to truly appreciate someone, or in this case, something. In fact some of my favorite products are ones that I didn’t initially think much about, items that I may have hastily dismissed as unnecessary, or that I bought on impulse without high hopes for their performance. (I’m a sucker for a bargain!)
As a cosmetologist and beauty blogger, I sample a lot of products. And I mean a lot. My drawers are full of items I receive from product lines and their PR agencies, as well as many I pick up on my own dime. I’m always thrilled to try new tools and cosmetics but I can confess, sometimes my first impression of a product is, well, meh. I can’t get excited about everything …
Every once in a while, a tool or cosmetic I find uninspiring at first becomes a go-to over time. These are true surprises. I want to share my finds and the stories behind them so you don’t overlook them the way I did. This list includes only items that I use frequently, recommend to friends and family, and would absolutely purchase again. For comparison, I’ve also included three items I was sure I would love that ended up being a disappointment.
Products I Never Expected to Love:
1. Sam Villa Brushes
When I received a box of tools from Sam Villa, I literally squealed with delight. Sam Villa is a highly respected hairstylist and I knew his products would be well-crafted. The package contained a blow dryer and two styling irons, all of which I loved from the very first use. I was less excited about the four hairbrushes. I’m a hairstylist and I already owned so many that I just threw them in my drawer.
Eventually, I noticed that I was reaching for them more and more to style my own hair as well as my clients’. They are made with excellent materials like solid bamboo, natural boar bristles, and titanium-infused nylon. These details, along with others like the inlaid rubber grip on the boar brush above, set them apart. They leave hair looking healthy and shiny and they just feel good in your hand.
Available at Sam Villa $29.95
2. Osmia Organics Spot Treatment
Osmia Organics is a great resource for natural and earthy products that perform well and feel luxurious without potentially harmful additives. Their spot treatment was including in a box of samples I received and I almost immediately gave it to my husband. While I appreciate natural products, I don’t usually mess around with acne. I tend to go straight to the chemicals.
However, because I do apply prescription topicals over my entire face, I started dabbing this Osmia product just on blemishes. Lo and behold, it works and well! The bacteria-fighting essential oils stop my pimples in their tracks and they often never even surface. Meanwhile, the evening primrose oil keeps the area moisturized. There is nothing worse than flaky, crusty skin on top of a breakout! Needless to say, I’ve reclaimed this handy product from my husband.
Available at Osmia $22
3. Wet n Wild Fergie Crème Lipstick
Oh, the impulse buy! I threw this lip color in Fuchianista in my basket while waiting around the drugstore for a prescription. I prefer to buy lipstick in department stores (where I can try it on) but I loved the shade and went for it. I figured if I didn’t like it, I’d only suffer a small monetary loss.
Fast-forward a few weeks. I wore it to a party with a friend staying with me, never reapplied, came home, washed my face, and slept all night. The next morning my friend said, “Why are you wearing lipstick?” My response: “It’s Wet n Wild Fergie. It lasts forever. I’m obsessed.” I now own four of them in different shades! Note: It does come off; you just need a little makeup remover.
Available in 10 shades at Drugstore $3.49
4. Turbie Twist
I decided to give Turbie Twist microfiber towels a try after a) doing a post on “As Seen On TV” beauty products and reading the glowing reviews and b) it was recommended by a good friend. I thought I would sample it for “research” and then never really bother to use it. Wrong. I love these towels! They absolutely do significantly cut my blow drying time, are so comfortable to wear, and stay in place after you twist the end and tuck it into a small elastic loop. You could dance in this thing and it wouldn’t fall out.
Additionally, my son loves these towels as much as I do. He hates to dry his hair so he just wraps his mop up in a Turbie Twist and hangs out in his robe. It’s really stinking cute and when he takes the towel off, his hair air-dries in no time!
Available at Drugstore $5.99
5. Color Wow Root Cover Up
I started investigating temporary root cover-up solutions on the request of a friend. She was sick of seeing her grays between salon appointments. As a prominent blogger who is often photographed attending business meetings and events, the wiry intruders are especially annoying. Beauty blogger friend to the rescue!
I, thankfully, do not have a lot of grays yet and though I do dye my hair a bit lighter than my natural color, I’m not too bothered by my new growth. However, I do struggle with my hair becoming thinner as I age. What I did not expect was how well this product would not only disguise new growth, but also fill in sparse areas. It’s amazing. My mother, who also has thinning hair and grays, loves it too.
Available in six shades at Color Wow $34.50
6. Jamberry Nails
While fun enough, nail wraps initially seemed a little silly to me. I come from the era of press-on nails that looked fake and felt strange on your fingers. But Jamberry Nails stickers look like real nail polish and are just as light. Best of all, they are really convenient. Jamberry Nails last as long as a gel manicure without the need for a UV light and they come in a wide variety of colors and patterns. They are super easy to apply and remove and allow you to experiment with nail art without having any artistic ability. You can even design your own set! As a bonus, because my nails are on the short side, I can get two applications out of one set.
I don’t use them all the time but they are fantastic for events or trips when you may want your nails nicely manicured without having to worry about chipping. Additionally, they are available in several “Mommy and Me” styles — full-sized nail wraps with corresponding kid-sized Jamberry Juniors. I don’t have a daughter but if I did, you can bet we’d be rocking matching nails!
Available at Jamberry Nails $15
7. Jordana Twist & Shine
I guess I spend a lot of time at my local drugstore because this was another impulse buy. Well, sometimes you gamble and win. This balm stain is a fantastic value at under $3! It goes on smooth with a hint of shine and leaves a sheer wash of tint on your lips — perfect for applying on the go. The product smells like candy and is housed in a retractable twist-up container unlike other more expensive chubby stain balms on the market. Both the value and ease of use make it an excellent option for busy moms on a budget.
Available in eight shades at Jordana $2.99
Products I Thought I’d Love but Don’t:
1. Stila Lip & Cheek Stain
I haven’t tried all the shades but one I have, called Mango Crush, is way too sheer for my taste. I’m not sure what this could possibly stain? It’s more like a tinted shimmer than a stain, which was not what I was looking for. The color is a tiny bit better on my cheeks but since it goes on a bit sticky and dries a little tight, I don’t like to use it on my face either. Perhaps I chose the wrong shade but for me the consistency is unappealing, I don’t like the frosted appearance, and the twist dispenser is a pain to use.
Available at Sephora $24
There was so much hype about the Beautyblender that I felt obligated to try it. This 3-D teardrop shaped makeup applicator claims to leave you with a streak-free flawless finish without wasting foundation. While I don’t have a problem with the performance of this tool, I just don’t think it’s necessary. I find it awkward to use and, for a lady who usually applies foundation with good old-fashioned fingers, it does waste some product.
My biggest problem with this blender is actually logistical. It’s reusable so you need to wash it after each use and set it in an included pedestal to dry. For me, this is all too high maintenance — and beauty is my job. I just don’t think it’s practical for your average busy mom. I can barely get all the laundry done, let alone wash and dry my makeup sponge.
Available at Sephora $19.95
3. Kevin Murphy Shimmer.Shine
I was so excited to receive this repairing shine spray from Kevin Murphy! It has tiny gold particles that settle to the bottom so you twirl and then spray. I love a little shimmer in hair products to bring out the natural (or added) highlights and add a little bit of glamour. Unfortunately, I’ve tried this spray on myself and several clients and the gold flakes just disappear. They are completely undetectable. Sad face.
I will say that most of my clients love the smell, although it’s a wee bit strong for my taste, and it does offer vitamins and plant extracts. It’s a nice shine spray, just don’t expect the “shimmer” piece to be there.
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