Friday, February 27, 2015

Swatches & Stuff - February 2015 + Giveaway

Hi friends,

I am back with another episode of Swatches & Stuff in which I go over products I have used during the last 30 days and let you know to either "Buy it or Bash it"!
I am also doing a giveaway this month, you may scroll to the bottom of this page to enter the Giveaway

You can watch the coordinating YouTube video here:

Swatches & Stuff - February 2015

1. Liz Earle - Cleanse & Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser (not pictured above):

Liz Earle - Cleanse & Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser

I was given a sample of this cleansing system by Jane from England as part of a RAK she had sent me. This is a wonderful cleanser (though pricey here in the US) from the UK.
It comes as a two part routine: the cleanser itself which feels like a clay (minus the opacity) that you would apply to a damp face. Then, the cleansing cloth, a double layer of muslim you would soak and wring in hot water before applying to your face to remove all cleanser cream that is left over.
All together, I felt my skin has felt more hydrated and moisturized since I have started using this product. It has a wonderful scent (Eucalyptus) which is very refreshing. Does not leave a greasy residue on the skin, and leaves the skin soft and supple. Thank you Jane for sending this sample to me, I truly enjoy it and would recommend it.

2. St. Ives - Timeless Skin Collagen Elastin Face Moisturizer

St. Ives - Timeless Skin Collagen Elastin Face Moisturizer
This is about as basic (in a good way) as you can go when it comes to moisturizers. It is cheap (under $8 for a huge 10 oz tub) and does everything you would want a moisturizer to do. It basically leaves your skin supple while nourishing it with Elastin and Collagen as a wrinkle treatment. I am not using it for that purpose at the moment, I am only looking to keep my skin hydrated until I can purchase a treatment cream again. This is better than Nivea and by far the best drugstore moisturizer on the market. It is lightly scented, the formula is neither heavy nor greasy, it absorbs well (and fast)...It is just the perfect in between products moisturizer or if you are looking to save money and get something with no frills. 
The tub is so big, I would recommend you decanter some of the product into a different jar for everyday use. You can also apply it to your neck and decollete, elbows etc. St. Ives also has a Body Lotion variety which I like, as well as a Body Wash .

3.  Dermapeutics Hyaluronic Lift Serum

Dermapeutics Hyaluronic Lift Serum
I was looking for an inexpensive Eye Treatment at TJ- Maxx and found this eye serum for under $10 (It is sold under $25 on Amazon).
The texture is definitely something you need to get used to, it is very slippery and comes out as a clear gel like (yet fluid) serum. Though it glides over your skin, it needs to be worked through as it will absorb. After a few minutes, you will feel a tightening of the thin skin under your eyes, thereby giving you the appearance of a lift. It is someone an instant lift in that regard.
The main ingredient (Hyaluronic Sid) is known for its firming and depuffing properties so I would say it is a good option if you do not want to spend a huge amount of money on an eye treatment.  


4. Heel to Toe Natural Lava Rock Pumice Stone  

Heel to Toe Natural Lava Rock Pumice Stone

If you have scaly feet or need to prep your heels for the Spring and Summer months, I just cannot rave enough about this pumice stone. It is not only natural, it does an amazing job in transforming your feet in just three uses. All you need to do is stand in the shower, lather some soap on your heels (or elbows) and scrub away. Just like that, racks, dryness, ridges etc. are gone!
I love, love, love this pumice and it is cheap (under $8).


5. MILANI Fierce Foil Nail Lacquer - Rome  

MILANI Fierce Foil Nail Lacquer - Rome
I am not a big fan of glitter nail polish. However, this one is very different in that while it adds pizzazz and bling to your nails, it is not over the top. It basically comes out as a muted (dulled) mirror finish that is elegant rather than "in your face". The formula is also very good, it applies well with no streaks, stays on for a good 5 days and, as opposed to regular glitter polishes, comes off easily.
I have been gravitated towards Milani Color Statement Polishes lately as I find them to be good quality for my busy lifestyle. 

6. Women's Dior 'Diorshow New Look' Mascara - Black 

I have had this mascara since Christmas. Everyone raves about it and I thought I would give it a try. Well, I don't.
The brush is another one of those gimmicky plastic flexible things that promises long, individual lashes.
While I love the pigmentation (jet black), this mascara is too wet and clumps on the second coat. 
For the price (upwards of $30) it is a big disappointment as it is High End and supposedly better than Drugstore brands. Well, not on this one. I can find a better mascara at my local Drugstore.
I am not recommending this mascara.

7.  Chanel Coco Rouge Lipstick - Jean

 I am in love with this lipstick. The formula is simply wonderful. It is very moisturizing, applies well, stays on, great pigmentation, does not dry your lips. What else could you ask for? Simply the best!
The color (Jean) has just the right blue undertone to make it a fabulous wear with jeans, of course, as well as anything that would fall within the cool tones. It is a good day wear as well as an elegant evening wear. I just love it. If I had all the money in the world, I would purchase them all!


8. Alba Botanica So Smooth Gardenia Hawaiian Shampoo and Conditioner

Alba Botanica So Smooth Gardenia 
Hawaiian Shampoo and Conditioner

I was looking for a natural shampoo and conditioner duo as a way to prevent any further damage to my hair and scalp since I am allergic to Zing ad Nickel (both ingredients are found in most shampoos).
I have used this twice thus far and feel this is a good enough shampoo/conditioner formula. I picked the Frizz/sleek formula because of my unruly mane, however, this formula only comes in one scent, that of Gardenia, which I find to be very overpowering. It is just too flowery for me. If they could do the same formula in a more woodsy or nutty scent, I would be hooked. So, I do not think I will be repurchasing this product because of the scent. Otherwise, it does a good job at cleansing my hair, my scalp does not itch afterwards and it seems to be delivering on its anti-frizz promise. If only I could get pass the smell!


9. Copco Tea Thermal 

Copco Tea Thermal
I do not think it could get any better than this when it comes to drinking tea on the go (or around my house). This little gizmo allows you to infuse tea with its own lock in infuser and carry it in a double wall thermal tumbler.
Not only does it keep your drink hot (or cold), it also allows the tea to seep just enough without ever getting bitter since the water level goes down as your sip from the tumbler. It s just genius!
You can either use loose leaf tea or bagged tea and you can also use fresh fruit if you want to flavor water. The infuser is removable if you do not want to steep anything at all and the entire unit is super easy to wash.
I am loving it!


10. Cool Mist Compact Humidifier

What an amazing gadget! 
I have had sinus problems for a long time. In the winter, with the heat in the house and the cold weather, it has gotten worse and to the point where my ears became affected and in turn my neck. I was waking up with a stuffy nose, headache and stiff neck every single morning until I started using this tiny unit.
It is basically a cool continuous mist unit you would place on your bedside table and orient towards your head. 
One water refill will last 12 hours.
In just one night, my sinus cleared. Just like that!
Run to your Walgreens and get this little gadget for yourself if you suffer from Sinus Headaches!


I hope you have enjoyed these reviews, there were a lot of items to consider as great alternatives to the expensive stuff from Department Stores and great products to try (aside from the mascara).

Since I have not done a Giveaway since late November, I thoughts it was time to give back to my subscribers and readers again so here goes:

The February 2015 MGC Giveaway!

February 2015 MGC Giveaway

The giveaway contains the following items:

  1. Two CoverGirl Cheekers Blushes
  2. Milani Mascara
  3. Milani Eye Liner
  4. NYX Butter LipBalm
  5. Bath & Body Works Wild Madagascar Body Scrub
  6. Copco Tea Infuser/Tumbler

Follow the directions below to enter the Giveaway.
The Giveaway will be running until 03/11/15 (8 PM).

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Thank you so much for reading my blog and watching my YouTube videos! Share the love!

Sophia, NJ

Connect with me:

Want to send me a product for review? Have a product request?

Mailing address:

My Great Challenge
PO Box 402
519 Pompton Avenue
CEDAR GROVE, NJ 07009-9998

This blog contains affiliate advertising, this is how I support my blog and YouTube Channel.  I was not solicited to advertise for the products mentioned above, all opinions are my own. 

My Advertisers:

Too Faced - New Chocolate Bar (#2) is here!

Vera Bradley Designs, Inc.

JA Cosmetics Corp

Visit My Great Challenge's profile on Pinterest.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Eco Emi Box - January 2015 - Full Review

Hi friends,

So we all know by now that I am a big fan of Eco Emi, it is one of my favorites each and every month. Unfortunately, the January box was a total disaster and by that, I mean the box was awful all around.
Let me dive right into the review and I will keep it brief since I almost disliked every single product I have received!

January 2015 - Eco Emi Box

You may want to check the open box video first, I think my "live" reactions said it all:

1. Yoreganics - Soap Nuts - $12/bag (5 nuts)

Image Source
I really do not know what to say about this product. These are natural berries which are dried and meant to be used in lieu of laundry detergent. So I did a little bit of research on this product, it turns out that these have been used for thousands of years both in Asia and the Americas because they contain Saponin (a natural detergent). The premise is that you would place the berries inside the bag for up to ten loads. While they do not leave any scent on the clothes, they are supposed to do a better job since they are all natural with no additive or thickening agent such as you would find in regular laundry detergent.
I am a skeptic by nature. I also do not have any kind of allergy related to detergent or chemicals used in general household products so, for me, this is truly a non essential item which I tried purely out of curiosity with no intention to further purchase.
Do they work? I could not tell. I did two loads with them, one of darks for my kids clothes and one of whites, mainly towels. I have a relatively new washing machine, though it is a top loading one, it is generally speaking a good machine that washes well. For me it seems that the cleaning was mainly the result of the agitation rather than the berries themselves as I noticed no difference between using these versus using regular detergent. If you have allergies, this may be an alternative for you but at this price, I really think there ought to be better choices. I was not impressed. D.

2. Natural Deodorant (unscented) - Phresh - $7.99/item

Image Source
Some folks have been using the same deodorant brand for years, personally I could not care less, I buy what is on sale as long as it is a gel variety because of the white residue any other deodorant would leave.
This deodorant is all natural fragrance. Aluminum Free. Gluten Free. Paraben Free. Propylene Glycol Free. Petroleum Free. Cruelty Free. Vegan and, Made in the U.S.A.
Because I received a sample, it came in a small tub with a spatula to scoop the product out and apply with. Obviously, the actual product comes in a regular twist-able container.
Overall, I am not giving this product a positive review. The formula was very chalky and difficult to apply, it also crumbled and pretty much made a mess. Because I received the unscented variety, I was not very pleased since at the end of a strenuous day of work around my office (you can watch my ongoing makeover series here) I expected the product would be a deodorant, getting rid of odor causing bacteria. It did not. By the end of the day it also felt like my armpits were covered in caked up baking soda. It was very uncomfortable and dry and I ended up taking a shower to get rid of it. Granted this may have been the result of applying the product with a spatula, but still, I am not impressed with this product as well. D-.

3. O'Keeffe's - Working Hands - Repairing Hand Cream - $6.98 / 3.4 oz

O'Keeffe's - Working Hands

If you have dry hands, cracked hands, peeling cuticles etc. This is the ultimate in hand repair.
My father in law has diabetes and tends to have the tip of his fingers crack and split open, in particular during the winter months. He has been using this product for years with great success. Having tried it myself on both my hands and feet, I can attest to its efficacy. It is everything you would want a hand or foot cream to do, minus the glamour of a nice tube and pretty fragrance. You can't get more industrial than this and I guess this is the reason why, us ladies, continue to splurge on expensive hand creams based on their scent and label while this stuff is really all we need! O'Keeffe's also sells the Foot Cream variety in a blue jar, if you feel so inclined to have both. A.

4. Blum Naturals - Oil Absorbing Facial Tissues -  $2.99/50 sheets
Blum Naturals - Oil Absorbing Facial Tissues

These are practical and I believe every woman should have Oil Absorbing Facial Tissues in their purse and car. They do a great job at removing oil from cheeks, forehead, chin and nose, something that truly helps in the reduction of clogged pores and breakouts. 
I tend to gravitate towards the Palladio ones since they have a hint of rice powder on each sheet, providing a nice skin finish (the rice powder can also be purchased in different tints whether Translucent or Warm Beige ). But these are just fine as is, they do the job quite well.
The only con, for me, is the packaging. This is a company that promotes a natural product but instead of dispensing it in a recycled cardboard container similar to the Palladio one or other brands, they have chosen a huge plastic container which is not all that obvious to open, not to mention cumbersome to carry around. For that reason, I am only giving it a B.

5. Allergease - All Natural Herbal Supplement- $7.99 /box

Both my boys as well as my husband suffer from seasonal allergies. It is up to the point now where over the counter medications rarely provide relief and their suffering pretty much lingers from the first week of May until Mid June!
I was very intrigued with this product, it claims to be an alternative to OTC medications and anti-histamines. I would tend to believe that allergies can be reduced, if not cleared, through the use of natural products since they are, at least in their case, the result of natural allergens. For instance, one can be disensitized to pollen by taking local honey in small doses over a period of time prior to allergy season. 
Because these are natural, they do not produce the side effects one would generally encounter from using OTC medication (e.g. drowsiness). They taste pretty good, very similar to the Riccola herbal drops and are pretty affordable when considering you get 21 lozenges for the price. 
I cannot tell you whether they work or not since we are not in allergy season yet. However, their website has received amazing reviews from users who all claim their allergy symptoms were seriously reduced by using these drops. 
Until I can fully review them (and update this post) I am giving them a good rating based on the taste, price and ingredients (Menthol, Honey, Vitamin C and Eyebright). B+.

6. Pur - Aspartame Free - Spearmint Gum -$5.30 / pack of 60 gums

Pur Gum
I am all for a ban on Aspartame as it seems to have done more damage than good in today's world. These gums are all natural, Vegan Friendly; Non-GMO; Gluten-Free; Nut-Free; Dairy-Free; Diabetic Friendly; Soy-Free; Peanut-Free; Egg-Free; Casein-Free 10 calories per serving of 2 pieces. Sounds good.
I have received the Spearmint variety, though there are more to chose from. Unfortunately, I felt this was just too strong as they pack a serious punch. I ended up spitting mine almost immediately, but not without having seriously refreshed my breath first.
My husband, who is stronger than me in this area, liked them and thought they did taste more like natural ingredients as opposed to other brands that are obviously loaded with names one cannot even spell never mind pronounced. B

7. Kawaii - Chocolate Chip Brownie Bar - $3 / bar 

Image source

I am a chocaholic, we all have established that by now. If anything remotely related to chocolate comes to my house, it will have a survival rate below 30 minutes. For that reason, I rely on Eco Emi to provide me with enough chocolate on a monthly basis to sustain my ravenous chocolate appetite...I hereby declare that Eco Emi should have a minimum of one chocolate item per monthly box!

So, of course, I was super psyched about receiving this Brownie Chocolate Bar...It is made of all natural ingredients, Gluten and Dairy Free and though pricey ($3 per bar), it is a good chunk and should sustain you for quite some time.
HOWEVER...This could possibly be the worst chocolate bar I have ever tried, in fact, it is still in that basket upstairs, since I only tried one tiny piece on camera for the January video but immediately put it aside. 
Folks, if chocolate has lasted 30 days in my house as opposed to the average 30 minutes, it's bad chocolate. Plain and simple!   Awful, bitter, weird texture, tasted like water with cheap chocolate flavor in it, overly chewy, after taste....just plain awful. THIS is making it to my Wall of Shame! F.

8.  Gourmet Body Treats - Flawless Primer - $32/tube

Image Source
Face primers are important, in particular if you wear foundation and work all day. They help keep your makeup in place, provide a smooth surface and generally make your pores appear smaller.
I have received a sample of this primer in a little black tub which you can spot on the picture at the top of my blog.
There is nothing good I can say about this product. It comes out as an unbelievably greasy gel-like mayonnaise texture that is difficult to spread without it melting all over your skin and leaving a sleek residue on it. It does not absorb at all. I am not sure if that is what they intended for it to feel like but I absolutely refused to put that stuff on my skin outside of the testing area of my hand.
Another awful product making it to the Wall of Shame. F


As you can see, this truly was a bad box, I am not sure if the products they wanted to start the year with had not arrived yet and all of this was nothing more than an assortment of after thoughts, but based on this box alone, I would not recommend Eco Emi to anyone. Thankfully, I have had only two terrible boxes in the almost 2 years that I have been subscribing to Eco Emi,  an average of one terrible box per year. I am expecting greater boxes in the coming months and continue to find the monthly boxes real treats (especially if there is chocolate involved).

You can get your own box here.
You can view all my Eco Emi open box videos here.
Check out my other subscription boxes here.


Thank you so much for reading my blog and watching my YouTube videos! Share the love!

Sophia, NJ

Connect with me:

Want to send me a product for review? Have a product request?

Mailing address:

My Great Challenge
PO Box 402
519 Pompton Avenue
CEDAR GROVE, NJ 07009-9998

This blog contains affiliate advertising, this is how I support my blog and YouTube Channel.  I was not solicited to advertise for the products mentioned above, all opinions are my own. 

My Advertisers:

Too Faced - New Chocolate Bar (#2) is here!

Vera Bradley Designs, Inc.

JA Cosmetics Corp

Visit My Great Challenge's profile on Pinterest.
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