How I Review Products with Recent Examples via Influenster | #ChooseToSmooth & #SoCutex

Many people who know me (and everyone who knows me WELL) know that I love trying new products, usually in the form of subscription boxes. But now that I have four different subscriptions and try things in other various ways, how do I keep it all organized? How do I get a really good idea for how well each product works for me- and how well it might work for others? Below are some tricks that I use to help me review items efficiently and thoroughly.

1. Review the claims & benefits stated.

Before I even begin to test something, I look at what the product itself is claiming to do. This way, as I start to use it, I can begin to see whether or not the product lives up to its purpose or its price point. For example, if a foundation claims to be luminous, it better not be a matte finish.

2. Keep products in sight.

Having many different products to try at once, of varying brands, prices, and uses, can be overwhelming. Keeping them in one place that I can easily see and access helps me to think about those products each time I go to perform my routines, whether it be skincare, haircare, or makeup application. I typically keep all of my products needing review in one area on my bathroom counter, unless it’s a shower product- I will forget to use that type of product unless it’s waiting for me when I step into my shower.

3. One (or two) at a time.

When testing products, I try to limit myself to using one item from each category at a time, unless they are things that won’t interfere with how they each work. For example, if I received two facial cleansers in one month, I would use one of them for a time (anywhere from a few days to a week), then switch back to my regular cleanser, then go on to use the second cleanser for a time (same situation as above). This allows me to really see what each one is doing for me. Then I can go on and try different combinations and contexts for each cleanser (more on that below). Let’s go through one more example. Say I received two products claiming to do the same specific thing for my skin (acne treatment, anti-aging, brightening, etc.), but one is a serum and another is a facial cream. Although these are separate steps in my skincare routine, I still want to test these one at a time, otherwise it would be hard to tell which product is having the positive effects I’m seeing, if any. Makeup products are typically an exception to this rule. Since these don’t usually affect our skin at a deep level, it is not going to hurt anyone to try out, for example, an eyeshadow and mascara in one pass.

4. Explore different methods & contexts.

Once I’ve tried a product one way and understood generally how it works, I move on to using it in different ways and/or at different times. To continue the example above, say I have been testing two different cleansers at separate times. Now that I understand that one cleanser is a little bit harsh but great at removing makeup and the other is gentler but not so great at makeup removal, I will use the first when I have a lot of makeup on and the second when I have only a small amount or no makeup on, or perhaps even as a second cleanser to soothe my skin after using the harsh cleanser. Alternatively, if a product did not work for me at all using a particular method or at a particular time, I will try it another to see if that works better. For example, if a foundation is clinging to my dry patches of skin, I will cease use and try it again when my skin is feeling more moisturized or perhaps with a different set of priming products (like an oil or a moisturizing primer).

5. Draw comparisons.

Once I have gained some experience with a product, I want to evaluate how that product stands up to current and all-time favorites in order to determine if this is something worth pursuing further. I take into account effectiveness, price, packaging/branding, ease of use, scent, innovation, color range, availability, and others depending on the product type. I also keep in mind at this step whether or not the item would work for someone else, whether they be a different skin color, skin type, hair type, or anything that might make someone else fare better or worse than I did with it. This last thing is especially important if you plan to write or record reviews of these products, since you do not want somebody to either be disappointed in something you recommended OR miss out on something potentially great because you discouraged them from buying it.


I hope these tricks are helpful if you are a sample junkie like me or if you’re just trying to get a clear picture of whether your products are working for you. Please let me know if you have any tips or tricks that help you! And check out the next couple paragraphs to see examples of these principles in action with reviews of TWO products I recently reviewed.


Cutex Advanced Revival Nail Polish Remover Pads

These easy, individually wrapped nail polish remover pads are great for quick, easy nail polish removal during travel. They claim to remove the polish from 10 nails with just one pad. I can confirm that this is true, and I didn’t have to struggle to make that happen, either. I think these compare well to the La Fresh on the go nail polish remover wipes (my favorite for travel) in both quality and price. However, the Cutex does have a much more astringent smell, not at all pleasant like the La Fresh brand. Overall, I would recommend these to anyone!

Gillette Venus Razor & Violet Swirl Shave Gel

I have developed a love-hate relationship with both of these products. The razor itself has a swivel at the neck to provide ease of movement over curves and the shave gel is purported to have 5x the moisturizers to prevent razor burn. The razor gives an extremely close shave, and the swivel element really does make the process easier. However, I think the shave was a little to close for the sensitive skin on my legs, because I did have pretty bad razor burn. The shave gel had a nice scent and texture, but was extremely difficult to dispense and did not prevent the razor burn in any way. I usually use the standard razor from Dollar Shave Club along with Dr. Carver’s Shave Butter, and while I don’t get as smooth a shave as I do with the Venus products, I also don’t experience that painful razor burn. Plus, the DSC razor blades are cheaper to replace. Once my new Shave Butter arrives, I will try the Venus razor with it and see if that combination works out for me. Overall, I would not recommend these products, at least in conjunction, for sensitive skin. But other skin types may enjoy this set a great deal!


Full disclosure: the products featured here I received from @Influenster for review. As always, the opinions are honest & totally my own. Thanks to @CutexNails & @gillettevenus for including their products in the Glam VoxBox 🙂

Making Do

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As I attempted to put together a semi-formal outfit for dinner with a professor and my honor society last night, I really struggled. Like, really struggled. Here’s why: most of the clothes I wear are dirty, all the rest I either never wear or can only wear sometimes, I hadn’t shaved in a couple days, it was 90 degrees out, and I still wanted to look nice. I had very little time to get out of the house in order to beat the traffic and arrive on time (I didn’t), so I had to figure something out quickly. I had to make do with what I had right then and there. No time to fluff pants in the dryer or shave anything at all. (Don’t pretend these aren’t things we all do.)

That’s when genius struck.

I saw the bottom of the long, flowy black dress that I bought for my anniversary trip this summer. It’s a little fancy so I threw my favorite (read: only) chambray shirt over it and tied it in front. Bam. GENIUS. The flowy skirt covered my hairy legs while preventing any potential heat rashes; the chambray dressed it down just enough while covering up hairy armpits; and the black and denim combo is so solid. Also, that embroidery is such a sweet detail.

The moral of the story: it’s good to think out of the box. Embrace the days when all your most-loved clothes are dirty and try something new. Put that fancy dress with a chambray shirt! Put that striped shirt and floral skirt together! Do whatever works. And you know what- don’t just make do. Make it awesome. Find your new favorite items. Shop your own closet.

As a side note, I can use this experience as further excuse to put off my laundry. Does anyone else just despise laundry? I just can’t with laundry. Basically my cut off point is if I’ve used up even my “backup” underwear- you know the ones.


A Short Thank You

RelaxTo Bailey Jean at Brave Love Blog and to every other sweet lady who participated in the Blogtember Challenge

Thank you for facilitating thought, writing, and community through this challenge. Although I did not blog every day, I found myself inspired by a great many topics, and I have so many ideas for blog posts down the line now. Having just started blogging again, I’m still in the process of refining my vision and style- and probably will be for a while- so it’s nice to find a positive, welcoming community to follow along with as I trek through this forest of opportunities called blogging.

Some favorites of my own which came out of the challenge: my first ever vlog, having a dear friend as my guest, describing why I write, and talking about traditions.

Some favorites from others: blogging must-haves and a vlog from Bailey herself, Amber’s vlog, and different takes on Austin favorites by both Allison and Becca.

As you can tell, the vlog was one of my absolute favorites. There’s just something about determining whether the voice you imagined for someone is the voice you get to hear. It’s also a really nerve-wrecking thing, so I’m proud of everyone for doing it.

Life is busy, but I hope to continue writing regularly (probably using loosely some of the ideas from the prompts I didn’t get to this month). I think it’s important to take time to reflect and process, and writing is a wonderful way to do it. Besides, I’m excited to see more of the community I’ve had a privilege to witness in the past 30 or so days.

P. S. I’m drinking Theraflu here, because I’m still nursing this awful cold. This stuff is a God-send.



As part of the Blogtember Challenge, today my dear friend Jessica has taken over my blog for this guest post. Since I never posted my fall favorites, she’s showing us hers, and I could not agree more with her. She has her own blog, but hasn’t made it public yet, or else I’d give you a link to read more. Maybe we can all convince her to show us more 😉
Take it away, Jess.

Light jackets, scarves, and leggings, the smell of Starbucks brewing their seasonal signature drinks, and the trees changing colors can only mean one thing, fall has arrived y’all.

If you know me, then you know that I’m a HUGE sucker for the fall season and EVERYTHING that comes along with it. My poor boyfriend even gets to experience me turning into a little kid, excited as can be at the sight of cooler weather.

Today I’m gonna take you through some of my favorite things about this season, so fall back into your comfy chair and enjoy!


I know I will be judged when I type this next statement out but here it goes… I Jessica, do not like pumpkin spice lattes, there I said it! My favorite Starbucks drink is actually their Cinnamon Dolce Latte by a long shot, and it doesn’t hurt that it’s available throughout the whole year!


Desserts, Desserts, Desserts!

During this time of the year I start channeling my inner Betty Crocker and baking becomes second nature to me! I just love spending my time in the kitchen making homemade pies, cookies, and anything that makes my apartment feel warm and comfy.


Fall Fashion to me is my absolute favorite! The word COMFY always comes to mind when I’m picking out my outfits at this time of the year. Pair some leggings/jeans with a comfy sweater, cute riding boots and BAM you have an effortless yet flawless outfit. I’m also really digging vests for the fall this year especially these from J.Crew. Uhmm can I please have all of them in my closet?!?!


BOLD lips are a must! This is the time of the year when I pull out my favorite Fall Lipstick “Dark Side” made by MAC Cosmetics. It’s a little vampy, a bit darker, yet the perfect color for this season.


Now growing up in Dallas TX this time of the year always meant ONE thing to me, and that was THE TEXAS STATE FAIR! That’s right, the one place where it’s totally acceptable to stuff your face with fried food, ride the HUGE Ferris Wheel a couple of times, and pose for a picture in front of a giant Cowboy named Big Tex (because lets face it, everything is bigger in Texas and we’re very proud of that) who greets everyone with a good ole “HOWDY FOLKS.”


I might not live in the Dallas area anymore but that is not stopping this gal from going to the fair! My AMAZING boyfriend is actually taking me tomorrow for our 3 year anniversary and I’m very

“Fall has always been my favorite season. The time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had been saving up all year for the grand finale.”
― Lauren DeStefano

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my post, time is very precious so thank you for giving me yours.

xoxo Jess

Living is Eating in Austin, TX

Did you know Austin, TX looks like this? I bet it isn’t what your mind pictures when this well-known city comes to mind. This image depicts my very favorite area of Austin- the northwest section. There are rolling hills, trees galore, quirky houses, fancy houses, and plenty of fun places to visit. Beside all that, it’s close to most other areas of Austin, including downtown.

Now, when you think about visiting a new city, what is that stands out as the most important area in which you need guidance? For me, it’s the food. I’m always looking for my new local favorite. So, in this mini guide to Austin, TX I present to you some of my favorite dining places.

  • Kerbey Lane Cafe: the cutest and most comfy diner/cafeteria style place, featuring many organic, local, vegan, or gluten-free options. There are several locations so you’re never too far from one. If you make it there, order the Kerbey Queso and/or the Lemon Poppyseed Pancakes.
  • Craig-O’s: the best classic pizza place. Nothing is fancy or amazing but it’s darn good pizza.
  • Hopdoddy: the most indescribably delicious gourmet burger place. But it’s not just the burgers that are good- truffle/parmesan fries, mean margaritas and other delectable drinks.
  • Lupe Tortilla: I have just two words here- margaritas and fajitas.
  • Mighty Fine: another burger place, but more of a classic style burger, with typical ingredients and toppings and a side of crinkle-cut fries. Also strawberry lemonade and milkshakes. So much good here. The thing that makes this place stand out beside the taste is its cleanliness and transparency. Literally, you can watch patties being made through a glass window.
  • Ka-Prow Thai Bistro: this is the place where I learned to love sushi. I always thought it was so disgusting, but after having had the fried rice and a few other dishes from this restaurant, Chance convinced me to try his sushi, and wow. I now crave sushi from time to time. The best part about this place is that it’s a 2 minute drive from my apartment. Score. But apart from that, everything is just done well- the food, the atmosphere, the service, everything.
  • Pho Hoang: a hole-in-the-wall pho place, always fresh and delicious. Perfect for a rainy day, and always cheap.
  • Lick Ice Creams: fresh, homemade, unique ice cream, made with interesting ingredients like goat cheese, beets, cilantro & lime.

Thanks for reading, as always! If you’re ever in my area I hope you’ll check some of these places out. Another thing I love about Austin- there are always more favorites to discover. This is the place where food is done the right way.


It Takes One to Know One

Linking up again today with the Blogtember Challenge, so I’m writing about the blogs I read most consistently. Now, I say “most consistently” because I do not always make the time to read daily. I use the Bloglovin app on my iPad to read, because everything is conveniently in one place, but I still sometimes don’t even open it or only read a couple of posts. However, I always make an effort to catch up, because I believe that reading and interacting with other blogs is key to writing a good blog yourself. this is true with everything in life, really. You’ve got to have experiences and insights to write about.

abeautifulmess.comFirst up is A Beautiful Mess. (All of these photos are links to the sites!) While I love all of the content (from crafts to beauty to diy) from this blog, the food is what I mostly stay for. I get many of my recipes from here, most of them written by co-owner Emma Chapman. She has an easy writing style and does not over complicate recipes. I always feel excited and able to make the recipes featured here. Also, not one has failed when I attempted it- that’s seriously saying a lot!
apracticalwedding.comA Practical Wedding offers advice not only for planning a wedding but for life in general. Yes, I visited this site daily when looking toward my wedding, but I’ve stayed to glean insight into things like navigating married life, family, growing up, and even sex (which is a big deal when newly married after 21 years of abstinence for both parties). I definitely recommend this no matter where you are in life- single, married, engaged, widowed, whatever. Soul food here. By the way, if you do find yourself planning a wedding, there is also a book by the same name, written by the founder Meg, and it is good.
therewm.comThe REWM is a personal blog run by Rachel, who is smart, insightful, and downright funny. She also lives in my home state of Texas, so I can find no faults. Here you can find tidbits of anything- food, adventures, writing, journalism, etc. I especially enjoy her insight into issues of race and women’s rights, and often find myself clicking every link she offers to glean more information.
joythebaker.comJoy the Baker, written by Joy herself, is just the best ever blog. Despite the name, you can find more than just pastries and pies here. She also creates and blogs recipes for dinner, lunch, BRUNCH (seriously so much brunch gold), and everything in between. Joy also keeps me in touch with the world at large by posting a roundup of articles (both serious and fun in nature) and other interesting things every Sunday.
Littlebitofwowe.blogspot.comDanielle blogs at Little Bit of WoWe and man, this lady has one distinctive writing voice. She’s hilarious, intellegent, and creative with her outfits. I love seeing how a high school teacher dresses herself (and where she buys all the things) since I aspire to hold the same profession. Besides her sense of fashion, she offers glimpses into her life and times.

I hope you will consider checking out all of these great blogs! If I have to choose only a few posts to read on a given day, these are my go-to reads. Enjoy!


Inspiration | Insight

My man.

My man.

Happy Thursday! This evening my husband’s band/baby, Chasing Lions, is playing (probably their last) show here in Austin. Bittersweet, let me tell you. But we’ll make it as fun as possible. Then tomorrow we’re heading up to Dallas / East Texas for a family reunion on Chance’s side, so we’re in for quite a weekend over here. Anyway, below I’m leaving you with some links to great things. Enjoy!

Trying to devise a fitting blog name is hard, but this is helping.

Maybe we shouldn’t all be ignoring ebola. *Ahem, nations’ leaders.*

Rachel is hilarious but so, so accurate on Facebook profile pictures.

What do you think about test retakes in high school?

Loving this creative hair chalk ‘do and this poppy patterned shirt.

This honey mustard roasted cabbage is my jam lately. Seriously the best. I’ve also tried it sauteed with butter. MMM.

Finally, looking forward to making this salad and this hazelnut milk.


You’ve Got [Vlog]

Have you ever been on the phone with someone and you can hear your voice echoing every time you speak? I hate that, not only because it’s confusing, but also because I get hung up on how weird I think my voice sounds. So it makes little sense that I actually recorded a vlog (thanks to Bailey hosting the Blogtember Challenge) and am posting it here for anybody to view. But here we are! I did it! And I kind of liked it! It’s really interesting to see yourself as others see you. Apolgies: the video isn’t of the greatest quality, and I suggest turning the volume up because it’s pretty quiet and hummy.

P. S. I didn’t realize how long a 5 minute video would take to upload. Dear Lord.


Cur scribo?

wildflowersAs I link up with the Blogtember challenge again today, I’m writing on what motivates me to blog.

But wait. Am I even allowed to say that I “blog”? I’ve always been inclined to write out my feelings, ideas, and opinions. The format has progressed throughout the years: diaries, journals, various form of social media (yes I did post blogs on Myspace, thank you), and the more blog-centric WordPress. So yeah, I guess I can qualify myself as a person who blogs, although it has by no means been as consistent as every day or even every week over the years.

Still, I find that if I make time for writing, I feel more in tune with myself. I think and reflect on things in a deeper and more real way. Blogging allows me to take a passing thought or something I heard about briefly in class or from around the web and process it critically rather than leaving it at “Oh, that’s interesting.” You know how that goes, right? That phrase is the polite way of saying that you will not be putting in the effort to research or in any way interact with this new information in a meaningful way. I want to live a purposeful, intentional, meaning-filled, and learned lifestyle, so I feel it is important to analyze and think about at least some things, and I can do that best through writing and discussing with others.

I read a post from The Sunshine Blog today about how to create a “mission statement” for your blog. The idea that blogging should be purposeful resonates with me, so I’m going to use a few questions Chloe proposes to incite the creation of a mission statement for my blog. Here they are:

  1. Why do I want to blog? To foster reflection on daily life and to highlight the meaningful parts of life.
  2. Who do I want to blog for? Myself, mostly. I’m tired of wandering through life without dwelling on the more important things. But also Jesus, if I’m being honest. I want to bring glory not for myself but for him. I’m lucky that God wants me to be part of his story.
  3. What do I want to provide for my readers? Ideas. Learning. Hope. Encouragement. Laughs.
  4. What do I want to accomplish with my blog? Consistency and depth of thought. Also the fostering of friendships.
  5. How will your readers interact with you? Right now just through comments, but if this little blog baby grows, I will likely expand social media to engage in more discussion and more friendship-building. I’m hesitant to use my personal social media outlets but feel silly creating separate ones and abandoning them.
  6. How do you want to be perceived? As friendly, thoughtful, insightful, and set-apart by Jesus.

What are your thoughts here, friends? Do you have a mission statement for your blog? How do you find and impart the vision you have for it? P. S. “cur scribo” means “why do I write” in Latin.