Play! by Sephora: January 2017

Welcome to my first ever review of a Play! by Sephora box. To switch things up after two years with Birchbox, I canceled that subscription last month and signed up for Sephora’s similar service. My introductory box arrived this past weekend and I couldn’t wait to tear into it!

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Before I get started: apologies for the lighting in these photos. The weather has been overcast every day since I received my package, so the pics are a touch gloomy.

The January 2017 Play! theme is, predictably, a fresh start. With this month’s samples, Sephora encourages subscribers to “detox and refuel your beauty routine with a selection of super-effective, ultra-hydrating skincare, makeup, and hair care.” When I first opened up the brochure, I exclaimed “oooh!” These samples looked quite exciting. Also, they included a card that you can bring to a store to get 50 Beauty Inside Points with any purchase.

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In contrast to Birchbox, which sends samples in a lovingly designed box each month, Play! by Sephora sends a bag housed inside a mailer lined with the store’s signature black-and-white stripes. This month’s bag is imprinted with the slogan: “Sweat is just another way to glow.” While the bag is cute, I tossed it in the trash because I know I’ll never use it. Though, honestly, I have a stockpile of past Birchboxes sitting around in a drawer for no good reason other than I thought they were pretty.

Play! by Sephora January 2017 Sample Bag

The inside brochure opened up even more to a spread with details about each sample, usage suggestions, and tips:

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And now, here’s the reveal of my first Play! by Sephora samples:

Play! by Sephora January 2017 samples

First up is a sample of the cult classic Clinique Almost Lipstick in Black Honey (full-size, $17). I currently own this product and even used it back in high school in the 90s. What I hadn’t realized is that it was created in 1971..so this stuff is even older than I am! I wasn’t at all disappointed to receive a sample of something that I already have and have repurchased more than once over the years. It’s a cult classic for a reason, and I can’t say no to a mini version of something that I love! If you have never tried Black Honey before, please do. It truly is a wondrous lip product. Don’t let the super dark appearance of the bullet frighten you! The formula is sheer and gives lips a lovely berry color. Scroll down near the bottom of this post to see a pic of the color in action on me.

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Next up is tarte FRXXXTION Stick (full-size, $22). I truly do love me some tarte, but what’s up with the porny product name? It seems more on-brand for Benefit or Two Faced. Strange name aside, this product is very cool and unlike any cleanser I’ve tried before. It’s an exfoliating gel cleanser in stick form, so it’s ideal for travel (damn you, liquid restrictions)! I’ve been wanting to try a stick cleanser, so I was very excited to receive a sample of one by a brand I love. I tried this sample out in the shower this morning and was not disappointed. It’s very easy to use: swipe the stick directly onto wet skin and then use your fingers to massage it into a lather. The stick looked perfectly smooth before first use so I wondered how it was going to exfoliate, but when I began to massage the product in I could feel very small grains (“suspended diatomaceous earth microexfoliants,” according to Sephora.com). I found this product fun to use, and as a bonus, it’s paraben and phthalate free.  I’m currently working my way through two facial cleansers and a scrub, but I’d consider eventually buying this product full sized.

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My next sample is Youth to the People Kale + Spinach + Hyaluronic Acid Age Prevention Cream (full-size, $48). This brand and product are new to me and are totally spot on for where I am with my skin care needs. This 100% vegan skin care line is produced in California and focuses on harnessing the power of superfoods. I was happy to find this sample in my box and learn about the company’s philosophy. I used this cream after my shower this morning and it has a light vegetal scent that’s actually quite pleasant. The cream absorbed quickly, but I will say my skin is still feeling a little tight a while after applying it. I’ll definitely keep trying this sample—I might just need to use more of it at a time. So the jury is still out on whether I’d buy this one full sized.

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Another sample I was excited to find in my box was Ouai Treatment Masque (full-size, $14-32). I’ve heard so much buzz about this cool-girl hair care brand on the beauty blogs that I follow, but I haven’t tried any Ouai products until now. This mask is meant to help repair damaged hair, and while I wouldn’t say my hair is particularly damaged (I don’t color it, and I very rarely use heat on it), it’s still a treat to use a restorative mask now and then. I smoothed this mask on my hair in this shower this morning and let it sit for about five minutes before rinsing. I have strong feelings about product scents (they’re often way too overpowering and powdery for my taste), but I actually loved the fragrance of this mask! The scent is clean and fresh, unlike so many other samples that smell like someone dumped a bucket of baby powder on a bouquet of flowers. My hair now feels soft and not weighed down, which is a good thing considering how fine it is. Even if I wanted to buy this product full sized (though I probably wouldn’t because it’s not something I really need), I couldn’t do so at the moment because it’s currently out of stock on Sephora.com!

My final beauty sample this month is another one I was pleased to receive: AmorePacific Color Control Cushion Compact Broad Spectrum SPF 50+ (full-size, $60). Now, I’m not much of a “face makeup” wearer. If I’m going to cover my entire face with some kind of makeup, I go for a product with light coverage, typically either Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer or Coola Mineral Face SPF 30 Matte Tint. Recently, though, I’ve considered trying a cushion compact simply for the higher SPF that they often feature, so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to try this high-end Korean beauty brand’s offering. This sample included two shades: 104 Tan Blush and 106 Almond Blush. I know it’s virtually impossible to send every subscriber their ideal shade of a sample like this, but I tried the lighter shade (104) of the two and it was still too dark for me. Not horribly dark, but were I to buy this full sized I would go one shade lighter.

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This sample came with a little sponge that you’re supposed to use to mop up product from the cushion and apply to your face. The sponge wasn’t picking up much color from the cushion, so I ended up using the actual cushion to swipe and blend the product on. Aside from the color being a little off for me, the first thing I noticed was the scent. Holy hell. It’s like putting grandma’s perfume all over your face, and it is very unpleasant. That alone is enough of a dealbreaker for me! As soon as I finish writing this post I’m going to wash my face. The CC cream’s coverage itself is lighter than I expected, but I think that might be because the sample just didn’t contain enough product for a typical application. Thanks but no thanks, AmorePacific.

Here I am with freshly masked hair, stinky AmorePacific CC cream on my face, and Black Honey on my lips.

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The fragrance sample this month was Tory Burch Love Relentlessly (full-size, $86). All I have to say here is that I’m not a fan of Tory Burch fashion, and I didn’t enjoy this scent, either. Fragrance samples are almost always a throwaway for me, so…NBD.

All in all, I’m happy with my first Play! by Sephora installment. The range of brands and sample types were solid, and the sample sizes—with the exception of the CC cream—were generous. Plus, I got to try out some new methods of product application (stick cleanser, cushion compact). I’m looking forward to seeing what they send next month!

What is Play! by Sephora?

Play! by Sephora is a $10 per month beauty subscription that includes five deluxe samples plus one fragrance sample; the samples are curated based on your Sephora beauty profile (hair color, eye color, skin tone, skin type, skincare concerns, haircare concerns, etc.). And of course, you can purchase full-sized versions of any samples from Sephora and earn VIB points if you’re a part of that program—which I highly recommend signing up for if you ever shop at Sephora. This subscription program also offers subscribers a “Play! Date” each month, where you and a friend can attend an in-store meetup to learn how to use the products in that month’s box (RSVP is required).

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