Four things. I went to Sephora, and I only bought four things.

And yet… I somehow managed to spend a small fortune. Like, how is that even possible?

Wait: that’s a stupid question, isn’t it? Because it’s Sephora, people. It’s like the makeup equivalent of the Magic Kingdom, for God’s sake. If you can walk in there and NOT walk out with at least one piece of makeup, well, we just can’t be friends*, basically. Sorry about that.

(*We can totally still be friends. As long as we can go to Sephora together every now and then?)

Anyway, here’s what I bought in Sephora last month, and what I thought of it all…

Peter Thomas Roth Instant Mineral

Peter Thomas Roth Instant Mineral SPF 45

This was the first thing I bought – on the very first day of my holiday, in fact – and it wasn’t so much a “fun” purchase as it was a totally necessary one. When your skin is as pasty as mine, you spend a lot of time applying – and re-applying – sunscreen when you’re on vacation, and while it’s not too much trouble to re-apply the stuff to your body, it IS a bit of a pain to keep re-applying it to your face – especially if you’re wearing make-up. I’m way too lazy to remove and then re-apply my foundation every time I want to top-up my sunscreen, but trying to apply it on top of the foundation isn’t much fun either… which is where this product comes in.

This is a mineral sunscreen: the bottom of the brush contains a finely-milled powder, which you brush onto your skin, giving it instant SPF 45 sun protection AND getting rid of any shine, into the bargain. Now, I don’t know about you, but my face looks shiny even when I HAVEN’T been walking around under a burning hot sun, so the fact that this both protects my skin AND gets rid of the shine was a huge selling point for me. I used it every day of my holiday, and have no complaints: sure, the brush took a bit of getting used to (You have to pull down on the base to retract it, and it took me a good five minutes to work that out, even although there’s a label on the tube which says “DO NOT TWIST, IDIOT.”), but I didn’t burn once, so I guess it did the job.

I have to admit, because I couldn’t actually SEE the translucent powder coming out of this, I’d probably be too scared to just use it on its own: I mean, I’m sure it would work perfectly fine, but I kept on using my usual sunscreen first, and kept this for top-ups: worked for me!

Fresh Sugar lip treatment in Cherry

Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment Sunscreen SPF 15

This was a complete impulse buy: I had to walk past it to get to the register, and, well, one minute I was just walking on by, the next it was in my basket. And that’s why I’m not allowed to go into Neiman Marcus any more – woe! Anyway, it may have been an impulse buy, but I love it: it’s a lip treatment/sunscreen combo, which contains real sugar to exfoliate the lips, and it also adds a bit of colour, too. I say “a bit of colour” -I chose the shade ‘cherry’, and the colour is actually much more intense than I’d expected it to be. It’s a nice, cherry red, as you’d expect, and it has a lovely, fruity scent, which instantly transports me back to California (figuratively, I mean. If it could ACTUALLY transport me back to California, it would probably be WAY more expensive…) every time I use it.

This is nicely moisturising, but I mostly like it for the colour. As I’ve mentioned about a million times before, my natural lips are virtually colour-less, which means I look like one of the walking dead without lip colour. At the same time, however, my lips also lack a defined lip line (as I’ve ALSO mentioned more times than I care to count now), which makes applying lipstick pretty tricky. This is just enough colour to make me look alive, but not so much that I’d need to sit down with a lipliner and brush to apply it. It’s another product I used pretty much every day on holiday: I found it easy enough to apply on the go, and will definitely buy it again when this tube runs out. Oh, and next time I’ll take better care of it: as you can see, the tube got pretty roughed up from being carried around in my handbag all the time: whoops!
Too Faced Better Than False Lashes Extreme

Too Faced Better Than False Lashes Extreme Mascara

Too Faced Better Than False Lashes Extreme Mascara

Too Faced Better Than False Lashes Extreme 

The original version of this product has been my go-to mascara for a couple of years now, so I was really excited to try the new extreme – sorry, Extreme! – version, assuming that it would be just like the original, only way, way better.

Now, the original version isn’t without its faults: the formula is super-sticky and prone to clumping, and the two-tube application takes a bit of getting used to. Once you’ve got the hang of it, though, it’s definitely worth the effort, because it really does create a “false lash” effect, which is what I want from a mascara. The good news is that the updated version gets rid of most of the application issues: it’s not nearly as sticky, and while it IS still prone to clumping, it’s not nearly AS prone to clumping as it used to be.

The bad news, however, is that, in the process of getting rid of everything that was wrong with this mascara, they’ve somehow managed to get rid of everything that was RIGHT with it, too. The original version had the ability to create dramatically longer lashes: this one… just doesn’t. Now it’s just ordinary, really. Yes, my lashes are a bit longer when I use it, but it’s nothing to write home about, and it’s definitely not worth the $35 you pay for it. Actually my Maybelline Illegal Lengths Mascara is every bit as good as this, and it’s WAY cheaper, so I know what I’ll be buying in future.

The most disappointing thing about this, though, is the fact that, having released this Extreme! version, Too Faced now seem to have discontinued the original, too, so when my current tube runs out, it’s goodbye Better Than False Lashes – which I now refer to as ‘Not Even Remotely Better Than False Lashes, Seriously.’ There’s a very good chance that I’ll never get over the disappointment of this.

Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder in Ethereal Light

Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder in Ethereal Light

I’ve been obsessed with the Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powders for months now. Obsessed. I read tons of reviews of them, and even got so far as adding one of them to my online shopping cart a few times, before changing my mind and closing down the browser window. Because the main thing I learned from all of those reviews was that I probably wouldn’t actually  like these powders. I knew this. Still I obsessed over them, though, and still I went into every single branch of Sephora I passed, just so I could swatch them all again, and work out which one I totally wasn’t going to buy, nuh-uh.

Finally, on the last day of the holiday, and with my remaining dollars burning a hole in my wallet, I caved and bought myself ‘Ethereal Light’.

And yeah, I’m totally underwhelmed by it: WHO COULD’VE GUESSED?

So, this is a finishing powder which, according to the blurb, is designed to “refract light and create transparent coverage, filtering out harsh light and refining the appearance of the skin.” So it’s like an Instagram filter for your skin, basically. ‘Ethereal Light’ is the palest shade, and, as you can see, it’s pretty much a pure white, which Hourglass claims will mimic a “moonlit glow”. Uh huh.

I mean, I don’t really know what I was expecting here. Well, OK, I DO: I was expecting it to make me look like Galadriel or something, all ethereal and dreamy. As it turns out, though, I look NOTHING LIKE FREAKING GALADRIEL, FOR GOD’S SAKE. Actually, I just look like myself. EXACTLY like myself. As in, this makes absolutely no difference to my skin whatsoever – or not that I’ve noticed, anyway. I’d like to think that it’s maybe more obvious to other people or something, but I’ve been using it for a couple of weeks now, and so far no one has come up to me and said, “Why Amber, you’re positively radiant today – it’s almost like you’re lit from within, with a subtle moonlit glow!” so I’m forced to come to the conclusion that it really isn’t making any difference.

As I said, I suspected this would happen when I bought this, so I’ve really no one to blame but myself. I’ll keep on using it, and perhaps one day I’ll unlock the secret of using this: if I suddenly start looking like an elf in my outfit photos, you’ll know I’ve managed it. Don’t hold your breath, though…

Testing Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder in Ethereal Light

17 Comments
  1. Oooh I need that matteifying sunscreen magic now! I don’t know if there is a Sephora anywhere in Florida though (though I could order it online and it will be there when I arrive!) The lip balm sounds lovely but I’m a sucker for lip balm, especially tinted. Shame about the Too Faced mascara, I always wonder how these things get past testing and onto market when they’re not an improvement on the original. Are you wearing the Moonlit Glow/Magical elfin powder in the pic? Your skin does look lovely, and it’s not doing that weird thing that HD powders do in pics if so (scary white patches!), so maybe it’s like an HD powder alternative? I don’t know! I would so be swayed into buying it too, anything that claims to make my skin look naturally radiant/glowy and I’m in!

    1. There are tons and tons of Sephoras in Florida – you’ll have no problem finding one 🙂 (If there’s not an actual store where you’re going, they normally also have Sephora concessions in JC Penneys)

      Yes, I’m wearing the powder in the pic, but I never think photos really show my makeup properly – I’ve no idea how “real” beauty bloggers do it!

    2. Steff there is a Sephora in any of the big cities; Orlando, Tampa, Jacksonville etc, anywhere with an outlet mall basically. You might also try ULTA, they usually have a pretty good range of products but arent as big as Sephora. ULTA is a little more common also.

  2. I use the BareMinerals SPF 50 powder sunscreen the same way – always in my bag for touch ups. Unfortunately they only do 3 shades and the palest one is slightly darker than their foundation powder shade, fair; so I’m guessing it’ll be too dark for you. I can get away with it in the summer but in the winter I just rely on my morning application of Filorga.

    1. I know people rave about Bare Minerals, but it always looks really cakey on me – I much prefer this because you can’t actually see it on the skin, and it’s translucent, so I don’t have to worry about a tide-mark around my jaw!

  3. Try the Younique mascara. It’s a bit fiddly to put on – again it’s 2 tubes, but it does give a false lash effect. They also do a lip stain that’s similar to Benetint, but it comes in a few colours. I’ve been wearing it while I have braces on my teeth because I’m paranoid about lip gloss and lipstick coming off on the clear braces and me not knowing!

  4. Ugh, I am sorry to hear that about the Hourglass Ambient powder because I have been craving one myself. I’m pretty sure they have been calling me in my sleep. I was actually hoping to replace the MAC Mineralize skin finish powders with Hourglass but now I’ll have to wait and see. I know makeup’s different for everyone, but Hourglass products are not exactly cheap, so I’ll probably have to try it out over my foundation in store first. :/

  5. Thank you for your honesty re Hourglass. I’ve had such a yearning for it for ages; am going to have to find something else to repeatedly put into/take out of my shopping basket 🙂

  6. Sephora scares the crap out of me. I’ve only ever gone once, when the makeup artist for my wedding instructed me to use some sort of moisturizing face treatment the night before, and told me I could get a sample at Sephora. So I went, and got the sample, and left as quickly as possible. You can tell, from the mere existence of this story, that it’s a damn good thing I had a makeup artist for my wedding, because I looked fantastic but could never have pulled it off on my own 🙂

    (can we still be friends? maybe you could take me to Sephora and teach me how to love it?)

  7. Soap & Glory’s ‘Glow All Out’ is my Ambient Light alternative. Bought on a random Boots trip and now I couldn’t live without it. Half the price, and I really feel like it makes a difference to the overall look. Also combines perfectly with NARS Orgasm which I think I remember you being a fellow devotee of?

  8. I have used one of the hourglass powders for over a year now (mood light) and never notice a difference. I keep using it because I’m determined not to waste the money spent, and I do love the product packaging and the feel of the brush as I apply it. But I feel like I’m missing why everyone gives it such rave reviews. The only thing I can think of is I’m using the wrong kind of brush. But now you’ve given me a few other items to check out on the next trip that sound much more promising!

  9. This post could not have come at a more perfect time (for me….). I’ve recently started medication that makes your skin extra sensitive, and also causes dryness, starting on your mouth/lips and hands. Now, I’m very dark skinned and so don’t need to think about sun protection too much, but since I’ve started this medication, I’ve really had to be careful about how much sun exposure I get ( I live in Oman, where “Autumn” means we’ve had temperatures between 36-41 degrees C for the past couple of weeks, and constant, almost blinding, sunshine… yeah, you should totally visit). While I do use a CC cream with sunscreen, I need a solution about topping up throughout the day. I have very oily skin, so using regular sunscreen just doesn’t work! That Peter Thomas stuff sounds like exactly the thing I need.

    As for my lips, again, I’ve never had a problem with dry lips until starting this medication, and I find that all my lip balms, even the ones with various oils, don’t do anything about helping moisturise them; they just stop them from drying out. But what’s a girl to do about lips that are already dry! Rubbing my lips with oil every night doesn’t seem to be doing much. So yeah, that sugar lip treatment also looks like a solution for me.

    Sorry this comment ended up being stupidly long, but you’ve no idea how excited I was reading this post! So, thanks a bunch 🙂

  10. Yeahhh, I bought an Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder in “Dim Light” and returned it. It did NOTHING!! How disappointing, both because of the massive hype and the price point. Like, if I’m going to pay $45 for a powder, it better have magical powers.

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