BroadView: Sephora Play April 2019

I see you sent me all the old stuff. Thx. Rly.

  • Product: Sephora PLAY! monthly sample subscription box, April 2019
  • Price: $10 plus tax/month, billed monthly
  • Broad Rating: 2.5/5
  • Short take: Lots of ‘safe’ choices using veteran products make this particular box configuration less valuable to someone wishing to try new things.

I’m something of an old hand with subscription boxes. For a while, I received several every month of varied types, and recently, I chose to return to sub-land, albeit in a much less voracious way. Since I tend to like a large number of the brands at Sephora, I decided to try out the company’s box, PLAY!, and this is the first box I received.

Sephora Collection Waterproof Triple Action Cleansing Water + Oil ($14 full size):

The real selling point of most of Sephora’s house-brand products is that they are dupes of existing (pricier) products that cost less. I find their brand to be spotty in quality. Some of their offerings are ones I will never purchase again after bad experiences, and some of them are decent. Some (like many of the Hakuhodo x Sephora brushes) were quite good.

This is far from the best makeup remover/cleanser out there. It’s adequate, at best, but the new formula has a whole host of one-star reviews on the Sephora site begging the company to bring back the old formula. There are less-expensive options that are as good or better than this, and definitely better high-end ones as well.

I’ll keep it for backup/emergencies, but I much prefer to use my Clinique eye makeup remover for the stubborn parts, and my Makeup Eraser for the rest.

IT Cosmetics Brow Power Universal Brow Pencil in Universal Taupe ($24 full size):

This is a decent pencil — it goes on neatly and precisely due to the narrow shape of the pencil tip, and the amount of pressure used changes the shade’s intensity from very light to… well, medium-dark taupe.

Have you ever noticed that any product listed as ‘universal’ generally tends to require the footnote ‘for people with light-to-medium skin tones,’ or, more bluntly put, ‘for average white broads’?

The ‘universal shade’ gimmick is just that — a gimmick. It’s also pretty tone-deaf in the age of broader color range diversity and inclusivity. IMO, few people of color, and only some white people, will find this useful because of that gimmick. It’s not a match for anyone with eyebrows darker than medium brown, realistically. I’m a light-skinned redhead (usually an NC20 or NW20ish in MAC depending on the product) with medium-brown brows and this pencil is too blonde-ashy and light for me.

The pencil, color aside, performs adequately, and if offered in actual colors and not this ‘universal foolishness’ shade, would be a good, solid product. I still don’t think Anastasia or Benefit will lose any sleep or customers over this, but with an actual shade range, it wouldn’t suck at all.

Urban Decay Perversion Mascara in Black ($24 full size, $12 mini):

This is a good mascara formula, with a nice gloss to the finish and a lot of length addition with very little effort. It goes on pretty wet, so a little time for drydown is crucial if you don’t want raccoon eyes. It also layers pretty well if you leave time for drydown between coats, and using the Subversion primer with it kicks it up from ‘decent’ to ‘omfg.’

It’s a solid mascara, one I’ve used and liked for years. That’s the rub: I first tried this around 5 years ago. Why do I need another sample of it? The formula hasn’t changed. It’s the same good mascara it was then.

I’m happy to have it, because I don’t buy mascara — I use freebies or samples because I toss mine as soon as I see any clumping or change in the consistency of the product. I tend to have a few spares on hand consistently, so this one will join the others in my backup drawer.

Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion+ ($28 for 4.2 oz):

This is a product I’ve tried many times. I’ve never liked it. It’s nothing new or innovative — it’s been around longer than forever, and while it was once many a woman’s ‘gateway drug’ to upscale skincare, I have never thought much of this formula. I suppose it’s better than no moisturizer at all. Or axle grease. Or grape jelly.

Clinique has a very broad range of skincare, ranging from terrible to decent in quality, and this one is just… meh. I’d’ve been much happier with a product from their new ‘sport’ skincare line, because it would have been both new to me and potentially useful in some circumstances.

Volition Beauty Turmeric Brightening Polish ($38 for 4 oz):

I will admit right off the bat that I have not actually used this product. Why? Because looking at the ingredient list and ‘features’ was enough to make me see that it was not going to work for me.

Turmeric is problematic for me, for one. It is related to ginger, and the ‘heat’ of those spices on my skin doesn’t give ‘brightness’ — it leads to flat-out flaming redness. It’s a newly-trendy thing to stick into skin care, and while it does have properties that make it useful for infections and various skin conditions, I also find it way too harsh.

Also, the presence of walnut shell, even finely ground, is an issue. Walnut shells tend to be brittle and very abrasive, and since I already use a Clarisonic, I don’t really need the exfoliation.

This might be a great product for people who don’t find it too abrasive or harsh, so I’ll pass it along to someone who might find it useful.

SachaJuan Moisturizing Shampoo and Conditioner

Bonus sample: Sachajuan Moisturizing Shampoo ($28 for 8.4oz) and Moisturizing Conditioner ($31 for 8.4oz):

Since this is a bonus sample, I’ll treat this a little less harshly than an actual ‘in the box’ sample.

I dislike hair product foil packets because I have thick, long hair, and even the largest foils provide me with, at most, 2 uses. That’s not enough to let me know if it’s a product I’ll like or not. I need at least a solid week, if not more, to see the effect of a frequent-use product. A hair mask, I feel I can judge from one use, but something that’s used every other day for me is something I want to try at greater length.

I save foils like these for travel, or to slip into goodie bags I pass along to people I know, so that’s what I’ll do with this one. Someone among my short-haired friends might get a week out of it.

Broads and Dudes Over 40

Two things are worthy of note for mature readers of this review:

The Clinique moisturizer is a fairly generic sort of product with no real anti-aging benefit, and it’s nowhere near the richness of texture that most of us find useful as we grow older. A more emollient product serves the dryness of aging skin far better, especially as a night treatment. Remember that a more emollient (thicker, creamier) product will also do a better job of sealing in your serums and direct treatments that go underneath it.

Exfoliants on aging skin should be considered with care; anything labeled ‘brightening’ or ‘peel’ or ‘retexturizing’ or ‘resurfacing’ is an exfoliating product to some degree. All exfoliants remove dead skin layers. The harsher ones like the Volition Beauty product in this box can also irritate the new layers — some products provide ‘brightness’ by irritating the skin to bring blood closer to the surface. This is how lip plumpers work, generally, and they’re a bad idea to use on aging skin, as our cells take longer to rejuvenate and are more delicate and thin.

Physical exfoliants are especially worthy of forethought, as some ingredients used in scrubs can produce microtears in the skin and actually do more harm than good or even, in extreme cases, cause scarring.


I think my biggest contention with this box is that the only product in it that was at all interesting, new, or different to someone who’s familiar with sub-box samples was the Volition product, and with my sensitive skin, turmeric is a no-go. While I’ll use the mascara, and I’ll keep the brow pencil as an emergency backup, I didn’t get to actually try anything new to me. The products have value — I’ll at least use some of them. I would have preferred to try some of the interesting new Spring 2019 products, though, and instead, I got a boxful of older ‘meh, tried that’ and ‘probably won’t use it’ items.

Products that have been out for years should not be the bulk of a sub box’s content. While some products are quality items that I already like, I don’t need to try a mascara sample from a line launched 5 years ago. Already tried it years ago.

More actual new items would make this box a winner. Let’s hope for some goodies next month!

Reviewer’s note: These items were purchased by the Broad.
All views and opinions in this post are entirely my own.

The Broad

‘The Broad’ is the nom de plume of a snarky, 50ish writer with many observations, opinions, and hopefully-bon mots.