Review: Sephora Play! July 2016

I rarely use up full-size products, so I love deluxe sample sizes, but with Birchbox derailing and Glossybox more likely to send out random full-size products I don’t want from brands I don’t know, Sephora Play! started looking like a better and better option.

This is my first Play! box – Play! is still in (rather opaque) waitlist mode, and I subscribed as soon as I got off the waitlist.

For $10 you get five deluxe samples plus a perfume vial sample in a drawstring bag, along with a card for 50 Beauty Insider points with any in-store purchase. The card is essentially useless for me since I bought a Flash subscription for free shipping on $25 orders – since pretty much all my purchases are over $25, I can always use a code to get a bonus deluxe sample, vs. making the purchase in-store with the Play! card and getting 50 BI points towards a deluxe sample.

I do appreciate the detail of using matching packing tape.


I usually calculate alternate values using the largest size available, which is usually the best price per unit, and the smallest/cheapest, which would be your lowest buy-in cost for trying the product otherwise. This time I didn’t bother because the Smashbox primer is cheaper per oz in the travel size and the only other product that comes in more than one size is the Nest fragrance sample, which would be worth $3.70 based on the rollerball ($25/0.27 fl oz), and I’m pretty sure no one thinks the sample vial is worth that much.

When I can, I use reported volumes/weights in metric because they’re usually more precise, and because companies more frequently base their product sizes on round numbers in metric (one common example being a 50 mL product which gets rounded up in imperial labeling to 1.7 fl oz). This can get to be a pain because 1. it’s not always easy to find the metric sizes listed online for the full-size product and 2. some companies pick sizes that make more ‘sense’ in imperial (e.g. the Smashbox primer is 1 oz/30 ml for the full size, 0.5 oz/15 ml for the travel size, and 0.25 oz which should be 7.5 ml for the sample size, but it was labeled as 7 ml, so the imperial value is more accurate).

  • beautyblender blotterazzi – 1 blotter @ $20/2 blotters plus case = $10 minus half the value of the case
  • beautyblender liquid blendercleanser – 3 mL @ $18/150 mL = $0.36
  • First Aid Beauty Skin Rescue Deep Cleanser with Red Clay – 28.3 g @ $24/134 g = $5.07 (1.0 oz @ $24/4.7 oz = $5.11)
  • Ouai Wave Spray – 50 ml @ $26/150 ml = $8.67 (1.7 oz @ $26/5 oz = $8.84)
  • Smashbox Photo Finish Oil Free Foundation Primer, Pore Minimizing – 0.25 oz @ $16/0.5 oz = $8.00 (7 ml @ $16/15 ml = $7.47)
  • Too Faced Chocolate Soleil Medium/Deep Matte Bronzer – 2.5 g @ $30/10 g = $7.50 (0.08 oz @ $30/0.35 oz = $6.86)
  • Nest Citrine, 0.04 oz @ $68/1.7 oz = $1.60

Total: $41.24 (minus half the value of a blotterazzi case)
With the discrepancies in size labeling etc., the lowest estimated value would be $40.03 and the highest would be $41.41 (or $43.51 if you use the value of the Nest sample calculated based on the retail price of the rollerball). I’m happy with that value.

beautyblender blotterazzi + blendercleanser

Sephora description: “Shaped to fit all contours of the face, the blotterazzi™ saves you from unused corners like traditional blotting papers. Made with the award-winning beautyblender material, these blotting sponges remain “thirsty” when they are dry, absorbing excess oil without disturbing makeup so that skin stays looking radiant. With the compact’s vented back and clear, hygienic separator, it ensures that the sponges keep their freshness.”

I don’t think that marketing this as a better replacement for blotting paper is the best angle. Even if this sample came with the compact, it is clearly more sanitary to use a sheet of single-use blotting paper, which you can fold or crumple to fit “all contours of the face” (and I have never had a problem with “unused corners” of blotting paper). The product description feels very /r/wheredidthesodago.

An advantage of this that I acknowledge would be, besides being more eco-friendly I suppose (although the packaging says one sponge lasts 30-45 days, and I would guess that my typical monthly blotting-paper consumption is actually more eco-friendly than that) since this is beautyblender material, you can use it to smooth your makeup out again. I usually carry a compact with me (pressed powder or BB cushion)that has a makeup sponge in it, but if I had a super-thin clutch and was pressed for space I guess I could carry this instead.

Confession: I have no intention of trying this as a blotter. It does work as  nice (albeit very large and floppy) makeup sponge, just like the traditional beautyblender does (unsurprising given that it’s the same material).

Before and after soaking with water.

First Aid Beauty Skin Rescue Deep Cleanser with Red Clay

Sephora description: “A gel cleanser to detox, cleanse, and unclog pores…This foaming gel cleanser helps remove excess oils, unclog pores, and purify the skin with a powerful combination of red clay, rosemary leaf oil, and botanical antioxidants. By helping to draw out skin toxins, this clay cleanser helps control outbreaks and reduces sebum production for a more balanced complexion.”
Ingredients: Water, Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Glycerin, Peg-120 Methyl Glucose Dioleate, Acrylates/Steareth-20 Methacrylate Copolymer, Dipropylene Glycol, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Chrysanthemum Parthenium (Feverfew) Extract, Glycyrrhiza Uralensis (Licorice) Root Extract, Bisabolol, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Oil, Allantoin, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Panthenol, Illite, Potassium Hydroxide, Disodium Edta, Mica, Caprylyl Glycol, Phenoxyethanol, Iron Oxides (Ci 77491).

The ingredients list shows that this is basically an inoffensive generic cleanser plus a handful of botanicals and ‘red clay’ i.e. illite (clay), mica (shimmer), and iron oxides (red). There’s no particular reason to think that the mica and iron oxides to make the clay any better at adsorption – they’re just pretty.

Definitely not the consistency/appearance I was expecting – I thought this would be more like a clay mask (like GlamGlow products), but it’s a translucent red with a bit of shimmer. Gimmicks aside, it’s a gentle, thorough cleanser that so far works well for my combo-oily skin.

Ouai Wave Spray

Sephora description: “A weightless texture mist for effortlessly chic, undone hair…Infused with rice protein to add hold and memory for that perfect beachy look, this feather-light spray gives hair natural wave and body without any dryness or crunch.”

Per the instructions you can use this on either damp or dry hair. When I tested this, I had washed my hair the previous night and happened to blowdry it straight, which I rarely do (I used Bumble & Bumble Hairdresser’s Invisible Oil UV Primer and Living Proof Perfect Hair Day 5-in-1 Styling Treatment). In any case, my hair was pretty straight before I tried the wave spray.

I misted pretty thoroughly and scrunched my hair. It smells vaguely like…err, I have a terrible sense of smell. Apparently it’s scented with “Ouai No. 2 Fragrance, containing notes of Italian lemon, amber, and white musk.” Sure. It smells like that.


I guess it looks nice? My hair feels stiff and sticky, which is a pretty accurate imitation of the effect of seawater on hair. Working out and getting sweaty does more or less the same thing, except in that case my hair is still soft (although it doesn’t smell as nice, I suppose).

The fragrance is pretty strong – it was still evident when I woke up in the morning (>12 hours after initial application), so if you don’t like it that could be a problem.

Smashbox Photo Finish Oil Free Foundation Primer, Pore Minimizing

Sephora description: “A perfecting primer that instantly blurs imperfections and reduces the appearance of pores for up to eight hours. ”

I’ve used the original before, which leaves me feeling oily, as well as the light and blemish control versions, which I liked better than the original but somehow never got around to buying. This one is thicker and tackier than the others – it’s a bit reminiscent of Benefit POREfessional. Like POREfessional, it does unfortunately highlight dry patches more than the other iterations I’ve tried, which usually wouldn’t be an issue for me, but since I’ve been using a retinoid product recently I do have some flaky spots. I’ll use this up eventually, just not right now.

Close up of some pores/scars before/after primer
Before/after of some pores on the back of my hand

Too Faced Chocolate Soleil Medium/Deep Matte Bronzer

Sephora Description: “A delectable matte bronzer.”

At some point in time I had a sample of this that I ended up selling because I thought bronzer just made you look tanner, which isn’t something I’m looking for. Since my skintone is on the warmer side (err, completely yellow) it works pretty well for contouring my cheekbones without looking muddy. It definitely smells super chocolate-y, which I personally don’t care about one way or another.

Left – with Smashbox Pore Minimizing Primer, right – plus Too Faced Chocolate Soleil and Laura Mercier Baked Highlighter in Portofino

Bronzer really isn’t part of my typical routine, but I’m going to try using it for more contouring and also as a matte eyeshadow.

Nest Citrine

Sephora description: “The dewy softness of lotus flower and freesia are set against sparkling citrus notes and hints of precious woods.”

Nest packaging is my favorite. I’m already familiar with this scent from a 100-point reward I picked up recently and it’s not my favorite. I think the freesia is kind of overpowering; I was hoping for more citrus out of a scent named ‘citrine’ and was initially optimistic, but on me the citrus faded pretty quickly and left a strongly floral, soapy scent (I actually tried to wash it off but was unsuccessful, so…props for staying power?). Perfumes are really personal/tastes are idiosyncratic and I consider the the perfume sample for Play! to be a bonus anyway, so I’m not bothered by this not working for me given that I’ll use everything else in some way or another.

I don’t love any of these products, but with the exception of the perfume, I’ll happily use up the samples (although I don’t know how long it would take me to get through the Ouai)

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