Following on from the crushing disappointment that was Philip Kingsley Elasticizer Extreme, it occurred to me that this experience was an all-too-familiar one for me, and that, time and time again, I’ll find myself buying into the hype of some so-called “beauty hero”, only to end up sitting there thinking, “Er, was that IT? THAT’S what people are raving about? ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?”

I’m talking here about products like…

Cult Beauty Product ReviewsMaybelline Great Lash Mascara

What I thought it would do: 

Transform my aggressively average eyelashes into fabulously fluttery, gorgeous ones, that would make people stop in their tracks and be all, “OMG, are those REAL?”

What it actually did: 

Transformed my very average looking eyelashes into very short, clumpy lashes, that were more likely to make people think, “Hmm, looks like Amber’s been sleeping in her makeup again. I wonder if it’s time for an intervention?”

Seriously, though, every time I read an interview with a makeup artist, they always seem to be banging on about how they don’t use expensive mascaras on their clients, because Maybelline Great Lash Mascara does it all, for half the price. Because of these claims, I’ve actually bought it TWICE now, and both times, I’ve ended up looking like I don’t have any eyelashes. Worst. Mascara. Ever. Seriously. And, I mean, you’d think I’d have learned my lesson the first time, but, well, you all know me better than that by now, don’t you? As evidence of this, I present…

NARS Sheer Glow Foundation

Or, indeed, ANY NARS foundations, because I just keep on buying them, and I keep on hating them. And yet I NEVER LEARN.

What I thought it would do: 

Give me perfect, flawless skin with a nice, dewy glow to it.

What it actually did: 

Made me look like one of the Undead.

To be fair to NARS, ‘Siberia’ is, indeed, the perfect shade for very pale skin, I’ll give them that. I have yet to meet a NARS foundation I got on with, though (See also: how much I hated Sheer Matte), which is disappointing, because I absolutely LOVE almost all of their other products. And I want to love the foundation, too (No, really, I do, although mostly so I can make my dressing table look all Instagrammable, with matching products…), but it, unfortunately, does not love me, and that’s just something I’m going to have to live with.

I also lived for a while with…

Pixie Glow Tonic

What I thought it would do:

Finally help me understand why everyone raves about acid toners, and, well, what they actually DO.

What it actually did:

Nothing. Like, literally nothing. In fact, if you’ve read my review of Alpha H Liquid Gold, you’ve pretty much also read my review of Glow Tonic. I didn’t hate it – which is why I diligently used up the whole bottle – it just didn’t seem to make any difference to my skin, and, well, that was a bit of a bummer, really.

Olaplex hair treatment

Ah yes: the pre-shampooing treatment that came directly before Philip Kingsley, and made roughly the same claims. So, in other words…

What I thought it would do: 

Make me look like a straight-up mermaid.

What it actually did: 

Made me look like a straight-up idiot who spent £32 just to look exactly the same as before she used it.

In defence of Olaplex, although it sounds a lot like my doomed Elasticizer experience, this one was definitely underwhelming rather than awful. It didn’t make my hair greasy, or break my heart, for instance, and I didn’t have to spent ages trying to shampoo the stuff out or anything: it just wasn’t any better than a bottle of drugstore conditioner, and THAT’S NOT WHAT I CAME HERE FOR, DAMMIT.

The cult beauty products that aren't worth the money* (*in my personal opinion)OPI Nail Envy

What I thought it would do: 

Transform my crappy, brittle nails, into beautiful, healthy, shiny ones. Like, from reading some of the reviews of this stuff, I fully expected to be able to forge a lucrative career as a hand model after this.

What it actually did: 

Well, have YOU seen me talking about my awesome hand-modelling career lately?

So, it made no discernible difference, in other words. I’ve just this second noticed that they’re now selling a version of it called “Bubble Bath” though, and honestly? I think I might buy it. I wish I knew why?

Glossier Milk Gelly Cleanser

What I thought it would do: 

Cleanse my face in a way that would be totally different, and far superior, to every other cleanser I’d ever tried. Also have the consistence of “milk gelly”, and be really fun to use.

What it actually did:

Cleansed my face in a way that was exactly the same as every other cleanser I’ve ever tried, and not even particularly reminiscent of “milk gelly”, although I’m not sure what I even thought that was, tbh?

Despite this, I will almost definitely re-purchase this, though, because I have to clean my face with SOMETHING, after all, and this looked nice in the bathroom, so…

Now that I’ve written all of this down, though, I suspect my guiding principle of, “Will it look nice in the bathroom, tho?” is possibly one of the reasons I’m so frequently underwhelmed by beauty products, now I come to think of it. Because, the thing is, I am FREQUENTLY underwhelmed by beauty products. In fact, looking back, it’s actually pretty rare for me to buy something, use it, and think, “Oh, OK, I totally get why people rave about this now, because it’s literally changed my life.” Or even, “Well, at least it did what it said it would.” This makes me think that either:

a) Many reviewers lie about their experiences.

OR

b) There is something wrong with me.

Honestly, I think it’s probably (B), but, at the same time, I really wish someone had warned me about all of these products in advance (I mean, it wouldn’t have stopped me buying them, obviously, because that’s the kind of stupid I am, but it might have made my disappointment a little less palpable. Maybe.), hence the existence of this post. Which brings me to this boring disclaimer that I really wish I didn’t have to add, but which I know from experience I most definitely do:

Boring disclaimer, containing things you should know already:

Everyone is different. Products that work for one person may not work for another, and vice versa, so just because I didn’t like these ones, it doesn’t mean you won’t, or that you shouldn’t try them. Similarly, please don’t be offended if I’ve slated something you love, because obviously it’s not a personal reflection on you, and, well, let’s not make this weird, people, seriously.

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19 Comments
  1. My mascara suggestion is ALWAYS any Essence mascara, but mainly their purple princess one. It’s like £3. Honestly so good.
    And I’ve never found a foundation I like for my ridiculously pale skin! If you ever find one, lemme know 😉

    1. I’m really liking The Ordinary foundation right now – comes in different shades for pink/yellow/neutral undertones, and is really pale. I have both the Serum Foundation and the Coverage foundation, and both together cost eless than a bottle of NARS!

  2. This is my life when it comes to products for naturally curly hair. If I leave it without product, I look like I’ve arrived in from the wilds of the mountains on a windy day. Every single extortionately priced treatment I try leaves me looking like I haven’t washed it for weeks. It’s been 40 years. I reckon by the time I’m 70, there’ll be a miracle cure on the market, but by then my pension won’t cover it.

    1. Same – I don’t normally use any products at all on my hair other than shampoo and conditioner, because everything else just makes it look unwashed!

    2. omg yes, curly hair problemz hello. I bought every single curly hair product on the market and as of right now there’s only one product that does the job and it was a surprise buy at TKMaxx, it’s called Tahe Magic Rizos. Also I found a hair dresser that specialises in curly hair and cuts differently and that works!

  3. Finally someone calls out that crappy mascara for what it is. A long, long time ago I was training to become a make up artist and indeed that’s the mascara everyone used, saying that it’s the best. Just that it….isn’t. Not at all. In fact, it seemed almost like not wearing any mascara whatsoever, on me at least – that stuff just didn’t want to stick to my lashes.

  4. I like both the Olaplex and the pixi Glow Tonic, but I didn’t expect to see a maior difference, as I figured both are more for repair in the long run. Olaplex has definitely improved my hair, which is heavily processed, so I guess I have different needs than you.

    Anne – Linda, Libra, Loca

  5. On the Pixi Glow – you do need to use it daily for at least a month to see any kind of improvement, but then after that it will subtly remove the dead and dull skin cells on the surface (as well as reducing blackheads.) It’s one of those that won’t give you a WOW moment until you look back, or stop using it. But if you’ve got great skin already and have a targeted skin regime already, that’s probably why you didn’t see much change.

    On the others – totally agree with you.

    1. I used the entire bottle, so, every day for however long it took to run out: I honestly didn’t see any difference at all! I know lots of people who swear by it, though, so it’s probably just me!

  6. I think Olaplex will give more visible results to severely damaged hair. Mine was super bleach damaged and Olaplex was honestly a godsend in turning it from a straw-like mess that I couldn’t run my brush through into… normal hair. But since it’s a bond multiplier and not a conditioner I’m sure the results will be less drastic on hair that’s decent to begin with! Totally agree about NARS foundations and Maybelline Great Lash. Maybelline has a lot of nice mascaras, not sure why people keep recommending Great Lash!

  7. I like Maybelline Great Lash, but that’s because I like spending money and time on applying something that makes zero difference. Really. If a makeup product is visible in any way I have to have a bit of a sit down then wipe it off. 😀 I’m with you on the Pixi Glow though, it made no difference. (I have much higher expectations of my skincare products, clearly I want them to give me perfect skin so my not-even-barely-there makeup doesn’t have much work to do.)

  8. It always shocks me when Nail Envy doesn’t work for people. I’m in a nail polish group and 90% of us love it (it has transformed my nails, truly), but 10% it definitely doesn’t work for. So strange.

  9. The only recommended product I love and now tell everyone to buy is Benefit Roller Lash mascara. My lashes look fab with it! I also love their brow pomade but that’s probably down to their savvy salesperson telling me my eyebrows were well-shaped haha

  10. I have had the exact experience with the Maybelline Great Lash – nothing but clumps. I liked the Glossier cleanser, but only because it was good for my sensitive skin. You’re right. It wasn’t extraordinary. I also agree about the Olaplex. I didn’t love Pixi glow tonic either. I have found a holy grail mascara you might want to try. It’s Thrive liquid lash.

  11. I’m actually quite surprised to see that the olaplex hair treatment didn’t work (mind you I think it’s only supposed to work if you use olaplex number 1 & 2). I’ve been getting my hair bleached for about 6 years now? My friend did hair, and she would put olaplex 1 in my bleach, then she would put olaplex 2 as a deep conditioner immediately after the bleaching. Finally, She would give me Olaplex 3 to keep the results I had at the salon. I don’t think it was meant to be used as a standalone product?
    I’m sorry to hear you didn’t like it! Great post Amber xx

    Melina | http://www.melinaelisa.com

  12. Oh my goodness! The Maybelline mascara was a disaster on me! Not just because it didn’t work, but because I had a severe skin reaction to it and the skin around my eyes started peeling off where my lashes touched my skin (I do have very long lashes naturally-but as a redhead-they are blonde/invisible). It took me a week to figure out what the issue was, I thought I was having a reaction to my moisturizer. Turns out, all Maybelline mascara products give me this reaction! So now, I exclusively use Blinc Mascara Amplified (my dermatologist recommended it). And it’s the only makeup product I’ve ever been impressed with. I’m even willing to shell out quite a bit of money for a couple of tubes a year.

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