Lily S

Author Archives: Lily S

Secret Extensions Review

Late one night, during a bout of insomnia, I was watching TV and saw an infomercial for Secret Extensions, with Daisy Fuentes as their celebrity spokesperson.
Normally, I don’t pay attention to these things, but since having a baby, my hair has thinned out a lot, even though it’s long. I contemplated chopping it into a bob, but I’ve had shorter hair for years and have finally grown it out. So I’ve been looking into extensions as a way to add some volume, not necessarily length (although I wouldn’t mind a little more). I decided against having them sewn or glued in at the salon…too costly and too much maintenance for me. Then I considered clip-ins but worried about the clips showing through my baby fine hair, plus they can be over $100.

Then I saw these. According to the commercial:

  • They’re as easy as putting on a headband
  • They have a shade-match, money-back guarantee.
  • They add length and volume in seconds
  • “Everyone will notice, but no one will know!”

So I ordered one in medium golden blonde…what did I have to lose? It cost $40 plus shipping. It showed up in my mailbox the other day and I was beyond excited to try it. 

It came in a box with some instruction cards and a coupon for money off your next purchase. The extension comes on a stretchy, clear headband that’s a little thicker than the fishing line. One downside is that it cannot be repaired if it breaks, so you’ll have to order a new one. I thought the color was pretty darn close to mine! It comes with some nice highlights in it for a realistic look and the synthetic hair isn’t too shiny like some extensions can be. It looks and feels very natural! 

Medium Golden Blonde

One thing I want to mention is that this extension is not super thick, (meaning it’s not a lot of hair, not the texture). Also, you have no choice of length, they’re all 16″ (you can have your stylist cut it to blend into your own hair if that’s too long). So if you have fine hair like I do, one extension is perfect, it adds natural volume and some length. But if your hair is thick, keep in mind that you’ll have a thinner piece of hair extending down past your normal length and it might look a bit off. The good news is, you can double or triple these so you can still use them with thick hair, you’ll just need more. I believe you get a second one for $29.99 so the more you order, you get a discount. 
I took before and afters on the same day, but my phone fell into the toilet (yikes!) and I lost almost all of my photos except a few after photos I had already uploaded. So I just took a before photo today in the car while my 1-year-old was sleeping in his car seat. 

Before Secret Extensions

Here’s after…for some reason the ends are dyed very light so it gives me a bit of an ombre look. But my highlights on top are a little lighter from the sun anyway, so it matches those pretty well. By the way, the website says you can order lighter or darker on purpose for an ombre effect.

I’m actually really impressed and happy with these! They add just enough thickness that my hair looks bac to normal, but not so big that people can tell.  They’re super lightweight…you can barely feel them and the band disappears into your hair. It moves and feels like real hair and can be brushed, washed, and styled with a curling iron or flat iron (up to 320 degrees)! I can’t wait to try a wavy look next. They come with a slight curl at the bottom which actually helps to hide my terrible split ends! I also love that I have more hair to put in a ponytail or a bun and it doesn’t look thin and wimpy!


Recently, the e.l.f. Illuminating Palette ($6 at came back after a hiatus over the summer. When it first debuted in June, it was called the Ambient Palette and it disappeared pretty quickly leaving a lot of people upset and speculating that maybe they didn’t have enough stock to fill the orders they received. But if I had to guess, my theory is that they had to pull it because the name was too similar to another famous “ambient palette”… and the reason I’m thinking that is that now that it’s back, it has a different name but the palette is exactly the same. But I could be wrong! So not only will I be reviewing this palette on its own, but I’ll also compare it to the Hourglass Ambient Palette to see if this is a possible dupe. Let’s get started! 

elf illuminating palette review swatches

The e.l.f. Illuminating Palette comes in a box, and when you open it up, the palette itself is a square shape with a matte black finish on the top and shiny plastic on the edges and bottom. The bottom of the palette actually looks unfinished because you can see the outline of the pans, but I discovered that you can actually pop them out and swap them into different e.l.f. palettes that you own (such as the blush palettes).

elf illuminating palette
elf illuminating ambient palette review
elf illuminating palette review

Inside, the e.l.f. Illuminating Palette has a large, full-size mirror which is such a great thing to have and four illuminating finishing powders.

elf illuminating palette review

These shades aren’t overwhelmingly shimmery, they’re much more subtle than your average highlight, so right away, that makes me think of the Hourglass Ambient Lighting palette!  I tend to use the Hourglass powders more liberally than I would use a more shimmery highlighting powder and I’ve been using this e.l.f. powders in the same way.
The top left shade is a white shade with a slight yellow tint to it, while the top right shade is a pale pink. On the bottom left, is a beige shade and on the bottom right is a golden bronze shade.

elf illuminating palette review

These swatches may be a little hard to see because they sort of blend into my skin tone especially the middle two. But these are very pigmented, finely milled and soft and they blend beautifully into the skin. Everyone will likely use these in different ways, depending on their skin tone, but here’s how I’ve been using them: 
The brightest shade on the top left is the perfect setting powder for my concealer underneath my eyes. I also take it up into the inner corners of my eyes to brighten the whole area. 
The light pink shade has a little bit more shimmer and is great for highlighting my cheekbones when I just want a subtle, lit-from-within look as opposed to a full-on highlight. 
I use the bottom left beige shade (which reminds me so much of Hourglass Dim Light) all over my face as a finishing powder. It’s the least shimmery of all the shades in this palette, so I can do that without looking like a disco ball. It’s close to my own skin color, but just adds a hint of glow and warms up my cool skin just a little without completely changing the color.
I haven’t really found a use for the bronzy shade yet since pulls a bit orange on me. I’m so cool-toned, almost every bronzer tends to look orange against my skin. But even if I can’t use this shade, I can’t complain. The other three work beautifully on me and this palette is a bargain. 

elf illuminating ambient palette swatches

So how does this compare to the Hourglass Ambient Lighting palette…is it a dupe? 
Texture-wise, they feel a bit different than the Hourglass powders. When I swirl my finger into an Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder, it feels dry, but not in a bad way…the powder is very compact so there’s no crumbling or fallout at all and they’re super pigmented. 
The e.l.f. Illuminating powders, on the other hand, are super soft and buttery but also have a tendency to crumble a little bit and cause fallout. Still, they are very pigmented (just slightly less so than the Hourglass powders). 
Neither one is better or worse for me because the end result is still very similar. I just wanted to make you aware of the different textures, but for me, it’s mostly about the end result. If I can get similar results from a $6 vs a $58 palette, I’ll deal with a little bit of fallout! 
Again, I’m sorry if these swatches are hard to see on my skin, but I was surprised to see how close these shades are to the Hourglass Ambient powders!

hourglass ambient lighting dupe

When compared to the Hourglass Ambient Lighting Palette, the beige shade on the bottom left looks just like Dim Light, which is supposed to create a radiance that balances cool and warm tones. The pink shade on the top right of the palette looks very similar to Incandescent Light, which is an opalescent pearl shade to brighten your complexion.
The bronze shade on the bottom right looks a lot like Radiant Light to give your skin a sunkissed look. The only shade that doesn’t have a match in the Hourglass Ambient Palette is the lightest shade on the top left of the e.l.f. palette.

Overall, I’m really impressed with this palette and have found it to be a great alternative to the Hourglass Ambient Lighting Palette. I can use the e.l.f. palette in the same way and it’s a fraction of the price! I definitely recommend getting this one if you can, and depending on your skin tone, you can use it in many different ways.


I recently picked up the new Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Tint and Hydrating Concealer at CVS and I have to say…I almost didn’t buy them because they were really pricey for drugstore products ($17.79 for the foundation and $15.79 for the concealer). Thankfully, Ulta has them for a few dollars cheaper.
I don’t even remember the last time I bought anything from Neutrogena because they don’t launch products all that often and when they do, nothing is really jumping out at me to make me want to buy them.

But that particular day, my skin was really parched (as it alway is when the temps drop and the heat is running non-stop) and I was feeling frustrated with my usual foundations looking cakey and clinging to dry patches like they always do this time of year. I guess the promise of a foundation that could plump and hydrate my skin for 24 hours with hyaluronic acid sounded pretty darn great at that moment so I took the plunge and purchased both the foundation and the concealer.
Keep on reading to see my thoughts!

Let’s talk about the Hydrating Skin Tint first…

Neutrogena’s hydration-infused, weightless water-gel Hydro Boost Hydrating Tint plumps skin and boosts hydration while providing natural-looking coverage.


  • Moisturizes and plumps skin for 24 hours
  • Doesn’t settle into fine lines
  • Boosts hydration for 24 hours for more radiant, smoother skin over time
  • Better for your skin than wearing no makeup at all – makeup your skin better, even after you take it off
  • Oil-free, non-comedogenic
  • Weightless, no makeup feel
  • Non-greasy

This costs $14.99 at Ulta and comes in ten shades. It’s packaged in a glass bottle and at first I thought it was going to be the kind you just pour out into your hand. Thankfully, it has a large doe foot applicator (just like Tarte’s Shape Tape) which makes it easy to apply.
The formula feels very creamy at first but as you blend it into your skin, it starts to break down and feel like you’re applying a cooling watery serum to your face! It just sort of melts in and disappears leaving a very natural skin-like finish that’s not dewy or matte…it just looks like you don’t have anything on. It gives more coverage than a tinted moisturizer but not enough to call it medium coverage either. For me, it’s enough for every day wear and if I need more coverage under my eyes or around my nose, I’ll just use the concealer. 
The first day I wore this, I checked my skin in the mirror after about an hour and was so impressed with how great it looked…even better than when first applied! My skin looked plumped up and smooth, fine lines almost non-existent, and I looked younger overall. Not only that, it lasted all day…I couldn’t believe it was still going strong by the evening because usually hydrating products break down faster than more drying matte formulas.

Overall, I loved how it made my skin look and feel hydrated all day long…that’s quite a challenge in the middle of winter and it really exceeded my expectations.
Now on to my Hydro Boost Concealer review…

Neutrogena’s Hydro Boost Concealer has a non-greasy, lightweight formula that glides onto skin providing silky-smooth, natural-looking coverage.


  • Unique hydrating core designed to instantly quench skin
  • No cakey finish
  • Better for your skin than wearing no makeup at all – makes your skin better even after you take it off
  • Oil-free, non-comedogenic
  • Ophthalmologist tested: safe for sensitive eyes and contact lens wearers

The Hydro Boost Concealer ($12.99 at Ulta) comes in five shades and is a twist-up stick formula with a hydrating core, similar to Benefit’s Fake Up. I’ve been using Fake-Up for the past few months and while I love that it doesn’t get cakey, I also find it to be kind of heavy and greasy. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Neutrogena Hydro Boost is actually a lighter version of Fake-Up!

It glides on so smoothly and doesn’t cake or settle into fine lines, but the best part is that it’s very lightweight and non-greasy. It does a nice job of covering minor darkness under the eyes and a little bit of redness I have around my nose. I’m not sure that it’s going to cover major dark circles but you can certainly add a few layers of this with no fear of it caking up. It brightens my under-eye area nicely and pairs really well with the foundation because it gives a very natural “your skin but better” look.
Here are the swatches on my hand (which is really dry and chapped, sorry about that guys!). I ended up getting the third-lightest shade in the foundation (Buff) because CVS only had four shades available. It’s slightly too dark for me, but it works fine because it’s a sheerer formula. I chose the Fair shade in the concealer which is the lightest color they offer and it works well, despite being a bit yellow for my pink undertone.

Final Thoughts:
Overall, if you have dry or mature skin I think you’ll love the new Neutrogena Hydro Boost Skin Tint and Hydrating Concealer as much as I do. I don’t know that this line will work well on oily skin types as they’re marketed toward dry skin and I think that’s who will benefit the most from these products.

What do you think? Have you tried either of these yet? I’d love to hear about it in the comment section below! 🙂