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I have mixed feelings about Ulta as a company, but I do love that they give you free samples when you order from their website. I recently placed an order to get a few things that Target failed me on—Target’s selection has declined dramatically lately. Anyone else notice that?

Here are my thoughts on the product samples I received, and one item I did actually buy at Target.

Lumene Finland Time Freeze Instant Lift Serum

lumene-time-freeze-instant-lift-serumMy first experience with the brand Lumene was when I received a free sample from the Finnish Embassy during their Open House 2014 tour. Until I received this serum sample from Ulta, I wasn’t aware Lumene was even available in the U.S. Being a Finnish company, Lumene’s claim to fame is that they use natural Arctic ingredients in their products.

I’m a little on the fence about serums as a whole. I like them in the winter for the extra boost of moisture that they give my skin, but I don’t think they make much of an overall difference in how my skin looks. For example, this one is touted as an “instant lift.” That’s ridiculous. Gravity is exerting its pull on your skin every second of every day. No face product is going to counteract the force of gravity.

That said, this is a pleasant product to use, assuming you don’t put too much stock in its claims. It has a nice, light fragrance that is vaguely floral. Unlike other serums I’ve tried, it’s neither very thin nor very viscous—it’s basically the consistency of a daily moisturizer. It’s also not clear, unlike other serums I’ve tried. It has a tan color to it, but as far as I could tell, that didn’t make a difference in how it appeared on my skin. It’s $22.99 at Ulta. I liked it, but I didn’t like it enough to spend $23 on it.

Soap & Glory The Righteous Butter Body Butter

righteousbutter_nsgSoap & Glory is a British company, newly being carried at Ulta. Their website and product-naming conventions remind me a little of Bliss. As with most body butters, this one is very thick. You would not be able to use it during the summer because it would feel gross, but it’s wonderful for fall and winter. It’s just what you need for dry elbows and tight skin. And it smells amazing! It’s fruity and floral, with an emphasis on the floral. Every time I used it, I felt like I was eating strawberries in a garden of roses. It’s $15.00 at Ulta, and I would definitely buy this one.

Jack Black Body-Building Hair Gel

jack blackSure, this Jack Black product is technically for men, but it’s hair gel, which is pretty much unisex. This scent was labeled ginger-grapefruit, and I don’t know any men who would want their hair to smell like ginger and grapefruit. The ginger scent was subtle, but the grapefruit was very prominent. At any rate, it smelled good to me and held my curls in place without being crunchy and without frizz, which is really all I ask for in a hair gel. And I was able to get three uses out of a little sample! It’s $14.00 at Ulta, which is less expensive than a lot of salon products, but still probably more than I’m going to pay for a basic hair gel.

Que Bella Clarifying Cucumber Peel-Off Mask

cucumberlow-01-159x230I bought this product at Target at first thinking it was one of those new-fangled sheet masks I’ve been reading about. But it’s just a regular mask that you apply with your fingertips, then peel off once it’s dried. Although I think it was designed to be a one-time use packet, your face would have to be enormous to use the entire packet at once! I was able to get three uses out of it, but the third one was admittedly a little thin.

For some reason, I was expecting the mask to be green, but it goes on and dries clear. The instructions recommend leaving the mask on for about 20 minutes before peeling it off. I found that to be fairly accurate in terms of how long it took for the mask to dry on my face. (You can’t peel it off until it dries.) As it dries, your face will stiffen and the product gets less shiny, so it’s pretty easy to tell when it’s ready for peeling.

The peel-off process went fine. It pulls off in large chunks, so you can re-create your favorite horror movie scene (as long as it involves face-peeling, that is). The mask smells very strongly of cucumber, so if you’re not a fan, I recommend a different choice. I didn’t notice any dramatic differences in my skin after the mask, but then, I never do. It did leave my skin feeling clean and refreshed though, so I count that as a win. I would definitely use this again and try some of Que Bella‘s other products. I paid $1.99 for the pouch at Target. It’s also available as a tube for $5.99, which is obviously way more cost-effective. But the pouches are nice to be able to try something before committing to a full tube.

Final verdict: yes to the Soap & Glory and Que Bella products. The Lumene and Jack Black products were good, but not special enough to justify their prices. But kudos to Ulta for sending some great samples!