First Impressions: Samples I Tried in Japan

One of the things I love about traveling is having an excuse to use some of the many, many product samples I have accumulated. Between subscription boxes, sample sets, Sephora gifts and those alluring mini-sized items by the checkout at Ulta, I can get overwhelmed by products looking for their big break into my routine.


My vanity in Tokyo filled with samples to try.

I just got back from a week in Japan–the jet lag fog is finally starting to lift!–and I can start to formulate thoughts again, let alone opinions on some of the products I tried. Unpacking my clear toiletries bag–because you know I was gone for a week and only needed a carry-on–I’ve got some first impressions on some of the samples I tried while traveling in Japan.


For real–I pack light! One week of travel and I only needed a work bag and a carry-on–which I had to check on the way home due to some SK-II purchases

Things I liked and will spring for the full size:

Milk Makeup Highlighter: I received this sample in my Birchbox and I love it! It was the only highlighter I packed and the only one that I needed. It’s completely foolproof and takes zero time or effort to apply. I’m curious to try the Glossier one that Pam recommends because I think it’s similar, but this one was also great. Since Milk Makeup is a new launch, there are TONS of sample sets out there (like this one or this one) where you can try the highlighter along with other items in their line for a reasonable price. But at $23, I think the full size is worth it.

Skyn Iceland, The ANTIDOTE Cooling Daily Lotion and Icelandic Relief Eye Pen: I picked up the Skin Hangover Emergency Relief Kit after a couple of readers recommended some of their products to me. I’m already a fan of the under eye masks, so I was excited to give other items a go. Both products do what they say–provide a cooling sensation to your skin and take down redness and puffiness. These products won’t be every day items for me, but I can see a lot of opportunities where I will need their services!  At $25, this kit is a great value with big samples and fun way to try a bunch of their products. Plus–Ulta is currently offering a free gift with purchase on any items in the line.

Caudalie, Beauty Elixer: Oh–this stuff is divine! It made me feel super fancy and the mist is perfection. The glass bottle is heavy and feels important. The scent might not be for everyone as it’s very distinct, but I loved it. I could definitely see using this as my main setting spray, especially in the winter. At $18 for a full-size–it’s a splurge–but why not start the day a little classy!

Things I liked but probably won’t repurchase:

Clinque Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm and Chubby Lash Fattening Mascara – Jumbo Jet: Right before I left, I got the 500 point Sephora reward pack called Clinique Balm to Bombsell. I had been curious about all these products, so it was a great perk.


First the mascara–it’s got a really thick wand and definitely made my lashes look thicker and had a very black pigment. I didn’t find it to be too messy to apply and it did last all day without fall out. But at $17.50 for a full size, there are too many drugstore mascaras I prefer to warrant that price.

The Cleansing Balm was used exactly as its name suggests–to take the day off. My skin was so wonky when I was gone–I was wearing full coverage, full face makeup everyday–and it did a great job removing it. You also don’t need much product, even for waterproof mascara. The downside is you have to follow it up with a regular cleanser which at the end of a long day is an extra step too many. At home, I’m working through the Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser–thanks, Pam!–and Meaningful Beauty Skin Softening Cleanser and both remove my makeup in one-step. But if you’re in the market for a solid makeup remover, I would give this one a try. The 500 point perk is still available and Sephora also has this sample pack you could try for pretty cheap.

No thanks 

Soap & Glory, Clean on Me: I brought this as my shower gel and really didn’t like it. It boasts it’s “Original Pink Fragrance combines fresh bergamot, mandarin, rose, jasmine, peach, strawberry, and soft musk & amber base notes” but I honestly couldn’t smell anything–yet it didn’t smell unscented–it was just odd and off-putting. I also didn’t find it moisturizing and used it both with my hands as recommended and on a wash cloth and didn’t like how it applied either way.

Klorane, Conditioner with Quinine and B Vitamins: What is this? The consistency is really watery which is odd for a conditioner and after I rinsed my hair, it feels less conditioned than after I shampooed. I hated this so much, I switched to the hotel conditioner which I didn’t love either, but was definitely better than this nonsense.

There are several other products I’m still checking out and many more waiting for a turn. What samples have you been working through? Anything we should avoid or consider taking out for a spin? Let us know in the comments below!

(These products were either purchased impulsively at check out by me, received in subscription boxes or obtained because I spend too much money at Sephora. But I’m happy to try and review products I am sent…)

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