Reviewing recent purchases.

This is my version of a fashion influencer's haul video, where I rant and rave about recent purchases I've made.

Believe EDP 3.3 oz

Britney Spears

This is a nostalgic — and storied — scent from my teenage years. Released in September 2007 — deep into Britney’s infamous public mental health episode — Believe debuted with a splashy print marketing campaign featuring a bright-eyed Britney, caged-bird imagery reminiscent of Maya Angelou and an inspiring tagline (“The greatest freedom is to believe in yourself.”) that conflicted with the star’s public image at the time, but matched the fragrance’s sweet, shimmering scent. The campaign faced multiple controversies — from accusations that the ad actually featured a body double, to claims that the branding was stolen from a charity campaign. This is likely the reason why the fragrance was relegated to off-price retailers before being quietly discontinued, and remains the only of Britney’s six flagship fragrances to not have at least one flanker.

However, it appears the fragrance was recently relaunched with a new formulation. I owned a bottle of the original edition as a teen and upon its 2007 release, it featured more premium packaging — a thick box with metallic foil accents and a metal plate on the bottle featuring Britney’s signature heart engraved in the corner. This version, which I found at Macy’s Backstage for $19.99 (a steal for a 3.3 oz bottle), came in a flimsy box with basic color printing and a modified logo, and a bottle lacking the metal plate. But it smells just as good as my first bottle, though there are some subtle differences in the scent profile.

When I first experienced this fragrance, I declared it the first Britney perfume that could be considered a unisex fragrance because of the prominent earthy, woody notes of patchouli and amber (and the striking, angular bottle). At first spritz, a burst of these organic, musky notes mixed with the subtly sweet guava and tangerine notes in a way that made the perfume perfect for any gender to wear as an everyday scent. The new formula had much stronger sweet notes at first spray to me. However, it did wear down to a nice mix of musky, citrusy and sweet scents that more closely resembled my early experiences with the original formula. After reading reviews on Fragrantica that claimed the scent profile changes over time, I waited a couple of weeks before trying it out again, and it does seem that those earthy notes are rising to the top. Interestingly, many reviews also described contrasting experiences with the reformulation — they say the new version is muskier and the original was sweeter.

In any case, this fragrance remains an underrated favorite not just in Britney’s impressive fragrance portfolio but, I would argue, in the fragrance world as a whole. It’s a unique, yet super-wearable scent that's eearned a place in my daily fragrance rotation for spring and summer.

Vitamin C Brightening Gel-Cream

Advanced Clinicals

As any experienced Maxxinista will know, one of the struggles of the discount shopping lifestyle is that it can be hard (sometimes literally impossible) to find more of a product you like. Off-price discount stores' inventories vary wildly because of the nature of their business. Whether you score a rare deal on a name brand, or find a great product from a brand you've never heard of before, there's a decent chance you may never find that product in that store — sometimes any store — ever again. But the retail gods smiled upon me when I found this face cream at my local Macy's Backstage on a weekend shopping trip. I bought it once before from the same location and fell in love, but hadn't seen it again since — until now!

This cream is amazing, especially for the price. It's only $5.99 for 2 oz, but it's formulated with impressive ingredients — vitamin c, squalane and ferulic acid. I became familiar with these ingredients while working at a luxury skincare store last summer — together, they can help promote skin-cell turnover while providing moisture and building the skin barrier, resulting in skin that is smooth, glowy and healthy. Plus, it's a gel-cream, so it's lightweight, with a cool and refreshing feeling on application. Best of all, it literally gave me visible results overnight — I can get dry, red patches on my face that can be hard to get rid of, even when my skin is hydrated; this cream made them disappear and left smooth, plump, glowy skin in their place.

I'm very happy to have another jar of this amazing cream. This brand is easy to find at stores like TJ Maxx, but specific product inventory varies. If you happen to find this face cream, I highly recommend giving it a try.

Clearance Deals on Formerly Overpriced Jewelry Sets

Various Brands

My Macy's seems to be hanging onto a decent amount of jewelry gifts sets from the holiday season that have been clearanced out several times, but are still, in my opinion, overpriced. And yet... I couldn't resist these sets.

First two four-earring gift sets, in cute triangular boxes. I cannot believe the MSRP on the barcode is $50 because this is cheap jewelry — gold- and silver-plated fashion jewelry adorned with cubic zirconia gems. But for the clearance price of $7? Still a little steep for what they are, but I'd been looking for these exact styles — tiny hoops and bold, statement-making studs — so it felt like a fair price.

The large iridescent studs in another discount set with a matching necklace, branded as Daisy Fuentes, also caught my eye. The jewelry in this set is even cheaper than the holiday quads — it appears to be purely plastic fashion jewelry. But it was on deep discount for $3, worth it for the ultimate pair of statement studs. If only they were real! Maybe someday...

Velour Loungewear Set

JUICY by Juicy Couture

One of Juicy Couture’s most iconic offerings is their blinged-out velour tracksuits, with pants emblazoned with the word “Juicy” — spelled out in glittery fake gems — on the back. I have wanted a pair of these pants ever since they first became a hot fashion item in the early 2000s. That’s why I was so excited to snag a pair in a Juicy by Juicy Couture loungewear set from my local TJ Maxx. It was around $25, very reasonable for both a sweater and pants Unfortunately, you get what you pay for — the fabric is feather light and paper-thin, and the gems feel cheap and flimsy. It’s a far cry from the thick and luscious velour, and luxe glam vibes of vintage Juicy Couture, but it almost adds a sense of charm. Juicy by Juicy Couture is, after all, the fast fashion little sister of the 2000s luxury brand — which even in its turn-of-the-century prime was itself considered tacky and gaudy by some. The diffusion brand is a step down quality-wise, but Juicy Couture was never about top quality. It was about the look. This set let me get that 2000s nouveau riche aesthetic without paying the marked-up prices of a post-depop world. 10/10 would buy again (likely after this pair falls apart in the wash prematurely, at a clearance price that is so deep it causes existential capitalist dread — omg I’m such a Maxxinista).

CK One Gift Set

Calvin Klein

CK One wasn’t just a fragrance — it was a moment. Calvin Klein’s unisex fragrance — considered to be the first of its kind — debuted with a splash in 1994 — the year the word ‘Metrosexual’ appeared in print for the first time — complete with an edgy marketing campaign reflecting the changing attitudes of the time. It was an instant hit, selling more than $5 million in its first 10 days. It remains popular today and it’s easy to see why — it’s fresh, clean and subtly spicy in a way that is truly flattering on everyone; and it works fabulously as an everyday scent, while also being just bold enough to layer for a night out. I was drawn to the marketing as a kid, and fell in love with the scent when I got the chance to smell it while working at a beauty store in college, but I never could afford it. Imagine my excitement when I found not one, but two CK One holiday gift sets on clearance for $25 at TJ Maxx. I passed on them at first, but it was one of those things that I could not stop thinking about. It is one of my favorite scents and that was an incredibly good deal — a full-size bottle alone costs more, even from third-party sellers online, and the set included a full-size lotion and body wash, and a travel perfume. I went back the very next day and bought both sets. I regret nothing. I still think about how good of a deal it was. I love it so much, I spray it all the time — almost too much. I’ve gotten multiple compliments on it — and of course, I gush about how cheap I got it every time. I’m intent on making it my signature scent for the spring and summer — but I’ve already worked my way through half a bottle. I am absolutely OBSESSED.

Five Below Fragrances

Beautiful Glow EDP in Bright Sun Chaser (Cucumber Melon) by Justice & Soft Cloud Pour Femme EDT by United Scents

I recently found myself at a Five Below location outside my usual area, so of course I had to browse their selection of perfumes. Five Below is one of the stores that can have different inventory depending on their location, I guess because sometimes they get closeout deals from nearby retailers in addition to their usual house brands. Case in point — this location had two variations of a perfume by tween brand Justice, which is currently sold at Walmart for $12, for only $5 a piece. The Justice brand and cucumber melon fragrance are both Y2K era icons that hold a lot of nostalgia for me. And I also just still legitimately enjoy the cucumber melon scent, especially for summer. So of course, I didn’t hesitate to throw this version — dubbed "Beautiful Glow Bright Sun Chaser" — in my bag. Unfortunately it smells more like rotting lettuce and sugar, or pickled cucumbers that are going bad — a subtle sickly sweet sour that is only vaguely offensive, but far from pleasant. It wears down to something somewhat wearable, but not enough to become a regular in my rotation. I wonder if it’s just a bad batch and that’s how they ended up at a discount store, but I don’t care enough to seek out another one to compare. I do like the bottle a lot and am happy to keep it just to display! The little charm is so cute.

Soft Cloud Pour Femme, on the other hand, succeeds by failing just enough. It is exactly what it appears to be — a copy of Cloud by Ariana Grande — and it smells like exactly that, too. You can tell that it’s trying to be Cloud — it’s almost Cloud — but something is off. It's not just the bottle — which, for the record, I like more than the real one (the faceted effect elevates the look). Like many designer-inspired scents, Soft Cloud Pour Femme is much lighter, shorter-lived and has more alcohol than its inspiration. But there’s also a note missing that’s hard to identify, but makes enough of a difference to make this fail at being a total replacement for the genuine fragrance. But it’s both similar and pleasant enough to hold me over while I save up for a bottle of the real thing. And if anyone tries to put me on blast for wearing a knockoff scent, I’ll take even more inspiration from Ari — “yes, and?

Acquisitions - 2023

These buys are so last year.

Lock & Key Satchel

JUICY by Juicy Couture

As a millennial who grew up too broke to afford the trends of my youth, I've been loving the Y2K revival in fashion. I also love any bag that emulates the style of the iconic Hermès Birkin bag and have a collection of knock-offs. So needless to say, this handbag hit all my sweet spots. I was able to get it on a huge sale at a department store during a recent mall trip. I've only worn it once, but it is going to be a main go-to. It's big enough to hold most of my essentials, though it's not quite large enough to be my daily driver — I'm a city bitch who needs room for things like an umbrella and water bottle — but I'm happy with it so far. I also just realized they have a multi-color version that I kind of want. I'll be stalking the product page to try to catch it on clerance, because it is not worth the $36 they're charging now lol. I actually can't believe it has such good reviews it is a very cheaply made bag. But it's camp and I love it.

Unicorn Deoderant


My budget is at the point where I'm shopping at the dollar store more frequently, and dropping a few extra dollars on a name-brand product is considered a major splurge. On a recent Dollar General run to restock some essentials using their weekly $5 off $25 coupon, I came across this Unicorn-themed deodorant by hello. Deoderant was on my list, so I figured it wouldn't hurt to treat myself to a one in a cute package with a fun scent, especially since I usually go for aluminum-free options anyway. The watermelon scent is sweet but subtle. It's very nostalgic — it reminds me of Lipsmackers lip balm, another product that makes personal care fun. Unfortunately, after wearing it to work one day, it does not seem like it does a good job of actually neutralizing body odor. I'm going to give it a few more tries before I make a final judgement. But if it doesn't work, I may just have to get a cheap Speed Stick from dollar tree because I do not want to smell like a mix of BO and Bonne Belle lip balm.

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