How hard water wrecks your hair and what you can do about it

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Do you have hard water and hate what it’s doing to your hair? Welcome to the club!  Even though we have a water softener, half the time – make that most of the time – it doesn’t work properly. It may be due to a high concentration of minerals, sediment, etc. from our well. Who knows? As a result, I have more bad than good hair days.

If your hair is blonde or highlighted (like mine), the effects of all that iron and other metals in your water are even more noticeable. After a few weeks, my soft caramel strands look brittle and brassy!  Plus, because I can’t get the grime, soap scum, and gunk from styling products completely out of my hair, my tresses are limp and lifeless. At this point I’m tempted to shave my head and wear a wig!

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Hard water is especially hard on chemically-treated hair! Photo: mavrichi.com

Sound familiar? You’ll be glad to know I’ve found some ways to combat hard water issues and restore body and luster to your locks.

Let’s start with a few homemade solutions:

Vinegar & Cream of Tartar Paste
1. Combine two parts cream of tartar with one part vinegar in a bowl to form a thick paste. The amount of cream of tartar and vinegar you use depends on the thickness and length of your hair.
2. Let the paste sit in your hair for 15-20 minutes.
3. Rinse paste out of your hair. Once half of it is rinsed out, shampoo your hair as usual to  remove remaining paste.
4. After shampooing, rinse hair with cool water.

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Rinse with vinegar for sleek and shiny locks. Photo: hairmakeupandbeauty.com

Vinegar & Water Rinse
Mix 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with 3 cups of water. After shampooing, massage vinegar mixture into your hair, leave it in for 10-15 minutes, and rinse it out. Vinegar helps remove residue, making your hair squeaky clean and shiny.

Lemon Juice
Make a lemon rinse with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and 3 cups of water. Mix well and massage into your scalp and hair after shampooing. Let mixture sit for 5 minutes before rinsing it off. The acidity in lemons helps remove mineral and product buildup from your hair, creating a sleek finish. It’s also good for treating dandruff!

Another idea I came across is to add bluish-purple food coloring (a combination of blue, red, and green) to your shampoo and/or conditioner to counteract the brassiness in your hair. Sounds crazy I know, but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it! See what it’s all about at theperfumeexpert.com.

If you’re a bit skeptical about this DIY remedy, try using a purple or blue tinted shampoo and conditioner for blonde/highlighted hair. Here are a few suggestions:

Biosilk Color Therapy Cool Blonde Shampoo – on sale now for $7.35 at jcpenney.com

JOICO Color Balance Purple Shampoo/Conditioner – $15.99-$17.99 at Ulta.com

John Frieda Sheer Blonde Color Renew Tone Correcting Shampoo – $6.99 at Walgreens.com

Other excellent products for treating hard water hair:

Redken Hair Cleansing Cream Shampoo – $15.50 at ulta.com
Conditions and purifies hair by removing hard water minerals and product buildup.

Ion Hard Water Conditioner – less than $8.00 at sallybeauty.com
Helps prevent buildup of minerals, reduces dryness and discoloration, and makes your hair softer and easier to style. Safe for daily use and color-treated hair.

Leven Rose Organic 100% Pure Cold Pressed Natural Jojoba Oil – around $13 at amazon.com.
Rub a small amount in your hair before styling to nourish and repair dry, frizzy ends. It’s also good for your skin and nails.

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This Malibu Hard Water Hair Treatment works miracles on distressed tresses!

I’ve saved the best for last… Malibu Hard Water Hair Wellness Treatment.
The all-natural product removes mineral deposits and impurities as it moisturizes, leaving hair silky, shiny, and more manageable after just one or two applications. I’m not kidding, the results are amazing! Don’t just take my word for it, look at these glowing reviews on Amazon.com!

Packets are sold individually or in a box of 12. Get a dozen packets now for $24.98 at Amazon.com

PLEASE NOTE: most of these treatments and products should only be used once or twice a month as they can dry out your hair.

One more recommendation:
Add a shower head filter. If you don’t have a water softener (or if it’s faulty like mine), install a filter on your shower head. It will help remove rust, residue, chlorine, and impurities in your water and improve the overall condition of your hair and skin. You can buy them at home improvement stores or online at bedbathandbeyond.com.

Find all kinds of solutions for hard water hair on Pinterest!

Sources: Reader’s Digest, everydaycheapskate.com, theperfumeexpert.com, and allwomenstalk.com.

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Yeah, I wish! Photo of Jennifer Lopez from hairstylezz.com.

Smart Perks blogger Catherine B. wishes she had thick, gorgeous hair like J.Lo, but since that’ll never happen she’ll settle for softer water. 

Tips for Sensational Summer Hair

Hairstyle with colorful flowers. Haircare concept. Backside view

There’s no doubt about it, summer is hard on your hair. High heat and humidity can cause your locks to go limp like a wet noodle or, in my case, frizz out like dandelion fuzz. Too much exposure to UV rays can make your tresses weak, brittle and more susceptible to split ends, especially if they’re color-treated, and chlorine from the pool or salt water from the ocean makes hair more porous and parched too.

With these tips, you can have healthy, great-looking hair all summer (and all year) long!

  1. Keep it hydrated. Use moisturizing shampoos and conditioners, especially if your hair is dry and damaged already. Follow it up with nourishing oils (e.g., Argan) or silicone serums to smooth out the kinks and lock in the moisture. Then once a week treat your hair to a deep conditioning mask, like the ones featured on realsimple.com.

    There are all kinds of conditioning treatments out there, but you can also make your own out of natural ingredients like honey, avocado and egg whites. Check out these easy recipes for homemade natural hair treatments.

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    Skipping the shampoo for a day or two is better for your hair!

  2. Lather up less. According to the pros, you should wash your hair every other day or even every few days to allow natural oils from your hair and scalp to surface. Less shampooing actually improves your hair’s appearance, making it softer, shinier and easier to style. If your hair feels too oily (or smells a little funky) between shampoos, try a dry shampoo spray – there’s a fine selection at Sephora.

    If you’re having a horrible hair day (we all have those, right?) you can always pin it up, pull it back in a pony tail, or braid it. If it’s short, spritz it with water and style.

    Back view of relaxed woman in swimming pool with blue water

    After taking a dip in the pool use a clarifying shampoo!

    If you spend a lot of time in the pool, you should use a clarifying shampoo, like Paul Mitchell Shampoo Three, to help remove chlorine buildup and other impurities. It also keeps your hair from turning green (yes, that can happen!).

    Of course,  it’s important to pick the right products for your hair type. Click here to find the best shampoos and conditioners for you.

3. Cover it up. If you plan to be out in the sun for any length of time, consider wearing a hat – like a fun straw fedora or a cool ball cap – or even a colorful scarf to protect your hair and scalp from the elements and keep color-treated hair from fading or turning brassy.

4. Get a trim. Because hair tends to be more frazzled this time of year, it’s a good idea to have the ends trimmed at least every 4 to 6 weeks.

5. Comb it out. Use a wide-tooth comb instead of a brush to detangle your hair when it’s wet. Pulling a brush through damp hair can snag strands and cause breakage.

6. Limit heated styling tools. Give your hair a break from blow dryers and flat irons as often as you can to prevent split ends. If you do need to use them, protect your tresses from the heat with the right styling products – totalbeauty.com ranks the 10 best heat protectant products.

Bad Hair Day

Talk about a wild mane! My hair has actually looked like this on a humid day!

NOTE: If your hair is fine and curly, like mine, you’re better off letting it air-dry, especially on humid days. If I don’t style it right, I end up looking like a Chia Pet! I don’t want tight tendrils like a poodle either, so I’ll unwind my curls a bit with a straightening cream or gel – I like  John Frieda Frizz Ease Unwind Curls Calming Cream.

If you have thick, wavy hair, you should apply styling products only on the ends. Otherwise, you get that Sphinx-head look, all bushed out on the sides.

To tame unruly flyaways, I use Kenra Platinum Silkening Gloss –  a 2.2 oz. bottle costs around $20, but it lasts a long time and is worth every penny! Plus, it smells heavenly!

Learn how to air-dry your hair like a pro with these tricks from Allure.com

7. Drink lots of water. In other words, hydrate your hair from the inside out.
keep calm hair
Here’s to a great hair day, every day!

Smart Perks blogger Catherine B. wishes she had a live-in stylist to do her hair every morning. 

 

 

 

 

Santa Baby, Slip A Lipstick Under The Tree

 

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Sephora’s “Oh What Fun” sample bag, free with purchase on Black Friday!

 

Santa’s coming!!!! And his cheeks won’t be the only ones that are plump and rosy this holiday season. From my girlfriends to grandmas, all the ladies on my holiday list are going to be getting their “glow” on with fabulous beauty products!

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Too Faced Le Petit Tresor Lipstick Trio $29

 

After watching dozens of Carli Bybel make-up tutorials and taking advantage of each and every Black Friday, Cyber Monday and email promotion that have come across my computer, I’ve stock-piled some sensational beauty gift sets and stocking stuffers (like flash tattoos – so hot), without spending a fortune. Plus, I’ve picked up a few tips along the way to help you save and collect some rewards for yourself, too.

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Tarte Contour Palette & the Original Beauty Blender from Sephora.com

 

One of the year’s biggest trends is Contouring, providing definition with different shades of creams and blushes to play up your cheekbones or make your nose appear thinner. I watched a tutorial, and while the final result looked amazing (hello, supermodel bone structure) there were just too many products for me. Too intimidating. Enter Tarteist (from Tarte costmetics) and their color palette. All the products you’ll need in one ultra glam gold compact with an over-sized mirror. This makes a great gift for all ages. And you can add one of my favorite products, a beauty blender sponge, to help. Beauty blenders come in mini, medium and large. The one shown in the photo features a cleansing bar for your blender, too. Minis are the perfect shape to get under lashes, and all around your face and provide flawless coverage.

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Stuff Stockings with Bath Products from Lush.com, Whale Nail Brush from CB2, That Gal from Benefit Cosmetics, and the Semi Sweet Chocolate Bar Palette from  Too Faced

 

Palettes are another hot trend this year, although they’re a little on the spendy side. So the perfect eye-color palette may be the one big gift you want to get for your bestie. Urban Decay’s Naked palette is hugely popular. Bobbi Brown has several special holiday palettes for eyes, lips and cheeks as well. But my personal gift-giving favorite is from Too Faced. The tin case is shaped like a giant chocolate bar, and the 16 shadows not only come with delectable names and colors ranging from warm colors like hot chocolate and rich mocha. But the best part is, they actually smell like chocolate! (drool) It’s an expensive gift at $49. But if you purchase from a store with a rewards program, like Sephora with their VIB program or Ulta, you will earn points that you can redeem for freebies and purchases throughout the year yourself.

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Bold and sparkly…that’s the trend for holiday parties. A dramatic nail is the perfect accessory. And talk about accessorizing…check out the stylish make-up bag that comes along with this cool polish set. These are a must-have for the teens and sisters.

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QVC’s Tarte Holidaze of Giving 15-piece Collection

 

QVC, QVC, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways…in Easy Pays! If you’re running over your holiday budget for December, you can afford to really wow Mom with 4 easy pays of just $16.48 ($65.94) on this spectacular gift set from Tarte. Opening the box is like Christmas morning itself. Unwrap layer after layer of surprise. I LOVE the brushes and chubby lip pencils. The eye cream is fabulously rich. You will not be disappointed in this amazing value. QVC is also offering Easy Holiday Returns. You can send any gift back until January 31, 2016. No questions.

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Love this! Quick dry with ionic heat hair dryer from TJ Maxx, $24.99

 

TJ Maxx has really expanded it’s selection of beauty products and they even sell make-up now. It’s a great place to get bath and hair care products and beautiful luxury soaps for under $10. I fell in love with this floral-designed hair dryer, yours for only $25!

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Origins Gift Set

 

Origins Ginger Souffle Whipped Body Cream is my absolutely favorite luxury cream for after shower, in the drying winter. It’s just $33 at beauty.com, and well worth the splurge for its zesty,  invigorating scent. It’s the only Origins product I’ve tried. But the holidays are a great time to get a variety of products from a brand you love at an affordable price. Like this fantastic Origins gift set from Sephora, with a variety of products. It’s over $74 in value, for only $34. Plus, Sephora always sends samples along. These are great stocking stuffers, because everybody loves a free sample- they’re low commitment and you can’t beat the price!

I love to pamper my friends and family during the holidays with gifts that they might feel a little guilty buying for themselves. But it’s the holidays…a time to indulge. It’s the best time of year, and also typically the only time of year, when cosmetics go on sale. Case in point: Have you ever read the back of a department store coupon?

So be bold! Be bright! Be merry!

And most importantly, enjoy the gorgeous glow of this most wonderful time of year.

Happy Holidays, Melanie B, a Smart Perks employee and blogger.

 

 

 

The Mani/Pedi: What to Know Before You Go

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Summer’s here and it’s the time of year to expose your tootsies and toe-cleavage to the sun and sand! From sandals to peep-toes, summer shoes are more fun. And we feel more care-free and bold in our nail polish choices as well. I love it! No matter your age, a good nail color is an expression of your personality, and a mani/pedi can make your spirit soar.

Whenever I tell my mother I had my nails done, she gasps and recoils with such disgust at my shockingly foolish extravagance. You would think I just bought a diamond-encrusted sports car!

“Why would you ever throw money away like that? I’ve never had a manicure. That’s just such a waste,” she exclaims with righteous indignation. But the days of the mani/pedi being an exclusive indulgence for the wealthy, or something a girl does once or twice in a lifetime, for prom or her wedding day, are long gone.

The emergence of the mall nail salon, rather than having your nails done in a high-end hair salon, has made clean, pretty hands and feet accessible to everyone at a reasonable price! The strip mall next to my office has a nail salon that I’ve gone to now for five years.  For $14, I can get a regular manicure and polish, and I’m in and out in under 45 minutes. I always tip over 20% because the hand-massage alone is worth $14 during a break in my stressful workday. A gel mani typically costs double, but it will last 2-3 weeks, as opposed to the one week that a regular polish typically lasts without chipping.

A “luxury” pedicure which involves a calf and foot exfoliation with a tingly mint scrub and to-die-for massage, followed by having your feet slathered in a thick oil and wrapped in steaming towels, runs between $40 -$50 in my area before the tip, and takes about an hour. It is heaven on earth, and believe me, you deserve a luxury pedicure, at least once a year.

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I love that I don’t need an appointment because I’m a “fly-by-the-seat of my pants” kind of girl, and with the exception of the holiday season, I can just walk in, pick a color and I’m good to go.

If you really want to see a certain person and if you gravitate towards acrylic nails, which take longer, you can make an appointment. For instance, at my salon, there’s one nail technician who does amazing acrylics, and the last time I was in, he was doing the nails of one of the leading female business leaders in the country. I couldn’t believe I was sitting next to her, but it’s really a testament to the quality of work and talent you can find in a mall salon.

So about those gel manicures… I have had varying results with these. They’ve been around now for several years, and the color selection has improved 10-fold. Now you can generally find any color in a gel that you can find as regular polish.The thickness and hardness of the layer of gel applied seems to affect the length of time the polish lasts. I just had a french gel manicure and it only lasted a week before the first gel peeled off (note: I tried a different salon while on vacation.) And once one nail goes, I immediately start picking the others off. This is VERY bad. It removes the top layer of your nail, which leads to weaker, brittle nails. The alternative is soaking your fingers in an acetone polish remover, typically at the salon.

Another consideration with gel nails is that the UV light exposure needed to get the nails to set. Some may be suspicious of the UV light used in the nail dryers at salons. According to a study from the December 2012 Journal of Investigative Dermatology, nail lamps would be safe to use for over 250 years of weekly manicures and even then there would be a low risk of skin cancer. Click here for more on UV light exposure at the nail salon.

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Make sure your salon uses instruments that are properly sterilized and wrapped in a sealed paper package, so you can see they are using a fresh, sterile set of tools for every client. With pedicures, you should watch or ask to make sure that the foot bath is thoroughly cleaned with a disinfectant between each customer.

If you can’t get in for a pedicure, then treat yourself at home. Keep a pumice stone in the shower and gently slough heels and calloused areas. Especially during the summer months, when you’re running around barefoot or in sandals. Also, for dry, cracked heels, try slathering them in Vaseline, Udderbalm (yes, that’s what it’s called…check the foot care aisle at Target or WalMart) each night before bed and cover with socks. This really does work!

Just for fun, I asked some of my girlfriends on Facebook to share some of their recent mani/pedis with me. I like seeing how each of their personalities are reflected in the colors and styles they choose. What about you? What are you doing with your nails this summer? I’d love to hear. Nail art? Jamberry Wraps? Please share!

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Need some at-home help to keep your feet looking lovely between salon visits, here’s a great deal from The Great deal company. Only $4.99. Look for a mani kit, too. http://bit.ly/1HxHJgA

Blogger Melanie B, a Smart Perks employee, has been known to go through 3 whole cycles in her nail salon massage chair, during her pedicures. Big shout out to Twin Cities Nails in Minnetonka! You are the best.

“The Best & the Brightest in the Surprise Box World: From Beauty Products to Bowties for your Boxer

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Ipsy Glam Bag – May 2015

My heart flutters as I approach the magical portal at the end of the driveway. Opening that small hinged door has the power to transport me to pure, unadulterated, retail nirvana. Hooray! A package for me! You see, I am a surprise box junkie. My mail carrier and I are on a first name basis. He knows my dogs’ names. Yes, it’s that bad.

If the post office ever does go out of business, as they keep threatening (for Pete’s sake give them whatever they want…I need Saturday delivery) I will be completely inconsolable.

For the past year and a half I have been on a retail odyssey that has seen me sign up for virtually any and all curated, surprise boxes available in the marketplace.

If there is a club out there that sticks surprise stuff into a box, chosen just for you and delivers it to your door, I’ve tried it. I will never be able to afford a personal shopper, but curated box programs are the next best thing.

Here’s how they work: In most cases, you fill out a profile, telling the company a few things about yourself, your pet, your child, whomever the box is intended for. If it’s makeup, they may ask you for your skin type, your hair color, your style (i.e. preppy, romantic, classic, edgy, etc.) Some programs will even scour your Pinterest board or Instagram account to get a better idea of who you are. Then a stylist or curator selects products that she thinks would best fit your personal style.

Here’s a quick summary of just a few of the boxes I’ve tried:

Birchbox

Category: Makeup & beauty

Frequency: Monthly or special Limited Edition one-time boxes

Bottom Line: At $10 a month, it’s an awesome value. However, I decided I needed to choose between Birchbox and Ipsy,  and this program felt heavy on skincare and hair products. Those are both consumables that I don’t change up every month. Birchbox does feature high quality brands (Benefit!) and occasionally some mass-market products are thrown in. I still shop from the Birchbox online store. I would recommend it.

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Ipsy Glam Bag

Category: Makeup & beauty + a cute bag

Frequency: Monthly

Bottom Line: I’ve been an Ipsy subscriber for over a year at $10 a month, which is a bargain. I would give Ipsy as a gift to every teenage girl I know, but there is a wait list and last time I checked they had disabled the gifting option. Each month you receive a cute little makeup bag, customized for Ipsy, and the designs are darling. Ipsy does do some skincare, but is more makeup focused than Birchbox. They send some great products from brands like Urban Decay, Dr. Brandt and Pacifica, as well as some unusual brands that I never would have tried, like Kat Von D. Tremendous value and the bag really pushes them over the top.

JewelMint Box

Category: Jewelry

Frequency: Monthly or one-time

Bottom Line: Jewelry preference is really subjective. The pieces they send are very trendy and are not going to hold up to years of wear. However, you do receive some really cute items and the presentation and packaging are fabulous. It’s a fun little pick-me-up for yourself or as a gift. The JewelMint online store is fabulous, too. You’ll find low prices on the same on-trend jewelry included in their mystery boxes. Sign up for emails and receive notice about special sales!

NatureBox

Category: Healthy snacks

Frequency: Monthly

Bottom Line: Do you love Trader Joe’s? Then you will love NatureBox. They give you some choice in what you will receive, but you can also let them choose for you too. You receive 5 snacks a month, but you can order separately, if you find something you love. I’m more of a “cupcakes and donuts snacker,” but my healthier friends really like Nature Box. Cost is $19.95 a month.

Stitch Fix

Category: On-trend clothing & accessories

Frequency: As frequently as you wish

Bottom Line: You pay $25 to have a Personal Stylist choose 5 different clothing or accessory items based on your profile. Whatever you buy, the $25 is deducted. You’re under no obligation to buy. Return shipping is free and packaging provided.  I always found at least two or three items I wanted, but usually could afford one or two. It’s REALLY fun to try. They encourage you to snap a selfie wearing their clothes and post, even if you plan to return. The clothes are cute, boutiquey, on trend, and give you a chance to play Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. Another great retail therapy experience.

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FabFitFub Club

Category: Fitness, beauty, fashion & more

Frequency: Quarterly

Bottom Line: This is Entertainment TV personality Giuliana Rancic’s program. Being as it’s quarterly, it’s more expensive than others. $49.99 per box. However, you can typically get $10 off your first box through a pop-up when you go to the site, which makes it a great deal. I loved the items in this box, which felt very boutiquey, indulgent, L.A. princessy (I live in Minnesota.) Items are full-size and range from: a fitness DVD, a Sonia Dakar skincare product, an exercise ball, a fabulously funky headband, a cool retro apron, delicious Kai roll-on perfume, and then there were always a couple mass-market freebies thrown in that made no sense, like pantiliners. But the quality of the overall box made up for it. I stuck with it for three boxes.

Candy Club

Category: Retro candy in cute packaging

Frequency: Monthly

Bottom Line: Darling, colorful, unique and out of the ordinary candies. If you want to simply photograph your box for Instagram to show your friends, and your money is burning a hole in your pocket…this is for you. Otherwise, if you’re like me, you can run to the grocery store and for $10 buy yourself some M&Ms, a Kit Kat, some Jolly Ranchers, and a Hershey Bar, and call it good. The monthly box is $27.99.

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Luxury Beauty Box from O’s Circle of Friends

Oprah’s Circle of Friends

Category: It’s from Oprah. I don’t care what it is. Just give it to me!

Frequency: Annual fee and surprise Items throughout the year, including subscriptions for yourself and two friends

Bottom Line: There are three levels. Don’t tell my husband, I bought the Premier Level for $199. I had to do it. I thought Oprah might send me to Australia, or give me a car. Or at the very least, invite me to her house in Hawaii to spend some time with her and Gayle. So far I got a luxury beauty box. One of the items, a thermal face mask containing 24kt gold is valued at $298. I’ll get back to you on this one. But I’m holding out hope for my surprise gift from The O List! C’mon trip to Australia!

BarkBox

Category: Dog toys & treats

Frequency: Monthly

Bottom Line: If you’re not a dog lover, I generally don’t talk to you much. So basically all of my friends subscribe to BarkBox and think nothing of spending the $19 a month or more to indulge their furry family members. Treats and toys are made in the U.S. and all the pups I know give BarkBox four paws up. Money well spent.

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Wagdrobe Curated Dog Couture

Wagdrobe

Category: Canine couture & accessories

Frequency: As frequently as you wish

Bottom Line: This is like Stitch Fix for dogs. Wagdrobe is a newer company, and so I hope their customer service continues to be as AWESOME as my recent experience was! Super fast shipping, darling customized packaging and FUN, FUN, FUN for pet parents and pooches alike. Well, that is if your pup likes to get lots of treats for dressing up and posing for ADORABLE pics. I bought boxes for all three of my dogs. Beanie got the Hipster Box, Eloise got the Spoiled Princess and Bacon got the Trendsetter Box. The value compared to finding these darling outfits and accessories in stores is awesome!

Okay, I could go on…but here are a few tips if you want to try some boxes on your own.

  1. Don’t do too many at one time. You can only wear so much moisturizer.
  2. Set a reminder for yourself to cancel before your next ship date if you want to try a recurring program.
  3. Keep track of how many of the items you actually use/wear/eat to determine value. Don’t get caught up in the fun.
  4. Share with others. Take pics and share on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Check out the items others receive in their boxes before you order, too. You can get a feel for whether or not it’s product you’ll like.
  5. Most importantly FILL OUT YOUR PROFILES and GIVE FEEDBACK. That’s the best way to ensure you’re going to love what’s inside the box, as much as you did receiving the bright, shiny package in the mail.
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Beanie sporting one of his Wagdrobe ensembles from the Hipster Hound collection.

– Blogger Melanie B, a Smart Perks employee, enjoys dogs, cupcakes and shopping, and considers herself an expert on all three.