My May Play! by Sephora box showed up last week before I went on a mini-vacation, and I spent some time this week trying out my samples before sitting down to write about them. May’s theme is The Rising Stars: stellar “cult favorites, hard-to-find-formulas, and one-of-a-kind brands that are making their mark.”

In a change from previous months’ sample pouches, the May samples came housed in a clear, soft plastic envelope with Play! imprinted all over it. It’s not really sturdy enough for travel and I’m not sure if I’ll find a future use for it, so it might end up in the recycling bin.

My first thought when I opened my May brochure was “oooooh!” All of the samples were new to me, and I had only tried two of the brands in the past.

And now I present my five May samples:

Sorry about the glare, I’m still figuring out how to set up and photograph flat lays!

The first sample is from a brand of which I only had a marginal awareness: Rahua Omega 9 Hair Mask (full-size, $58). A hair mask is on the more exciting end of the hair care sample spectrum for me, and this is a pretty generous sample of a spendy product. The mask contains rainforest-grown rahua nut oil rich in—you guessed it—omega 9, which can help heal and fortify as well as add shine and moisture. You apply this mask after shampooing and leave it in for 10-15 minutes. I’m rarely in the shower for that long, and I don’t want to leave the mask in my hair after I get out of the shower only to have to get back in to rinse it out. So I did try this mask but only left it in for about five minutes; I told myself that because my hair is so baby fine, maybe it didn’t need as much time anyway. The mask smells very nice—it doesn’t have that overly floral powdery scent that many other hair care brands use. And my hair was SO soft after one application! Days later, my hair still feels pretty soft. Does this product work? Yes. Would I buy it full sized? Um…$58 is a lot to spend on a hair product, so probably not.

Next up is Belif Hungarian Water Essence (full-size, $42). I received a sample of this Korean brand’s True Cream Aqua Bomb in Sephora’s Soko to Tokyo kit last year and I really liked it, so I was excited to try another Belif product. I haven’t used an essence in quite some time—the last one I tried was Missha Time Revolution First Treatment Essence, which I really didn’t like (it smelled gross). The Belif essence has a very light, pleasant scent and absorbs quickly. Essences are meant to be used after cleansing and toning but before moisturizing. This particular essence claims to provide the skin with long lasting, deep moisture. After using my sample a few nights in a row, I do think my skin feels well moisturized the morning after. It’s nice, but I don’t exactly need an extra step in my skin care routine, nor is it OMG-worthy enough to spend the money on.

My next sample is Tatcha Pure One Step Camellia Cleansing Oil (full-size, $48). The Soko to Tokyo set also included a sample of the Tatcha Luminous Dewy Skin Mist, which I loved and then requested a full sized version as a holiday gift. So I couldn’t wait to try another product from this Japanese brand! I’ve tried a couple oil cleansers in the past and have not been a huge fan of them. I’m especially not into the idea of double cleansing, which seems like a tactic to convince women to buy twice the number of products. However, this cleansing oil is really nice; it washes away easily and doesn’t leave my skin feeling oily or like it needs a second pass with a different cleanser. A big plus for me is that this product has a light, inoffensive scent. I definitely consider Tatcha to be more of a luxury brand, and unfortunately, close to $50 is  currently a lot for me to spend on a facial cleanser.

The next sample is trèStiQue Highlight + Perfect Multipurpose Stick in Maldives Luminescent (full-size, $34). First, can I just say how in love I was with the exquisite appearance of this unused highlighter? LOOK HOW BEAUTIFUL IT IS. It’s like a perfectly polished peachy-pink pearl:

I know the brand name sounds like some awful, cheapo 1980s drugstore perfume, but I’ve heard good things about trèStiQue products. I can’t even tell you how many highlighter samples I’ve received over the past couple years of subscribing to beauty sample boxes, but this one actually caught my attention. The champagne pink shade is lovely and works well on my fair skin (scroll down to see a swatch). The stick glides on smoothly and the product itself blends easily. The shimmer, unfortunately, veers a little too far into glitter territory for me to want to use every day. Because I know I wouldn’t use this product regularly, it’s not something I’d spend the money on for a full sized version.

My final May beauty sample is another brand I’ve never tried: Nudestix Magnetic Matte Lip Color in Greystone (full-size, $24). I’ve been interested in this brand for quite awhile but had never tried any of their products, unless you count randomly swiping a lip crayon or two on the back of my hand at Sephora. The color is described as (I shudder to even type this word) greige, but in the stick and on my lips it appears straight up brown. This lip product is easy to apply, and they are not kidding about it being matte and long-lasting! It’s also probably one of the least-drying matte lip products I’ve tried so far (though I haven’t tried a ton).

I swatched the trèStiQue highlighter and Nudestix lip color on my arm so you can see how they look on fair skin:

See? SO BROWN, not greige.

Below, I’m wearing the Nudestix lip color. It totally takes me back to the mid-to-late 90s…and actually not in a bad way. While the color isn’t awful on me, it’s honestly just too bold for my comfort level; I think I’d feel weird leaving the house with it on. Unconventional lip colors are totally trendy right now, but the trend is just not for me. It’s too bad, because the lip product is legitimately great—I just wish Sephora had sent a more wearable shade. I would certainly consider buying this product full sized in a nude shade, maybe in the color called Blossom.

1996 called and it wants its lipstick back.

Oh yeah, and as usual I received a perfume sample (Tocca Stella) that I didn’t care for. I think I’ll forgo writing about my fragrance samples in the future, unless there are any that I end up loving.

Overall, I’m very pleased with my May 2017 Play! by Sephora box. It’s hard to say which sample was my favorite…I think I’ll call a tie between the Rahua hair mask and the Belif essence.

How did you like your May Play! by Sephora samples? Leave a comment and let me know. Have a happy and safe Memorial Day weekend, everyone!

Read my previous Play! by Sephora reviews.

What is Play! by Sephora?

Play! by Sephora is a $10 per month beauty subscription that includes five deluxe samples plus one fragrance sample; the samples are curated based on your Sephora beauty profile (hair color, eye color, skin tone, skin type, skincare concerns, haircare concerns, etc.). And of course, you can purchase full-sized versions of any samples from Sephora and earn VIB points if you’re a part of that program—which I highly recommend signing up for if you ever shop at Sephora. This subscription program also offers subscribers a “Play! Date” each month, which invites you and a friend to attend an in-store meetup to learn how to use the products in that month’s box (RSVP is required).