I never get PR packages. Except for the last few weeks when I got so many. So I figured I’d put together a semi-random round up of all the things I’ve tried from those packages (all vegan, of course) and pretend that I have done my job as a content creator, creating some content while the world burns around me. LOL what? Nothing. I’m fine. Everything is fine. I received all of the following items for free from the brands noted, and some of these reviews may include affiliate links. The reviews, however, are 100% my honest opinions.

1. Naked Nutrition Pumpkin Spice Protein Shake

naked nutrition pumpkin spice protein shake

This product got a brief mention in my Friday Five Pumpkin Spice post, but at that point I hadn’t actually received the PR package yet. Since I received it, though, my other protein powder has just been sitting on the counter hoping I come back to her someday. Naked Nutrition is known for their clean ingredient panels, and this protein powder is no different. There are no artificial flavors, sweeteners, or colors, and as far as I can tell, nothing in here that isn’t serving a nutritional or flavor purpose. It’s not as thick as other protein shakes that add gums, which I really like about Naked because I don’t want to chew my shake in the morning. I think the defining feature here, though, is the absence of a sugar alternative like monk fruit or stevia. Instead, they use coconut sugar and fermented cane sugar (but there’s still only 3g sugar per serving) so there is no bitter aftertaste, and it’s not artificially sweet. I typically have 1.5 servings (3 scoops) before my workout, for a little extra protein, which I blend with some oats and half a banana for extra carbs.

2. Paula’s Choice 25% Vitamin C + Glutathione Clinical Serum

I have been a faithful Paula’s Choice user since high school and I know this is not the first time I’ve mentioned this brand on my blog. So when I tell you that the day I found myself on their PR list was one of the happiest days of my life, please trust that this is true. Paula’s Choice products are mid-priced, meaning that they cost more than skincare you’ll find at the drugstore (although that stuff is no longer cheap either) but it’s still not as unattainable as the “luxury” brands in department stores. I’ve found their products to be super effective – the Clear line of acne solutions got me through some really terrible post-pregnancy acne battles, and now that I’m in my 40s I use products like this Vitamin C serum for their brightening and anti-aging qualities.

At $62 for 1oz, this product is a bit more of an investment than other Vitamin C serums I’ve used, but after spending the entire summer on the beach (wearing sunscreen, of course, but you know how life is) I had high hopes for this product. I noticed a difference within days, my skin tone is more even and my skin looks refreshed. I’ve even been skipping fondation. I have sensitive skin, and I did notice that I started to break out after using this serum every day for a few weeks straight, so I’ve started alternating it every other day with another product and my skin cleared up but I still have all of the positive results. Paula’s Choice has a great resource on their site for checking a product’s vegan-friendly status. They actually note that this product contains xanthan gum, which is sometimes processed with an enzyme derived from eggs. For me, this is acceptable and I appreciate their transparency.

If this is out of your budget, I recommend trying Pacifica’s Glow Baby line, which also features Vitamin C for a brightening effect.

3. Abbot’s Butcher Plant-Based Proteins

If you’re reading this, you likely know that I work for a vegan food brand, and I tend to be pretty critical of meat alternatives because so many of them rely on added flavors and yeast extracts, or have nutrition panels that hardly qualify as food in my eyes. So when Abbot’s Butcher reached out, I almost replied “no thanks” until I went to their site and read the ingredients. I was impressed that there actually weren’t any “flavors,” just real seasonings and spices and of course, pea protein.

Of everything I tried, I thought the Chopped Chick’n was the best, although some other folks who tasted it with me were bothered by how wet it was, and how spongy of a texture it had. I didn’t particularly care for the flavor of the Ground Beef, or the Chorizo compared to wheat-based meat alternatives with the same flavor profiles. But, if I was gluten-free, these would be solid options that could easily be flavor-boosted with a little extra garlic or hot sauce.

In my local grocery store, these retail for $8-9 for a three-serving package, which is quite a lot when you consider how inexpensively you can buy and rehydrate pea protein chunks. But again, if you’re looking for a convenient, gluten-free protein this one has the best ingredients and nutrition panel I’ve seen.

4. Paula’s Choice Barrier Repair Advanced Moisturizer

Remember how, a few years ago, everyone figured out that certain bacteria is helpful and that maybe all the antibiotics and hand sanitizer we were consuming was damaging our bodies’ natural ability to defend themselves? (I mean, you know, pre-COVID when hand sanitiser came back in a big way.) I feel like our skins’ natural barrier is having its own “gut health” moment right now. People on TikTok have decided we are overly exfoliated, and making ourselves look like beef jerky with all of our scrubs and peels.

The packaging for this product says “100% had an improved skin barrier in 30 minutes” and I was like, “holy crap, that’s impressive.” Upon further inspection, that was 100% of 30 people who self-assessed, so I’m not sure how they could tell their skin barrier was improved but OK. Regardless, I did in fact notice that my skin was significantly softer within minutes of applying this moisturizer in place of my usual night cream. Whether or not my skin’s barrier was improved, or the moisture and hydration increased, I couldn’t say. But, in terms of a moisturizer that feels really nice and isn’t wildly priced ($38 for 1.7oz) I will be purchasing this when my freebie runs out.

5. Aloha Maple Sea Salt Protein Bar

Aloha is another brand that has made several appearances on this blog. Their protein powder was one of my top picks several years ago when I wrote Five Protein Powders that Don’t Suck (this needs an update, I know.) This was another sample offer I almost passed on because (if you follow me on IG you know) I am very, very committed to NuGo Bars. But Aloha caught me at a good time, because I’m trying to up my overall calorie consumption for muscle growth and at 220 calories a bar, 14g protein, 26g carbs, 9g fat, these were a good option for my bulking macros.

After months and months of low fat, high protein bars, these are a real treat. With ingredients such as sunflower butter, almond butter, organic pecans, maple syrup, it’s soft and chewy – like a cookie, but not as sweet. Much like the Naked Nutrition protein powder I mentioned earlier, there’s no stevia, either, so no bitter aftertaste. They’re not always going to work for my macros, but for the phase I’m in right now they’re a nice option with. a seasonal flavor.

Bonus: Vice Lip Bond Glossy Longwear Liquid Lipstick

I also recently received a really cute package from Urban Decay, containing lots of their vegan-friendly best-sellers and this long-lasting, high-shine liquid lipstick in a new, pure black shade. As thrilled as I was to receive it, and admire all the pretty packaging for the glittery eyeshadows and other things they sent, I knew none of it was ever going to go on my face. Me, the queen of brown eyeliner and a neutral lip. So I passed the entire package on to my teenage niece, who was beyond excited to receive it. My sister also later texted me to let me know this lipstick “does NOT come off” so there’s your review. Ha!