Friday, October 14, 2011

October Birchbox: Instant Reviews

For those of you that aren't familiar with Birchbox, this tiny bundle of love is a subscription service made with beauty junkies in mind. For $10 a month, Birchbox will send you a package filled with 4-5 samples, most of which are deluxe size, with the occasional full-size product thrown in.

I joined up this summer when designer Cynthia Rowley hand-curated the box, and have been treated to products from Jouer, Philosophy, Redken, Zoya, and tons more. The idea of subscription beauty goodie bags isn't original to Birchbox, but I think Birchbox has refined the concept. The subscription is affordable, tons of brands participate, and the once a month time frame is perfect for fulfilling my lemming for something- anything- new!

Most of the samples in Birchbox's selection are deluxe size, which they're plenty big enough get a good feel for the instant effects, but maybe not quite enough to judge long-term results. This means I'm not terribly comfortable saying "yes, this cream is brightening/wrinkle-reducing/gnome-eliminating..." but I can give you my instant impressions on the products. These "instant reviews" will be based on my first impressions and initial testing, swatching and, of course (you know me) a peek at the ingredients.

So now, October's Birchbox Selections:

Sample Size: .34oz
Retail Size: 3.38oz for $34
Sample Value: $3.42

Birchbox Says:
Obliphica and argan oil pump hydration into damaged strands, smoothing the outer cuticle for noticeably sleeker, shinier strands. Bonus: It smells gorgeous.

I say:
First, no argument about the scent- I adore it! It reminds me of the original (2006) Very Sexy Now, a mouth-watering concoction of Blood Orange, Nutmeg, Tonka Bean, Sandalwood, Vanilla and Grapefruit.

As far as the serum itself, sure it smooths hair and adds shine, but I don't think the oils listed are really responsible for that. Most likely, it's the silicones (Cyclopentasiloxane and Dimethicone) that appear as the first two ingredients of the serum (before either oil). This isn't a bad thing, silicones are great for hair, but they're not rare (almost all hair serums are silicone based) nor do they need to cost this much.

Anastasia Beverly Hills HydraFull Gloss in Bellini
Sample Size: .03oz
Retail Size: .07oz for $21.00
Sample Value: $9.00

Birchbox Says:
This plush gloss plumps and hydrates lips. We love the unusual flat silicone paddle applicator. The formula uses antioxidant-rich Balkan Botanical Infusion complex to keep lips soft and hydrated.

I say:
Holy schnikes this stuff is expensive! The sample size is tiny, but hey, it's a sample. Then I looked at the full size info and realized that the sample is almost half of a full size! Compare Anastasia's retail size to MAC's Lipglass: MAC is almost 2 1/2 times bigger and costs $6 less! Granted, I like the less-sticky texture of Anastasia's gloss better, but it's not tough to find a smooth, non-sticky gloss for much less money. The pigmentation of Bellini is sheer to moderate, which is good because any more pigment and the frosty shade would cross the line into 1980's time-warp. I personally wasn't fond of using the silicone paddle to apply directly on to my lips; I thought it applied too much gloss and was a little messy coming out of the tube.

The gloss does feel moisturizing and given the amount of skin-identical oils and triglycerides, I imagine that with daily use this product would do a nice job of keeping the lips hydrated. As far as plumping, I like that the formula includes peptides, which have been proven to stimulate collagen production, but find it odd that Anastasia chose to list pink purslane as a volumizer. The plant seems to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, but I couldn't find any substantiation of the plumping claim. As far as other anti-oxidants, I'd prefer to see them in higher concentrations for a gloss that boasts them as a benefit.

Clark's Botanicals Intense Radiance Mask
Sample Size: not listed. By my own calculations, around 9.5g
Retail Size: 1.7oz for $72
Sample Value: $14.19 (again, based on my own weight calculation)

Birchbox Says:
The Solution to dull, congested pores. This white clay mask is formulated to purify skin and soften fine lines and wrinkles...detoxifies pores, conquers blemishes and even calms irritation...the sophisticated packaging reminds us we really do need to take time for ourselves.

I say:
Sophisticated package? Huh? It's a plain, dark-green (almost black) jar with writing in an old-timey, apothecary style font. That's not an issue with me, I just find it funny that someone would describe this as "sophisticated". Whatever justifies the $72 price tag, I guess.

Before I go into details, I have to mention that the ingredient list on Birchbox was drastically different than the one printed on my jar (the Birchbox list looks more like key ingredients) so I'm going by the jar itself. The mask is clay based, using both kaolin and bentonite. Both are absorbent, and though bentonite can be drying, there are plenty of emollients in here that should keep it from being too harsh on drier skin. The formula does include soothing Linoleic Acid and wrinkle-reducing peptides, so it seems that many of Clark's claims hold water here. The caveat would be that you'd have to use the mask often, and I have to imagine such a steep price tag may make this a more occasional treat for some.

Laura Geller Spackle Tinted Under Makeup Primer in Bronze
Sample Size: .5oz
Retail Size: 2oz for $25
Sample Value: $6.25

Birchbox Says:
This hyrdating primer gives you a flawless foundation for makeup- plus a subtle glow. The lightweight formula is also oil-free...made with natural plant extracts and antioxidants like white tea, centella asiatica, and aloe vera that protect skin as they moisturize.
The Laundress Wool & Cashmere Shampoo

I say:
A bronzer and a primer? I'm never going to use this! BUT, after a quick swatch on my hand I found that the tint is, indeed, very subtle, and as someone that doesn't like to look tan, this is a benefit for me. The glow is just enough to warm up my skin, and though there are tiny glitter particles in the light-weight gel, they're not at all discoball-esque. Skin looks moist, not shimmery or made up.

Like most primers, Geller's includes silicones for a soft, silky feel, but uses them in a lighter fashion, which means that the product is not as thick as most primers. This means less of a greasy feel for oily skin types, and less risk of the product balling up as it's applied. This is especially nice because it allows the user to build the product up a bit if more tint is desired. If you choose to build the primer, be aware that this will make the micro-glitter more visible, and it also brings out the slight red-tone in the primer.

The formula does contain some nice antioxidants, anti-irritants, and light moisturizers, though probably not at the level you'd get in a good skin care formulation. If you're a fan of primers, this seems like a good choice, though I wouldn't consider substituting it as skincare.

BONUS: The Laundress Wool & Cashmere Shampoo in Cedar
Sample Size: .5oz
Retail Size: 16oz for $19
Sample Value: $.59

Birchbox Says:
This gentle wash is made specifically for wool, merino, wool blends, angora, mohair, cashmere (and) down. It uses a combination of cedar extracts as well as sulfate-free shampoo to clean and preserve yarn’s natural components.

I say:
Welcome to the world of luxury detergent! Though I've not yet used The Laundress, I became a fan years ago when I started buying Victoria's Secret Lavish Laundry, and though high-end laundry products may not be daily use for me, I love using them on my sheets and towels, where the yummy scents can linger. Since I don't wear much wool or cashmere, the Laundress formula is likely destined for the same fate. While cedar wouldn't be my first choice in scent, The Laundress' version is earthy, slightly masculine, but not overbearing.


So that concludes the first installment of my Birchbox Instant Reviews- what do you think? Of course, if anything in the box should prove to be exceptional (either positively or negatively) you'll see a more detailed follow-up. If anyone is interested in subscribing to Birchbox and feels like helping me out (the service awards points for referrals) you can click here and I'll send you a personal invite!


Eden-Avalon said...

I cancelled my BB subscription last month; I just felt like I wasn't getting useful samples. I hope your experience is better!

Unknown said...

I totally get that. I used to have a subscription to BeautyFix and cancelled for the same reason- it seemed all I ever got were hair products and self tanners. I like being pale, and don't do anything to my hair aside from washing it & letting it air dry, so it seemed pointless- most of my product ended up being used for donations or giveaways!

Birchbox is a little cheaper, so I don't feel as bad if I get something I'm going to use. I also feel like they work with a lot of different brands, whereas with BeautyFix I was getting products from the same companies over and over. No fun!

Monika @ RocailleWrites said...

I got the exact same box, no joke - even the same shades. I have to say I was very surprised to see a coral lipgloss and a bronzy primer in October - but they're both sheer, so I could see them working out in the winter too. Thanks for the fabulous reviews and your calculations!

tightsandtea said...

I like the products in your box! Let me know how the radiance mask is :)

I liked my October box because it actually had decent-sized products, but I don't really like the products themselves.. I don't know if I should stick around another month..

Unknown said...

I think you should definitely stick around until after December's box comes, or maybe even January's- I wouldn't be at all surprised if there was something extra fun in there for the holidays!

I wonder if anyone has set up a trade anywhere- I know forums like Makeup Geek and Makeup Alley have things like this, but it would be great if Birchbox subscribers could all get together and trade off items they don't want for those they do...I'm sure there's someone out there that would like the stuff you have in your box just as much as you like the stuff in mine, yaknow?

Has anyone heard of any sites out there doing this?

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