Wednesday, November 16, 2011

November Birchbox: Instant Reviews

Birchbox is a tiny bundle of monthly love made with beauty junkies in mind. For $10 a month you receive a package filled with 4-5 samples, many of which are deluxe size, with the occasional full-size product thrown in. Deluxe size samples are plenty big enough get a good feel for the instant effects, but maybe not quite enough to judge long-term results. Instant reviews are just that- my instant impressions on the products. These installments will be based on my initial testing, swatching and, of course (you know me) a peek at the ingredients.

Elizabeth Arden Ceramide Gold Ultra Restorative Capsules
Sample Size: 5 capsules
Retail Size: 60 capsules (.95 oz) for $68
Sample Value: $5.67

Ceramides are great. They're a major part of our skin's natural barrier- they help to keep moisture in and bad stuff (bacteria, allergens, etc...) out. Elizabeth Arden has been stuck on ceramides for years; I was first introduced to these single use capsules no less than seven or eight years ago. This particular serum is a hydrating blend of silicones, fatty acids and oils, the aforementioned ceramides, and several antioxidant ingredients. It feels like a light oil on the skin- it absorbs into my dry skin quickly and feels soft (not greasy). Having said that, I don't imagine it's a texture oilier skin would enjoy. For those looking to get a good ceramide fix without the high-end price tag, both ceramides found into this Arden serum can also be found in CeraVe moisturizers, which is one reason why I always keep a jar of CeraVe in my medicine cabinet!

Gueralin Shalimar Parfum Initial
Sample Size: 1 ml
Retail Size: 60 ml for $84
Sample Value: $1.40

This resinous amber floral is meant to be an introduction to the classic (and according to Gueralin, the world’s first) oriental fragrance, Shalimar. I’m a fan of the original, and this update has many of the same notes- a sharp, citrusy bergamot top note gives way to a woody, floral heart of rose, jasmine and iris. The vanilla and tonka bean base lend to the powdery, almost gourmand dry down.

It was a surprise that the newer version actually seems bolder to me than the original- Parfum Initial has a muskier finish, and I can’t shake my impression of a somewhat sour note that seems to pull the fragrance out of balance for me. The original Shalimar feels soft, feminine, sophisticated and innocent all at once (it actually reminds me a bit of how Strawberry Shortcake dolls smelled when I was younger!?) The new one smells, to me, like what you'd get if you layered Chanel Chance over original Shalimar. Somehow, it's just not quite right.

Thymes Eucalyptus Body Lotion
Sample Size: 1.5 oz
Retail Size: 9.25 oz for $24
Sample Value: $3.89 (plus a max of about $.55 for the packet, see below for explanation)

Feels light if not a little waxy going on, but dries down quickly leaving behind a scent that smells lightly lemony- kind of like the moist towelettes they give you at a ribs joint. Both my fiancé and I felt it smelled like soap also- not at all the brisk, medicinal scent I'd expect from something labeled Eucalyptus. Having said that, the lotion reminded me entirely of a complimentary hotel toiletry- not at all luxe feeling and definitely not something I'd pay $24 for. One positive about the ingredients in this fairly standard formula: it doesn't contain actual eucalyptus, which can be a potent skin irritant.

Oddly, apparently one scent of this lotion wasn't enough- Birchbox also included a sample packet in Thymes' Kimono Rose scent. Given my underwhelment with the formula, I have a feeling this little packet will join my stash o' samples that I stick in with giveaways and gifts. (The packet is not labeled for individual sale, thus, it doesn't include a weight for me to figure in the value total. By my calculations, the entire packet weighs around 6g, so this is the quantity I used for the value estimate given above. Obviolulsy, this includes the weight of the package itself so it is definitely a high-end estimate.)

Zoya Nail Polish in Sooki
Sample Size: .25 oz
Retail Size: .5 oz for $8.00
Sample Value: $4.00

Sooki mini (left) next to my own full size Raven (right).

A nice ever-so-slightly cool red polish. The Shiny, creme finish makes it a classic year-round choice. Applies smoothly with almost one-coat coverage, and if your inclined to wonder, you probably already know: Zoya is 3 Free (for those less inclined, that means no toluene, formaldehyde, DBP (phthalates). Though I'd say this polish was the bright spot in this month's box for me, I do feel like I should mention that this is the second time since I joined in July that I've gotten a mini Zoya in my box. They were different shades, of course, so I'm not exactly complaining, but knowing that one of the downfalls of Beauty Fix, to me, was too much repetition of brands, so this seems important to note.

TREAT: Two Paperdolls Coasters
Sample Size: 2 coasters
Retail Size: 10 coasters for $15 (if ordered through Birchbox. The set is 8 for $15 on two paper dolls’ site)
Sample Value: $3.00

Coasters? Are you kidding me? Watching some Birchbox reviews this month, I couldn't help but notice some people got chocolate, but I got coasters. Not just any chocolate either: spicy artisanal chocolate with popping candy inside. Did I mention I got coasters? Not just any coasters though- paper coasters. OK, they do have cute letterpress typographical designs on one side (and a Birchbox ad on the other) but still...coasters?


Definitely kind of a dud box this month, in my opinion. As I mentioned in the blurb about the coasters, I did see some more interesting things in other subscriber's boxes. Birchbox does claim to customize the box to your preferences; I'm not really sure what in my profile said "send paper coasters, not chocolate" but I'm thinking I'd better check my preferences stat! Nonetheless, I'm still pleased with the service as a whole- knowing I have the box coming always gives me something to look forward to!

Do you subscribe to any beauty sample services? What do you think?


Amy said...

I got coasters too! Also some of the other stuff I got wasn't that great. :(

I was hoping my first Birchbox would be some awesome stuffs!

Kathleen said...

I stumbled across your blog when I was looking for reviews of Birchbox (still not sure if I want to join). I LOVE your review! I really appreciate how you break down the dollar value of each sample. Thanks, I think I might be sold on it!

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