Saturday, February 25, 2012

February 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.

BENTA BERRY G-1 Moisturizing Face Cream
Sample Size: 3ml
Retail Size: 30ml for $22
Sample Value: $2.20

Birchbox says: 
Behold this unisex moisturizer, a favorite of hip Parisian girls and guys, which hasn’t been available stateside until now. Beyond its intense moisturizing powers, the creamy formula also regulates skin’s oil levels with a botanical brigade. Blueberry and white dead-nettle purify skin, while jasmine, burdock, and mandarin reduce breakouts and redness. The light, refreshing scent was designed with both genders in mind.

I say:
Claims like "mattifying", "break-out reducing" and "oil regulating" had me skeptical that this would work for my super-dry skin, but I was pleasantly surprised when I tested this. My skin was indeed soft and matte after applying G-1 cream, though since I don't have shine issues throughout the day, I can't speak to the moisturizer's abilities keep skin oil-free through the day.

The botanicals check out too. There are plenty of antioxidants in here along with soothing anti-inflammatory ingredients. I do find it odd that mandarin and jasmine are listed as redness reducers. It's true that both oils have antibacterial properties that could be helpful in controlling acne, but they're also both considered skin irritants. Benta Berry seems to have a wallop of anti-irritants that may well balance out that risk, but I still find it strange that they claim that the very ingredients that could cause redness would reduce it.

I also find it worth mentioning that G-1 cream includes coconut oil. Coconut oil is a good skin identical emollient, but as a stand-alone ingredient, it is generally considered highly comedogenic. Of course, just because it has the potential to clog pores doesn't mean it will, but it's still something to be aware of if you're acne prone.

BLK DNM Perfume 11
Sample Size: 1ml
Retail Size: 50ml for $110
Sample Value: $2.20

Birchbox says:
A spicy blend that will set you apart from the sweet-smelling masses. Top and middle notes of incense and musk create an alluring, cosmopolitan aura, while a base note of cedarwood adds a layer of depth. Finally, a touch of black pepper gives the scent a spicy kick.

I say:
My first thought? "Why did they send me a men's fragrance?" Spicy blend indeed- but not in a rich, oriental way. As you may be able to guess looking at the fragrance notes, there's nothing soft or girly about this scent. The musk top note is easy to lose among the other woody, spicy notes, but the incense stands out to me as the defining note of the fragrance. We're not talking about Nag Champa here, to me it reads as a resinous church-y kind of smell. Reinforced with the cedarwood base note, it turns downright piney.

Fancy NYC address notwithstanding, I think BLK DNM misses the mark. The notes are all so similar that there's really no complexity to the scent (though oddly, it does smell a bit like pickles on me. Not intentional, I'm guessing!) A big "skip" in my book.

Eye Rock Designer Liner
Sample Size: Full Size
Retail Size: 4 sets of 2 in assorted designs for $13
Sample Value: $13

Eye Rock Designer Liner, Classics
Birchbox says:
Shaky wrists and runny liquid formulas conspire to drain our time and energy, which is why we’re glad we discovered these handy stick-on appliques...super easy to apply and help you create an array of eye-catching looks. Unlike traditional liners, they won’t smudge or fade.

I say:
When I opened my Birchbox this month, these were the things that I was most excited about. The Birchbox website had a handy little video on how to apply them, which I thought was nice, but right off the bat the instructor said something that gave me pause: "before you get started, make sure that you don't have any makeup or oil on your eyelid". Hmmm...that means these either have to be worn with a bare lid, severely limiting the looks you can create with them, or makeup would need to be applied after the liner strips- potentially messing them up.

On the Birchbox website, I also noticed this little blurb:
"For extra staying power, dab a bit of lash glue onto the back of these stick-on liner strips."
OK, now I might have to apply glue to self-adhesive strips? Not exactly confidence inspiring.

When I opened the package, I was let down once again. While the edges of the liner are nice and crisp, the paper the strips are printed on is softly textured (it seems very similar to medical tape). Because of this, the printing of the liners is not solid black- on the sheet, they read as a speckled heather grey.

Eye Rock Designer Liner, close-up

Caveats aside, I'm still looking forward to trying Eye Rock liners. I'm a long-time fan of the cat-eye, and funky liner was once my signature style, so these are right down my alley. FYI, Rock Cosmetics Designer Liner come in two varieties- mine is the "Classics" set, but a wilder "Trends" set is also available. I'm also eyeing the company's supercool eye tattoos!

Jouer Luminizing Moisture Tint
Sample Size: .07oz
Retail Size: 1.7oz for $32
Sample Value: $1.32

Birchbox says:
Our entire team (minus the manfolk) is obsessed with Jouer’s Luminizing Moisture Tint and we're not alone — Allure recently gave the product its coveted "Best in Beauty" seal. The oil-free formula feels positively weightless on but gives you plenty of even coverage. Skin looks soft and dewy and, thanks to SPF 20, you’ll be extra protected from the sun.

I say:
Gosh, I just hate to be such a big grump, but I just can't imagine why this is on any "best of list". Maybe my BB Cream has me spoiled, but in my opinion, the claims on this are definitely stretching it. I will say it feels weightless on the skin, but I beg to differ on the "plenty of coverage" front- Jouer Luminizing Moisture Tint is definitely sheer and gives little to no coverage for redness or imperfections. I'd also say that Birchbox should exchange the word "dewy" for the word "shimmery". To me, "dewy" implies a moist, cream based tint, rather than the visible particles of pearl or shimmer that you see with this product.

Jouer Luminizing Moisture Tint in Pearl.
Swatch on Left, Blended on Right.
Shimmer is always tough to photograph, but it's definitely there- even my fiancé noticed! One thing you can easily see in the photos is that the color was definitely a no-go for me. I received Pearl, which is the second lightest of the six shades Jouer offers (Opal, the fairest shade, is new and is currently only available directly from Jouer).

Supersmile Powdered Mouthrinse
Sample Size: 2 packets
Retail Size: 24 packets for $16
Sample Value: $1.33

Birchbox says:
We brush our teeth twice a day without fail, but we always find ourselves in a bit of a bind right after snacks and meals. Since our penchant for noshing shows no signs of abating, we freshen our breath with these convenient mouthwash packets. They’re filled with a proprietary powder that neutralizes odors while gently removing surface stains—just add water to the pouch to create a single-dose rinse.

I say:
Rip open the packet, add water & swish? Sounds good to me- and perfect to throw into your purse for after coffee breaks! As promised, the rinse freshened my breath without any stinging, and left a pleasant but not over-powering minty flavor behind.

I do have one tip. When I used my first packet, I opened it and immediately filled it to the top with water, forgetting to leave myself enough room to mix the powder around a bit in the envelope. I found it worked better to initially only add enough water to fill the packet less than half way. After I squished and swirled the water around a bit to mix up the powder I filled the rest of the packet and rinsed.


In addition to my regular subscription, I was also lucky enough to get a special Vichy edition Birchbox for no additional charge this month. I've been curious about the brand for a while, and I though the box would be a great introduction. Stay tuned for my instant reviews on this special box, and make sure you comment below and let me know what you got in your box and what you think about it!

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