Saturday, May 19, 2012

May 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.

This month's box came wrapped in a Gossip Girl band emblazoned with a picturesque night-time image of the New York City skyline. I don't watch Gossip Girl myself, nor do I follow any of the celebs that are on the show, so I can't say that made a difference to me one way or another- just another item for the recycle bin! This month's box also seemed a bit scant to me- only 4 products, and one of them was the "get it for free at the perfume counter" sample vial. Here's what I got:

Arquiste Flor y Canto Eau de Parfum
Sample Size: 1.13 ml (.038 oz)
Retail Size: 55 ml (1.86 oz) for $165
Sample Value: $3.39

Birchbox Says:
Decadent and intense, this cool white perfume will linger on your skin for hours. A rich parade of floral notes—including Mexican tuberose, magnolia, and plumeria—mix and mingle together. As the fragrance blooms, a faint whiff of marigold (a sacred Aztec flower) makes a surprise appearance.

I say:
A very sweet floral, definitely decadent. While it's intense at first, it does soften up a bit as the tuberose and plumeria fade and the slightly musty, earthier notes of the marigold come out. don't take this to mean this scent is at all spicy or musky- it's incredibly feminine and romantic, the kind of fragrance that would be a perfect bridal scent.

Caudalie Hand and Nail Cream
Sample Size: 15 ml (.5 oz)
Retail Size: 75 ml (2.54 oz) for $19
Sample Value: $3.80

Birchbox Says:
We can always rely on this French brand’s anti-aging cream to smooth dry knuckles, moisturize nail beds, and generally keep our hands in top condition. Made with antioxidant-rich grapeseed oil, sweet orange pulp, and avocado, it reduces the look of fine lines on your hands. Pure shea butter and plant-derived glycerin soften skin.

I say:
Caudalie's cream does indeed include a nice network of emollients and anti-oxidants, including shea butter, avocado oil, vitamins C & E and grape seed oil. There is support for the anti-aging claims in the grape extract that Caudalie bases its line on: aside from it's potent anti-oxidant capabilities, it's been shown to promote collagen and elastin production.

Having said that, hands are often the first part of the body to show signs of aging, and since sun damage is the major cause of things like lines, dark spots and elasticity, I think it's a major loss that Caudalie chose not to add an SPF to this product.

The cream has a nice fruity scent that's just enough for me: I can smell it while I'm rubbing it in, but it doesn't linger. It feels emollient and even a bit waxy at first, but absorbs quickly, leaving my skin soft and silky. I'm not entirely sure I'd shell out $19 for a small tube of hand cream, but if I were in the mood for a splurge, this would definitely be a consideration (if it had SPF, it would be a no-brainer!)

Ojon Damage Reverse Restorative Conditioner
Sample Size: 30 ml (1 oz)
Retail Size: 8.5 fl oz for $25.00  
Sample Value: $2.94

Birchbox Says:
This nourishing formula revives dry, damaged hair from the inside out. Unlike traditional conditioners, it contains an exotic mix of rare Ojon oil, Brazillian Buriti Oil, and Murumuru Butter. These antioxidant-rich hydrators penetrate deep into hair follicles to repair brittle locks, while locking in moisture and creating a seal against future damage.

I Say:
Hair is dead. Once ends are split, there's little more aside from a good chop that's going to "repair" it. There is a new technology (polyelectrolyte complex, or PEC for short) that shows some promise, but Ojon's Damage Reverse doesn't have it. A few oils that have been proven to penetrate the hair shaft, which can increase hair flexibility, reducing breakage and protecting the hair from damage. Ojon's Damage Reverse does have some of those: ojon oil (aka. palm oil) is one. However, so is coconut oil, which I get at my local international market for about $5 for a 16oz bottle. Enough said?

FusionBeauty LipFusion Balm Lip Conditioning Stick SPF 15
Sample Size: full size, .17 oz (4.7g)
Retail Size: .17 oz for $22
Sample Value: $22

Birchbox Says:
The lightweight formula is infused with hydrating sunflower seed oil, plus groundbreaking AmpliFat, which boosts collagen production to give you lips that feel and appear fuller. Built-in SPF 15 keeps lips protected from harmful UVA and UVB rays.

I Say:
First, and most importantly, Birchbox says this balm's SPF 15 protects against UVA rays. That does not appear to be the case: according the package, the active sunscreen agents in this formula are Octinoxate and Octisalate. Both sunscreens protect only against burning UVB rays, not aging UVA rays. Also remember, when it comes to SPF in makeup, people almost never put on nearly enough to get the listed SPF, so if you're using this for sun protection, lay it on thick and reapply often!

SPF issues aside, I like this formula. It's loaded with antioxidants to protect against environmental damage and has a great list of emollients to protect the skin's protective barrier; both adding moisture and holding it in once it's there. The texture is nicely balanced with the blend of butters, oils and waxes. It glides on easily and feels cushy and moist, not at all greasy or waxy. While I wouldn't say this is long wearing, I got a couple of hours before I needed to reapply, which is above average for me. I should also mention that the clear color that I received was indeed clear, though the stick itself looks a bit shimmery.

While there is a light peppermint scent (flavor?) I don't notice any sting, burn, tingle or other sign of irritation. Peppermint oil can be a potent irritant (which is why it's popular in plumpers- it causes swelling) but from the ingredient list, it's not really clear if this formula includes natural peppermint or synthetic (it's just listed as flavor/aroma) but either way, I'd have preferred this balm if they had just skipped it.

As far as plumping ability, I can't say I notice any significant plumping, nor was I able to find any research to back up the claims that FusionBeauty makes about AmpliFat (aka: Dictyopteris Membranacea Extract, aka: marine brown algae). Plumping or no, brown algae extract does have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antimicrobial properties, so I'm happy to have it.

Birchbox Extra: Notecard
Sample Size: one card
Retail Size: 12 cards for $10
Sample Value: $.83

I feel a little bit bad complaining about an "extra" but these are so laughable to me, I had to mention it. My card is a deep brick red with a fuchsia envelope- not a pretty color combo (it actually looks accidental to me!) I'm not sure why anyone would pay $10 for these- the card isn't on luxurious paper, it's not letterpress or thermography, the design isn't even intriguing. I honestly and truly have seen nicer cards at Target. But, yaknow...thanks anyway.


So, what did you think of this month's box? I was underwhelmed at first because the box seemed so scant, but after sitting down to write this I'm a bit more positive on the selection- I'll definitely get use out of everything in this month's set (even the perfume- this is the first time I've liked the scent in my box!) I am a bit jealous after seeing what some other people got- Shu Uemura Cleansing Oil Shampoo and Dior Extase Mascara? I want those! But hey, there's always next month.


boo said...

Yep, I found this month's box to be a tad overhyped (possibly because I didn't get the Dior or the Shu either). I think you were overly harsh about the Ojon, though. The product blurb you quoted claims it will repair "brittle strands" not split ends, and the mositurizing effects of cuticle penetrating oil could be said to do that.

Unknown said...

I definitely see your point- I know I can seem harsh sometimes with my reviews, I definitely err on the side of...what's the opposite of "benefit of the doubt"?

Your push is absolutely valid though: Ojon doesn't claim to fix split ends, but it does claim to "repair" and "reverse" damage. Thing is, as I said in the review, even though certain oils (like the palm oil Ojon uses) have been shown to penetrate the hair shaft, this doesn't repair or reverse damage so much as it prevents it.

Honestly, if they had named this stuff "Ojon Damage Protect" instead, my review would have sounded much nicer! I still can't get on board with the price though, knowing that my coconut oil does the same thing but the Ojon costs more than 9 times as much!

I don't think that makes this product a bad product, they're using clever marketing, That's not just common- I'd say it's the norm.

Having worked so long in beauty retail and advertising, I've seen it a lot. It's definitely a pet peeve of mine, as you can no doubt tell. I will take your comment to heart though, and try to be at least a *little* less negative in the future ;)

Lulubelle said...

Love the level of detail in your review - I learned some things!

I was underwhelmed by my May Birchbox as well. It wasn't a bad box, I just wasn't excited about anything I received.

boo said...

I deeply appreciate the fact that you are a stickler about product claims, particularly since the beauty industry is rife with misleading and completely inaccurate statements! I was just playing devil's advocate since in this particular instance they didn't seem to have made any claims about split ends. Your points are all well taken, though, and I agree that coconut oil is one of the best hair products out there!

eula_w said...

Looks like this Arquiste Flor y Canto Eau de Parfum has a great scent. Perfect for me too because I can bring it all any time I want. Thanks for sharing! :)

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