Friday, June 15, 2012

June 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. These instant reviews are just that- my first impressions based on my initial testing, swatching and, of course (you know me) a peek at the ingredients. 

This month's theme is Jet Set, with selections to "indulge your inner jetsetter, from hardy formulas that can last throughout a long-haul flight to imported finds that we've picked up on our global adventures". Sounds promising, right? I don't know that I'll be doing many of those long-haul flights this summer, but imported beauty finds is music to my ears!

Sample Size: full box, 20 bandages
Retail Size: 20 bandages for $5.00
Sample Value: $5.00

Birchbox Says:
Klutzy fashionistas, we feel your pain and so does designer Cynthia Rowley. The fashion visionary teamed up with BAND-AID® Brand to create these haute band aids, which cover up life’s little boo boos and look good doing it.

I say:
These were the first thing I saw when I opened my box, and I was more excited than anyone has a right to be over Band-Aids! But, when's the last time you saw something this sexy in a package marked "sterile"? And, as accident-prone as I am, I will definitely get use out of these!

One quick mention, for anyone comparing notes: The Birchbox insert seems to have a typo where it lists the value of these at $15. The $5 retail value I used above is the price listed on Cynthia Rowley's official website. FYI, in my search to verify the price on these, I happened to notice Target has them available on-line for under $3 a box!

Sample Size: 0.04 oz/1.2ml
Retail Size: .3oz for $17.00
Sample Value: $2.27

Birchbox Says:
Why use two products when you can get the same effect with one? This two-in-one lip and cheek stain gives us a natural, understated flush...Use a single coat for a subtle look or layer it on for a more visible (yet still discreet) hue.

I say:
Right on! I love the idea of a multi-use stain, especially for summertime, and this gel-based formula is as easy to use as it gets. Beauty Queen, a slightly blue-based berry shade, went on my lips sheer and streak-free, and built up noticeably with just one additional coat. On cheeks, a little dab gave a nice flush, and blended evenly (and without settling into pores or grabbing on to any dry spots).

Eyeko Skinny Liquid Eyeliner
Sample Size: Full size, 0.07oz/.2g
Retail Size: .2g for $15
Sample Value: $15

Birchbox Says:
Twiggy fans, rejoice: this London-based brand’s liquid liners let you create mod looks in a flash. The precision pen tip allows you to control the thickness of the line you create and vary the intensity of your look. Plus, the fade-proof formula will hold up all day and night.

I say:
Woohoo! I have been hearing raves about this brand for ages, so I was thrilled to see this liner in my box. The sturdy felt-tip applies the inky black liquid effortlessly- no skips, tugs or bald-spots. The line I drew on my hand dried almost instantly, and then stood up to a pretty brisk rub. My next test was dishes, and while this liner doesn't purport to be waterproof, it certainly lives up to the "fade-proof" claims (as a matter of fact, the line I drew is still visible now, about 12 hours- and countless hand washings- later). Also, this little baby is half the price and almost twice the size of my current favorite, Lancome Artliner, so this could well be a new staple in my personal arsenal!

John Varvatos Star U.S.A
Sample Size: .04oz/1.2ml
Retail Size: 1.7oz for $55
Sample Value: $1.29

Birchbox Says:
The manly scent combines red ginger essence from Laos, juniper berries and cedrat from Sicily, blue spruce, green cardamom, osmanthus, vetyvert, belambre, and tonka bean from Venezuela.

I say:
My nose for women's fragrances is actually pretty sharp, but somehow, almost all men's scents smell the same to me, and this one isn't any different. I'd call it clean, almost sporty, even a little green. It comes across more citrusy than herbal or spicy/woody to me, which is surprising given the notes listed. Not a bad scent, but not something I'd search out.

This extra was a "sneak peak" at Birchbox's new men's service- it was a cute little addition to the box, though I do have to say that for the higher price point of Birchbox Man ($20/month) I'd need to see something more than a vial sample (let's be honest, you can walk into most department stores and get these for free) to get me to sign up.

Melvita Floral Water in Rose
Sample Size: .95oz/28ml
Retail Size: 6.76oz for $22
Sample Value: $3.09

Birchbox Says:
Powered by organic ingredients like rose petals...each spray soothes, firms, and heals delicate skin. Each of Melvita’s Floral Waters uses healing natural extracts to refresh and soothe skin...Rose is ideal for sensitive or prematurely aging complexions.

I say:
I'm not sure where I stand on the issue of floral waters. One one hand, floral compounds are chock-full of skin irritants (they're even listed in the ingredient list as "natural components") and that's not beneficial for anyone. Rose, however, has a very storied history: it's touted as a natural anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant, and is said to treat everything from sun-damage to depression. Now, it's easy for me to dismiss folk-remedies- I mean, women used to use lead to whiten their skin- but in the case of rose, science is pitching in to back up some of those claims.

This formula is pretty simple, it's basically just rose water, some citric acid (probably to adjust the pH and maybe as a preservative) and some lysine, which I was happy to see- it's an amino acid that helps to moisturize and repair the skin's protective barrier. The addition of this natural moisturizing factor tips the scales to the plus side for me: I'll be keeping this little bottle in the cooler this summer!

Yu-Be Moisturizing Skin Cream
Sample Size: .1oz (3g)
Retail Size: 1.25oz for $16
Sample Value: $1.28

Birchbox Says:
Invented by a pharmacist back in the 1950’s, Yu-Be has been Japan’s top-selling skin cream for over fifty years. Great for head-to-toe hydration, it helps with all forms of stubborn dryness, including flaky red skin, chapped lips, and callused feet. High concentrations of glycerin and sodium hyaluronate seal in moisture and protect skin from the elements. Finally, vitamins B, C, and E infuse skin with antioxidants and boost firmness. It’s so gentle that even infants and kids can safely use it.

I say:
Another wildly popular import whose reputation precedes it, I was excited to see this tiny tube in my box- if only to see what all of the hype was about. One peek at the ingredients, however, reminded me why I never tried this "wonder cream".

Remember, this cream was formulated over 50 years ago, so it comes as no surprise that the ingredients add up to what is really a pretty out-dated moisturizer. Yu-Be is, at it's core, a blend of basic emollients with a few antioxidants thrown in the mix. The form of vitamin C used, ascorbic acid, is one of the more unstable, and in such a low concentration (it's the second to last ingredient) who knows if it would even have an effect on the skin? Vitamin B2 is also listed, but is a know photosensitizer, something I'd definitely stay away from.

The final nail in the coffin? Camphor. In my opinion, camphor is one of the very worst ingredients used in skincare- it's extremely irritating, so though it can temporarily relieve pain or itching, it actually damages skin in the long-run. Camphor can actually be toxic and enters the blood stream easily, so it should never be applied to mucous membranes or broken skin- yet it's a common ingredient in lip balms! Infuriating! Most alarming is the statement that it's gentle enough to use on kids and infants: according to the International Programme on Chemical Safety, "Even in small doses, camphor consumption can cause fatal poisoning in children and infants." It's also not recommended for pregnant or nursing women. So explain to me again why I want this on my cracked heels or chapped lips? No thanks!


Camphor rant aside, I really thought this box hit it out of the park. In fact, I'd go so far as to say this is my favorite box yet! It's almost as if Birchbox read my wishlist and made it a box just for me. Aside from the Yu-be (which I'll be keeping far away from my lip-balm eating toddler) I will use every single thing in this box, and feel fancy while I'm doing it!

What did you get in your box? Was it as big of a success for you this month?


fashionchicsta said...

You're going to die when you see my box. It had 2 foils, hair shimmer and a ziplock bag. I'll tweet you a picture. xoxo

Kimmy said...

Thanks for such a quick email reply! I loved reading about birchbox so much that I couldn't wait to sign up for one of my own. The link you gave me still requires me to sign up to be on the waiting list for an invite (which I have already done) and with a little further research I have realised that I don't think birchbox will post to Australia! :-(.... I have subscribed to another beauty sample box from though, and I will be sure to let everyone know what I think from my own little blog. xx (ps. still not on twitter yet, but I get the feeling I'm fighting a losing battle by resisting)

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