Birchbox Review | October 2014

Birchbox Review October 2014 ATG FINAL
A breakdown of how the latest and greatest in beauty and lifestyle products made a gal feel a bit more gorgeous…or not so much. Product reviews are left to right, top to bottom. Here’s the scoop on October’s Birchbox…

ModelCo Power Lash Long Wear Black Mascara 

I might have found a contender to my beloved They’re Real! Mascara. ModelCo’s Power Lash Long Wear Black Mascara was a welcome sample to play with this month. The formula, which made me raise a brow in concern because it’s surprisingly thick and a bit messy as I pulled the wand from the tube, held its own. It didn’t clump, flake, and when wanting to create volume with multiple coats, it did so with ease. The strong jet black shade is also right up my alley. Aside from the thick formula (which ended up redeeming itself based on performance), my only other criticism was that I found the brush a little thick for me, which meant having to clean up my eyelids a bit once I’d finished application. Otherwise, I’m impressed. This is a great mascara that won’t break the bank.

Overall: A do.

Essentiel Elements Wake Up Rosemary Shower Gel

The moment you dispense this shower gel onto your loofah, you realize pretty quickly that you’re in for a treat. The smell that fills your shower is energizing and heavenly. Add in that this product has a luxurious texture, produced a rich lather (I’m sorry, I’m a sucker for suds), along with how soft my skin felt once I stepped out the shower and I’m sold…almost. Unfortunately, it’s hard to justify spending $19 on body wash, particularly when Caress does the job for $4 and gives you 10 more ounces of product per bottle – though I realize you’re getting a host of more natural ingredients and much sexier packaging (that glass jar is pretty cool, by the way). If I were to make a full-sized purchase of this, it would be a body wash I’d use a few times per week (as opposed to my daily go-to) to enjoy the spa-like experience at home to unwind after a stressful day. Either way, I enjoyed Essentiel Elements Wake Up Rosemary Shower Gel and I think you will, too….however, this would used more as a special indulgence to get some longevity out of it.

 Overall: A do. If you can get behind the cost.

Curlisto Deep Therapy Masque 

I’ll be honest, this is a product I want to use a few more times before making a firmer, concrete decision one way or the other. That being said, I’ll write my impressions after just one use. I appreciated the scent and creamy texture of Curlisto’s hair masque. My hair felt great as I worked the product in; instantly giving it a sleeker, more hydrated feel. One thing that comes to mind, however, is that this masque requires you to have already conditioned your hair prior to use, which I found unusual. Most masques go right on after shampooing in my experience. As such, I had a hard time gauging the performance of the masque in and of itself. Was my hair feeling great because I’d essentially already conditioned and then used this product? I suppose the best way to know would be to “break the rules” and just use this mask right after shampooing to really rate its merit. Suffice to say, I’m not praising the product or disregarding it altogether, because I’d like to use it a few more times. However, I’m big on first impressions and given the $36 price tag, this didn’t readily knock it out of the park for me.

Overall: Too soon to say, but it’s not looking great at the moment.

LuMESH Hydrating Lip Gloss 

This lip gloss didn’t do much for me. I’ll admit I enjoyed the slight tingle it gives your lips after application, but I always found myself somewhat eager to rub this off after a while (which is probably a good thing, meaning it has some staying-power). The shade I received, “Sadie,” wasn’t any different from the natural color of my lips, so it didn’t do much other than give a nice sheen to them. This is usually okay with me when wanting to keep my look natural and un-fussed looking, but I simply wasn’t blown away by this product – likely because of the shade, but also because I’m over lip gloss at the moment. I have no qualms with lip gloss, but I’m finding that I’m currently in more a lipstick with staying-power place in my life. I won’t pursue this product any further once (or if) I finish the sample.

Overall: Pass.

Miracle Skin Transformer Miracle Revival Mud 

While it should always be mask season, I notice that toward the later part of the year is when my skin needs extra TLC to keep hydrated, clear, and happy. As 2014 begins to wind down and the cooler temperatures join us, I was thrilled to see this product in my box. I don’t currently have a good go-to mask that I use with any sort of regularity (unless is comes in the form of a Birchbox sample). Miracle Skin Transformer’s Revival Mud Mask, therefore, came just in the nick of time. I’ll admit I wasn’t thrilled with the smell of this product, but tried to keep my focus on how effective the product would hopefully be. 15 minutes later, the first few spent slightly uncomfortable as it burns upon application, and I was a fan. My skin felt soft, clean, and supple. The $38 price tag is discouraging to me, so I don’t know if I’d ever go full-sized, but I would save up Birchbox points toward the cost. This is a great mask if you’re in the market.

Overall: A do. If you can get behind the cost.

SeaRx Microdermabrasion Face and Body Scrub

SeaRx is quickly becoming one of my favorite brand discoveries through Birchbox. I still dream about their moisturizing lotion often since I ran out the sample last month. (Gosh, I loved that stuff.) Their scrub did an admirable job. While this can be used for the entire body, I kept usage to my face only. I think the reason why I’m not raving about this product was that I was expecting a more “harsh” scrub. The crystals used in this formula are very, very fine almost to the point that you don’t even feel like it’s giving your skin a thorough exfoliation. Rather than ding it for not being a “rougher” scrub, perhaps this makes it something pretty special to be able to effectively give you a smooth and fresh face after use? I mean, my skin looked and felt incredible so I guess that’s all that matters. Either way, I still personally like a deeper feeling exfoliation. I’m not planning to continue with this product after the sample runs out.

Overall: Indifferent.

Thanks for reading!

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Birchbox Review | SEPTEMBER

Birchbox September ATG FINAL

September’s Birchbox ranks as one of my all-time favorites. I don’t really have a bad thing to say….well, maybe a little thing… or two.  Let’s break it down!

#1. Macadamia Professional Healing Oil Spray  | Coincidentally, about a week before this product arrived, I remember looking at myself in the mirror and flat out saying out loud (yes, I talk to myself…and often), “I wish I could just add a lightweight spritz of oil to my hair right now, to give it just a hint of shine and moisture in-between shampoo sessions.Of course, I already have an oil product that I use religiously for this purpose, but it involves distributing product the old-fashioned way: pouring a gooey substance into your hands, rubbing them together, and then applying to the hair. I was in the mood for something that I could just grab, spray, comb through and be out! Sometimes the Birchbox Gods, or rather Goddesses, hear your cry. This Macadamia Professional Healing Oil Spray satisfies all your hair moisturizing needs. It’s light, instantly gives your hair sheen, smells heavenly, requires no contact with gooey substances, and works great on wet or dry strands. It also didn’t hurt that someone walked over to me one day and said my hair looked fantastic! Outside of my stellar hair-dressing skills (I’m no José Eber but I do well), I’m giving this product part credit in keeping my hair happy and healthy as of late. I’m in LOVE. This will definitely become apart of my routine full-time. The great news is that it’s a steal on Amazon for twice the size.

Overall: It’s a do. Repeat: It’s a DO. Third time’s a charm: DO IT!

#2. TEMPTU S/B Highlighter  | I like make-up as much as the next girl, but unless I’m going to work or going out somewhere special, I don’t feel the need to have a full face of make-up on. And even then, I keep things pretty standard: a little concealer for under the eyes, foundation, mascara, and if I’m feeling especially in the mood, some blush on the cheeks. The point being that I’ve never used a highlighter. Thanks to Birchbox, I got my first taste using this “Champagne Shimmer” highlighter from Temptu, who I learned is also leading the at-home make-up airbrushing revolution (and now I kinda want one). While I don’t think a highlighter is an absolute necessity (because this becomes yet ANOTHER expense), I can certainly see how incorporating a good highlighter magically gives your skin a more polished, glowing look after you’ve applied your basics. I especially loved the effect you get when mixing the highlighter with your foundation for an all over radiant shimmer (a tip I learned from a fellow Birchboxer). Since I’m new to highlighters, I want to experiment with different shades and brands, but this one from Temptu is a great start. It’s seriously has me considering the idea of adding highlighters to my routine.

 Overall: A do.

#3. Yu-Be Moisturizing Skin Cream | Rumor has it that this has been Japan’s top-selling moisturizer for over 50 years…unfortunately, this would be the product where I have that aforementioned bad thing to say. While I appreciated this product’s aim – moisturizing everything from my heels to my lips (somehow that sounds weird as I type that, but that’s what this stuff does!), I couldn’t get past the Vicks Vapor Rub smell. I felt like I should be in bed with a cold just begging be to able to smell something, anything, so that I knew my clogged sinuses were only temporary and that relief was on the way. (In that moment, even catching a whiff of Vick’s is a godsend). I liked the product, but couldn’t get over the smell or the texture. It really just seems to be a high-end version of Vaseline if you ask me.

Overall: Eh.

#4. Laura Mercier Full Blown Volume Supreme Mascara | If you knew me, or read any of my beauty-related posts over the last year, you know that I’m loyal to Benefit’s They’re Real! Mascara. I’ve said it over, and over, and over….and over, again. I’m very happy in the mascara area at the moment, but if I were on the prowl for a new find, this gem from Laura Mercier might be a serious contender. It goes on smooth, welcomes multiple applications with ease to create volume-filled lashes to your liking that don’t clump, and it doesn’t flake. Here’s where my second bad thing to say comes into play: I’ve gotten so use to the ease and clean application with Benefit’s wand (I hardly ever have to use a Q-Tip afterward), that I have a hard time using the more traditional “bushy” mascara wands that get product all over the eyelid (yuck!). Otherwise, this is a great mascara if you want a more natural look. If you want intense volume and va-va-voom lashes, They’re Real! is your friend.

Overall: A do, but I’m still sticking with They’re Real! until they stop making the stuff. Best mascara. Ever.

#5. Dr. Brandt Pores No More Vacuum Cleaner | Luckily, I don’t really have much pore-related drama in my life. I may get a blemish here or there every so often, but I don’t personally battle blackheads or have large pores or anything. My skin concerns are almost always related to hydration and seeking a more even complexion (because on the rare occasion I do get a pimple, it almost always leaves a small mark behind). That being said, this mask from Dr. Brandt was impressive for me in that it didn’t make my skin feel dry after use. This is important given that its mission is to extract all the junk that’s lurking in your pores – and in my experience, products such as these have me begging for a moisturizer as soon I get the stuff off. I enjoyed sampling this mask. It’s quick and easy to use. I appreciated how it turns light blue as an indicator that it’s time to rinse off. The most heavenly part has to be the way your skin feels squeaky clean as you pat dry. The feel of the air on your skin is indescribable right after use. Magic!

Overall: A do. If you can get behind the cost.

#6. ChapStick Dual-Ended Hydration Lock | At the moment I’m crushing on Burt’s Bees Tinted Lip Balm, but this Chapstick will go to good use. My relationship with Chapstick was re-invigorated by Birchbox last October when they introduced me to their Hydration Lock product line, which I adore. The twist on this particular Chapstick is the “Dual-Ended” feature. One side “Renews” while the other “Moisturizes” (yeah, I don’t get the difference either.) Upon further investigation, the “renew” end is great for use alone or as a primer for your lipstick during the day. The “Moisturize” side contains antioxidants more geared toward night use. The gimmick is apparent here, but I still like the product. Chapstick is Chapstick. I doubt I’ll be paying too much attention to what end I use. As long as my  lips feel nourished and it lasts longer than 10 minutes, I’m happy.

Overall: A Do.

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Birchbox Review | AUGUST

Birchbox August ATG FINAL

Happy September! Let’s take a quick step back and explore last month’s Birchbox.

Here’s how the latest and greatest in beauty made August feel a little bit more gorgeous…or not so much.

#1. Neil George Shampoo | I’m pretty much at a place where I wish Birchbox would stop sending me shampoo and conditioner samples altogether. With the exception of the Davines line, I’m consistently disappointed by the shampoo and conditioner products. What’s worse is when so-called celebrated “top Hollywood hair stylists” create product lines for us regular folk that channel nothing more than what you’d find stocked standard in a hotel bathroom at the Marriott. (I can’t take full credit for this analogy, I read something similar when researching the product, but I couldn’t agree more with that description.) Unfortunately, what Birchbox seems to be missing (though I’m sure they’re aware of it per the meticulously detailed profile they have you fill out when signing up) is that I am African-American, and therefore, require tons of moisture in both a shampoo and conditioner. Thick, creamy, lather-rich shampoos are my go-to. Neil George couldn’t be more opposite of this. It has the consistency of a step above water, and barely lathered after using half the sample (I’m sorry, I like a lathering shampoo). Perhaps this works better on a different hair type from mine (though this product is not highly reviewed overall on I ended up giving this to my boyfriend (whose hair texture is the complete contrast of mine) so as to not waste it, and even he thought it was “just fine.”

Overall: Pass.

#2. Neil George Conditioner | See above and insert said comment here.

Overall: Pass.

#3. SeaRX Birch Sap Moisturizing Lotion | This product was the star of my August Birchbox, a surprisingly refreshing and effective moisturizing lotion. I absolutely LOVED the smell and the lightweight texture. Enhanced with minerals from the ocean, birch sap, and sugar – there was something non-threatening about applying it on my face. It’s as if you could almost feel nature melt seamlessly into the skin. I actually looked forward to using this product, and appreciated the way my skin looked and felt after each usage. The downside, which is uber important to me, is that there is no SPF protection included in this product – a necessity for me when thinking about a facial moisturizer. The good news is that this product can be used all over the body, which I do like when it comes to versatility. If I were to proceed with this gem full-time, I’d either only use it at night, or supplement a sunscreen for day use (which drives the cost up more, not making me happy given that this product is already $28 full-sized).

Overall: A do, though disappointed in the no SPF factor.

#4. Dr. Jart+ PORE MEDIC Pore Minish Primer | It took me awhile to even warm up to the idea of a primer. I always thought if you bought the right make up this step was unnecessary. I came to the conclusion after being introduced to Lancome’s La Base Pro Face Primer in one of my early Birchbox’s that a primer is, in fact, a good idea and now I’m hooked. Primers smooth the skin, helps prevent makeup from seeping into pores (and clogging them), as well as keep your makeup looking as is of you’d just applied it. I’m especially a fan of primers during the summer to help maintain application as much as possible during the warmer (read: sweaty) months of the year. This one by Dr. Jart did an admirable job. I can’t say that my pores looked tightened, because in general my pores look just fine if you ask me. Dr. Jart’s primer also claims to improve complexion. I can’t vouch for that either given the short time I’ve been using the sample. What it does (and did well) is create a the perfect canvas for make up application. Kudos to them for removing a lot of the no-no chemicals found in products (i.e. parabens, sulfates, etc.). I also like the more reasonable price point. The Lancome primer I use is smaller at .8oz and costs $10 more.

Overall: A do.

#5. Noir Cosmetics Long-Wear Eyeliner | Overall, I found this to be an effective eyeliner. It glides on about as smoothly as a pencil eyeliner can, and does so with a rich jet black pigmentation. I didn’t test its “water-proof” claim personally, but can attest to its wear. I won’t say that this liner doesn’t smudge (because it did some) but given the opaqueness, and the fact that this is not a gel or liquid liner, it performed well. I am especially impressed with its vitamin E and jojoba oil ingredients – making it more appealing for such a sensitive area (and those of us who wear contacts!). I don’t find this to be unreasonably priced at $15 either. Win, win.

Overall: A do.

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Birchbox Review | June

Birchbox June ATG FINAL

Happy July! Let’s take a quick step back and explore last month’s Birchbox.

Here’s how the latest and greatest in beauty and lifestyle products made June feel a little bit more gorgeous…or not so much.

#1. Evologie® Stay Clear Cleanser  | The good news: I used this sample a few times and didn’t have an adverse reaction to it. It didn’t dry out my skin and produced a nice lather. Naturally, these are good qualities in skin care. The bad news: I just didn’t connect to this product. Perhaps it’s because I’m happy with my skin care regimen at the moment.  As I read up more on Evologie’s Stay Clear Cleanser, I learned that this product is really meant for acne prone skin – something that I don’t personally suffer from. I also just didn’t care for the smell (nor the $32.00 price tag). If I’m at all honest, this cleanser will make a good travel-sized face wash for future over-night bags, but I don’t intend to continue with this product once I finish the sample.

Overall: Indifferent.

#2. Benefit They’re Real! Mascara  |  I recall walking into Sephora one Friday afternoon last year determined to find the ultimate do-it-all mascara. After about 5 minutes in, I was so overwhelmed by all the options that I promptly walked out the store as I updated my Facebook status asking my girlfriends for advice. After researching their suggestions, I found one where nearly every review I read was consistently positive. Thus, I was introduced to Benefit’s They’re Real! Mascara and I haven’t looked back since. Instantly, I fell in love. I’ve gushed about this mascara before, so I won’t bore you about it again. You can read about what I think is hands down, the BEST mascara out there, here. Thanks for the spare Birchbox!

 Overall: Do it. You’ll love this mascara. Trust me.

#3. Cynthia Rowley Beauty Creamy Lip Stain | At first, I questioned why this is even called a “lip stain.” Nothing about this product left much of a trace of anything on my lips as far I experienced. It went on nicely, with a subtle sheen. Moments later, it looked as if I hadn’t applied anything at all. I’d just assumed the shade I’d gotten was too light for my skin tone. It barely showed up on my lips, which made it difficult being able to tell if it was “staining.” Rather than completely writing it off, I tried again. This time, using multiple coats and that’s when I noticed that this might actually be working…sort of. Again, it was still very subtle after more than coat, which isn’t a bad thing. Sometimes subtle is what you’re going for. Unfortunately, this wasn’t something I got excited about. Even after multiple coats it didn’t impress me when it came to staying power. Perhaps this may have been more effective for me in a darker color. Needless to say, this was a disappointment.

Overall: Pass.

#4. Number 4™ Super Comb Prep & Protect | Call it luck, but I had a pretty amazing hair week after using Number 4’s conditioning spray. While I’m sure this “amazing-ness” was likely attributed to having clean hair (that alone often does wonders), I noticed more volume and bounce to my tresses. It seemed like my blowout and straightening efforts lasted slightly longer than usual as well. Add in the fact that I’m a fan of its sulfate-free and natural ingredient formula; its protection against heat damage and sun-exposure; while also hydrating strands – and it seems we may have a winner. Admittedly, I’ve only used this product once because I wash my hair weekly. I want to continue using the spray a few more times to see if it’s luck or, in fact, Number 4’s Prep & Protect spray. I’ll share off the bat, that the cost of this product would be a huge deterrent toward continued use; particularly, because I use a leave-in conditioner that gets the job done at a fraction of the cost.

Overall: Too soon to say.

#5. English Laundry Signature for Her | Since I already had a huge crush on Benefit’s They’re Real! Mascara, I’m going to call this the star of my June Birchbox. This floral perfume from English Laundry is a total winner. It epitomizes the perfect light summer scent. This lasting fragrance combines florals with white chocolate (hello!) and woodsy notes. At $90 full-sized, this is no joke when it comes to price point, but if you’re in the market for a soft scent, that you can still smell when wrapping-up a long day, this is an excellent option.

Overall: A do. If you can get behind the cost.

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