Birchbox Review | November 2014

Birchbox November 2014 ATG FINAL (2)

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. Let’s step back to last month and get the skinny on November’s Birchbox…

#1. Gilchrist & Soames Spa Therapy Body Wash | This Gilchrist & Soames Body Wash was a total treat from my daily Caress-inspired bathing experiences. I absolutely loved the subtle marine and citrus scent. It instantly restores you, while equally making you feel fresh and clean. I certainly also welcome products that are crafted with care. I’m not one to personally go out of my way to use only organic and/or chemical-free formulas, but I don’t mind the added benefit. This body wash seems to make an effort to remove certain chemicals that tend to get a bad wrap. That being said, I realize the hypocrisy when I say that what usually drives my decisions when using products in general, is not only performance, but cost. It’s hard to get behind a $15 bottle of body wash when I get something for twice the size, 3 times less in cost. But I’m not a party-pooper either. I can see the benefit if you like to have something more luxurious and high-end in your shower too. I might splurge on a more expensive body wash to compliment those days when you just want a little something more. I’m a fan of this one from Gilchrist and Soames, as well as this great find from Essentiel Elements just a few months ago.

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

#2. Juice Beauty Green Apple Peel Sensitive  |  I respect what Juice Beauty products aim to do, but once again I’m unimpressed when it comes to performance. I think the first two things that made me realize I wouldn’t care for this product before I even applied it to my face was the strange water-y consistency, and that I felt duped by the fact that this had no resemblance in scent to “green apples”…or anything. Ultimately, what I couldn’t get into was that I didn’t feel like it was strong enough to really make an impact on my skin. I’m not blaming this product entirely, because I can’t say for sure whether it was the cause – but it also didn’t help that I would notice a blemish or 2 after using it.

 Overall: Pass.

#3. theBalm Cosmetics Cindy Lou-Manizer | I might lose cool points for this but it took me a minute to figure out what this was! I thought it was just a simple peach-hued eye shadow sample. I had to physically read the instructions on it before I understood that the cleverly packaged powder pot is an all-in-one highlighter: for cheekbones, eyelids, or all over face application. I’ve used it mostly as that aforementioned eye shadow, which gives a subtle hint of color that brightens the eye area, but have experimented with it more loosely as a facial luminizer. Lo and behold it does add a very gentle glow to my face that’s appealing! And I have to say, I just love the packaging.

Overall: A do.

#4. Eslor Firming Collagen Day Cream | One of the things that I totally appreciate learning from my mom at a very early age, was taking care of my skin. This is not to brag, but I’m in a happy place at the moment, where I’m not too concerned or deal with wrinkles. Then I got to thinking as I first opened the jar to Eslor’s cream, that this probably means that in order to maintain that good skin care habit I’ve had since I was a teenager, that I probably should pay more attention to products designed to help keep my skin firm. Though it helps that I’m African-American (and the saying “black don’t crack” is true…to an extent), being in my early 30s is probably the right time to start using firming products to help keep me in my happy place as long as humanly possible. I realize it’s better to start early and prevent, rather than spend all of this time (and money) trying to correct and repair once those fine lines start to appear. Admittedly, I had a hard time gauging if this product was working for me since I’m in my wrinkle-free happy place and I’m sure I’d need prolonged use of it to see a noticeable difference. I will say that I can get behind the scent and the rich luxurious feel of this cream. It’s no joke at $85, but I suppose this is much more realistic (and healthier given it’s paraben-free formula) than a $10,000+ face-lift. However, I’m not a fan of the cost. Personally, I would find a more reasonable alternative.

Overall: Too soon to say, but I like it so far. Too expensive.

#5. Chuao Chocolatier | I’m not usually one to bash chocolate, but I’ll have to here. There aren’t too many ways to ruin chocolate, but Chuao Chocolatier certainly found a way. This treat is offered in a variety of flavors leading to me believe that perhaps it was just the flavor that I received that missed the mark. The Firecracker flavor, described as a “chipotle caramel fudge dotted with popping candy and salt in dark chocolate,” was so disturbing, I didn’t even finish it. At first bite, a rich dark chocolate taste hits your tongue in such a way that makes you smile, then the spiciness of the chipotle along with the tang of the salt complicate things immediately. Add in that the chocholate then starts to physically pop in your mouth (channeling Pop Rocks candy circa 30 years ago) and I was completely turned off. I like my chocolate rather simple: rich, sweet, perhaps with a bit of crunch from a nut or something – but never spicy, salty, or popping in my mouth. Yuck!

Overall: Pass.

#6. Harvey Prince Petaly Noir | Harvey Prince is quickly becoming my favorite fragrance line. They consistently do no wrong as far as I’m concerned. Their Hello scent is my signature go-to when I want to smell fun and flirty. Essentially, before you even open your mouth to speak, the fragrance does it for you. It aptly says, “Hello! I’m here.” Petaly Noir couldn’t be the opposite of traits. Reserved for when a gal wants to channel her inner seductress, this fragrance is bold and dark and demands the personality of a woman who can handle it. Its combination of jasmine, vanilla, orchid, and lily of the valley make it an intense statement fragrance. It might not be for everyone, but I adore it.

Overall: A do.

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Birchbox All-Stars

Birchbox All-Stars Final

I’ve reviewed over 70 beauty and lifestyle products since joining the Birchbox family just over a year ago. Aside from the alluring monthly surprise to myself – I really have discovered and incorporated many new finds into my routine because of Birchbox’s rather genius, yet simple idea: sending high-quality samples, from high-profile brands to experiment with before taking your next big beauty plunge.

Like anything, Birchbox can be a total hit or a total miss (case and point: last month’s box), but I can’t help but look back and smile at my experience in general.

I received my most recent box just this past weekend, and I can already tell April is going to be all the more glamorous for it. It got me to thinking about what my favorite products have been since joining the Birchbox family 14 months ago.

And so, I’m feeling a little nostalgic today. It’s a good time to pause and reflect on my favorite discoveries, my top 10 out of them all. These are products that I now use with regularity, with a couple that I will be adding to my routine in the very near future. These are my Birchbox all-stars.

  1. Lancôme’s La Base Pro Primer – Full review here and here.
  2. Suki Exfoliate Foaming Cleanser  – Full review here.
  3. Color Club® Harlem Lights Collection in “Baldwin Blues” – Full review here. (Available for purchase here.)
  4. ChapStick® Hydration Lock – Full review here.
  5. Davines Love Smoothing Shampoo &  Davines Love Smoothing Conditioner – Full review here.
  6. Harvey Prince Hello Perfume – Full review here.
  7. Serious Skincare® Glycolic Gommage Extreme Renewal – Full review – here.
  8. Mally Beauty Evercolor Starlight Watercolor Eye Liner in “Sailor (Blue)” – Full review here.
  9. Camille Beckman Glycerine Hand Therapy – Full review here.
  10. Coastal Scents® Neutral Mirage Palette Set – Full review here. (Cheaper here!)

Stay tuned for the full review of April’s products coming at the end of this month! Happy primping, ladies!

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Birchbox Review | January

birchbox january ATG

How the latest and greatest in beauty made my January feel a little bit more gorgeous…or not so much.

Product reviews are from left to right.

Fekkai Brilliant Glossing Crème | I’m rather picky about what I use in my hair, and have found over the years to usually stick with what works for me. There have been very few new products that I’ve introduced to my hair care routine over the last 4 years – though I’m willing to experiment courtesy of my Birchbox subscription, of course. Not surprisingly, my philosophy to stick with what works applies here. In a nutshell, Fekkai’s Brilliant Glossing Crème did absolutely nothing for me. I found it to be unimpressive when I used the “pea-sized” amount as directed on damp hair. Nothing. The next time I increased the amount of product thinking perhaps my naturally drier and kinkier hair texture might require a higher dosage. That time it came out greasy. Add in that this is not at all pleasantly scented, is $20 full-sized, and my constant bafflement at specifically how this product did anything positive for my strands, and unfortunately, I was done.

Overall: It’s a pass.

Burt’s Bees® Intense Hydration Day Lotion with Clary Sage | My skin is naturally pretty dry and during the winter months can be so dehydrated that it cracks to the point that I channel the likes of a corpse.  So as I sat down to type this post, I slathered some on yet again, and feel confident that Burt’s Bees is on to something with their “Intense Hydration Day Lotion.” It has a thick, creamy texture that’s rather divine when you spread it over really dry skin, immediately providing much-needed moisture and relief. What I don’t particularly care for is the slight greasy feeling your hands submit to as the product works its way into your skin; and while I know that this means less chemicals in its 99% “natural formula,” I wish this had a more appealing scent. Either way, this product means business on the hydration front, and if you suffer from corpse-like skin during the dead of winter, here’s some serious help to bring it back to life.

Overall:  It’s a do.

Dr. Lipp Original Nipple Balm for Lips | It’s juvenile, I know – but couldn’t we have found a not so distracting name for our product here? Okay, so we discovered something that worked well for nursing mothers for multiple purposes, but there’s something somewhat comical when you’re out and about and need a chapped-lipped fix and your friend asks, “what’s that?” and you casually announce, “nipple balm.”  Bonus points for memorable branding, I suppose. The interesting thing is that this product is really great for chapped lips and has staying power. It has a slightly more liquid feel to it so it’s easier to apply, but in essence channels Vaseline if you ask me. I’ll enjoy the sample and all the perks of what a little nipple balm can do, but I’m not convinced it’s worth making a full-sized purchase. Perhaps as I make my way through the sample, I’ll have a change of heart though I’m not a fan of spending $14.50 on something like this. I’m still pretty content with the simple and much more affordable Chapstick sample Birchbox sent me a few months ago.

Overall: Use Vaseline…or Chapstick.

Nail Rock | I’m a huge fan of what’s happening in the mani/pedi world: playful colors, patterns, and super fun embellishments usually get me to break out my “Ooh, I LOVE it!” face. I just don’t think the textured nail movement is a trend that I can get behind. Nail Rock was my introduction. Let me explain. You polish your nails as you normally would and dip the wet nail bed into the nail velvet and let dry. I knew minutes after applying the texture that this wasn’t for me. The 3D-inspired pop of velvet looked like I’d smashed cotton balls on my nails beds. It was a bit ridiculous. I learned that Nail Rock uses glitter textures as well and I would’ve preferred a sample using that feature instead. The sad thing was that while I loved the deep purple color (perfect for winter), the consistency of the nail polish is lacking so I don’t think I could use it alone without experiencing mild frustration. You need like 4 coats before it finally starts to look like a solidly painted nail. This is likely because it’s designed for you to dip the polish into the velvet which would hide the “watery” look underneath acting more as a filler.

Overall: Velvet textured nails are too gimmicky. It’s a pass.

Juicy Couture – Viva La Juicy | One spritz of Juicy Couture’s “Viva La Juicy and you instantly feel a little more flirty. Its subtle mix of florals, fruits, and sweet undertones cultivate a vibe of playful femininity. It is an expense at $90 full-sized, so while I’ll certainly enjoy the sample, I don’t have any plans to purchase it. The fragrance market is flooded with a plethora of options at half the cost. It’s a shame because this is a winner. If you’re looking for an amazing everyday scent at a more resonable price point, I’d recommend Harvey Prince’s “Hello.” It’s officially my new favorite.

Overall: It’s a do…if you can afford it.

How did your first Birchbox of 2014 work for you? I’d love your feedback in the comments section below.

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Birchbox Review | December


How the latest and greatest in beauty made my December feel a little bit more gorgeous…or not so much.

Product reviews are from left to right, top to bottom.

Harvey Prince Hello Perfume | What an inspired and truly appropriate name for this new Harvey Prince fragrance. It’s light, refreshing, and with a spritz instantly channels pure sunshine. It’s like literally saying “hello” to those you come into contact with all day long without saying a word. By far, this was my favorite sample of the month. However, I would say its playful scent is better suited during warm, sunny seasons – perfect for spring and summer. I was a bit shocked to see such a citrus-y and floral scent in my box during the dead of winter. Certainly not anything to get too bent up over, but I wish Birchbox would curate their products to be more streamlined and thematic to the time of year. At $55 full-sized, it’s not incredibly expensive and is something I look forward to adding to my fragrance collection. So instead of saying “Hello” – let this perfume do if for you! It’s an A+.

Manna Kadar Sheer Glo Shimmer Lotion |  I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this product when I turned to this sample. So, I read the description and got clear quickly. It’s essentially a pink lotion that sparkles when applied to body and face. I rubbed a bit on my hands and was instantly thrown off that it had absolutely no scent. A body lotion, with no scent? Hmm. While the shimmer on my hands was nice, I thought this would be best served for its main purpose as a highlighter for your face. Now this aspect to the Manna Kadar’s Shimmer Lotion was great. I loved the subtle sparkle to my cheeks over Christmas dinner….and then I my skin broke out. Since I’ve been using the same products on my face without this problem in recent times, I can with some degree of certainty (outside of maybe one too many sugar cookies over Christmas?) blame this product. That means, no go for me. I won’t even risk trying it again to be certain that it caused the breakout (I’m that anal about my skin) – but let’s just say my cheeks were the main area of the breakout, which is exactly where I had applied this product.

Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentré (24-Hour Miracle Cream)  | I don’t know if I’d call this a “miracle cream,” but it made my skin happy.  When my face had recovered from the Manna Kadar Shimmer Lotion disaster – I did try this cream and was impressed with the amount of moisture it supplied. My skin can get a bit drier during the winter and I need something a little stronger. This product is light with great coverage, yet doesn’t leave your skin greasy after application. I’ve been happily using the same Murad moisturizer for years now, and while I’ve been rethinking a new moisturizer due to cost, I don’t think this product would make the cut. It’s still quite expensive and you don’t get much of it in the full-sized version at 75ml. I’ll keep looking.

Number 4 Non-Aerosol Hairspray | Admittedly, this came in handy over my holiday travels! It was the perfect size sample to take on the road. And this hairspray was rather admirable in performance. It did a great job of maintaining my hairstyle without flakiness. The caveat is that this hairspray is also good for the environment, hence also the non-aerosol properties, along with being free of sulfates and parabens. This product would be nice for someone who dislikes aerosol sprays and harsh chemicals, while making the world a healthier place. Forgive me in advance, and not to offend my earth friendly readers; but at $30 full-sized, I’ll stick with my favorite L’Oreal Elnett Satin Hair Spray at half the cost and twice the amount of hairspray. I’ll find another way to contribute to a greener world.

Twistband™ Hair Tie | I don’t quite understand the”Twistband” trend. While I love that these are designed to give a supportive hold without leaving that annoying crease where your ponytail sat (they do work in this respect!) – these look rather cheaply made to me (i.e. the “knot” to close the band is near criminal). But for the sake of review – I did use this hair tie quite extensively over the holidays and after about 2 weeks of use on and off, it looks worn out already. $12 for pack? No thanks. 

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