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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Birchbox Review | November


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

Product reviews are from left to right.

DDF® Amplifying Elixir | When I saw DDF in my box, I got a little more than excited based purely on reputation alone. Wow, the DDF. In my Birchbox. Turns out, there wasn’t too much get excited about. My first stint with the famous DDF brand was experimenting with their Amplifying Elixir used after cleansing and just before moisturizing. The product touts that it “transforms skin, boosting its natural moisture barrier up to 50%” (whatever that means!). To give it some credit, this may be a product that takes frequent use over a period of time to really notice anything happening, but I wasn’t impressed. It burns upon application and makes my skin feel a bit sticky. This product retails for $70. For that cost, I should be more assured by now. This is a pass. Just use a good moisturizer and you’ll be fine!

Tiossan Body Cream | This is a really nice body cream.  I received it in the “Terranga” scent, which I wasn’t too crazy about at first use, but decided it wasn’t too  bad after all. It has a great texture and went on silky smooth without any residual greasiness (don’t you just hate that in a lotion!?!). The reason I’ll stop writing any further about this product is that it’s $38.00 for the full size. Mind you, full-sized is a mere 6.5 oz. No body cream is worth all that, unless it’s made of gold.

theBalm® cosmetics Stainiac | This did absolutely nothing for me. Aside from the fact that I’m really over “lip/cheek stain combo” products in general because they never seem to work with my skin tone – I didn’t like the way the product felt upon application nor the shade I received, “Beauty Queen.” It didn’t show up on my lips very well and when I went back to look at my lips mere minutes later after several layers of applications, what did faintly show up 5 minutes before was gone. Perhaps this would work better on a gal with very fair skin; but if you have some color to your skin, like myself, skip this product. It’s worthless.

Color Club® Harlem Lights Collection | If you recall, from my very first review of Color Club’s nail polish, I’m a fan. I continue to share this sentiment as I’ve begun experimenting with their “Baldwin Blues” shade in their Harlem Lights Collection. It’s my first time playing with dark blue nails, and I’ve been having too much fun with this color! A huge perk worth noting? This polish was on for almost a week before I noticed my first chip!

Folle de Joie eau de parfum | Folle de Joie which means “Crazy With Joy” in French makes me happy just thinking about the name. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there is something unique about this scent. It’s light, fresh, floral, but citrus-y. I was surprised this product came in my Birchbox so late in the year. I know Birchbox’s aim when curating samples is to think about season and themes when selecting products. This fragrance, although okay year-round, would pair nicely with Spring and Summer. I think a bit more drama is necessary in fragrances as we approach winter. As much I like the sample and will contiue to enjoy it, this product retails for $98. There are too many other exciting fragrances on the market to justify the nearly $100 cost at this time. Either way, it makes me crazy with joy!

Ahmad Assorted Teas | What was right on time and themed appropriately to the chilly temperatures developing outside was Ahmad’s tea assortment. As of writing time, I’ve only sampled the English Breakfast and no complaints here.  I found the sample flavorful and bold. I’m anxious to try the Black Raspberry next. In fact, tonight might be the perfect time to head home after a long day and brew a spot of tea. Baby, it’s cold outside!

Birchbox Review | October


I think this is my favorite Birchbox yet. Here’s how the latest and greatest in beauty made my October feel little bit more gorgeous. Product reviews are from left to right.

Supergoop!® City Sunscreen Serum | If a complete stranger approached me on the street one day and said, “OMG, you have the most radiant skin ever! What moisturizer do you use?” Somehow saying “Why, thank you! I’m a huge fan of Supergoop!” just doesn’t quite feel right to me; nor sound serious to said stranger, I’m sure.  I can’t think of a worse name for a beauty product, but bonus points for originality. Aside from the terrible name, this moisturizer is pretty fantastic. It’s lightweight, has a SPF 30 sun protection factor, and did my skin proud. One application and my skin instantly felt moisturized, especially during this time of year where my skin can get rather dry. At $42 full-sized, it’s a splurge for a skin cream, though a nice alternative. You all know I’m a huge fan of Murad’s moisturizer which I’ve happily been using for years. I’m not currently in the market to make the switch at this time, but “The Goop” would definitely be a contender.

Benefit Fakeup | I really, really wanted to like this product. I recently got turned on the best mascara ever from Benefit (their They’re Real! Mascara is to die for) and got to thinking that perhaps Benefit could be more to me than just awesome eyelashes. Their “Fakeup” is a concealer with a unique application that uses a hydration ring around the color. While Birchbox magically sent me a color sample that was a shade lighter than my skin tone so pretty close to what I would use as a concealer shade, I found that the hydration ring which lent to a smooth application and added some moisture under my eyes, performed poorly when it came to coverage. I think the hydration aspect to this product, though awesome in theory, means that the consistency of the color isn’t bold enough to be an effective concealer. My favorite go-to concealer is still Mac’s Studio Finish Concealer. It outperforms Benefit’s Fakeup, hands down.

Serious Skincare® Glycolic Gommage Extreme Renewal | My experience with this Serious Skincare facial mask was nothing but seriously incredible. I was surprised that the texture came of the generously sized sample, mimicking your typical clay mask. While I looked like a Ninja Turtle for the next 10 minutes, this product was using its powerful alpha-hydroxy acid (glycolic) to soothingly melt away dead skin cells and draw out toxins – revealing noticeably hydrated and soft skin after the first use. My skin was radiant, feeling every inch clean and refreshed. I’m impressed with this product and would certainly purchase a full size version. For $38.50, but used once or twice a week, this seemingly expensive product is not only reasonable, but well worth it for its amazing deep cleaning/exfoliating properties. I’m a fan!

POP Beauty Aqua Lacquer | I love a glossy lip. Even better, I love a glossy lip that lasts longer than 5 minutes. Unfortunately, to get and keep that look usually entails a super thick gooey consistency (think Mac’s Lipglass) which I’ve actually become accustomed to (when I’m in the mood). This product felt similar to Lipglass in some respects, though not quite as sticky.  It still has a gluey feel to it which aids in giving high shine lips that’s long-lasting, but uses jojoba oil to give some hydration as well. I agree with much of the complaint, if you don’t like sticky lip glosses this isn’t for you. While the product also claims to plump lips, I didn’t notice much a difference, other than the slight sting that’s present when applying. I have naturally full lips (as many African-American women do) so this isn’t something that ever appeals to me anyway. What I didn’t really care for is the hard “paddle style” applicator. I prefer a lip brush or wand which makes the application process more enjoyable. Overall, I’m happy with the sample and the light pink high shine gloss it gives my lips. This sample has been and will stay in my purse for when I need to punch things up.

ChapStick® Hydration Lock |  What can I say? ChapStick is ChapStick, a beloved American treasure for dry lipped people everywhere! This product is awesome, and the gentle Vanilla Creme flavor is unassuming, yet effective. The creamy texture, the smell, and the moisturization factor are all “A-plusses” in my book. My lips instantly feel smoother. Thanks for the full-sized sample, Birchbox!