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For the new year, Birchbox went with an inspirational theme to their add-ins, if not so much for the products themselves.

Hello 2014

Inside is a book of inspirational cards.

Quite often, I find this sort of inspirational stuff a little vapid, and given that I regularly question the intelligence of the folk who write the copy about the products I've received, I wouldn't have been too surprised if I hated the series of inspirational cards they produced. But I don't. In fact, they've paired some cute typography with some of those "get yourself out of a rut" type tips that aren't entirely awful if you're just needing a little kick. I like these enough that I may hit up the dollar store for some cheap frames and put some of the cards out on display.

Here's the happy one, front:
happy happy happy happy

And back:
5 ways to get happier

(Sorry about my overzealously narrow depth of field there, but you can probably read some of it.)


So, let's talk products!

Klorane Gentle Dry Shampoo with Oat Milk



Klorane dry shampoo

I was quite curious to try this, as I'd heard about dry shampoos ages ago thanks to women's mags, but since I never actually bought any of the products advertised within, I'd never tried it. It's basically talcum powder you put in your hair to absorb oils so you can go a day without washing it. Birchbox put up a gif tutorial for using dry shampoo that is fairly amusing because their model has great expressions. My only complaint is "second-day = dirty" (and thus needing a product) implication seems like edging into unnecessary products based on shame marketing for a lot of adult women. My long hair, for example, does better with a day between washings lest the ends get totally dried out.

The first time I tried this product, I had terrible sneezing fits all morning and wondered if it was related. I didn't have as much trouble the second time, though. Here's some pictures:

Before:
Dry Shampoo Before
After:
Dry Shampoo After

As you can see, it's not a huge difference, possibly because I was hesitant to use too much lest I have sneezing fits at work. But it does get rid of enough unwanted shine up top that I could go to work without feeling like an unwashed teenager.

There are two problems for me here:
1. This leaves product in your hair. As someone who rarely puts more than a miniscule dab of leave-in conditioner in, I find this makes me feel like my hair is really dirty, even if it looks cleaner.
2. Also, while it does absorb oil, it also clumps up all those dead skin cells coming off your scalp. This makes me just a little itchy. And also makes me feel gross.

As a result, I was desperate to wash my hair when I got home both times I used this product. I suspect those both might be general issues with dry shampoo and not bugs in this particular formula, so it's possible that dry shampoo is just not for me. I'll probably use the rest of this, because even though I don't love it, sometimes you're just in a hurry. Here's an "appropriate" card:

20140210-IMG_1029.jpg

End result: This totally helps me run out the door looking less greasy in a pinch. However, it's not even slightly as good as having remembered to wash my darned hair the night before.


Whish Three Whishes Body Butter



Whish body butter in pomegranate

This claims to smell like pomegranate, but makes me think I smell kind of like a toddler has drooled red lollipop onto me somewhere. It's reasonably effective as a moisturizer I guess, but it smells like really cheap awful candy that's partially digested. It's $0.16/ml, which maybe doesn't sound so bad, but for $0.03/ml I could just use lubriderm and be moisturized and *not* smell like I might attract ants at any moment. (For those who prefer US fl oz: Whish is $4.73/oz to Lubriderm's $0.82/oz)

I'm probably over-stating it: the smell isn't *that* bad and sometimes it's fun to smell like candy. Just, maybe not candy that was abused by a 2 year old and smeared all over your pant leg with sticky fingers. What I'm getting at is it's really not the sort of scent that would inspire me personally to spend 5x as much on an otherwise equivalent product.


ORIGINS Smarty Plants™ CC SPF 20 Skin Complexion Corrector



ORIGINS Smarty Plants™ CC SPF 20 Skin Complexion Corrector

The card reads as follows
Smarty Plants CC
SPF 20 Skin complexion corrector

Instantly: Color corrects and visibly perfects so you look radiant and flawless.
On demand: Antioxidant infused formula helps neutralize skin damaging effects of city smog and pollution.
Over time: helps recycle environmental stressors into vial hydration so you keep your youthful good looks longer.



WTH does recycling environmental stressors into hydration even mean? I'm pretty sure they just told me this thing will make acid rain, fog, and also random pollutants stick to my face Or possibly that it will keep my sweat in if I stress out. Gross.

Discard the product nonsense. Here are the things you actually need to know about Smarty Plants:

1. This product smells like plants. Maybe sort of like a freshly-picked something-from-the-mint-family? I like it, since I like plant-y smells. But I was surprised about the smell since every other product I've tried in this category seems to avoid having much scent at all. (And I approve of the trend of having unscented stuff on your face!)

2. It is very sheer. So sheer that I have serious doubts about its ability to provide the stated 20 SPF in a normal application. But if you want to tone down a bit of redness without, say, covering up your freckles, that's handy. (S -- you might want to try it?)

I have no idea if the sheerness a feature of CC creams since no one seems to know if there's any difference between them and BB creams, really.

3. The people who write their product descriptions were smoking behind the bleachers instead of going to science class.

Anyhow as far as the product goes, it's nice, light, and smells like plants. I generally approve of this, but I'm not entirely sure it fits a very solid beauty niche. It is nice if you don't want to look like you've got foundation on. Here's a photo of me wearing it:

Smarty Plants CC on the human face



Their marketing, however... the best I can say is that the product detaches from the card of stupid that came with it:

ORIGINS Smarty Plants™ CC SPF 20 Skin Complexion Corrector

Although actually, they used some serious glue on that sucker, so it's not *easy* to detach.

And now, for the most inappropriate of the inspirational cards:
20140210-IMG_1028.jpg


Benefit Benetint



The benefit sample had much better packaging:
Benefit Benetint sample box

And then, inside, it tells you how to use the product:
Benefit Benetint sample box: put this product on your face

This can be summarized as "put this product on your face and smear it around artistically" but they make me feel like I have a nice internationalized Ikea makeup package. In a nice way.

For context, this sample is really tiny:
Benefit Benetint size comparison

But given that you use a couple of drops, it's still a decent amount to use.

Benetint is a product I actually had already gone out of my way to try, since I'd been curious as to what other subtle lip stains were available after I tried Staniac in my first box.

Benetint is a teensy vial of coloured, rose-scented water. I wasn't really expecting it to be outright liquid. I find it fairly nice if I want a subtle cheek colour, because it's easy to blend in with my BB cream, doesn't dry super fast, and is not too darkly pigmented so it's hard to be heavy handed. On the other hand, sometimes I'm pretty sure I'm getting more colour from the friction on my cheeks than I am on the product.

Although the instructions suggest that you should dab it on your lips, doing so resulted in it dripping into my mouth sometimes. Gross. Instead, spread it along your lips and get a nice subtle colour change. Definitely nice if you want to hide the fact that you're wearing any makeup at all, as the water doesn't leave any of the tell-tale signs a cream lipstick would. That said, it also doesn't hydrate or protect your lips.

I like it, but I don't know that it excites me enough to go out of my to get more. However, it does come in some reasonably fun box sets, so I expect I'll wind up with more eventually. I got it with a Benefit set called "sugarbomb" which maybe sometime I'll review for you if I'm ever actually caught up on my subscription stuff.

Ahmad Teas Assorted Teas



Ahmad Tea samples

I think that these were better than the average bagged tea. The scents were really lovely, but there was a faint but noticeable bitter aftertaste that just didn't appeal to me. However, I'm particularly sensitive to bitter (as in, I'm one of those people with bonus taste buds), so it's likely that these will be perfectly lovely to someone without my sensitivities. (This isn't self-diagnosed; I took the test in high school biology. It was terribly disgusting.)

That said, rather than buying this tea, do yourself a favour and head over to Captea and get some nice loose leaf instead. (If you're near Denver, go visit the shop! The baked goods are amazing, the place is very down to earth, and the tea is absolutely lovely.)

Ahmad Tea retails at 20 teabags for $3.50. Each teabag, according to my scale, is around 2g, so that's 40g or 1.4oz of tea, or $2.5/oz. My favourite Masala Chai from Captea is $5.25/2oz or a very comparable $2.62/oz.

Since I have a pretty comprehensive tea stash and a friend in Denver who's apt to bring more when he visits, I won't be buying any more of this, but I am totally happy to have gotten this in my box, because I like trying new tea, and it really did smell nice.

Before we end this, I've saved my favourite card for last:
20140210-IMG_1030.jpg

In summary, I enjoyed trying all these products, and was particularly glad to have finally given dry shampoo a shot even though it turns out it's not a thing I love. (But now I know, without having invested in a full-sized bottle!) I don't think any of these are things I'll be rushing out to buy, but since most of my goal in trying out a makeup box is to try new things, I feel like I got my $10 worth of entertainment out of this one.

On top of the actual time spent trying the products, I'm enjoying the time I spend doing product photography for these reviews. It's really forcing me to think about lighting in different ways, as well as getting to experiment with some new tools and new backdrops. And that actually is awesome.

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