terriko: (Default)
2015-11-09 02:04 pm

Birchbox October 2015

October's Birchbox was pink in recognition of breast cancer.

Birchbox October 2015

I've become suspicious of pink things in recognition of breast cancer, since it's come out that often very little or no money goes to cancer research. Thankfully, this "awareness" does indeed come with a more tangible donation: $104k to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) which will apparently fund a year's work in a lab. I presume that's for a single person and materials, not the whole lab, given what I know of the costs of breast cancer research from a friend who used to work in the field.

So maybe not earth-shattering, but at least it's tangible!

Birchbox October 2015

Let's talk about what's inside:

Birchbox October 2015

CLEAN White Woods



This perfume didn't trigger a migraine and smells vaguely like babies and not at all like woods. I actually like it despite myself, although it's not something I plan to buy as I cannot wear perfume at work or in much of my private life.

It still irks me that even when I tell birchbox I don't do perfume, the option is "no more than 6 times a year" which means half of my boxes contain perfume. But at least I can pass it on to someone who might like it.

Birchbox October 2015

Lollia by Margot Elena Shea Butter Handcreme



I love shea butter, and this is no exception -- it leaves my hands feeling super soft for ages. The name is "sugarared pastille" (a candy or throat lozenge) but I think it smells more like generic hand lotion to me. The scent isn't too heavy or noticeable, anyhow.

Birchbox October 2015

I do particularly like the retro packaging and little metal tube with the bees in the design. It's a little thing, but in the sea of hand cremes I've tried since I started birchbox, it's hard to stand out, and I think this one will just because it's got this classic pretty vibe going.

Of course, it also stands out in that it's got macadamia nut in it, which means it's an allergen for my boyfriend. It won't kill him if I use it, but he definitely shouldn't use it himself, and I can't really buy more once this sample runs out. Good thing Birchbox has basically removed any need for me to buy hand creme again anyhow. ;)

Birchbox October 2015

Acure Organics Cell Stimulating Facial Mask



Directions: Apply evenly over the face until you look like a green sea-monster.


Now these are the kind of directions I want to see on products I sample! ;) This comes out dark green, and you smell like a sea monster (with a hint of mint) as you put it on. I know you all want to know exactly what it looks like, so here's what I look like with half a tube of the sample on my face:

Birchbox October 2015

Sea monster indeed! Might also double for zombie makeup. Made me want to put on an episode of Arrow while I matched the green theme of the superhero.

It doesn't harden too much as it dries so I wasn't itching (literally or figuratively) to get it off. I was surprised to discover that when you attack it with a warm wet washcloth, it actually foams up. It doesn't *look* like it has permanently stained my washcloth either, although I suspect I should dump it in with tonight's laundry to be sure.

It left my face feeling clean and soft but perhaps a bit dry, so I followed up with a bit of moisturizer. I found it amusing and pleasant even with the seaweed-mint smell.

Incidentally, I think the whole stem cell and growth factor stuff is probably crap pseudoscience, because most things about makeup seem to be, but I haven't bothered to look up the details yet. If anyone knows, comments welcomed!

Birchbox October 2015

Number 4™ Texture Styling Crème



Why does this have a bunny on it? Is it cruelty-free, or specifically tested on bunnies? Do bunnies have styling cream secrets I need to know about? I do wish they'd said something about it on the sample.

I'm not a big user of styling creme on account of my default hair style being basically "long flowing hippie folk singer-songwriter" but I *had* wanted to try a waterfall braid and failed because after messing up a few times my hair had become so static-y that I couldn't get it to stay sectioned. So this arrived at the right time! I don't love the smell and it basically makes my hair feel a teensy bit slimy, but it *does* make styling easier, and I finally managed the motions to make the waterfall braid work.

I wish this product came in an unscented version, but it does do what it purports to do, and I'll probably make use of it again as I learn to perfect the waterfall braid!

Birchbox October 2015

Eyeko Black Magic Mascara



I was kind of disappointed to receive this, because it wasn't the sample that I'd chosen for this month's box! Thankfully, Birchbox customer support was apologetic and supposedly the correct sample is in the mail (I'll probably review it with some future box).

That said, this is a very nice mascara. Significant length, not too clumpy or thickening. It makes my eyelashes absurdly long without making them thicker or particularly heavier. Here's a photo (sorry about the weird angle, but it was the best way to show the lashes):

Birchbox October 2015

You can compare with the sea monster pic above if you're not sure what my lashes look like normally. But yeah, it works nicely, and I'm not sad to have gotten it after all!

Birchbox October 2015

Summary



This was one of the most consistently good boxes I've had in a while! I liked all the products. (Shockingly, even the perfume) My birchbox subscription keeps me stocked in all these product categories so I don't think I'll buy more when these samples run out, but I'll use all of these myself except for the perfume, and at least I know someone who will likely enjoy the perfume sample!
terriko: (Default)
2015-10-10 04:38 pm

Birchbox August 15

The Birchbox for August started with disappointment:

Birchbox August 2015

One of the samples, the Laqa lip pencil, had come uncapped and gotten all over the box. Yuck. Apparently I was so underwhelmed with this that I didn't take pictures of the outside of the box after it arrived, which is a shame 'cause it's actually one of the nicer ones, so I took a couple today:
Birchbox August 2015

I like the "dive in!" detail on the side:
Birchbox August 2015

Anyhow, on to the products. My apologies for the sort of mediocre photo quality; these were taken shortly after the move and the experiment I tried with the light and sparkly backdrop since I didn't have my usual setups available really didn't work out.

Air Repair Complexion Boosting Moisturizer


Birchbox August 2015

This is a nice moisturizer that smells kind of fresh and herbal. I don't think it does anything for my complexion that isn't done by other moisturizers, but it's pleasant. I've stuck it into my travel kit to be used on the road.

Balance Me Congested Skin Serum


Birchbox August 2015

Another plant-y moisturizer thing. Maybe the theme for August was recovering from too much sun? This one's stronger scented, I think the eucalyptus dominates but there's a lot of scents in there. I enjoy using it because it's kind of soothing so it's still out on my counter, but it didn't seem to actually help with the bit of acne I had on my chin.

R+Co DEATH VALLEY Dry Shampoo


Birchbox August 2015

Like most dry shampoos, I found this one didn't do enough to make my hair feel clean, so instead I felt like I had 80's hair, a bit too covered in product for my tastes. It does change the texture of the hair, so I can see how it would be used in styling. Overall, it's pretty nice for a dry shampoo, with a decent scent and nicer packaging, and I'm glad to have tried it, but I probably won't buy more.

Supergoop!® Forever Young Hand Cream with Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 40


Birchbox August 2015

Three moisturizer-things in a single box, Birchbox? You should be ashamed. This one smells the prettiest, sort of like berries, and it's probably the most useful with the SPF taken into account. Pity the sample is so tiny that you can barely use it for anything.

LAQA & Co. Charm School Kit


Birchbox August 2015

This was just fail: it gooped all over my box, the colour looks atrocious on me, and the formula somehow highlights every line on my lips to give kind of a horrible dehydrated zombie effect. I can't see using this except for a zombie costume on my lips. It might get some use as a cheek colour, but I certainly won't be buying more of this.


In summary...


Birchbox August 2015

This was a pleasant but uninteresting box other than the lip colour disaster. I did enjoy all the moisturizer-y things, but I would have liked a box with some more variety!
terriko: (Default)
2015-10-10 03:35 pm

Birchbox September 2015

I somehow missed reviewing August's box; I blame moving. But September's reviews are due today, so I tried out the last couple of samples!

Birchbox September 2015

The box was designed based on reader suggestions, and the result reminds me sort of an 80's sophisticate look.

Of course, what's more important is what's inside:
Birchbox September 2015

They accidentally included two 20% off coupons. I can't imagine I'll use both, so first person to ask here gets my spare one!

And now, into the products:

Rene Furterer ABSOLUE KÉRATINE Sublime Renewal Leave-in Cream


Birchbox September 2015

Love the packaging (the photo doesn't look as luxe as it does in person), and the stuff does seem to be pretty effective on the dry ends of my long hair. Unfortunately, the scent is (a) strong and (b) not for me. It smells old to me, like something that belongs on someone my grandmother's age, or like old cosmetics? And unfortunately, the smell really lingers in my hair, enough that I think I might have to wash it out if I'm going to a board game night tonight.


L'Artisan Mûre et Musc Eau de Toilette


Birchbox September 2015

I'm super excited to tell you that this didn't cause me to sneeze or make my eyes water! That's so rare in a perfume that it's worth celebrating. Now if only I was as excited about the actual scent. It smells like a more mature scent than many of the samples I get, in a good way, but it still doesn't suit me, and it's not like I wear perfume anyhow out of consideration for other people's reactions.

The one good thing is that I found out that J's mom is interested in having some scent samples for when she's visiting so she doesn't have to bring stuff on the plane, so I'll be able to pass this on to her and maybe it'll be something she enjoys, or at least enjoys trying once?

TOCCA Esfoliante da Corpo - Nourishing Body Scrub


Birchbox September 2015

This is a big thick sugar scrub. It works, smells nice, and dissolves into nothingness when you wet your face to rinse it off, so no remaining grit (which is kind of the appeal of sugar scrubs, I presume). I like it!

Birchbox September 2015: Tocca Sugar Scrub

Also, I'm amused that sugar chunks look so huge on my face after having tried all those micro-scrub things. Still works ok, just not as smooth as the finer grit. Just like sandpaper in that way.

trèStiQue Correct & Cover Concealer Crayon


Birchbox September 2015

This goes on super smooth and seems easy to blend in to your skin... but it also doesn't seem think enough to conceal much. I took some pictures but I can barely tell if it's even on:

Birchbox September 2015

Anastasia Beverly Hills Perfect Brow Pencil


Birchbox September 2015

I know generally speaking that you want a brow pencil to be subtle and not noticeable, but I'm not sure if I can even tell that I tried to use it:

Birchbox September 2015

Maybe I'm doing it wrong or the colour just isn't dark enough for my brows, but I can't say I'm excited about this product. Oh well, at least the packaging was pretty?

In summary...


Birchbox September 2015

A nice sugar scrub, but the rest of this just wasn't for me. Oh well! At least I have someone I can offer my perfume samples to now!
terriko: (Default)
2015-08-16 11:40 pm

Birchbox July 2015

July's birchbox is an eye searing art deco piece:

Birchbox July 2015

I actually love the idea, but I think they could have used better colours. (It actually looks better in the edited photo than it does in real life)

Birchbox July 2015

But enough about the box, let's talk about what's inside...

Birchbox July 2015

amika Un.Done Texture Spray

I didn't love the smell of the last amika product I got, so I wasn't too excited to receive this one. Even more so when I found out it was a "texture spray" which is completely not a thing I use or even want, since I associate "texture" with the way my hair felt when I used to wash it in hard water. Thicker and heavier are not things I want with hair whose predominant styling influence is gravity.

So perhaps I didn't give this product much of a chance. I used it lightly because it stinks and I don't love this type of product, and perhaps as a result not only does it smell but it also didn't seem to have any effect at all. (But again, the pull of gravity on my hair is rather hard to resist.)

Regardless, not a product I'm going to ever use again. I'm never sure what to do with these, so it'll likely languish in my guest bathroom. Maybe I'll get a nice bin with a note saying "free" on it to put in the bathroom and hope that visitors will take it off my hands?

Birchbox July 2015


COOLA® Classic SPF 30 Cucumber Moisturizer for Face

I do think it's a bit crappy of Birchbox to put this sample in after we just had a coola moisturizer last month, but I suppose summer is only so long. It's a product I liked enough that I wasn't too sad, anyhow. Just like last month's mango-scented offering, this manages to be light enough on the scent that it's a nice alternative to generic sunscreen. This scent is probably even easier on the nose than the mango, which I guess might make sense as it's a facial moisturizer. Given the choice, I'd probably go with the mango one, but I really like mango.

Birchbox July 2015

dr. brandt® microdermabrasion skin exfoliant

This is a fine-grained skin exfoliant that seems to work really well on my skin. I've now had a few chemical exfoliants that felt more like snake oil than effective products, but this one left my face very much scrubbed clean. It's of the variety that feels like super fine sand in moisturizer, which I guess seem to be the physical ones that work best on me. It has a very light fresh scent, maybe a little citrus-y or mint-y?

I even tried it on my lips, which were pretty chapped from being in Las Vegas (neither deserts nor air conditioning are easy on skin) and it seemed to help without actually pulling chunks of skin off. (I imagine lip balms are a better solution, but it's been days since we left and I'm tired of them being chapped so I thought I'd try a quicker method.)

I like this enough that I'd probably consider buying some when my supplies run out, but I use so little exfoliant per use, and exfoliate so irregularly now that I don't live in the desert that I anticipate that all my exfoliant needs will likely be met by birchbox samples. Probably just as well, since at nearly $80/2oz, this is a pricey one.

Birchbox July 2015

Juice Beauty® STEM CELLULAR™ CC Cream

As far as cc creams go, this is a reasonably nice once, and I am pleased that "desert glow" the colour I recieved, seems to match up well enough with my skin tone. It uses zinc oxide, so it's more of a physical sunscreen, and it leaves a little bit of a sparkle.

Unfortunately, the big down side is that I don't love the smell, which smells like like old sunscreen mixed with maybe a hint of spilled juice. Disappointing given the company name.

Happy to use it and it seems like an effective product, but the smell is off-putting enough that I'll stick to other products in the class of cc/bb/moisturizer/sunscreen.

Birchbox July 2015

stila look at me liquid lipstick trio

I chose the colour "Venezia" which is a coral colour, because I already owned "Beso" (the red) and have a decent number of lip sticks in pink.

Unfortunately, I think I chose poorly. I like my red version of this product, but the coral colour doesn't suit me, and with it being such a bold product, it's kind of awful. I have pictures somewhere, but again, I don't know where my little camera is at the moment. They're awful, anyhow.

As far as the formula goes... "stay all day" is definitely an exaggeration, since it doens't make it through a meal with me, but very few lipsticks do so I don't think it's fair to expect that of it. I'm starting to suspect that there's some art to eating in some ladylike manner that I've never learned, since only lip stains tend to make it through a meal with me. It doesn't tend to smudge on my face, though, so it stays at least in one very important respect.

It is completely unforgiving on chapped lips, highlighting any line of dry skin. They recommend you plump up with a lip balm first, which does help some, but still not a great option if you're in need of some lip repair. There's a reason I keep sticky lip balms around: they're forgiving.

I'm very sad I didn't choose the pink, as I love the little tube and get a kick out of the opaque effect, but I'm probably going to have to do some experimentation to modify this colour if I'm going to wear it. Thankfully I don't mind experimenting with lip products so this could be fun, or perhaps I'll give up and offer it up to someone with a different complexion. Or maybe I'll use it as a cheek tint?


Summary



Nothing too stand-out in this box. Liked the exfoliant and the sunscreen, turned off by the scent of the cc creme and the hair texturizer (although the latter was probably doomed to fail), and totally got the wrong colour of lipstick. Alas!
terriko: (Default)
2015-08-16 09:57 pm

Birchbox June 2015

Summer being what it is, only more so because of the move, I haven't really kept up on reviewing stuff here, so my apologies that there's going to be a bit of a review dump this evening as I see what photos I took and what hasn't gone up yet.

So, June's birchbox had a few possible options, and I got the "say yes" version:

Birchbox June 2015

I admit to disappointment with the box part of things: "say yes" is not a motto that I appreciate in the context of the overwhelming number of things I'm asked to volunteer for. Don't even get me start on the feminist critiques of this push to have women say yes to more things. Frankly, it's gotten to be one of those vapid pieces of advice that I could do without. I thought both other boxes were better, since they were on more of an adventure theme.

Crankiness about the box it came in aside, though, I was pretty pleased with the samples.

Birchbox June 2015

COOLA® SPF 50 Sport - Mango

When I heard about this product, I thought "like the world needed more obnoxious scented products you're supposed to slather on." Do you know how much sunscreen you're supposed to wear for maximal effectiveness? Adding scent to that is a landmine.

But this product won me over. The scent is light, on par intensity-wise with the usual smells that exude from my sunscreen, but way more pleasant because it's reminiscent of a delicious fruity drink rather than something I associate with sweat in my eyes and sunstroke. But beyond that, it's just a really nice sunscreen. Not too greasy, seems to work. I'd still prefer unscented when possible, but this is a nice way to change things up and make sunscreen feel like a treat rather than a chore. That actually might be enough reason to add some to my collection of go-to products.

Birchbox June 2015

Temple Spa Good Hair Day Shampoo and Temple Spa In Good Condition Conditioner

The shampoo of this set is so-so for me: it's too gentle for my hair (as in, it leaves it more oily than I prefer), and there's something about the scent that I didn't fall in love with. They claim it smells like ylang ylang, eucalyptus and patchouli. I think maybe it's the patchouli that isn't for me, but I don't know ylang ylang that well.

The conditioner, on the other hand, I absolutely love. It's much more effective for my hair than its counterpart, and the smell of peppermint, rosemary, orange and lavender smells refreshing and awesome to me.

I'm not much for buying higher end shampoos since it gets pricey with my long hair and frankly, easier to get supermarket brands like Herbal Essences or Garnier generally do me fine in both the smell and effectiveness categories.

But a bottle of conditioner lasts me a *long* time and this smell is enough of a treat that I might consider picking some up. Of course, that would mean I'd have to actually use up the many products I found languishing in corners during the move...

Birchbox June 2015

L. Erickson Narrow Grab and Go Pony

I had a good laugh when I read the accompanying card that said this would be a "bold pop of colour" -- that hair tie is pretty much exactly the colour of my hair. I guess maybe some of the colour options had more, uh, colour.

Generally speaking, I don't see the point of overpriced hair ties. I lose a lot of them, and paying more than a few cents each would just make me more sad about losing them. That said, this is a really nice hair tie. The bead doesn't catch on things, it's wide enough to wear around my wrist comfortably, and the texturing seems to help it stay in my hair without being so tight that I sigh with relief when the thing is taken out. This became my go-to hair tie as our weather turned hot, although I'm not sure where it's gotten since the move and I am, of course, actually sad about that.

Is it wrong that I kind of want more of them? They're more than a buck each even in the larger pack, but I still might spend some birchbox points on them anyhow.

Birchbox June 2015

Skyn Iceland Hydro Cool Firming Eye Gels

Somewhere I have pictures of myself wearing these, but I'm not sure where my other camera has gotten to right now so you'll have to do without. They look silly as these things generally do, but they're very nice and cool and relaxing. One set is not enough for me to decide if they're actually effective, but they were pleasant and I enjoyed using them!

Birchbox June 2015

Marcelle Mini Waterproof Eyeliner

Again, I may have pictures of me wearing this, but they must be on the other camera. Sorry!

This is my first real foray into wearing coloured eyeliner and I'm sold on the concept. As someone with fairly deepset eyes (the Japanese heritage helped with those), I find that getting eyeshadow to stay put is a pain and no one can see it at all when my eyes are open. I have some nice primer so I can play with looks when I've got time (which, honestly, is usually Saturday morning before I go to the library or Sunday before I go to the farmer's market. I live a glamorous life, let me tell you), but it's not a thing I wear daily because it's very low reward for high investment.

This blue eyeliner is rather the opposite: a few strokes of this creamy pencil along my lash line and I've got brilliant colour that people can actually see even when my eyes are open. It's fun, easy, and creates a look I was happy to wear at DEFCON or even in my office, where most technical women are pretty light on the makeup and it's only the marketing and manager types who wear much. (Dress like the career you want, and all, but I tell people makeup is part of my social engineering skills and I love hilarious face colours more than I love conformity anyhow.)

The colours are great, the effect striking but not off-putting, and my only complaint is that under some circumstances, the formula doesn't entirely stay put, so I do have to be careful about checking my eyes for little blue smears. I want to buy the little set from Marcelle that birchbox has available, and since they've got a nice offer with the Marcelle eye-makeup remover in August's box I may just go for it. But I do feel like maybe I should try offerings from other companies with different formulae too.

Conclusions



I guess you can't judge a box by its cover: despite my distaste for the packaging, this box had a lot of really great samples in it. I loved the eyeliner, the sunscreen, the hair tie and the conditioner enough to consider buying more, thoroughly enjoyed the eye mask even though I probably won't get any more of them, and only the shampoo really wasn't a product for me. Pretty good!
terriko: (Default)
2015-06-07 10:22 pm

Birchbox May 2015

The box design May's Birchbox is definitely one of the classier ones:

Birchbox May 2015

And the products inside mine were similarly svelte-looking in design:

Birchbox May 2015

Juliette Has a Gun Not a Perfume - 50 ml



Birchbox May 2015

I was intrigued by the idea of a "not a perfume" but alas, this is still too strong a scent for it to be pleasant. Apparently when they claimed it was "minimalist" they were referring to the complexity of scent, not the intensity of it. They claim it "has a single note: elegant, spicy Cetalox."

Birchbox May 2015

They aso claim that it's allergen-free, which I find interesting and also unbelievable. It doens't seem to trigger my sniffles, so that's something, but it still smells like impending headache.

Birchbox May 2015

I like the packaging, but that's about where it ends. This doesn't smell interesting or spicy to me, it smells like generic perfume and triggers my usual reaction of "you should get away from this as fast as possible before it triggers a headache."

Birchbox May 2015

I really wish birchbox would let you opt out of scents entirely, as they are not useful to me: I can't wear them to work because there are quite reasonable no-scent policies in my office building, I won't wear them around other people because I know what it's like to be allergic to someone else's perfume, and I won't wear them myself for fear of triggering headaches. So, uh, I have a small collection of these samples wrapped in plastic bags and lying around now. I can't use them. Anyone want me to mail them some?

Naobay Oxygenating Cream Moisturizer



Birchbox May 2015

This is a pleasant enough thinner moisturizer that leaves a slight residue on your skin, just enough that you can tell it was applied but not enough to feel seriously greasy. It's got a light but definitely noticeable smell, predominantly of roses.

I did try it as a makeup base, as they recommend, but didn't notice anything particularly special about it compared to other moisturizers, so I don't think I'll try it again because I prefer unscented lotion especially on my face.

Overall, it's nice and I'm happy to have the sample, since it's probably inoffensive enough to wear at work, and it's got nice clean gender-neutral black-and-white packaging. But I'm not in love with it enough to purchase this one for myself.

W3LL PEOPLE The Expressionist Mascara



Birchbox May 2015

This is a fairly light mascara. It's not hugely lengthening or thickening, so it's probably great for natural-but-enhanced looks. It's definitely the type of mascara I prefer. It even comes with my current favourite type of mascara brush, the ones that look like little spiky maces.

Birchbox May 2015 (well people mascara)

(I'm a mascara noob and find the rigid bristles easier to control so I don't leave dots on my skin and also easier to not deposit too much crud on my lashes.)

But even though it seems to have everything going for it, honestly, it might be a bit too minimalist for my tastes. Here's some before and after shots:

No mascara:
Birchbox May 2015 (no mascara)
Mascara:
Birchbox May 2015 (well people mascara)

Or again with eyes open.
No mascara:
Birchbox May 2015 (no mascara)
Mascara:
Birchbox May 2015 (well people mascara)

It's not invisible, but on my already dark and fairly long lashes, it's not exactly a big difference.

Because I wore it on some pretty hot days where I got salt in my eyes, I've rubbed it a fair bit and I can tell you that it's not completely smudge-free, but it's not going to leave you with giant marks either.

Overall: it's nice enough to use and enjoy as an option, and I'm happy to have a new mascara since they have relatively short shelf lives due to bacteria growth, but it's not standout enough to buy more.

Beauty Protector Beauty Cream Body Lotion



Birchbox May 2015

This is a thicker "body creme" moisturizer lotion that blends in pretty well leaving skin feeling kind of slick but not heavily greasy. It smells exactly like the other beauty protector products, a scent I like ok, but I think the scent in this lotion is a bit too strong to be really pleasant unless you're only applying in a very small area. So, uh, maybe if you wanted smelly elbows or heels or something? I don't think I'll be buying this one.

Macadamia Professional™ Nourishing Moisture Oil Treatment



Birchbox May 2015

This is a fairly thick scented hair oil. It worked quite nicely when I rubbed a few drops into the tips of my hair, smoothing down the rough ends and leaving it looking great. I actually quite liked the product and would probably use it for when my ends need help, except that my boyfriend is deathly allergic to nuts and rubbing nut oil into my hair seems like a rather rude and dangerous thing to do on a regular basis. (As was, I applied it before I went to work, warned him, and washed my hair when I came home that day.)

I guess I could use it when I'm traveling without him, maybe? But I should probably just pass this sample on to someone who can use it without risk.

Conclusion



I was happy to try everything in this box except the perfume, but the only product I thought was really standout could kill my boyfriend. (That's not why I liked it, promise.)

So... obviously not a winner of a box, but I feel like I got to try some nice products even if they weren't for me, and the trying part is why I have the box, so I'm not disappointed by what my $10 got me.
terriko: (Default)
2014-03-11 12:59 am

Birchbox Beauty Box February 2014

This box was oscars-themed, I guess. Not really my thing, but better than valentine's, and probably more appropriate for birchbox than olympics, I guess.

Birchbox Beauty Box February 2014

I was mostly just irked because that juicy couture stinky sample really messes up the colour scheme. ;)

Actually, if I had to describe this box in one word, that word would be stinky.

Let's start with the perfume:

Juicy Couture Couture La La Malibu - 2.5 oz



The outer package:
Juicy Couture Malibu Eau de Toilette Spray

And the inside:
Juicy Couture Malibu Eau de Toilette Spray

Does pink sugar actually smell different from other sugar? I'm not sure I can tell, since this also claims to smell like mandarins and that seems more like wishful thinking than truth to me. I find the resulting scent strangely generic, like that lingering smell of all the combined perfumes in a shopping mall. It smells a bit familiar, but not really in a good way, more in that "I think I smelled a candle like this once, in the dollar store" kind of way.

To me, this smell immediately evoked the image of a teen girl you get stuck next to on the bus on a hot day, where you spent the whole trip wishing she had a better idea of how much perfume is appropriate or at least had better taste in scents. Combine this with the marketing, and I feel like this is a scent for people who wish they were self-centered so-cal teens. I gather perfumes are more based on image and brand than actual scent, and I'm disturbed that "horribly entitled so-cal teen brat with dubious taste" was ever considered a marketing win. I want to say something vaguely positive like "maybe ok if you're trying for something youthful..." but let's be honest: I hate it.

And, on top of that, a light spritz on one wrist was enough to make my eyes slightly itchy for hours afterwards, whereupon I finally gave up and scrubbed it off as best I could. Definitely not for me, and bad enough for me that I hope it's not for *anyone*.

I'm not sure what to do with the rest of the sample -- if anyone wants it, let me know, otherwise I might dump it down the drain to do something more fun with the teensy glass spritzer bottle.

That disappointment aside, let's move on.


In fact, let's evolve through me putting on a bunch of face goop, because I took these pictures so I could compare as I went, and I might as well use them for more than one purpose.

First, the bare-faced selfie, me with no makeup whatsoever:
Me, No makeup whatsover

In case anyone's wondering, the curling of my normally straight hair is a side-effect of the way I've been coiling it up out of my way while it's wet. There's actually nothing in my hair except maybe some lingering leave-in conditioner from my shower ages before.

Also, see that camisole? Totally bought from PACT, in the same style as the cami I liked so much from my Wantable box. This subscription thing is working!

I have just picked up the smashbox try-it kit thanks to my birchbox points and a nice 20% coupon they gave me for sticking with it for 6 months.

Some underwhelming packaging:
Smashbox Try It Kit
And products inside:
Smashbox Try It Kit

So first step was primer and BB cream plus a little bit of colour corrector:
Me with primer and bb cream on

This was also my first time trying the Beautyblender sponge, also bought from Birchbox thanks to points and coupon. This is an expensive, hot pink sponge applicator that is supposedly God's gift to makeup, and I decided I wanted to try it. I think I didn't quite pat enough water out of it, so my makeup is a bit thinner than it might have been. Probably just as well, it's not like I really needed it today.

So let's look at product #2 now:

ElevenSkin Perfection Eye Creme + Concealer



Perfection Eye creme + Concealer by Eleven Skin

Can you tell I had fun photographing it?

Here it is on my face:
Now adding the eye concealer...

It's a bit hard to tell from the bad lighting, but it has a distinct but not-too-obvious effect. It came in a tube with one of those diagonal-with-a-hole applicators that I see mostly in lip balms, but since I was trying the beautyblender makeup sponge already, I used the sponge to apply it. It may have been a mistake, as I think I would have benefited from a slightly thicker application than I managed.

I like this concealer/lotion a lot, since I was having problems with my existing concealer (it went on fine, but by the end of the day it would often highlight or deepen the lines around my eyes). It seems a little wimpy as a concealer, but subtle is sometimes the order of the day for my work makeup and the smooth application and nicer all-day wear has me convinced.

That said, I haven't tried a lot of different concealers yet, so my enthusiasm might be just due to having used an incredibly bad product in the past.

I'm not sure yet if I'll buy more, because I think I'd like to test a few more before making a decision. This isn't likely to be the sort of category where I bother with more than one product long-term, and since I usually leave my eyes bare, it may take me a while to use the sample. But as of right now, this is the top of the list.

Continuing with the makeup, here's the next layer, where I added blush/lip stain and finishing powder:
Closeup on the blush and finishing powder

This is using the benetint (from my previous birchbox) as both a cheek and lip stain. And then patting my new smashbox finishing powder over it on my cheeks because it was too much. The finishing powder container is my new favourite thing, because it has little holes and then you turn it and a small amount of product comes out, allowing you to get just a bit of loose powder. I'm sure this is a totally common way to do it, but since I know jack-all about makeup, I'd never seen one before.

It's the weekend and I just bought a wet and wild eyeshadow palette that reminds me of Twilight Sparkle, and my next stop is the library, so for my own amusement I thought I'd try some eyeshadow:

Eyeshadow.  I'll go with "subtle" rather than "ineffective"

I think the eyeshadow is rather too subtle, just a hint of pink-to-purple across my eyelids, but I wasn't in the mood for eyeshadow heroics.

And that brings us to product # 3 in this review:

Beauty Protector Protect & Oil


Beauty Protector hair oil

Before we talk about the actual product, let me say that (once again) I feel like the graphic design of this product sample was not very well thought out. The clear vial of hair oil has a logo on one side and printing on the other, meaning (as you can see from the photograph) that even when I did my best to carefully position it (and even provide a strong distracting background element), it looks kind of messy. They really missed the boat here, as I think the little sample vial could have been really elegant if they'd put some thought into it. They could have removed the back printing (which really doesn't say anything useful; I got the application instructions off the birchbox card) or reduced the number of words and put it below the logo, or maybe they could have done a two-colour printing to increase legibility.

Here it is applied in my hair, a few drops into the ends while it was dry:
Now with hair oil!

In case you forgot, here's what that original bare faced picture looked like so you can compare it as a before image:
Me, No makeup whatsover

Aside from the lips, I'm not sure you see much difference for all that work, but I'm now coated in sunscreen, which is really the only part of my "makeup routine" that I consider important.

I don't think the effects of the hair oil are particularly visible on first application (although perhaps after I've been using it a week I'll feel like it's had an impact), but it's still very noticeable in person because you can *really* smell it. It smells quite strongly like all the other beauty protector things, so now I most definitely have an odor. While I generally like the scent they use, I found the hair oil a bit more stinky (err, strongly scented) than most of their products.

As a result, I feel like this is really more of a hair perfume than a hair oil (and that any oil effects may be secondary to their aim of getting their scent in your hair), so if you like the beauty protector smell and want to have it floating around your face, this might appeal to you. For me? I think the scent is too strong, and while I'll use up the sample because my ends are looking a bit frizzy from winter, I'm not even slightly tempted to buy more. Admittedly, that might be because I accidentally bought two bottles of their detangler due to not paying attention when I placed by birchbox order, so I'm currently feeling like I may OD on beauty protector scent.



So let's move on to the last two products...

Juara Candlenut Body Creme


Candlenut body creme

First, a packaging note: this was a really annoying sample to open. Although the top is perforated, it ripped off without leaving enough hole to get any product out, and I wound up having to find scissors. Even once it was open, the harder foil-lined cardboard was not a great feeling for squishing it out. It reminds me of a lube sample of the kind that kills the mood due to annoying packaging. On the bottom of the sample is says "Xela Pack &trademark;" so this is apparently a package used by others.

As a body lotion, this seems pretty decent. It's a bit thicker but not overly greasy, and did a nice but not mind-blowing job on my rough, winter-dry elbows.

However, this is so strongly scented that I'd feel uncomfortable wearing it in public, let alone in places like concert venues, public spaces, and workplaces that discourage use of heavy scents. Just a small dab on my elbows was enough to make me feel like I'd overdone it on the scent. So this isn't really viable for me as a regular use thing, and I don't love the scent enough to use it on my "days off" either. It would have to have some crazy exceptional results if I were going to use it at all, and it really doesn't. Not for me!

Also, while it doesn't make my eyes itch the way the Juicy Couture perfume stinkbomb did, it's smelly enough that it made me anxious to be wearing it, wondering how long before I started having some sort of reaction. As is, it makes my nose feel a bit raw, but probably just due to the volume of scent rather than the specific elements of it.


AYRES Bar Soap


Ayres bar soap in Patagonia

This smells like something my grandmother might like. I don't mean that in a derogatory way -- she's a woman of distinct taste and much better fashion sense than I -- but she and I don't love the same scents.

The jasmine & lavender give this a slightly floral bouquet, but the fir (and possibly the ylang ylang?) gives it a slighly more husky scent that makes it kind of interesting.

But mostly, it just smells too strongly for me. I haven't really used this yet because after the array of other products, I couldn't stand any more stupid scents so I'm detoxing a bit before I try it out.


Here's one last picture to show you the size of all the samples in context:
Birchbox Beauty Box February 2014

These are all pretty small samples, which would bother me a lot more if I didn't dislike most of them anyhow.

In summary: The eye concealer is the only one of these products I'm excited about, as it replaces an eye concealer that wasn't working for me. Everything else... pretty much stank too much, even the one where I like the scent they use, and most of them I did not like.

I'm pretty disappointed with this box, because I feel like there's a clear "I dislike stronger scents" theme to all the problems I had with this one, and thus it's the sort of thing that maybe could have been captured if they'd ever asked my preferences. (Sending me perfumes was a waste of time, as I not only won't wear them but socially can't.)

Obviously, I knew the risks when I signed up and one bad box isn't going to make me cancel given that I'm usually pretty happy with the subscription, but it's still sad.

That said, I once again had a lot of fun photographing this box, so at least I feel like I had some fun with it!
terriko: (Default)
2014-03-08 11:51 am

Birchbox Beauty Box January 2014

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.
terriko: (Default)
2014-02-24 12:55 am

Wantable Intimates Box, January 2014

This is my favourite wantable box so far!

Let's start with the boring and work our way up:

Wantable Socks - Color: Black



Wantable Socks
Wantable, your system isn't so good with colour, is it? Pretty sure that's not black.

These are a cheaped out part of the box, for me. I could buy these at the drug store for probably $3.99 or less, so the claimed $6 by stamping a wantable brand on the tag is pushing it.

That said, they're kind of cute neon socks. I'm not a huge fan of short socks since I've moved out of the desert and have discovered that short socks often result in damp ankles, and I hate damp ankles, but I'll enjoy these when I'm not leaving the house, anyhow.

Hiding the more intimate parts for those who might not want panties showing up on their feeds... )

PACT Navy Bandana Camisole



PACT camisole

I love love love this piece. It fits me perfectly, has a bit of runching in the front so it sits properly on my boobs, goes down to my hips, it's soft, and it even claims that profits of the sale went towards urban garden projects. How cool is that?

My only complaint is their flavour text about the organic cotton, which I'm too lazy to look up right now but it included something like "it's certified organic, which means no harsh pesticides" FAIL. Certified organic means a restricted set of organic pesticides, not no pesticides, and many of those organic pesticides are plenty harsh and dangerous.

20140210-IMG_0937.jpg

Mis-information aside, PACT seems like a pretty cool company. They're a bit hippy-dippy, but they claim to be sweatshop-free and their prices are reasonable, so I'm willing to give them a bunch of money. The hard part is in deciding what I want and how many tank tops I can justify buying at once...

Claimed value: $28 (Actual value: Originally $30 on PACT's website, but currently marked down to $12)

Summary


Lots of winners in this box, and only one pair of panties that was annoying. I discovered a new brand which I like, even if they don't understand what certified organic means. I am pleased!

... which is just as well, because February's box is so underwhelming that I may return it entirely. Stay tuned for pictures!
terriko: (Default)
2014-02-09 01:43 pm

Birchbox December 2013 Beauty Box

Birchbox really went out of their way to make the December box thematic:

Birchbox December 2013

And then you opened the outer layer....

Birchbox December 2013


As you can tell, I have a terribly feminine aesthetic, with the rose petal and the utility knife. The latter is holding the box open for the purpose of showing the inside. I'd intended to cut it out but once I started taking photos I figured I should just go all out. :)

Inside the box:

Beauty Protector Protect & Detangle



Beauty Protector Leave-in conditioner
(Sewing machine spindle for scale)

After trying a similar product in a previous box, I wasn't too excited to see this.

However, it turns out to be a really lovely leave-in conditioner. I would even say it's a slightly better detangler/conditioner than my existing brand.

Incidentally, it smells pretty much the same as the other products in the line, which is sort of plant-fresh. I like it, but I'm not sure I'd go so far as to suggest that this stuff is an effective perfume.

The one thing I don't like about it is the packaging. The logo looks great and is legible in red-on-white, but I find it looks unappealing, cheaper, and is hard to read on the red plastic. Here's the comparison:

Beauty Protector packaging: I don't love the black on red effect.

Price check: My existing brand is Herbal Essences split end protector something something, which I remember paying around $6.99 for 6oz ($1.16/oz) and currently retails on Amazon for either $1.65/oz or $1.46/oz depending on how much you buy. Anyhow, Beauty Protector retails for $21.95 for 8 oz, which is $2.74/oz. Probably around double the price, maybe even more since you can get the drugstore brand on sale.

That's a pretty big difference for a fairly minor upgrade, but given that this will probably last me years and save me a little bit of detangling time every time I use it, it might be worth it to me. Definitely within the "acceptable personal splurge" range, especially since I can use birchbox points to get it.

PS - I presume that this is vegan like their other products, but I didn't actually see that mentioned.

The Honest Company Winter Wellness Exclusive Kit



Honest healing balm

When I heard that this was made by some actress who, upon spawning, felt a need to protect her children from evil chemicals or something I was frankly pretty skeptical. But despite the whole company inception story, I actually like the product!

This is a slightly thick moisturizer. How thick? Let me show you!

Honest healing balm

Not close enough?

Honest healing balm

Okay, maybe we're getting gross here.

It's not as thick as the more intense glycerine creams, but it's definitely leaving a residue all over your hands. I don't mind this as long as the product is effective, and it totally is.

It's got a scent that reminds me of the weird herbal medicines my German neighbour was always recommending (many of which worked; he was actually a pretty skilled herbalist), so I actually like it. It strangely reminds me of juniper, which is not on the ingredients list. The scent also not too strong to use around other people, and the packaging is cute, so it will probably be my new work moisturizer this winter. Woo!

It's basically a bunch of plant oils and beeswax. That doesn't mean it's safe, of course, but none of the plants in the ingredients list set off warnings in my brain at least, and they weren't making any outrageous claims on the package I received. Even their website seems to make fairly reasonable claims about it, which is basically "this is a moisturizer that moisturizes." Incidentally, birchbox did not tout the diaper rash prevention properties. ;)

How expensive is it? It retails from the company for $12.95/3 oz ($4.32/oz). For comparison, our giant bottle of moisturizer runs around $0.73/oz according to Amazon, but that's probably not too fair because this is a much thicker moisturizer of a different stripe. My favourite thick hand creme is O'Keeffe's Working Hands Cream (or as I call it "manly hand creme" since it's so clearly marketed at men), which retails for $2.42/oz on Amazon and less in home depot the last time I checked. Either way, Honest Healing Balm is expensive compared to my existing alternatives.

Manly, manly hand cream:


However, Honest Healing Balm is a little less thick, making it more reasonable to use at work or when I'm planning to touch things fairly shortly after applying it, so it may hit a useful sweet spot of "effective when my skin is actually damaged but not inconvenient to use." I would consider picking up more, although realistically birchbox seems to be meeting my "small tubes of moisturizer" needs pretty well.

Also, this is organic if that matters to you. And it will totally help with your diaper rash, or so I'm told.

LA FRESH® Travel Lite® Makeup Remover Wipes



20140210-IMG_0942.jpg

I haven't actually tried these, because I'm saving them for travel purposes as they are in nice little packages.

That said, I'm going to mention there that baby wipes are generally much cheaper per wipe than makeup wipes, probably much better tested/safer, plus it's easier to find in unscented varieties. Of course, a washcloth is probably better (and more exfoliating!) but there are times I don't want to have all my washcloths stained with weird lip products.

twistband™ Speciality Pack



Twistband's niche seems to be in making hair elastics don't share any of my priorities for hair ties:

My biggest concerns in hair elastics are as follows:
1. Does is stretch enough to go around my hair?
2. Does it hold my hair up for hours?
3. Does it get stuck when I try to take it out / does it pull my hair out?
4. Does it last for more than a few uses?
5. Is it cheap enough that I won't be sad when I inevitably lose it?

Twistband's big selling points seem to be:
1. This won't dent your hair.
2. It's pretty enough to wear around your wrist!

I suspect that this whole hair dent thing is a conspiracy to make people self conscious about stupid things so they will buy more stuff (see: shame marketing), but I suppose maybe this is a problem for someone? But if it was, why did I never hear people say that scrunchies were good for this in the 80's and 90's?

As for #2:

Twistband

Really?

This isn't a bracelet, it's a sparkly bit of elastic you tied a knot in. Don't kid yourself. Also, it itches, so I didn't leave it on.

This is reasonably effective as a hair tie, as far as I've noticed. (It's winter so I'm not ponytailing my hair for nearly as long as I would in summer.)

Did you know it's really annoying to take a selfie of the back of your head using an SLR? I tried anyhow, just for you:

Back of head selfies with an SLR are hard.

So... yeah. Twistbands run $12 for 6 on Birchbox, or $2.00/each. My regular metal-free elastics run around $0.10/each at the grocery store, and you can often find them at the dollar store for much much less. I'm pretty sure it's not worth 20 times the price to me (let alone more), at the rate I lose or them, so unless this proves to be indestructible and somehow never gets lost it's not going to win. Plus, I'm pretty sure I can get decorative elastic and tie it in a knot myself if I liked that aesthetic.

Oh well, at least it's a thing I can use.

EDIT: I originally listed these as $0.50 each, because I guess my brain couldn't believe that these were actually $2 hair ties.

LAQA & Co. Fat Lip Pencil



Laqa & co Lil' lip

I believe the colour I received is called "Ring of Fire" which is at least awesome. The colour itself is a nice bright red. It seems to have a little bit of a fuscia undertone in this photo, but I suspect that's due to a combination of the lighting (sunlight-off-snow because Portlandia is snowed under right now in a little freak of mother nature experience) and my very chapped lips:

Laqa & co Lil' lip on the human face

Yes, I realize I am not the bestest at applying lipstick. Also, faces look weird that close. And SLR selfies are not a good idea. Whatever, I didn't feel like spending hours setting up lipstick photos today 'cause I was trying to get photos for for All The Reviews.

It applies fairly smoothly. I found it rubbed off pretty easily on glasses, my hands, etc, which was kind of annoying. It more or less feels like a lip gloss in that respect, and it might even a bit more moisturizing than most since it feels like it provides an actual barrier on my skin.

Laqa & co Lil' lip

Apparently this small size (see with sewing machine spindle above) is available as a lipstick duo. Normally I am a huge fan of small lip products since I can stick them in my pocket and re-apply when I feel like it. Unfortunately, carrying this in my pocket has a bit of a problem. I was worried the issue would be in knocking off the cap, but that seems pretty good. However, what does happen is that the product gets rolled up and squashed against the top of the lid repeatedly:

Laqa & co Lil' lip

As you can see, there's a giant smear on the top and the product is already listing to one side from being squashed all the way at the top.

So yeah, not a pocket tool for me. Perhaps LAQA & Co. needs to do a bit of testing on their packaging, as this happens every time I have put this product in my pocket, and it even happens in my bag sometimes. In contrast, I have probably half a dozen different lip balms that get the same treatment and it's fairly rare to see them smashed up against the top of the cap. Perhaps it might be time to consider the classic square lipstick base designed to not turn when the cap is closed or something:

20140210-IMG_0978.jpg

(No, that's not lipstick, but I only started buying lipstick recently so it's the only thing I've got in that type of packaging).

I'm not going to bother pricing this out because I'm not really considering buying it. I enjoyed receiving it, but when it comes to buying there are probably better formulae out there, definitely better packaging possibilities, and bright reds aren't that hard to find.

In summary...



One last look at the box:
Birchbox December 2013

I love the conditioner, I like the hand cream, I enjoyed trying the lip pencil and hair tie even though I will purchase neither, and I imagine the makeup wipes will be fine but I haven't tried them yet. Acceptable for $10!
terriko: (Default)
2014-02-09 11:26 am

Wantable December 2013 intimates box

This month, the box was half the size, but apparently packed with just as much stuff!

Subscription box stuff

I approve of smaller shipping boxes in an environmental sort of way, so I like the change. Plus, I'm hoping that this means they're thinking about their shipping and won't screw it up so I owe shipping when the box arrives, because that was unclassy. (However, it hasn't happened since that first box and I've received 5 now, so it seems they've fixed the problem!)

A thing I don't love about wantable's website: Not only do they not have product links easily available (you'd think this would be something the product providers would want!), but sometimes they don't even tell me the brand of the item. Which is relevant in the December intimates box:

Short Sleeve Tee- Amethyst Heather



This is a Bella t-shirt. You know, the ones that are one of the cheap options for women's cut shirts if you want to get shirts printed? I realize these retail for something ridiculous like $30 on Bella's website (presumably to match the printed markup cost?), but if you get them blank in bulk for printing they're like $7. Threadless-type stores seem to sell them printed for $10 pretty regularly. So I feel like Wantable's claim that this is $22.00 worth of value may be sort of disingenuous.

I actually like the shirt, though. It's a nice dark maroon-purple heathered colour, and Bella shirts actually fit me reasonably well, which I know because I have a few from conferences and stuff. Here's this particular one:

Subscription box stuff: Bella t-shirt

It's a bit tight but comfy and something I will in fact actually wear. So I guess I'm pleased with the shirt itself, but feel like maybe wantable cheaped out a bit on this?

Claimed value: $22. Actual value, probably closer to $7.

Betsey Johnson Intimates Bikini Hot Pink



Subscription box stuff

Like the last time, this item demonstrates an appalling sense of taste. It looks especially bad next to the socks in this month's package. But not nearly as bad as when you look at it more closely....

20140210-IMG_0920.jpg

Yup, leopard-print crotch on the inside of those suckers.

At this point, I have to conclude that Betsey Johnson has a brand dedicated to people with incredibly terrible taste. Or perhaps people who like to pretend to have terrible taste in a hipster-ironically sort of way? Which frankly, is just a different type of terrible taste.

But, I find these so hilariously bad that I will wear them, so what does that say about me?

As undies, they are actually pretty comfy. They are low in the front and fully cover your butt in the back, which I find a very weird choice because it basically means every time I lean over these panties are all "hi there!" which would be I guess kind of fun way to avoid showing butt-crack if they were attractive. Unfortunately, they're really not, so when I lean over you get "OMG YELLOW-ORANGE LACE" like the white "blind the dangerous thing" signal of the white tailed deer.

I leave this to your imagination.

These are hilarious in the same way that bad thrift shop clothes are hilarious, but they're not a win with me, Wantable.

Claimed value: $12, or 3 for $27. Since I can get victoria's secret panties that I know fit me for around $6, this is not a terrible bulk price, but if I chose my own panties I would never have chosen these.

OZONE Socks Basket Weave



These socks are probably actually the neatest part of the December box. I'm not in love with the colours, but they're kind of handknit-style and comfortable.

Socks from Wantable's December intimates box

There's a few textures in play here: a smooth stockinette bottom/toe/heel, textured top, and differently textured cuff. I presume from the name that the top cuff is "basket weave" stitch although it doesn't look much like it when stretch out on my strong walker calves. I don't really know my knitting stitch names well enough to tell you what the stitch on top of the sock is called. More experienced knitters, feel free to chime in.

Socks from Wantable's December intimates box

One thing that I did find interesting, especially in light of the "so strong it bruises" elastic from November's socks, is the elastic in these, which goes below the very large cuff, where the colour change starts:

Socks from December's Wantable Intimates Box

Claimed value: $13. Which is probably around what it would cost me in yarn to handknit socks, so not terribly unreasonable.

Luster Bralette Black



Last and most definitely least is the Bralette:

Subscription box stuff: Soft bra

It's not a bad shape. The cross-back straps mean it's unlikely to fall down, and I like the shaping in the front.


Their "M/L" is basically a compression bra on me. This has some usefulness for me as far as breast-binding for costumes go, and it's stretchy enough that it's comfy.

That said, it's undeniably not really my size. Unfortunately, while wantable touts that you can return individual products, it's not really worth it because of how they handle it. I have to return enough product to get my wantable-assigned value below the $36 I paid for the box. Since I actually like the shirt ($22) and the socks ($13), I'm going to get a maximum refund of $36-$35 = $1. That's not worth my time.

Oh well. I'll either keep it for crossplay costuming, or I'll see if my sister wants it, I guess.

Claimed value: $38.00. Not horrible if it were the right size, I guess. To me, actual value is around $5 to replace tensor bandages for breast binding.


----

Total claimed value: $85
Actual value to me: maybe $25-30

So for a $36 box, that's pretty darned disappointing, even though I liked the items.
terriko: (Default)
2014-02-09 10:40 am

Wantable November 2013 Intimates Box

I'm really behind on the Wantable box descriptions, which is a side-effect of really being behind on photo processing in general. But on the bright side, I can tell you how much things actually got used!


V-neck Bra Heavenly Pink



This is actually the least used of the bunch: it's a little light pink soft bra in the same style as the coobie camisole I loved in my first box. I like it, but just not quite as much as my existing soft bras, which are of this crossover style, which I find stays in place better the way I move.

It's almost identical to the cami, except shorter and pink, so it was actually kind of disappointing in that it wasn't a new thing to me. It's moderately useful since I have relatively few light-coloured bras, at least.

If I took a picture of these, I can't find it, but basically imagine the pink of the bandeau in my previous box, but the shape of the beige cami, only missing everything below the bra band. Yeah, this felt like a repeat in box 2.

Emerald Bay Socks



These are mid-length argyle socks, from the same company as the pink knee-highs I got in the first box. Here I am on box #2 and I'm already starting to wonder if Wantable actually has the deals in place to pull off this intimates box thing long-term or if I'm just going to get the same things over and over again.

I like these socks aesthetically, but they have such strong elastic at the top that they leave basically wounds on my calves after I've been wearing them all day. Good if I don't want my socks to slip while walking, but if I don't remember to shove them down to my ankles during the day, they nearly bruise. I wear them because it is awesome to have walking socks that don't slouch, but I have mixed feelings about them and look forwards to the elastic starting to stretch. Having noticed the excessive elastic problem in these, I realize that it also happens with the knee-high ones, but since they go over top of my calves, it's not so noticeable.

If I took a picture of these, I can't find it, but basically imagine the pink socks in my previous box, only green and shorter. Can you say repeat?

Betsey Johnson Intimates Sleep Shorts Houndstooth



Subscription box stuff

I actually wore this for the first time this weekend, because it's a bit too cold for shorts in the house (seriously: not a great choice for a November box, Wantable). They look... hilariously bad on me. Like cheap, ill-fitting booty shorts. I'll use them anyhow because this amuses me and they're more comfy than my existing sleep shorts, but definitely not a thing I would have bought myself.

Subscription box stuff

Seriously? Houndstooth, hot pink lace, rosettes? Teensy little ass-pocket? That is comedy gold right there, in some sort of bad taste blog. You'll understand if I don't photograph myself wearing these for those aesthetic reasons alone, but I'll tell you that they also are weirdly saggy in the front, too tight in the back, and while I'm sure J's going to appreciate the rear view because he thinks I look great no matter what, they do not make me feel attractive at all.

Edit: Nope, even he thought they looked weird on me.

Snowflaked Slipper Sock- Grey



First: I am *so* glad that wantable has put in a review system so that I can see what they'd sent me without having to pretend I want to return the package.

Second: I really wish they'd made it so there were links to places to buy the products/get more info, because I like to have such links on my own blog.

Third: The slipper socks I received weren't grey.

Subscription box stuff

That meta-discussion done, I want to say that this was the real winner of the whole box! I absolutely love these, and I have from the moment I got them:




They're warm, they're thick, they're comfy. They don't even seem to make me generate excessive amounts of static (my existing socks combine with the crappy carpeting in our house to make me zap every metal surface in the house this winter). My only complaint is that they do slide around a bit on my feet (though they have grippy bits for the floor), so I have to be careful on stairs.

I love these so much that they completely made up for the rest of the box, with its repeats and its dubious booty shorts. But I can already tell that this whole wantable intimates thing might not last for me unless they step up on the supplier front.
terriko: (Default)
2014-01-19 08:28 pm

Birchbox November 2013

Belated beauty box time!

Birchbox November 2013

Before I start the product reviews, I have to show you my terribly professional new small product photography setup:

20140120-IMG_0523.jpg

As a photographer, I'm normally all about the natural light, and my bathroom has this beautiful frosted window that faces southwestish that provides almost exactly what I wanted. (See photo at the top of this post.) But I bought a new camera and am trying to get myself out of a photographic rut... so, after recommending this setup to my sister I thought I was overdue to try it myself. My room is not nearly as dark as that photo implies, I just didn't bother to balance it because I liked the spotlit effect.

Incidentally, you can see my sister's use of a similar setup here on her latest makeup box review. She's going with a much more neutral white backdrop which probably is better for this sort of thing, but Birchbox so kindly sent me pink tissue paper with this month's box (that's January's, not November's... I'm terribly behind) and I thought it was more fun. I expect I'm going to start developing a coloured paper collection now...

So! Photographic digressions aside, let's talk products.

Snark, science, and makeup! The abrasive/meat tenderizer/healing balm is the most amusing. )

Birchbox November 2013

Overall? Nailpolish I don't love but will use, hand cream that's at least nice at home if no good for work/travel, a highly entertaining abrasive/meat tenderizer/healing agent combo that's actually good at getting rid of flaky skin and not killing my boyfriend, an overly subtle sparkle pencil with a bad tutorial, and delicious delicious honey chocolate. Not bad. I am pleased although not amazed with November's selections.
terriko: (Default)
2013-12-07 06:08 pm

Wantable October intimates box

When I was trying to decide which makeup box I was going to try, I looked at Wantable (again, thanks to the most excellent blog Brightest Bulb In the Box: Beauty for Critical Minds). Unfortunately, since their big thing is that they give full-sized products, something I actually didn't want given my minimal makeup needs, I wasn't even tempted by them. However, I found out that they also did an intimates subscription box. I had just done a big cull on my underwear and socks and discovered that once I'd gotten rid of anything showing its age, I didn't have much left, so I figured I'd give it a shot! Plus, wantable promises that you can return any box didn't love, so it wasn't as huge a risk as it might have been.

Box 1 was October:

Wantable October Box

Unfortunately, Wantable doesn't give me a nice list on the website of what I got with product links and stuff. Missed opportunity, guys: I would probably be ordering more of those socks if you'd made it easy for me!

In the interest of just Writing The Darned Review, here's what I had, without product links:

Thing #1: Pink argyle socks, knee high.

I love these and wear them all the time. So cute!

Thing #2: Little plastic clips for converting your bra to a more racerback style.

I own a set of these, pretty much identical, that I got at the dollar store for a buck, so I can't say I was thrilled that this was part of a $36 subscription box. Also, since I already own them, I know they are useless to me: my shoulders are so broad that there's not enough give in my bra straps to use these without everything becoming too tight. I gave them to my sister to try out, though, and she says they were ok for her, so not a total loss.

Thing #3: Coobie bandeau top, pink and lace-y

I've never worn a bandeau, so I was glad to try this out. It's actually a nice addition to my wardrobe in that it can be layered with a low-cut shirt, and the colour works with a bunch of the things I own. It does feel a bit like I'm intentionally binding my breasts, though, and it doesn't always stay in place on me, so it's not like I'm a sudden bandeau top convert, but I like having the option!

Thing #4: Coobie camisole, beige

I had just been thinking that I could use some camisoles (again, to deal with the slightly-too-low-cut shirts that I got from threadless and a few other places) and this fits the bill nicely, although the beige colour is perhaps a little too close to skin-tone to get a nicer layering effect. It's also nicer than a bra under certain types of sheer shirts. I do wish the bra cups were a bit bigger (they're little triangles that don't quite fit the natural curve of my breasts), but they're removable so I can always fix that later. I actually liked this so much that I bought another one on Amazon, in bright pink (since it was the only colour they had).

Thing #5: Jockey panties, brown and beige lace

These are... really not my style. I actively dislike peekaboo lace on my butt, and if my boyfriend likes it, I don't want to know. They may get put in rotation simply because I'm low on underwear, but they don't fit well, they ride up, and I think they're ugly, so... anyone want a pair of panties I've only worn once? You should probably have a smaller butt than me, since these ran smaller than the label would have implied.

IMG_0295
terriko: (Default)
2013-12-07 04:02 pm

Birchbox October Box

This is the second makeup box I received. I'm a little behind as I'm actually already on box 3, but sometimes it's more fun to live your life than document it, eh?

Anyhow, October's box:

Birchbox October Box

I really wish Birchbox had a "box history" link of sorts in my profile page, as that's where I look for it first before I finally remember that history is hidden where I would have expected to go to order another box. Oh well; I don't quite care enough to write a script to add one myself, but hopefully the process of writing this comment will help me remember for next time.


Product #1: 12 Benefits™ Instant Healthy Hair Treatment - 6 oz



This is supposed to be some sort of magical hair treatment that protects you from styling and swimming and life. As I don't torture my hair and haven't had an excuse to go swimming since the box arrived in October, I can't really tell you how it works on that front. However, it *also* claims to be a detangler, which I could test.

Unfortunately, it is awful as a detangler. It's messy and sprays on a bit too thick so you have to rub it all in yourself. At this point, the spray is basically just an extra step that makes it harder for me to control how much product goes in my hair. Even worked in, though, it's a mediocre detangler. I have, in fact, gotten better results from taking a dab of hotel conditioner and working it into the ends of my hair as if it were a leave-in conditioner.

So... as far as I can tell, this product is basically a waste of my time right now. I'll keep it around to see if it helps with swimming, maybe in the summer when my hair is taking more serious abuse, but it's definitely not useful right now. Which makes me wonder if perhaps this was not a great thing to put in October's box if they really wanted this product to shine. Oh well.

End verdict: Will save to try again later for the main intended use.

Product #2: DDF® Wrinkle Resist Plus Pore Minimizer Moisturizing Serum




DDF moisturizing serum

Frankly, every time I look at this product, I'm reminded of that scene in Cloud Atlas that is pretty much all "soylent green is people." So yeah, while this is a totally visually striking product package, it also creeps me out because I feel like it's a product made up of ground up people in some sci-fi world. It does not help that every pump of the product comes out as flesh-coloured slime.

My mental damage aside, the product itself is kind of weird. It's kind of like spreading silicone lube on your face, or at least what I imagine it might be like if I felt a need to use bike grease as a cosmetic. Perhaps all moisturizing serums are like this?

It's meant to be applied as the first layer in your cosmetics, and it behaves kind of like you might expect magical face lube to behave in such a situation: it makes it easier to blend things on your face. That's actually kind of awesome, and it seems keep makeup from clumping quite so much if you have acne or a scab or something on your face.

Interestingly, it seems like there's less colour on my face at the end of the day when I use magical face lube. I've been using a white-coloured wipe to remove makeup, so what I'm saying here is that the stains are less dark. I'm not sure if this results in more coming off on my hands during the day, or whether it's just diluting the tinted moisturizer I use such that it leaves less dark stains on the cloth. I can't really tell the difference visually on my face from day to day, though. I'm too lazy to check my makeup and take selfies multiple times a day to check if the progressing is different, but I guess I could try that if I really want to know exactly what's going on here.

End verdict: Despite my initial impressions, I actually like the product. Unfortunately, it's expensive and the appearance weirds me out. I might try to buy something similar when I run out, but it's a huge sample and I may get another product to try before I need to make a decision on replacing this.


Product #3: theBalm® cosmetics Stainiac



Stainiac lip tint

This is labelled as a "hint of tint" and it really is. I found it utterly underwhelming on my cheeks (which are already quite pink) but fun on my lips. It's very subtle, though:

Before:
IMG_8278

After:
IMG_8289

My boyfriend claims he can tell the difference, but I'm never sure if he's buying into the horrible delusion that one must lie to one's significant other about such things lest she fly into a rage. Or possibly just deluding himself, since it's not like I did a double blind test with him or anything. ;)

You can tell I'm not a "real" beauty blogger 'cause I'm wearing no other makeup in those photos and not expecting you all to tell me how brave I am to show my face to the world. (This is one of many reasons I can't stand reading most beauty blogs.) Anyhow, my laziness for photos does let you see that my cheeks are naturally "hint of pink" though.

Incidentally, this is a lot more fuchsia/day glo hot pink than red when it comes out of the tube. I find this amusing, but it did make me nervous that it would be a lot more than a "hint" of colour.

IMG_8275

Robyn from Brightest Bulb says, "Unfortunately, when I use it on my lips, I can find zero qualities that distinguishes this product from a tube of jello." And I agree, but I consider this a benefit because it makes me feel like I'm a kid.

Actually, it led me to mentally design an entire marketing campaign around my new cosmetic idea: the popsicle lip spa treatment.

Sit back and relax with our rejuvenating lip treatment. It's filled with natural fruit extracts, and is guaranteed to hydrate you as well as provide a little energy boost. This lip stain lasts for hours, and helps curb food cravings!

Yeah, I'm not quitting my day job. But I do want one of those fruity popsicles from our freezer now.

End Verdict: I like this product a lot. It's fun and nearly un-noticeable, so I'm not going to get any flack from my engineer colleagues who might be put off if I was wearing heavy lipstick. I do wish it was sold in the little sample sizes because it's perfect to have in my pocket at work, so I may keep an eye out to see if they do some sort of smaller holiday pack. I may also experiment with stronger tints to see if I can get a work-appropriate look that amuses me without making me too "girly" for my office.

Product #4: Karuna Clarifying Treatment Mask



I hated this product:

- it's very goopy so it's a huge mess to put on
- it actually hurt to use

It's weird, because I don't really think of myself as having sensitive skin, but applying this caused serious pain across my cheekbones and upper lip. I almost didn't leave it on for the full recommended time and just pitched the whole thing, but I wanted to know what it was like and figured I could tough it out. It didn't get better.

On the bright side, it didn't cause any breakouts or leave horrible red burn welts across my face (which I was actually concerned about given the amount of pain), and it did leave my skin feeling smooth and soft after. But yeah, I'll stick to moisturizer for that, thanks. Even magical face lube has the same effect with less awful.

I took a picture of me wearing the mask mostly to distract me from the act of actually wearing it, but my poor little mac is still copying pictures off the camera and I'm hesitant to leave so much open in a browser window without saving it. The mask looked like creepy whiteface anyhow, though, so maybe the review is better off without it.

End verdict: OW. NEVER AGAIN.

Bonus Product: ChapStick® Hydration Lock



According to the insert, this is an "extra" product and not part of my samples. I guess the insert is to prevent people from being underwhelmed by getting Chapstick, which is hardly glamourous. It works as expected and has a sort of vanilla-creme thing going that makes me think of the 90s.

What's interesting is that they included it to use as a lipstick primer. This whole concept of makeup primers is a new one to me, so I was interested to see that Robyn from birchbox thought this worked pretty well. (I'd have tested it myself but I do not actually own lipstick, just two tinted lip balms which I can't find right now, which probably tells you why I thought a beauty box subscription would be a good idea.)

I don't love the scent, but I'll enjoy experimenting with it as a primer, so I count it a win. Plus, they gave me a coupon for more chapstick, which if I don't use I'm sure my boyfriend will, as he goes through as much of it as I do.

End Verdict: It's chapstick. I am pleased to know I can use it as a lip primer, though.


In summary: I tried some new things and didn't hate all of them! Seriously, though, I like the lip products a lot, the magical face lube is a surprisingly effective product that I would never have tried on my own, the hair protector might be useful in the future even though it's an awful detangler, and I never have to use one of those awful face masks again. Win!
terriko: (Default)
2013-11-07 08:01 am

Birchbox September Box

I'm not much of a makeup wearer, so it may surprise you to hear that I've signed up for a makeup subscription. But I promise you, it makes perfect sense! Little samples are enough for my sporadic and costume needs, and they're consumable so I can have the fun of a surprise subscription box without wondering where I'm going to put everything.

Plus, makeup is a social engineering tool that I haven't perfected, and being a security geek, how could I pass up the excuse to play around?

So... makeup box! I first heard of these through Brightest Bulb In the Box: Beauty for Critical Minds which is smart and not afraid to apply science to beauty claims. Flipping through some of her posts about what she'd gotten, I decided Birchbox was the one for me: $10/month, points system for discounts if I like anything, and no full-sized samples that I'd never finish. Plus, my sister said she was considering trying one of the other boxes available, so this way we'd be able to trade notes.

I got my first box at the end of September:

Birchbox Packaging

My first thought was "Rather pink, isn't it?" They also have a men's box which I presume comes in blue. You can't really tell how big it is because I didn't think to put anything in for context, but this is a pretty small box. Think small enough to fit perfectly and comfortably into a mail slot or thin group mailbox thingamy.

Inside, there's a classy little brown box:

Birchbox Packaging

And inside that is the good stuff with some pretty packaging details. Here's what I got in September:

Birchbox September Box

Left to right: a card detailing all the things, a slightly smug and self-congratulatory card congratulating me on my brilliant purchasing choices, vegan shampoo and conditioner, orange nail polish, a face "peel" and lip & nipple balm.

Product #1-2: Beauty Protector: Protect & Shampoo and Beauty Protector: Protect & Condition

These are nice, vegan shampoos. Being not a serious devotee of all things vegan (I'm more of a sporadic "that's cool" level of caring), I don't know if vegan shampoo and conditioner are usually hard to come by or tend towards being ineffective or weird or smelly or anything. It's possible that these are exceptional for vegan hair products. But I can only compare this to regular shampoo and conditioner, and by that standard all I can say is that they're nice. They smell nice enough, they clean well. But they're not nice enough that I'd want to splurge on them myself as a treat, so at $20/8oz I don't think I'll be buying more. Still, if I'm ever looking for shampoo for a vegan friend, I'll remember this one.

Product #3: RUFFIAN Nail Lacquer: Fox Hunt

I might have been underwhelmed by this colour, which is very orange, if it had arrived at any other time of the year. But just before October is clearly the perfect time to have orange nails, so I got to revel in these quite a bit.

RUFFIAN Nail Lacquer in Fox Hunt

The colour is a fun orange with a hint of pink and sparkle. I dressed mine up with a nail sticker because I had just gotten some and wanted to play. You might be able to tell if you look closely at the photo that it does have a tendency to chip around the edge, but a top coat got that mostly under control, and since I prefer topcoats most of the time, that's not a dealbreaker for me.

What I really love about this is the bottle, though. It is just amazingly pleasant to open with that big round head on it, especially if you're used to skinny, slick, tall bottle handles. I realize those are probably better for applying nail polish if you're used to working with sticks, but I am not a devotee of sticks for all fine control tasks, so I found this bottle's lid surprisingly satisfying. I'd consider buying more nail polish from RUFFIAN, but none of their other colours has grabbed me enough to justify an order by itself. I'm kind of hoping they'll do some little sample-size packs sometime; that would be fun.

Product #4: Juice Beauty: Green Apple Peel Sensitive

Okay, right off the bat, I have to admit I had no idea what a face peel was. It sounded horrible to me, which is probably a sign that I Do Not Care Enough About Beauty Regimens. But I'm ok with that. And I got this box to learn, right?

My first guess was that this this might be one of those peel-off face masks, which are at least amusing in that "peeling glue off your fingers" kind of way. But no, apparently this is magical acid goo that is somehow good for your face. I felt rather like I might need some facepalm photos for this review:



I put it on my face for the first time today. It made it look shiny and smell vaguely like... milk candy? I can't really explain that from the ingredients. It did hurt where it touched a small cut I had on my face, so, uh, don't try this stuff if you've got one.

This stuff has a warning that says it will make you more vulnerable to sunlight (and thus, more of the wrinkles and blemishes it purports to remove. And probably also skin cancer.), so it's just as well I waited 'till the Portland rains had started before I tried it out, and it's just as well I already got that facepalm meme out of the way. Good for me that my entire morning "makeup routine" is "apply moisturizer with sunscreen" (a habit that came out of living in Albuquerque, since high altitude desert makes both sunscreen and moisturizer good habits to get into) since they recommend I do that for a week while my skin recovers from this beauty treatment.

Incidentally, they also recommend doing this once a week. I wonder if that's because applying chemicals that make you more vulnerable to sun more frequently would be problematic in an over-the-counter beauty product? Or because it would hurt? Or because burning your face with acid shouldn't be done too often lest you cause permanent damage? I've certainly only seen the sun vulnerability on prescription medical creams before. I may have to look that up.

Does it do anything for my face besides make it vulnerable to sunlight? I suppose maybe it feels a bit softer, but I could have accomplished that with moisturizer. Maybe I need more time to encourage it to banish my wrinkles. Or maybe I need to care about banishing wrinkles enough to risk sun damage? I guess I can try it a few more times since there's lots left and the Portlandians tell me I shouldn't expect to see the sun for months anyhow, but I'm betting I'm not going to be particularly more impressed. Certainly not enough to spend $40 on a full-sized product. And now I'm creeped out by the knowledge that there may be a whole industry based around women wanting to peel layers off their face with chemicals. Yuck. I guess exfoliating is exfoliating and I shouldn't judge, but I can't help but imagine the cautionary sci-fi short story that could be written starting with this face goo.


Product #5: Dr. Lipp Original Nipple Balm for Lips

This stuff was apparently developed for nursing moms, hence the name. It's thick and I love it, especially in the teensy tiny sample size, which fits perfectly in the little coin pocket of my jeans. (Although I *do* wish there were more in the sample: the tube is mostly air with a small dab of product in it.) It leaves a heavy sticky goo on my lips for ages afterwards, which is pretty effective, but be warned: it's heavier than Vasoline or any lip balm I've ever tried before. Having gotten this while my lips were still recovering from Albuquerque, though, this seemed like a win to me.

I'm not sure if it's really worth it given that Vasoline is nearly as effective and costs practically nothing, but I may buy more in part because the name makes me laugh. I'd consider buying it as a present due to the intersection of effective and hilarious, which probably tells you more about me as a gift-giver than it does about the product. (I am the sort of person who buys Hot Guys and Baby Animals the book instead of a card, because it was on sale and was funnier than any of the birthday cards I saw in Powell's that day.)

Birchbox September Box: Closer

So that's September's box! Two products I loved enough to consider buying more, two that were pleasant to try even if I don't think I'll be splurging on them, and one product which I find to be an entirely questionable part of anyone's beauty routine and got to make fun of on the internet. I'd say I got my $10 worth for September.