Special Delivery! February Birchbox

Hello kittens!

I haven’t had a moment to sit down and chat Birchbox in a while, but since I’m currently working my way through this month’s samples, now seemed a good time to hop back on that wagon.

For those who don’t know, Birchbox is a beauty subscription box. Each month, Birchbox sends you approximately five beauty samples and one or more ‘lifestyle’ items (for example food or accessories). The sample sizes are generally large or full sized products, and by reviewing those samples on the website, you can accrue generously offered points to spend in the well stocked Birchbox shop. I’ve been having Birchbox delivered, on and off, for two years, and I love it. It always brightens my day when my box shows up, and I’ve fallen for certain brands based on those samples.

This month’s box theme is Birchbox Loves. Let’s get to it.

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First up, the London Butterflies Bath Salt Scrub. Whilst I’ve never heard of this company before, I’m familiar with the concept of scrubs, and own a couple I’m fairly faithful to. The sample size of this product seems very generous, and the packaging is beautiful- clean, pretty and luxurious. No expense has been spared, and the 34g sample is a perfect miniature of the full sized 225g product.

The product is described as being full of ‘Dead Sea Salt and Sweet Almond Oil’. It has a fresh, soapy fragrance- very classic and pleasant. Disappointingly, it’s not almondy in scent, despite this being the top ingredient. You can almost smell the saltiness of it, however. It doesn’t contain any synthetic scrub elements either- no plastic beads or the like. This is a huge bonus for me, as I HATE those synthetic beads with a passion- they’re crap for the environment, and can easily be replaced with salt, sugar or sand for a similar effect.

I’m really excited to try this product, and I’ll be pretty broken up if it’s a let down. It seems to tick all the boxes otherwise. I also think it’s pretty on theme. It’s a product that’s obviously had some love poured into its creation, it’s a pampering goody, and it makes me excited to try it.

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Next we have a product by a brand that Birchbox introduced me to, and I love. theBalm cosmetics produce a wide range of cosmetics, but this one is a highlighter. Cindy-Lou Manizer is marketed as a multipurpose product- highlighter, shimmer and eyeshadow. It’s a very pretty shell pink colour with a touch of shimmer for extra luminosity- similar in tone to products I use for highlighters already. I imagine it would be perfect for a dewy, spring/summer look. The formula is very light too- barely there and pleasant to the touch.

theBalm always has fantastic packaging, even for their samples, and this one is a miniature version of the full sized product. The outside looks like a wanted poster for the glossy, illuminated Miss Cindy-Lou Manizer, aka ‘The Con-tour Artist’, who is ravishing in her retro prison stripes. The packet itself is magnetised card over plastic, and opens to reveal a dainty pan of product. It’s cute, feels well thought out and expensive, and is full of the tongue in cheek humour theBalm love to use.

As with the first product, this product feels very pamper-y, and perfect to brighten up your skin for a youthful, first-date look. And I love, love LOVE theBalm, so for me, that puts it on theme too.

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The third item is an eyeliner pencil by Cynthia Rowley Beauty. My sample is black. A quick swatch on the back of the hand reveals the soft, almost oil pastel-y formula of the product, and a rub with my hand reveals its sticking power. According to Birchbox, it can be blended for a smokey look, but I imagine you would need to layer it up for anything more than a smudge. I’ve actually tried this pencil a few times, and it’s pretty nice. The formula goes on nicely without any drag around the sensitive eyelids. Unfortunately it’s not waterproof, and I have allergies, but otherwise it lasts all day.

The pencil itself is a cute mini pencil in lovely matte black with a glossy highlight, gold font and festive golden baubles on the cap. Cynthia Rowley Beauty isn’t a brand I’m familiar with, but this pencil seems pretty good and I look forward to trying it. And really, who doesn’t love a pure black eyeliner?

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Moving on to haircare, Birchbox have sent me the Liz Earle Beauty Co. Botanical Shine Shampoo. I’ve heard excellent things about Liz Earle, and enjoyed the sample of facial cleanser I was sent in another box.

The sample size is a generous 50g, presented in a tube. Also included is a brochure about the rest of the Liz Earle range and their ingredients. The product has a powerful, tart and fruity fragrance, very sweet and reminiscent of fruity sweets. It claims to be ‘naturally active’ and rich in vitamin e, aloe vera, shea butter, apple and orange extracts. The product contains no animal extracts and is It is also SLS/SLES free, which many people will find appealing. Personally I have no preference regarding SLS (which is a surfactant- what makes most shampoos, soaps and shower gels foam and move over the skin), but this is the first shampoo product I have tried without, so it will be interesting to see how it performs. If it does all it promises, I’ll love it!

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Wild About Beauty is a cosmetic line created by Louise Redknapp and MUA Kim Jacob. A few boxes back Birchbox sent out some of their creme eyeshadow range. This month, they’ve supplied us with a full sized product- their Rose Water Illuminating Serum. I really like WAB’s packaging- deep maroon-purple with black silhouettes of insects, feathers and leaves, with contrasting silver text. It’s not the cleanest I’ve seen, but it is pretty. Inside the box, the tube’s colour palette is inverted. The 30ml tube has a pump cap.

This serum is rich in rose water, which is beautifying and soothing for sensitive skin, along with several other natural extracts. It claims to have anti-oxidant and anti-ageing properties, and is designed to boost the radiance and lustre of the skin. Unlike most serums, which in my experience are best applied alone or before moisturisation, this one is designed to be used alone or after moisturisation, almost like a primer.

The serum itself is prettily perfumed, and has a pink iridescent shine to it. It sinks in quickly upon application and leaves the skin smooth and smelling sweet and musky. I look forward to seeing how effective it is on my face, and under makeup.

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Finally, we have this month’s lifestyle item, which is The Chia Co’s Oats + Chia product. This is an instant porridge- you only need to add hot water to have a quick meal. The sachet I got was mixed berries flavour, and honestly, I’m impressed by the ingredients. There is no rubbish in this porridge mix: whole grain oats, chia seeds, coconut sugar, dried mixed berries, virgin coconut oil, and that’s it. No additives or flavourings or preservatives. This product is dairy free and vegan, and also purports to be Non GMO and Kosher. Chia seeds are a super food- packed full of omega 3, fibre and protein, and this seems like a great way to get them into your diet.

The packaging is cute and blocky, with big bold text and clean lines. Very nice indeed- I look forward to giving this a go!

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All in all I thought the box contents were great. There was a good mix of product types, but still plenty of makeup, which I obviously love. All of the products felt geared towards pampering yourself- a beautiful scrub, a luxurious shampoo, a beautifying serum, a nutritious and delicious porridge, an illuminating highlighter and a fierce black eyeliner. Whether that makes you think of a perfect pre-date pack (this box was released for Valentine’s Day, after all), or just a way to love yourself and beat those winter blues, I think it was pretty on trend, without being gaudy and covered in love hearts and false sentiment. Good job, Birchbox. Now, was this box value for money?

  • London Butterflied Bath Salt Scrub: 225g product costs £35, so this 34g sample is worth £5.29
  • theBalm Cosmetics Cindy-Lou Manizer: £16 for 8.5g product, so this 0.57g sample is worth £0.30
  • Cynthia Rowley Beauty Eyeliner: £11 for 1.19g, so this 0.8g sample is worth £7.79
  • Liz Earle Beauty Co. Botanical Shine Shampoo: £10 for 200ml, so this 50ml sample is worth £2.50
  • Wild About Beauty Rose Water Illuminating Serum: full size, £22

The Chia Co Oats + Chia: 5 pack is £4.95, so this sample is worth £0.99

Total: £38.87

This box was super generous: even after shipping (£2.95 of the £12.95 total cost) this box is worth more than three times what I paid. This of course doesn’t include the points I will earn back for a) having bought the box, and b) reviewing the products on Bichbox’s website. Also, there were no duff products this month- all killer, no filler. I’m really pleased with this box, and I’m going to enjoy pampering myself with all the products.

If this has piqued your interest, and you want to join in the Birchbox fun, click here to start!

Later days!

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A Lush Evening: Lush Southampton Bloggers Event

Last friday, I was lucky enough to be invited to an exclusive bloggers event at the Southampton branch of Lush. If you’ve spent even half a minute on SWB, you’ll know I’m a pretty big Lush fan- any product that does its job is good by me, but when that’s combined with great ethics, fair trade ingredients and handmade, hands on goodness, the experience and enjoyment is multiplied.

Upon arrival I was served a glass of champagne (posh soft drinks were available) and offered nibbles in the form of vegan cupcakes, popcorn and fresh strawberries. Yum, right? I got talking to the other ladies (all the other invitees were female, which I can understand, but seriously lads, get in there! Lush isn’t just for girls!), and was happy to see Alice and Catherine again; I’d met them briefly at a previous Lush event (the Spring preview). One thing I noticed was that the event was well staffed. There were sixteen attendees, and four members of staff on, which meant if we had any queries or questions they were on hand almost instantly. I felt very spoilt, and that really continued throughout the evening.

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Photo courtesy of Jessica at Chique Unique Critique

For the first part of the evening, we engaged in a team building exercise. We were paired up randomly with another blogger (I got the adorable Katie– hey girl!) and were allowed to pick a random massage bar. We performed, let’s face it, a rather amateur arm massage on each other, and got chatting about ourselves- what we blogged about, how familiar we were Lush etcetera. It’s pretty hard to stay shy when you’re massaging someones hand. We went round the room introducing each other; some of us were beauty bloggers, some fashion, most lifestyle. I consider myself to be a food blogger, then a beauty blogger, then everything else, and said as such, but what do you guys think?

The first thing we got to do was experience fresh face masks being made. Pete and Milli, both sales assistants, explained to us the ingredients of both masks (the Catastrophe Cosmetic, and Cupcake). They passed round the essential oils and perfume absolutes that go into each product, and showed us the different dry powders and fresh fruits included in each. Using a premixed dry formula of those dry ingredients, and a premixed wet formula of the fresh fruit, melted butters, oils and absolutes, they hand mixed the masks for us, and prepared us a pot of each to take to home to try. It bears mentioning that these pots were larger than the retail sizes for the same product, which was just super. Friends of mind- expect a face mask party some time in the next few weeks as, alas, they do have a limited shelf life of 3-4 weeks due to all those fresh ingredients.

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After enjoying the mask demonstration, and having a wee nosey round the shop and a champers refill, my half of the group moved on to Emotional Brilliance. The general feeling about this section of the shop seemed to be we’d mostly seen it, but walked past it. I’ve tried E.B. before, but a long time ago, but this is the basic idea: you spin the colour wheel and close your eyes, clearing your mind. When the wheel stops you open your eyes and quickly pick the first three colours that leap out at you. Those three colours represent emotions or states of mind, and correspond with make up products- lip colours and cream eyeshadows and liners.

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The wheel was filled with atmospheric dry ice (you can see a video here, courtesy of Mandy at One Slice of Lemon), so it spewed Potter-eque smoke as the lovely Cristine spun the wheel. My reading was Charm, Believe and In charge. Charm (and of COURSE I’m charming!) is a lovely baby pink lip and cheek colour, which I already own and use for blush. It blends well with my skin tone and natural red to give a perfect english rosy blush with just a dab of product, or a bold pink flush with a dab more. I think she’s a little too pale for my lips, unless I’m wearing super bold eye makeup to balance out my face. Believe wants to be coral. She’s crushed raspberry pink, but she’s certainly dreaming of creamsicle orange. I would love to wear this colour on my lips. In terms of the feeling, well, I need to believe in myself more, and have more confidence, and have faith that everything will work out, so maybe that’s why she’s in there. In Charge is what I need to be, and what I like to be! In Charge is a true blue eyeliner. It’s certainly one I’d try, and it’s a lovely colour, but I’m not sold just yet.

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The final treat of the evening was a slice of a huge Creamy Candy cake- each slice being approximately 1-2 bubble bars worth of product to my untrained eye. Though it’s slightly different, if you liked Snow Fairy (a Lush Christmas exclusive), you’ll love Creamy Candy. This was added to a personalised goody bag full of full sized products for us to take home and try, in addition to those face masks, and a gift for our followers. Yes kittens, that giveaway I mentioned not so long ago is coming soon, and will feature Lush goodies!

In my goody bag I received three items. First, a Tiny Hands solid hand cream, which I surely need as I do get very dry skin on my hands, particularly when I’m doing a lot of cleaning, or cooking, and in the winter time. Secondly, a Bubblegum Lip Scrub. I love wearing bright lip colours, so a lip scrub is perfect for me- exfoliated, smooth lips will hold their colour better and longer. It’s also baby pink (very me!) and smells and tastes yummy, like sugar and pear drops and candy floss. Finally, African Paradise, a body conditioner. This product you use as you would a hair conditioner for your hair. Use it last in the shower or bath all over your body, then rinse it off and pat dry. I literally gasped when I pulled this product out of my goody bag, as I have been dying to try this. I have really dry skin, so any opportunity to get some moisture in is gratefully received. Plus, this smells so tasty and light and exotic and feminine. It’s also huge- 225g of skin-loving goodness. As I said, all these products were full sized, plus the Creamy Candy cake slice (about 1-2 bars worth!), PLUS the two giant pots of face mask… I feel very lucky indeed!

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As soon as I’m done with this post, I’m hopping in a Creamy Candy Bath with a Catastrophe Cosmetic Mask, finished off with African Paradise. And I will feel like a GODDESS; utterly spoilt by Lush’s generosity. It was an absolutely lovely evening, which left me feeling pampered and confident, thrilled to have met so many lovely like-minded folks, and head-over-heels for the, well, lush cosmetic products Lush have to offer. I can’t wait to attend a similar event again. Thanks have to go to the great team at Lush Southampton for their time, expertise and great attitude in teaching us all about what they have to offer, and spoiling us absolutely rotten.

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Photo courtesy of Jessica at Chique Unique Critique

If you’d like at attend a similar event, keep your eyes peeled for Lush preview nights, or why not book a party? Contact your local Lush store for more details.

Later days, lovely people.

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Special Delivery! All about Latest in Beauty, and Glamour Beauty Edit Box unboxing.

When I first came across Latest in Beauty around the time I decided to order a subscription box for the first time (so, a year back), it wasn’t much to shout about. You could order small samples for free, and only pay the shipping. It was a great option for those on a tight budget, but not very exciting.

Things are pretty different now. When I logged on to the LIB site a couple of weeks back, the “Little Beauty Box’ option linked to a page saying they were reworking this product. Now the link is gone entirely. However, there’s been a big change in the company. Now they offer a shop where you can sort of put together your own collection of deluxe size samples (for example a Modelco mascara for £6 instead of £10, or a deluxe Mirenesse lipgloss sample for £3 instead of its value of £6.57), or their LIB Collections.

LIB collections are sample boxes containing a mixture of big samples and full size products. However, they aren’t on a subscription and they aren’t secret. If you click on to a box you can see exactly what you are getting in advance. The boxes are themed, often based on a body part, type of product, season or a collaboration between LIB and another company or brand. You can order these at any time, basically until they are discontinued or stock runs out. They also vary in price, with some offering free shipping, others charging for it. This approach is being offered by several other companies now, and I can see the appeal- shipping is pretty quick because there’s no mass ship date like with Birchbox or Glossybox. I do like a good subscription though- if I wanted to order again with LIB, I’d have to reorder items as from an online shop.

LIB are currently offering the ‘Glamour Beauty Edit‘ box, which is a collaboration between them and Glamour magazine. They describe it as a ‘get pretty, feel happy’ collection full of ‘must-haves for Spring’. Priced at £14.99 with free shipping (hooray), I decided to give it a go. Just a warning guys- from here on out, this post gets REALLY picture heavy.

So, the box arrived with a freebie- John Frieda Frizz Ease. It’s a good product and good sized sample, lord knows I need it and will use it, and it was free! The box was a little bashed up- LIB ship their boxes in post bags rather than anything padded or protective. Still, it was pretty much unscathed, and it looks really good. I love the blue.

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Inside, the box looked really bright and spring like, with sky blue tissue sealing in the goodies like a gift. Inside the products were nestled in, well, a nest of pastel yellow, straw like shredded paper. I loved it- perfect for a spring box. It looked like a grown-up easter nest.

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So lets actually look at the products, of which there were seven, which right off the bat smacks of good value. It works out at a little over £2 a product, which is cheaper even than ‘drugstore’ prices. The first product I looked at was the Invisibobble.

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Yeah… so this looks pretty odd. It’s a set of three bright blue rings of coiled plastic. Straight off, I’m thinking, how the heck is this invisible?! Further reading (not on the packaging mind you) educates me that the ‘invisible’ part relates to the fact that the product is supposedly ‘traceless’. Due to to its material and design, it doesn’t crimp hair like a standard elastic band will, damages less, and holds the hair securely without having to be pulled tight. Pulling your hair back tight can lead to dryness and imperfections on the forehead and tension headaches.

I did stick this in my mad barnet, and it did hold my hair securely without being as tight as I usually pull my scrunchie. Does it look as good? Probably not. But I got three in the box, and I’ll enjoy trying them out. I wish them luck taming my lion’s mane.

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Next was a full sized Burt’s Bees lipbalm. I tried it straight away and I really like it. It’s very waxy, so it doesn’t budge or smear as much as some other balms. It’s all natural and packed full of oils and skin-kind goodies which is awesome, and it’s got peppermint in it. One, yum- it smells awesome. Two, it makes my lips tingle, and I love that feeling. So yeah, super happy with this item- it went straight in my handbag.

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I’ve never heard of these guys before, but the lacquer is a really pretty colour. The LIB website describes this as coral, which makes me wonder what coral they’ve been looking at. It’s in the coral spectrum, sure- a bright and warm orange-pink, but this is so deep it is nearly red. This is really big bottle, and I opened it up to look at the brush, and it seems pretty good- wide enough to coat my nails in a maximum of 3 swipes. I popped some on my thumbnail, and it dried quickly (5-10 mins) and was opaque in two coats. I can definitely see myself wearing this colour, and the quality seems pretty good. The simple but flirty packaging, with that sassy font, really appeals too.

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I’m terrible at eyeliner, and I don’t wear it because of that. However, I really want to, so I’m darn pleased this Daniel Sandler pencil made it into the box. I love the colour too- black eyeliner is classic and great, but bright hues are where it is at. As you can see, I decided to swatch it, and the colour is a  really bright aqua. The pencil itself is a pigment core within a plastic applicator, not a traditional pencil. The formula is very creamy, so you could smudge it out for a smokier look if you got in there quick. Once dry, it’s not budging- I washed my hands with soap and water and rubbed it dry with a towel, and it was still true. I’m really looking forward to trying this on my eyes. It’s also a brand I’ve not heard of.

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I’m fairly sure I’ve tried L’Oréal mascara before, and it’s been pretty good. I love the packaging and name of this one though, and according to LIB its the hottest new release. Inside, the formula is blacker-than-black. The brush is a bristled spooli, which is ok, and has this… bendy bit in the middle. Apparently it can rotate on 360 degrees, though I’m not sure quite why I need that. I’ve had a brief play with it, and it’s ok- hasn’t revolutionised my life yet, but I need to have a proper go with it to see what I really think. It is really, really black though, and it didn’t smudge off my bottom lashes, which is almost unheard of, so kudos.

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Shower gel! It smells really good, and I can always use shower gel. I’m not familiar with the brand, so I’m looking forward to trying it out. If it does have a good amount of rice milk in it, it should be nice on my skin. We shall see.

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Another brand I don’t know, and ADORABLE packaging. I really don’t do much with my hair. It’s really long and really curly and kind of bananas, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like to. I’m not sure I need volumising mousse with how much hair I have, but it might bump up my roots? I don’t know, I’ll certainly try it out!

So, that was the box. All in all, I’m rather excited about almost all of the products. If I had to pick a ‘Star Product’, i.e. the one I am most excited about trying, it would be the eyeliner. The colour is lovely, and applicator seems tidy and easy to use, and the formula seems to deliver. Now, if you’ve read my roundup in my previous experiences with boxes, you’ll know I’m not afraid to get down and dirty with the maths to work out what exactly I’m getting for my money. The Glamour Beauty Edit box isn’t going to get off any more lightly than the others.

  • Invisibobble: £3.75
  • Burt’s Bees Beeswax Lipbalm: £3.69
  • Cheeky Chat Me Up Nail Paint in ‘Tongue n’ Cheek’: £7
  • Daniel Sandler Long Lasting Waterproof Eyeliner in ‘Aqua Velvet’: £9.25
  • L’Oréal Mega Volume Miss Manga Mascara: £8.99
  • Rituals Zensation Organic Rice Milk and Cherry Blossom Foaming Shower Gel Sensation 50ml: £2.13 (200ml full size = £8.50)
  • Percy & Reed Abundantly Bouncy Volumising Hair Mousse: £3 (200ml full size = £12)

Total: £37.81

Of course, I also got a 25ml sized John Frieda Frizz Ease free with my purchase, so…

  • John Frieda Frizz Ease Original 6 Effects Serum: £3.15 (50ml full size = £6.29)

Grand total: £40.96

If you remember, the box cost me £14.99 with free shipping. Even before the free gift I got, you are getting well over twice your money’s worth. Also, the coloured cosmetic products are pretty much universal. Blue eyeliner can go with any eye colour, black mascara is well, black mascara, and nearly red nail polish suits all skin tones. So, good job LIB. I look forward to playing with my products in more detail. It’s a bit lame however that they can’t incorporate a contents card, like other boxes I received.

If you remember my Glossybox review, I was a little miffed by the inclusion of so many easy-to-find brands. That was because the expectations I went into the process with was very different to the expectations I had with LIB- for Glossybox I was expecting to try all sorts of new brands AND new products, not just new products. On ordering this box from LIB, I briefly flicked my gaze over the products before I ordered, so I sort of knew what I was getting. In terms of make up of the box, I would say the common vs uncommon or new brand build of the box was very similar to Glossybox, but my expectations so far have been met, unlike the Glossybox experience for me.

So would I order another box from LIB? Yes, definitely. Would I order every box from LIB. No, definitely not. Which I suppose is the beauty of the scheme. Also, this would make an excellent gift. Just saying’.

Until next time, kittens!

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