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!

sigdraft

Special Delivery! Birchbox September 2014

Hello kittens!

Time to catch up on Birchboxes of the recent past! The September box followed the theme of Happy Days, with a bright turquoise box to shake things up this time. The box is designed to be turned into a, for lack of a better phrase, Happy Box. I’ve encountered similar ideas in therapy before- putting together self-soothing kit consisting of a box of items to lift the mood via the five senses. It’s why I tend to have something crafty (touch), some perfume (smell), some chocolate (taste), a book (sight) and ready made playlists on my iPad (hearing) by my bed. I think using this box to do that for yourself, whether you have clinically diagnosed anxiety or not, is and excellent thing to do. And it’s also a great excuse to have chocolate by your bed.

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The box this month felt really jam packed with stuff- the reusable drawstring bag inside was completely packed with goodies. I’m going to start with the extras first.

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This photo clip screams nineties/early noughties tat to me. Blergh. However, the idea of having a photo of something you care about nearby to boost your mood fits into the theme well. It’s not always possible to have a pin board or even room for a photo frame by your desk at work, but you probably have room for this. I think this is nice item for Birchboxers who are parents to give to their children instead, as the photo clip  would be a fun way for them to display their pictures in their rooms.

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This is probably going to find its way into a recipe, and then into my mouth, rather than the other way around. I do like dried fruit, I’m just a sissy about committing and eating it, or pretty much anything that strays beyond my bubble of food safety sometimes. It’s a full sized snack pack though- if you like dried fruit, this would be a good item for your happy box!

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Yaaaaaaaaaas! I’ve been wanting to try a beauty blender for an age, yet haven’t got round to picking one up. Theoretically it should fit in with my beauty regime well, and maybe tempt me back into the world of liquid foundation. I know that basically its just an egg shaped sponge, but let a girl dream, won’tcha? I think most people would be very happy to see this much hyped item, complete with solid cleanser, in their box, so I guess that fits into the theme. I also love the no-holds-barred pinkness of this product. Eee!

This *seems* to be a full sized product. The cleanser is just a puck of the solid cleansing product, rather than it being in its own pot, but otherwise it seems to be identical to the full product

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Birchbox asked their subbies in late August which product they wanted in their boxes. They had a couple of different options, and I chose Modelco Lip Laquer in ‘Viva’, a pretty corally pink. I really like this idea, and I hope that Birchbox do it again. It’s great that subscription boxes are generally a surprise, but it was nice to feel like the curator of your box for a while, and helps avoid inappropriate shades being sent to people.

As it was, my box came a little, er, half-baked. The Lip Laquer had been omitted, as had all the usual paperwork inside the box, and I had a mascara instead. A quick phone call to Birchbox (I must emphasise how friendly their staff are, how quick they are to fix problems, and how swiftly they answer the phone!) and this was rectified. I can’t complain, as I got an extra product out of their goof, so happy days!

I am not great when it comes to lipgloss. I have a dainty little mouth, and I feel gloss often makes it look smaller, rather than juicier. Also, I wore it a lot in my teens, and it feels a bit young for me now (she says, aged a whopping 27). Still, this gloss is a very pretty colour with good colour payoff. It’s very sticky, which can be a problem if you want to build it, but it’s nice enough, and it lasts pretty well, by gloss standards. It also now reminds me of my holiday, which makes me happy. I’d definitely use it again.

As for the mascara, I have SO many mascaras, it’s kind of insane. Particularly as I only really use one or two regularly. I really need to ‘shop my stash’… maybe I will do that in another post. I will try this one… but it goes to the end of the queue.

Another thing- Birchbox are throwing around a lot of Modelco products of late. Not a criticism, merely an observation.

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Agave Healing Oil is a hair treatment oil. These are all the rage at the moment, but I have been using hair oils for a few years now. They are excellent products to use between washes, or at the end of styling for shine and to repair damage and nourish the hair. Agave looks to have come excellent ingredients. Baobab seed oil is a super food for the hair, like Argan on steroids. It also contains Agave sugars and leaf extract, hence the name I imagine. Agave nectar is considered a superfood for the body- I’m worried this might be sticky on the hair, but likely not. There’s a bunch of other ingredients, but notably coconut to moisturise and vanilla, which is very gentle and conditioning for skin and hair. You’ll probably also smell great when using this product. I’ll definitely give it a go, and after all, a great hair day is a happy day!

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Serums are one of those products that a lot of people don’t know what to do with, and ask me about. Is it a moisturiser? Do I only use it at night? In what order do I use it and my other products?

For those who don’t know, serum is an intensive, concentrated treatment for the skin. It should be used at least once daily, usually at night, before moisturising. It *is* a moisturising product, but it tends to be a much richer, often oilier formula, designed to give a powerful dose of nutrients to the skin, as well as drenching it in good oils.

This serum is designed for day use instead. You would use this, again, before your moisturiser, after toning the skin. With vitamin C to help treat discolouration (sun spots, age spots etc) and repair cells and collagen to plump out fine lines, this serum is designed to help with signs of ageing from sun exposure, and generally give your face some love so you can get back to enjoying your day. I’ll definitely give this one a go.

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One thing that causes me stress about my face, more than anything else, is my dark circles. I’m never going to get rid of them completely, but I can at least try and show my eyes some love. This is what this Benefit product is all about. It’s Potent is a brightening eye cream designed  to combat dark circles. It’s nice and light and milky- you don’t want to out any heavy creams near your eyes, as the fats will build up in the thin skin there and make your eyes appear more puffy. I actually already own this product, though I’ve misplaced it currently, so I’m very glad of a travel sized spare. It contains a variety of skin firming ingredients, and loquat extract, which fights free-radicals to prevent and heal signs of ageing.

All in all, this box made me very happy. The products are all very nourishing, feel good products, with a few frivolities thrown in too. But how does the value of the box stack up?

  • Birchbox Photoclip: £0.99? It’s very hard to put a price on it.
  • Urband Fruit Magnificent Mango Snack: £1
  • beautyblender and solid blendercleanser :£26
  • Modelco Lip Laquer in ‘Viva’: Full size £15, but volume on both full size and sample is undisclosed. I estimate it’s about 1/3 the size, so £5
  • Agave Healing Oil: £16 for 60ml, so 4ml sample is worth £1.06
  • Skin & Co Sicilian Light Serum: £29 for 30ml, so 5ml sample is worth £4.83
  • Benefit It’s Potent! Eye Cream: £25.50 for 14.2g, so 3g sample is worth £5.39

Total: £44.27

That total is insane, but I may have been a little generous on the beauty blender. However, that is how much the equivalent product cost. It bears mentioning my erroneous extra, too.

Modelco Power Lash Black Mascara: £24 for 10g, so 5g sample is worth £12

Grand Total: £56.27

This is the most value I’ve ever gotten out of a Birchbox, even if I may have been generous on the beautyblender. I knew this box felt jam packed. Birchboxes usually come in around £25-£30 value mark, so double your money (including p&p), but this one is more than twice that. So thank you, Birchbox. You’ve made my day very happy indeed!

If you’d like to try Birchbox, click here to subscribe!

sigdraft

Special Delivery! Memebox Mini 3 Review

Hello kittens!

Are any of you darlings into K-Pop? Or have you only dabbled in the odd bit of Gangnam Style-ing? Either way, you might have noticed how polished and beautiful and clear-of-skin those K-Pop girls are. I know I’m jealous. Welp, it’s because of the kickass potions and lotions they use.

For the longest time, Korean and east asian cosmetics lines have been out of reach of us poor schmucks in the west, which is a crying shame. However, the tide is turning, and more and more lines are becoming available certainly in america, if not globally. Regardless, there is one surefire way you can get your mitts on all those Korean goodies. That source is Memebox.

Memebox is a beauty box service rather like Latest in Beauty, except on hyperdrive, and for Korean cosmetics. If you want a specific box to target one body part, one look or instead a mixed basket, there’s a box for that, and they release dozens a month, not to mention their well stocked online store for individual items. Formerly only available in the states, Memebox have opened their doors to the world, and now loads of locations can enjoy what they have to offer.

On the outside, their myriad options can seem kind of pricey, with boxes ranging in price from around $20 to $30 dollars, plus shipping. However, with the exchange rate as it is, that’s not really much pricier than a UK based box like LIB, and the contents seem to be full size products.

To try Memebox out, I chose the Memebox Mini 3. Memebox Minis are few and far between, but they’re actually a lot more like a Birchbox. Each one contains approximately 5 products to try in deluxe sample size. These are the smallest and cheapest option that Memebox offers, at $15, or £7.90 in UK money, which also includes the shipping. That’s pretty darn good. I managed to order Memebox Mini #3 back in march when it was announced. I had to wait nearly two months until mid june for the box to be released and then shipped, but the box arrived just before I went on holiday (#swbholibobs), and I tried out all the products while I was away.

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P1000823The Memebox came in its own branded pink padded envelope. Inside was an adorable pink square box- very reusable. The box contents came neatly and securely packed, with a Menu/Tips and Tricks card. This I was very glad of as, er, I can’t read Korean.

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First up was the Illi Total Ageing Care Cleansing Kit. Now, I’ve complained about sachets in previous box review posts, but I am not complaining here. Not only did they give me a total of six sachets (3 of each product in the kit), they also gave me a deluxe sample size of each product in a sweet box. I really like the packaging on this- the clean black and white of the bottles, the simple papery box.

The products themselves are a cleansing oil and a foaming wash for your face and neck. Their scent is very light and delicately fragrant, and they leave your skin feeling super duper clean and not remotely dry, though not super moisturised either. I used mine after a shower, but you could of course use them during. First, massage the oil all over your skin and rinse off, then lather up with the foaming wash, rinse and pat dry. In terms of sample size, you probably have 10 days-2 weeks worth here, which is a great sample size really. Each sachet contains about 1.5-2 uses worth in it, so you can either be decadent or frugal with it.

I liked this product- it’s perfect for daily cleansing and is very gentle, yet pampering.

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P1000828The only other product in the box was this A.True tin… but inside was a treasure trove of different A.True products to try. The tin is a lovely size and obviously reusable- mine is currently full of cotton buds. A.True make their cosmetics with Darjeeling black tea from a company called Compagnie Colonial. It’s the oldest tea ‘brand’ in the world.

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The first product in the tin was this ‘Real Black Tea True Active Essence’, which is a toner. It smells scrummy, as all the A.True products do- of aromatic tea and a fruity fragrance not unlike apricot. It left my skin feeling really fresh and soft.

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Next we have the ‘First Anti-wrinkle Essence’, which is a serum product. Each sachet has two uses in it really, and I wasn’t being cheap with it, either. It’s a lovely serum, with that same mild and sweet fragrance. It’s easily absorbed into the skin, and just lovely. I’ve tried lots of serums in my time, and this is one of my favourites, because it is so gentle, yet it makes me feel very pampered.

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The final ‘product’ in the tin completes the skin care routine- a moisturiser. ‘First Anti-wrinkle cream’ is a light facial cream designed, as with the other products, to rejuvenate your skin and gently moisturise. Again, it was super gentle and had a lovely formula. I probably liked it least of the products I tried, but simply because it didn’t wow me like the serum and toner did. It’s a nice moisturiser, but it won’t stop traffic.

The final touch in the tin was two bags of Earl Grey tea in a lovely little drawstring bag, to finish off a good pamper session. Earl Grey happens to be my favourite.

I really liked all the products. The tea theme in the A.True cosmetics was charming, and the cleansers were lovely too. I also really liked that the box provided a complete skin care regimen for you to try. It had everything to get you from getting up (a cup of tea), washing your face (the Illi cleansers), toning (the True Active Essence), concentrated serum (First Anti-Wrinkle Essence) and finally moisturising (First Anti-Wrinkle Cream). I took it away on holiday, and it was just perfect for that. The same sizes were pretty darn generous too (a minimum of 10 days supply).

As with all boxes I try out, I like to find out if I got value for money, despite how much I enjoyed the contents. I’ve included all of the prices in dollars, as this is the only price I could find. I have then calculated the equivalent price in pounds sterling, because I’m British and that’s what makes sense to me. So here goes:

  • Illi Total Ageing Care Cleansing Oil: $22/£13.18 for 200ml, so the total sample of 21ml is worth $2.31/£1.38
  • Illi Total Ageing Care Cleansing Foam: $17/£10.18 for 200ml, so the 21ml total sample is worth $1.79/£1.07
  • A.True True Active Essence: $51/30.55 for 180ml, so the 30ml sample is worth $8.50/£5.09
  • A.True First Anti-Wrinkle Cream: $46/27.56 for 50g, so the 10ml sample is worth $9.20/£5.51
  • A.True First Anti-Wrinkle Essence: $50/29.95 for 40ml, so the 10ml total sample is worth$12.50/£7.49
  • 2x Compagnie Colonial Earl Grey Teabags: $9.60/£5.75 for 25, so the sample is $0.77/£0.46

Total: $31.66/£21

On an outlay of £7.90, the contents of this Memebox Mini are easily worth twice the box price, nearly thrice. This is fantastic return, and this box was truly a pleasure. It’s lovely to look at, the products were all completely new to me, and they were all lovely.

To be honest, I find the Memebox experience a little bewildering, as the website is quite hectic, and they don’t archive sold out/past boxes. Combine that with the sheer number of boxes that are released every week, and it’s hard to know where to start. If another Memebox Mini came out, I would order it in a heartbeat, and I would love to try more of their range, but it will take more investigation than I currently have time for before I do.

Let me know if you try Memebox, and what you think!

Later days!

sigdraft