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Birchbox: September 2014

I hadn’t even had a chance to really open my August Birchbox when I received my September box because I got it early in September.  I am hoping that I will warm to the Birchboxes with the next couple of boxes, because so far I feel kind of ‘meh’ about it. Though I do like that they include some “lifestyle” items each month too because it’s nice to get the other little treats and to sample things over than beauty products.

The September Birchbox was all about reminiscing about happy times and memories in honour of back to school time.  It’s funny that even when it has been years and years since starting school in September was a thing I worried about, I still feel like it is the start of something new.  Since obviously, I’m not headed back to school (thankfully), Birchbox is looking more towards the “you’re never too old to learn” end of things.  The one thing that really got me excited in this month’s box is the Beauty Blender sponge.  I’ve been hearing about this makeup sponge for a while now but I’ve been too cheap to buy one to try.  The other items in the box were just okay, other than the sponge there was nothing that made me really thrilled.  Unfortunately, I’ve only had a chance to try a couple of these out so far, and neither of those was the Beauty Blender.

Beauty Blender & Solkid Cleanser

Beauty Blender & Solkid Cleanser

Beauty Blender and BlenderCleanser Solid, full size sponge and 0.558 ounce cleanser.  I guess I’ll start with the best item first.  Seriously, I think I did a little dance when I saw this in my box this month.  I have been hearing about this sponge and how wonderful it is for a long time now but the steep price put me off buying one.  I don’t use a makeup sponge to apply my foundation now, so I was reluctant to splash out more than £15.00 on trying something out that I didn’t even sort of know if I would like or not.  So I’m thrilled that now I get to try it out for no additional money out of my pocket.  I would have felt better paying that if I used sponges and loved them but wanted something that would last longer.  Apparently, the beauty of the Beauty Blender is that it has this cool elliptical shape (patent pending) which is supposed to make applying your foundation effortless and so easy that even I can do it with spectacular results.  To use this you just wet the sponge, then squeeze it out so it is damp but not soaking wet, dot on your foundation and then use the sponge to stipple your foundation across your face, then once you’re done rinse and clean the sponge.  For the full information on how to use this, you can check out the Beauty Blender website.  I’m not sure if this really works all that differently than a regular makeup sponge but I’m looking forward to giving it a try.  I normally use either my fingers or a brush to apply my foundation, and can get really good results that way.  But I’m always open to trying something new, especially if it could give my foundation a better finish.  The reviews for the Beauty Blender are fantastic, everyone seems to love it and think that it works miracles.  There are 98 reviews for it at Amazon UK and 76 of them are five star reviews and 10 are four star reviews.  Plus, it is always being mentioned as the miracle tool on makeup blogs and videos and in magazines.  This little sponge has a lot to live up to, so I’ll be interested to see the results for myself.

In the Birchbox you get not just the Beauty Blender but also a 0.558 ounce solid round of cleanser to use with your sponge.  The has a super clean, lavender scent and is about half the size of the full sized bar that you can buy for £11.50.  You can buy the same package with the sponge and cleanser for £26.00 at Beauty Blender’s website.  On the Beauty Blender website their kit includes a full sized solid cleanser, so it’s a bit better than the kit that I received from Birchbox.  Of course, for just a wee bit more, you can buy the two separately at Amazon UK; the sponge is £15.50 and the cleanser is £11.50, so £27.00 total.  I’m guessing the cleanser is not really worth that price, so I think I would be tempted to buy just the sponge and use any type of decent soap to clean it.  But you’ve definitely got to use something to clean it because there’s a lot of icky stuff that hangs around on stuff like this and you don’t want that to be transferred to your skin and give you a nasty breakout.

Korres Citrus Shower Gel

Korres Citrus Shower Gel

Korres Citrus Shower Gel, 50ml bottle.  This has a great deep citrusy lemon scent that will definitely give you a wake up during your morning shower.  I’ve tried a bunch of Korres bath and shower products not too long ago during a hotel stay and found the shower gel to be quite nice.  The hotel had the citrus shower gel, but when they replenished they gave us the basil lemon shower gel that I think I liked even better.  There are a bunch of different scents, so whatever kind of mood you are in, they probably have a scent for you.  Korres is a Greek brand that was developed by a homeopathic pharmacy with the goal of using their knowledge and research to create formulations using natural ingredients.  The Korres shower gels are good because they do a little more than just clean your skin because they leave it nicely moisturized throughout the day.  Here’s a bit about the ingredients that leave your skin feeling great:

Wheat proteins form a protective film on the skin, thus maintaining its natural moisture levels. Active aloe juice, rich in vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc and antioxidant enzymes, enhances the immune system of the skin. Furthermore, due to its ability to stimulate collagen and elastin synthesis, aloe vera gel retards skin ageing.

I’ll be honest, when I first tried these products at the hotel I didn’t know anything about the brand and figured it was just some hotel thing.  The soaps and gels were so lovely smelling though that I’m glad to find out that you can actually buy them and I don’t have to keep staying at hotels and collecting the little bottles.  The full sized 250ml shower gels can be found at Amazon UK for varying prices ranging from £6.00 to £8.00 depending on the scent.  The citrus shower gel is just £6.49 at Amazon, which seems a reasonable price since it isn’t just your average run of the mill shower gel or soap.  Alternatively, you can get any of the 250ml shower gels for £8.00 at FeelUnique.

Benefit It's Potent Eye Cream

Benefit It’s Potent Eye Cream

Benefit It’s Potent Eye Cream, 0.1 ounce pot.  This is part of Benefit’s Radiant Skincare collection.  I’ve tried a couple of the other products in the lineup before and wasn’t overwhelmed with the results.  The packaging is cute though, but there’s only so far that can get a product.  The It’s Potent Eye Cream is supposed to be good for fading dark circles, as well as smoothing fine lines because it contains a peptide complex known to help restore elasticity & firmness, as well as a blend of hydrating botanical extracts and loquat extract, known to help protect the skin from free radical damage.  I like a lot of Benefit products, but I’m not that impressed with their skin care and this isn’t an exception.  I’ve used this a couple of times and it hasn’t stunned me with fabulous results at this point.  Not to mention, the little sample jar is so small that I find it annoying to try to use it.  I’ve been using a cotton bud instead (more hygienic that way too) so that I can actually get some out reasonably easily now.  My eyes seem to find this a bit irritating but that might just be in comparison to the Vichy Liftactiv product that I use now that is completely eye friendly.  The Benefit eye cream takes a minute or so to absorb after you apply it, but once it does you’re not left with a sticky feeling or anything bad like that, you can’t really tell it’s there at all.  It has made my eyes feel a little stingy or irritated though, but they were at least well hydrated while being irritated.  It hydrates well but doesn’t seem to have much impact on dark circles or lines, at least not after a few days of use.  I might just need to use it for a bit longer though to get the full results.

You can buy the full 0.5 ounce pot at Benefit for £25.50 through their website, or at their stores or in department stores I’m guessing.  The price is probably about average for eye creams from a decent skin care brand.  I wouldn’t buy this because I don’t think it is as good or as effective as other eye creams that I’ve used though.

Agave Hair Oil Treatment

Agave Hair Oil Treatment

Agave Healing Oil Hair Treatment, 4ml vial.  I’m planning to try this sometime this week, but haven’t had a chance to do so yet.  I should have taken this with me on our holiday this weekend because the shampoo at the hotel was horrible.  As a result of using lousy shampoo for the last four days my hair is in need of some love, and I think this agave oil could be just the thing.  This is a very lightweight oil that is supposed to smooth and hydrate your hair while boosting colour and shine.  I think it is especially good for those with colour treated or processed hair resulting in dry, damaged hair, as well as those of us with a tendency towards frizzy hair (like me).  At this time of year when the amount of rain we’re having seems to be on the rise, I really need something that can keep my frizziness in check so that I don’t look like a human version of a chia pet.  I’ve used hair oils before to varying results.  My hair texture is very fine so it can get weighed down with things like this, but I’m hoping that from my very quick test on a little bit of hair that I won’t have that problem with this oil.  Here’s a bit about how the Agave oil does its thing:

Unlike heavy nut oils, Agave oil with it’s plant extract conditions hair without the weight, building strength and resiliency, while helping boost vibrancy and color. Amino sugars lock moisture inside of the hair, adding strength, resiliency and elasticity. Beneficial botanicals coconut, vanilla, sunflower, and safflower are blended with Madagascar baobab seed oil to nourish and transform hair’s outer layer. Ideal for all types of hair: fine, medium and course textures.  And it’s free of the stuff that’s not so good for your locks: parabens, sulfates, and phthalates.

I’m really looking forward to trying this out and seeing if it can tame my frizzy hair while still leaving it shiny.  The good thing is that you can use this on either damp or dry hair, so you don’t have to decide when your hair is still wet if you want to use it or not.  I like products that give me the opportunity to style my hair before I determine if I need a little help.  The only place I’ve found to purchase this in the UK is through Birchbox, but you can at least get this in two different sizes from them.  You can get a 120ml pump bottle for £27.00 or a 60ml pump for £16.00.  Since a little bit of this (or any oil) goes a long, long way, the 60 ml bottle is probably a size that can keep your hair soft and lovely for a very long time.

 

ModelCo Power Lash Mascara

ModelCo Power Lash Mascara

ModelCo Power Lash Mascara, 5ml tube. I believe this is a a sample size product, though I can’t verify that because they don’t list the product amounts on the ModelCo website, which is annoying and less than helpful.  I had heard of this brand before but I’ve never tried any of the products though.  I had actually thought it was a cheap, low end brand, if I’m honest.  With all of that negative stuff said, I will say that this mascara is really nice if you’re going for a long lashed but natural look.  The formula is nice and goes on without clumping or sticking together.  And that, combined with the brush that has rather a lot of thick, chunky looking bristles means that each lash gets a nice coating of mascara that separates the lashes but adds a lot of length.  You could easily put this on and not look like you were wearing mascara at all, just like you have enviably long lashes.  The brush also works well for the very small, delicate lower lashes too.  I’m impressed that they look so natural and long.  It is really like your lashes have just grown.  The only place I have found does get clumpy is the lip of the tube when you pull the brush out or push it back in.  For some reason when you do that it makes a huge mess and you end up having a build up of mascara around the lip of the tube which is wasteful.

And you are going to be worried about the waste because this isn’t a very big tube since it is just 5 grams, which is smaller than any other mascara that I have right now (from a variety of brands from L’Oreal to Lancome).  And at £24.00 for a tube of this, I want to not waste a smidgen of it!  I think the price is pretty steep considering that you’re not getting as much as you would from other mascaras that are about the same price.  Of course, that is all predicated on this 5ml tube being full sized.  If this is indeed a half size sample, then it is pretty much the same price as other quality mascaras and a fair value considering how nicely it goes on and how super it makes your lashes look.  The only place I could find this was at the ModelCo website where it sells for £24.00 for a tube of unknown size.

Urban Fruit Magnificent Mango

Urban Fruit Magnificent Mango

Urban Fruit Magnificent Mango Snack Pack, 35 gram bag.  I love mango anything.  I love mango nectar or ice cream or drinks or just the fruit or mango scented lotions.  Really, mango is my favourite fruit and I eat it all the time dried or fresh or as nectar or juice.  I’m a big fan, as you can probably tell.  What I’m not a big fan of was what the Urban Fruit people did to this mango.  They say it is “just fruit, gently baked”.  But I’m not sure about that gently part.  The fruit was really tough and had lost any semblance of moisture or juiciness and as a result, good flavour.  And I know that just because you dry fruit doesn’t mean it needs to turn into something resembling wood.  I eat dried mango all the time and it still has a lot of softness and moisture to it.  So, that made me very sad.  What is good though is that they don’t use preservatives or added sugars when they make this.  If they could just get down how to bake it without killing the flavour and goodness of it, I think they’d be on to something.

You can get a 100 gram bag of this at your favourite local supermarket like Tesco, Ocado, Waitrose, or ASDA for £1.97 regularly, though right now everyone but Waitrose has it on sale for two bags for £3.50 or £1.75 for a 100 gram bag.  If mango isn’t your obsession like me, then you’ll be glad to hear that Urban Fruit is made with a number of different fruit options, including strawberries and pineapple.

Birchbox Photo Clip

Birchbox Photo Clip

Birchbox Happy Days Photo Clip.  This is a cute little way to hold a photo, or even just notes or cards, on your desk, table or mantle.  And what’s nice is this means that you don’t have to worry about getting a frame that is the right size or anything like that.  I’ve been using this to hold notes to myself on my desk because otherwise I tend to not notice them.  I don’t usually print out pictures now because I have them all on my computer.  However, since getting this cute little photo clip I’ve thought I should get a nice picture of Dave and me to put on my desk.  Maybe I should make a note about that.

How does this Birchbox stack up on value:

  • Beauty Blender and BlenderCleanser Solid, full size sponge and 0.558 ounce cleanser: £26.00 value.
  • Benefit It’s Potent Eye Cream, 0.1 ounce pot:  £5.10 value.
  • Korres Citrus Shower Gel, 50ml bottle:  £1.30 value.
  • ModelCo Power Lash Mascara, 5ml tube: £12.00 value.
  • Agave Healing Oil Hair Treatment, 4ml vial: £0.90 value.
  • Urban Fruit Magnificent Mango Snack Pack, 35 gram bag: £0.61 value.
  • Birchbox Happy Days Photo Clip: £1.00 value.
  • Total Value: £46.91

Thanks to the value of the Beauty Blender, the value of the September Birchbox more than covered the subscription fee.  I am most surprised by the value of that little teeny tiny pot of Benefit It’s Potent Eye cream.  I look at that little tub and can’t imagine it is worth that amount because it just seems so so small.  I feel like the value of the box was good, but for some reason I’ve just not been that enthused overall by my Birchboxes.  Maybe it was just the craziness of moving and all of that leaving feeling not that energetic about anything in a box.  I’m hoping that by the time my October box gets here I’m able to get excited by unpacking a box full of little treats.

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