Birchbox: August 2014

I got my first Birchbox in August, right before we moved.  I have to say, I wasn’t overwhelmingly impressed with my first foray into Birchbox.  I was thinking they would have more full sized products but they seem all about the small sample sizes instead (that’s what was in my second box too).  So that is a bit disappointing and definitely makes me glad that I was able to get a good deal through LivingSocial now.  I’m thinking of it as a good way to get to try new things and brands.

The August 2014 Birchbox was themed “Away We Go” to celebrate summer getaways.  The box had five beauty items, I think one of them might have been full sized, plus there was a single chapter of a book.  And it came packaged in a clear plastic pouch that you could take with you on a plane without security going nuts.  The pouch is kind of handy but probably smaller than full airline security needs it to be, but it does have a handy zip top closure to keep all of your stuff secure without a big hassle.  I’ll probably use it for short weekend trips since I never take as much products then.  The products are all geared toward travel too, not just because of the small size, but because of what they do, so they worked with their theme well I would say.  There’s only one product that is a total “no” for me (the first review below), so that is really good.  I haven’t read the book and doubt I will and I’m not reviewing it here.  If I want to sample a book chapter, I can do that on my Kindle without wasting paper (hint, hint Birchbox).

Dead Sea Spa Magik Refreshing Bath Shower Gel
Dead Sea Spa Magik Refreshing Bath Shower Gel

Dead Sea Spa Magik Refreshing Bath Shower Gel, 25ml tube.  You can add this to a bath or apply it in the shower to get nicely moisturized skin.  The moisturizing part it does do well, but it’s got a bit of a scent issue, in my opinion.  In the tube it smells like old fashioned Oil of Olay or maybe makeup remover.  Whatever it is, it doesn’t smell good and definitely smells like my grandma’s bathroom.  So, I’m not a huge fan of the scent straight on the tube and unfortunately, you are left with a trace of that smell on your skin once you’ve used it.  It certainly isn’t as potent after I’ve washed with it, but definitely I can still smell it.  But hey, at least it is allergen-free fragrance.  Let’s talk about the good stuff.  The good thing is that it does make your skin feel soft and lovely after you’ve used it.  Here’s all the ways Finders Health (the maker) says it will help your skin:  Helps to prevent dryness, Helps maintain skin’s elasticity and texture, Makes you feel revitalised and relaxed, Leaves body refreshed and moisturised, Rejuvenates appearance of skin, Relaxes your body and mind.  I will point out that they are a bit repetitive with their list, but I won’t dwell on that.  They use something called harmonised water which they don’t really explain but has something to do with using Dead Sea water as the base.  But that doesn’t really say much about how it is going to be helpful or beneficial to my skin.  The shower gel is paraben free, so that’s a point in their favour.

Somehow it does make my skin feel soft but overall, it isn’t something I’d be likely to buy a full size of because of the scent which I just can’t get past.  You can buy it on the high street at places like Holland & Barrett, Debenhams and John Lewis.  The full size is 350ml bottle that you can pick up for £7.15, and judging from the reviews at John Lewis, I am the only person that doesn’t like the smell.  For something that does pretty much the same thing for my skin, I prefer La Roche-Posay Lipikar Surgras even if it is more expensive.

Wild About Beauty Eyeshadow
Wild About Beauty Eyeshadow

Wild About Beauty Powder Eyeshadow, 2.5 gram full size compact.  This isn’t that big but is a regular full size compact, and is actually a perfect size for popping in your bag or taking with you on a trip.  The colour I received was “Aine” which is a great neutral golden colour with a bit of an orange undertone.  The shadow looks really nice on and has great colour that lasts really well.  The shadow is highly pigmented and fortified with good things like aloe vera and vitamins E and C, all of which will keep your skin healthy and looking good.  There are five colours in this same formulation and they all look really wearable for a neutral eye look.  I love the deep purple that they have called “Heather” and might consider picking it up after I give this one a few more tries to see how it holds up to a really long day or night out.  The colour I received is great for taking with you on a trip if you want to pack super light and have just a single colour of eyeshadow because it is neutral and could work for either a day or night look, though you’d definitely want to jazz it up a bit for night with more eye liner and mascara.

You can apply this eyeshadow with a brush or your finger, though I prefer the control of a brush.  They also suggest you can apply it with a wet brush to create a more dramatic look; I’ve not tried that though.  You can pick this eyeshadow up at FeelUnique for £13.00.  Since it seems like a nice eyeshadow, plus it is free of nasty things like parabens and petrochemicals, I think the price is probably reasonable.

No 4 Super Comb Prep & Protect
No 4 Super Comb Prep & Protect

Number 4 Super Comb Prep & Protect, 30ml spray bottle.  This is a leave-in conditioner that is designed to protect your hair against heat and sun.  Naturally, that makes it perfect for a holiday.  I love stuff like this when I’m going to the beach because sun can be really hard on your hair, as can the salt water or pool water.  And if you colour your hair, you definitely need something to give you some help with the sun which can really zap your colour.  And if you’re not hanging at the beach or pool, you can always use it just to keep your hair tangle free and nice.  Of course, things like this are perfect for protecting your hair from heat styling tools like blowdryers or straighteners too.  I’ve only used this once but thought it worked pretty well even on my very fine hair.  I tried it on a day when it was humid and my hair usually gets a bit frizzy but it seemed to keep the frizz down to a minimum.  The smell is also really nice with a bit of a florally thing going on, but isn’t that overly fragranced.

Super Comb Prep and Protect is easy to use too.  All you need to do is spritz it onto your damp hair and comb through, then just style like normal.  It is that easy!  The results are good too, so you can’t really ask for more than that.  But if you could you might want it to be free of nasties, and this totally is: it is 100% vegan, as well as free of gluten, sulfate, parabens, and sodium chloride.  The full size 200ml spray bottle seems to only be available through Birchbox in the UK, which I find a bit annoying.  You can buy it at Birchbox for £20.00 though.  The price might seem a bit steep, but it is about the same as the Phyto leave-in conditioner and protectant product that I use (I don’t think I’ve done a review of this yet but I love it).  I’ll have to try the No. 4 product more before I can judge if it is better than the Phyto product for my hair.  I might take it on my upcoming holiday to give it a good try.

Vasanti Brighten Up!
Vasanti Brighten Up!

Vasanti Brighten Up! Enzymatic Face Rejuvenator, 20ml tube.  This is an exfoliating face wash that is designed to refine your skin texture while leading to a brighter appearance to your skin too.  Vasanti uses papaya extracts along with micro-crystals to help you get a better texture to your skin and rejuvenate your skin’s appearance.  They also have added in some other things to help your skin too:  aloe vera, coconut and panthenol.  The micro-crystals mean that unlike some exfoliation products for you face this one has a really fine texture so you don’t feel like you are scrubbing the top three layers of your skin off.  It does leave you with a soft feeling to your skin that doesn’t feel irritated and too scrubbed.  Here’s what they say about how this product works on the Vasanti website:

Triple Action Formula:
1. Powerful papaya enzymes break down dead skin cells to help progressively smooth your skin’s surface and uncover a healthy radiant glow.
2. Dermatologist-grade Microderm Crystals at 25%, work to stimulate and exfoliate your skin to help smooth and reduce the appearance of fine lines, scars and blemishes. Many dermatologists use these same crystals for their microdermabrasion treatments.
3. Aloe vera, coconut, panthenol along with a mild cleansing gel keeps your skin hydrated and refreshed and helps soothe the skin during the exfoliation process

I’ve only used this once so far, so I don’t feel like I have really tried it enough to know how it will work for my skin with regular use.  However, based on my initial try I think it is something I’m going to like.  Though, how well it will work to brighten up my skin’s appearance is still to be seen.  I have a couple of different facial exfoliants that I use, and generally I do think your skin looks best if you use a gentle exfoliator three times per week.

Along with being 100% vegan and 99% natural, Brighten Up! is free of gluten, parabens, mineral oil and petrolatum, sulfates, GMO’s, and Triclosan.  This is a North American brand, so it seems sort of hard to find in the UK.  You can get it through the Birchbox shop or through Amazon UK though.  Each place sells it for £26.00 for the full sized 120ml tube.  The reviews at both places, as well as the Vasanti website, are all really positive and everyone seems to rave about this product, so I’m looking forward to fully trying it out.

NUDE ProGenius Treatment Oil
NUDE ProGenius Treatment Oil

NUDE ProGenius Treatment Oil, 5ml pump bottle.  This is seemingly the perfect thing to keep your face hydrated either on the plane or when you are actually on holiday.  This oil has all kinds of good things for your skin, like omegas 3,6,7 and 9 to reduce the signs of aging, as well as 10 carefully selected plant oils that hydrate and smooth your skin.  I really like facial oils because they seems to deliver the good stuff right to your skin in a more efficient way than creams and they absorb quickly too.  I also think they are often lighten in texture so you can easily wear them under your foundation or regular products and get all the benefits without feeling like you have a bunch of heavy layers on your skin.   The ProGenius oil is really lightweight but very nourishing and on a regular day around the house, has managed to keep my skin feeling soft and well great all day long.  I’ve tried this a couple of times and think I will definitely use it for my next plane ride to keep my skin extra hydrated.

You just need a tiny, tiny amount of this for it to be useful to your skin, so two drops should be all you need.  After you’ve cleansed your skin, put a couple of drops onto your skin and rub it in.  I’ve sometimes found with facial oils that if my skin is feeling particularly dehydrated that an extra drop is needed.  This works so well under makeup or my regular moisturizer that I’m a fan.  But the price is pretty steep, so I’m not sure if I’ll splurge on getting the full sized version of this.  You can find the full sized 30ml bottle at Birchbox or SpaceNK for £58.00.

So, how does my first Birchbox stack up on value:

  • Dead Sea Spa Magik Refreshing Bath Shower Gel, 25ml tube:  £0.51 value.
  • Wild About Beauty Powder Eyeshadow, 2.5 gram full size compact: £13.00 value.
  • Number 4 Super Comb Prep & Protect, 30ml spray bottle: £3.00 value.
  • Vasanti Brighten Up! Enzymatic Face Rejuvenator, 20ml tube: £4.33 value.
  • NUDE ProGenius Treatment Oil, 5ml pump bottle: £9.67 value.
  • Total Value: £30.51

I’ll be honest, this box didn’t seem to have that much value in it, but it did pretty well when I actually tallied it up.  I paid £38.00 for a six month Birchbox subscription, including the shipping, which means £6.33 per month.  So, I think I came out surprisingly well overall with £24.18 worth of product value over the cost of the box.  Luckily there was just the one product, the shower gel, that I don’t like and probably won’t want to really use, and it was even the cheapest one in the box.  I must say, I am pleasantly surprised because I didn’t really think the Birchbox subscription was going to prove to be worth it when I first opened the little tiny box.

La Roche-Posay Physiological Ultra-Fine Scrub

I like to use a cleanser a couple of times per week that is more of a scrub than just a cleanser.  I like the gentle exfoliation, along with the side benefits of that like radiance and smoothness.  It seems like a good thing to get rid of dead skin and excess oil with something scrubby.  Of course, you want to avoid anything too harsh because that will do more damage than good.  A lot of scrubs and facial exfoliators use things that are just too gritty I think, so it can be hard to find something that is the perfect mix of cleanser, gentle scrub, and actually good for your skin.  I think the La Roche-Posay Physiological Ultra-Fine Scrub is a good mix of all of those qualities and has worked really well for me.

La Roche-Posay Physiological Ultra-Fine Scrub
La Roche-Posay Physiological Ultra-Fine Scrub

The “Physiological” part of this scrubs name comes from La Roche-Posay formulating it, as well as the other cleansers in this range, to do the job of cleansing but maintain the delicate pH balance of your skin.  This is formulated for sensitive skin and is just what you want, or don’t want as the case may be, in your cosmetics:  no parabens, no soap, no alcohol, and no artificial colours.  And of course, it is enriched with La Roche-Posay Thermal Spring Water too which is exceptionally rich in anti-oxidant selenium. The water has soothing, softening and anti-irritating properties which makes it perfect for any type of cleanser.

The little bits that do the actual scrubbing part are very fine, much smaller than most scrubs, and do their work without feeling harsh at all.  To be truthful, unlike almost every other scrub like this I have used, you really can’t even feel the exfoliating action, but you can definitely see and feel the results when you are done.  It’s gentle enough that you could use it every day, but I prefer to only use it a few times per week; three or four, depending on how my skin is looking in a given week.  Also, it will remove makeup but since you can’t use it around your eye area, or at least you really, really shouldn’t, you’ll need to use something else for that super delicate area.

I’ve been using this for a few weeks now and have found it to be a great switch from other scrubs.  Since it is free from soaps and alcohols and anything that will overly dry the skin, it never leaves me with that tight feeling.  Instead my skin looks really fresh and glowy.  I think it is even working to improve the texture a bit.  I definitely think my skin is looking better since I’ve started using this.  I feel like when I use a good scrub like this my makeup looks better and smoother.  Plus, I think my skin care works more effectively too.

I purchased my first tube from FeelUnique for the full price of £10.00 for the 50 ml tube.  I think that is a super fair price and would gladly pay that again, but luckily for me FeelUnique is having their French Pharmacy brands sale right now, so I don’t have to pay full price to get another one.  Throughout the rest of the month you can get the La Roche-Posay Physiological Ultra-Fine Scrub for £6.66, and if you order more than £10.00 of stuff you get free shipping too.  I like it so much that I ended up buying a second one since it is such a good deal right now.   You can also find this at Boots for the same regular price of £10.00.


GLAMGLOW Youthmud Tinglexfoliate Treatment

I would be really surprised if you have’t heard of GLAMGLOW and their amazing Youthmud by now.  I had read so many fabulous reviews that I finally decided that I would splurge and try it for myself.  After giving it a few tries, I must say, it really does live up to the hype.  I am definitely impressed and will certainly be keeping this as a part of my weekly skincare routine.

GLAMGLOW Youthmud Mask
GLAMGLOW Youthmud Mask

GLAMGLOW was started in 2010 and originally handmade by the couple and given to celeb friends who wanted something that would make their skin instantly look better on camera.  By 2011 though, it had gotten around Hollywood that this was an amazing product and a retailer asked to sell it.  Luckily for all of us, this didn’t just stay some industry secret though because we can all enjoy the star treatment now, right in our own bathrooms.

This is a mud mask but it does so much more than the standard mud mask, really.  I also noticed right away that the texture isn’t nearly as thick as the usual mud masks that I use.  Everyone talks about how this is like a 10 minute facial in a jar, or a professional (read: expensive) facial at home.  And GLAMGLOW say that it delivers both instant and cumulative results and leaves your complexion revived and glowing for 3 days after each application.  To be honest, whenever something is raved about like this and talked about like it is a miracle in a jar, I usually tune out but I actually decided to try this (on the off chance that it really was so great).  However, I fully expected to hardly notice a difference in my skin, but I was pleasantly surprised, or maybe amazed is more accurate, to end up with really great looking skin for the following three or four days.

Youthmud Mask....miracle in a jar?
Youthmud Mask….miracle in a jar?

Here’s a list of all of the great things you can expect from this miracle mud:

  • Skin Collagen Synthesis for a noticeable 3 day glow.
  • Brighter, radiant skin in minutes.
  • Leaves skin noticeably soft and smooth.
  • Multi-level resurfacing exfoliation.
  • Penetrates into the deepest layers of the skin to soften fine lines and wrinkles.
  • Tightens, tones and lifts the skin.
  • Relives dark circles and minimises pores.
  • Absorbs impurities without removing natural oils.
  • Helps protect against everyday environmental aggressors.
  • Suitable for all skin types, all ages and for both women and men.
  • Contains no artificial colours, fragrances, or parabens.
  • Cruelty-free, and suitable for vegans.

The secret behind the mud is the patent pending TEAOXI, which is GLAMGLOW’s proprietary continuous time-release technology, delivering daily fresh Super-Squalene, EGCG Super-Antioxidants & Polyphenols direct into the mud from the real pieces of tea leaf contained in the mask. TEAOXI is the ‘magic’ behind the  anti-aging and anti wrinkle results.  You can find out more about the ingredients at the GLAMGLOW website (UK version).

Looks gross but the results are great!
Looks gross but the results are great!

When you open the jar, the first thing you will probably notice is that it looks a bit like concrete in colour and has chunks of something black in it.  The chunks of stuff are actually the black tea leaves that make it work so well, apparently.  As I mentioned the texture is nowhere near as thick or stiff as most mud masks, which is good because that means that you don’t have to have so much waste, and at the price of this you really don’t want to waste a smidge of it.  The smell is not offensive or overpowering, which is good since you’ll have to leave it on for 10 minutes or so while it dries.  If it looks a bit clumpy or stiff you can stir it up a bit to liquefy it before you apply it.

To apply the mask,  cleanse your face and then put a layer of this on the entire face (avoiding the eye area of course) that is enough to cover but not very thickly .  The tingling feeling starts to kick in as the mask dries and feels nice and energising.  When the mask fully dries, in 10 to 15 minutes, remove it with some warm water.  The key to getting the best out of the exfoliating properties of the mask is to remove it with a gentle circular motion.  I use my hands but you could just as easily use a wet cloth, just as long as you remember to rub it gently to remove it and exfoliate at the same time.  They say you can use this twice per week, but I like to use it on Friday or Saturday so I have great looking skin all weekend long. I would definitely use it before any big parties or special occasions like that though.

This has won all kinds of beauty awards in the last few years and is on all of the hot product lists too.  Once you try it, you can definitely understand all of the adulation and attention.  After I use this, my skin looks brighter or more radiant, with an almost indescribable improvement that just looks like fantastic skin.  I can definitely tell a difference in the texture of my skin too because it seems smoother and pores seem smaller.  My skin is soft and feels great, and is not at all dry.   I can see why anyone in front of the camera would be over the moon for this.  I will definitely buy this again and might even get a small size so that I can take it with me when we go on holiday.    If you’re on the fence about spending this kind of cash for a mask, I would definitely suggest you buy one of the Try Before You Buy kits to see how it works for you and judge for yourself if the results you see make the price worth it.

If you are in the UK, you can find the GLAMGLOW Youthmud mask at for £39.99 for a 50 gram/1.7 fluid ounce jar.  It might seem shockingly pricey but the difference in your skin is certainly noticeable and worth the splurge.  You can also buy it at Amazon UK for £34.95.  Or, you can buy it direct from GLAMGLOW UK for £49.99 (but why would you want to pay more for it there).  What you can find at the GLAMGLOW UK website that you can’t find anywhere else (at least not that I’ve found) is a Try Before You Buy kit for £13.00 that includes 2 individual YOUTHMUD treatments, 2 individual SUPERMUD treatments and 2 BRIGHTMUD ChromeCells.  It’s one nice little kit that will allow you to try all of their products, or is perfect for taking on your next holiday.

If you are in the US, you can find buy it direct from GLAMGLOW through their website for $69.00 for the same 50 gram/1.7 fluid ounce jar.  Or, you can buy it for the more reasonable price of $41.00 at Amazon US.  Tt the GLAMGLOW US website you can also buy the Try Before You Buy kit for $11.99 that includes 2 individual YOUTHMUD treatments, 2 individual SUPERMUD treatments and 2 BRIGHTMUD ChromeCells.

If you’re on the fence about spending this kind of cash for a mask, I would definitely suggest you buy one of the Try Before You Buy kits to see how it works for you and judge for yourself if the results you see make the price worth it.  For myself, I think it is worth it because I know that I won’t be using it all the time and it will last for a while.  Plus, the results are really impressive and made my skin look amazing, even if it was only for 3 days.  I think of this as how my face might look, if I were very lucky, after a really good and expensive facial at a salon, but the price for the Youthmud and the convenience of doing it at home, is way less than even one salon visit.

Boots No 7 Total Renewal Micro-Dermabrasion

No 7 Total Renewal Micro-Dermabrasion

The No 7 Total Renewal Micro-Dermabrasion has been a totally new product for me, not just the brand but the whole concept of using a microdermabrasion product at home, or in a doctor’s office for that matter, so I was a bit anxious to see how it would work.  I’m (surprisingly)  not getting any younger and a few months ago I decided that my face needed a little pick me up to get back to having that youthful glow I had a few years ago.  The older you get the duller and decidedly less fresh looking your skin appears, plus you get dark patches and your skin just isn’t as nice as it once looked.  I have kind of persnickety skin, so I really like a great exfoliator that won’t break me out or lead to issues of any kind.  Since this is designed for you to use at home, it isn’t as powerful, or potentially damaging to your skin, as what you would find in a doctor’s office or a spa type setting.  Here’s what Boots says about how it works:  “Aluminium-oxide micro-crystals smooth, refine and renew sweeping away dull cells for incredible radiance from the first time you use it. Within 4 treatments stimulates skin cell renewal to work against fine lines, skin tone evens, leaving skin softer, silky to touch and more refined. Helps to work against the appearance of dark areas, sun damaged or blemish prone skin too.”  It sounds like magic in a squeezy tube, huh?

The instructions are pretty clear and are easy enough (pretty much like your regular exfoliator) so that even I am able to use this without a problem.  It does say that you can use it twice per week, but I try not to use it more than once per week.  Though, I tried a twice per week schedule for a couple of really hot weeks here and it wasn’t too hard on my skin now, when I’m a little more oily, but I don’t think I would continue that schedule during winter with drier skin.  I’ve read that microdermabrasion, if used too often, can do more damage than good and I’d prefer to avoid that.  I expect that is more in reference to the spa or doctor’s office strength products and not stuff you use at home, but just to be safe I err on the side of caution.

After using this for a couple of months, I have to say I have not noticed any dramatic differences in my skin colouring or glowiness.  However, this is an excellent exfoliator and has kept me blemish free during the summer.  As I mentioned, I’m a little more oily during the summer, and definitely this summer I have been sweatier on my face since it has been so hot here in London, so this has managed to help keep my skin cleaner I think.  What I have noticed is that the texture of my skin does appear to be a bit finer and my skin feels softer as a result, I think.  But I didn’t do pictures or anything, so this is just my subjective opinion.  All in all, I think this seems like a great at home product, but you’re not going to get some fabulously dramatic change in your skin most likely; of course, this depends on your skin’s state to begin with I suppose.  However, this will keep your skin clean and help to improve the texture a bit.

Do be careful not to overuse it, and be very, very careful to avoid getting it anywhere near your eye lid or under eye area; that skin is just too delicate for something like this.  Not to mention, you don’t want those little particles anywhere near your actual eye.  Also, my other tip would be to not rub it in to your skin too vigorously or you will just end up making your skin look red and blotchy, and it will be very sensitive for a couple of days (yes, I did this one time by mistake).  This is definitely a product where you should use it as they suggest and don’t try to get too fancy with your interpretation of the instructions.

If you are wondering where to get your own No 7 Total Renewal Micro-Dermabrasion, you buy it through Boots (No 7 is their brand).  You can get it online or in any of their stores.  Here in the UK it costs £11.00 for a 75 ml tube, which lasts quite a while since you don’t use all that much each time.  I was fortunate enough to have a £5.00 coupon for a No 7 product, so it was just £6.00 for me.  If you go to the Boots website you will see that this product has great reviews: 77% of users would recommend this.  So, needless to say while my skin might not look like it did when I was 16, this is great and for the price is an excellent addition to your skin care program.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find this on the Boots US site.