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.

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.

My Favourite Travel Sized Companions

We take a lot of weekend trips, so over the last few years I’ve tried to get a good selection of travel sized beauty products.  If we’re not going on a super long trip, I only carry hand luggage, which means I have to comply with airline regulations that I have all of my liquids in a clear quart sized bag and none of the items can be over 100ml.  This is pretty annoying and restrictive, but I’ve found some really great multi-purpose products that fit into the small size requirements perfectly.  Sometimes, I even have room left over in my quart sized bag.

Some of my favourite travel companions
Some of my favourite travel companions

1. DHC Deep Cleansing Oil, 70ml – I’ve written about this before because it is my daily facial cleanser of choice.  It’s an ideal travel companion though because it does the work of two products but isn’t a space hog.  It removes makeup and leaves your skin looking and feeling super clean but since it doesn’t strip it of its natural oils your skin still feels soft and not at all tight.    I always use it to remove my makeup because it works so well on even really stubborn mascara.  Plus, the oil texture means that you don’t have to worry about scrubbing at the delicate skin around your eye area to get your eye makeup off.  You can only find this at the DHC website, but you can get it in two travel sizes now: 70ml for £11.00 or the really tiny 30ml version for £4.50.

2. La Roche-Posay Hydraphase Intense Light, 50ml – This is another great multi-purpose item.  Depending on how heavy you put this on it is equally good as a day or night cream.  It doesn’t have an SPF in it, but I’ve got another product for that, so it can be used to keep you skin hydrated and lovely all day and night.  It has a nice light texture that works well under foundation because it isn’t too heavy feeling, and really, the lack of SPF means that you won’t get any of that shine in your holiday snaps either.  At night I put this on a bit heavier and it works to keep my skin hydrated.  You can get La Roche-Posay products at a number of chemists, but I get mine from FeelUnique for £16.50.  They also have a formula that is thicker called Hydraphase Intense Rich for people with really dry skin, they sell a version of that with SPF too, both for £16.50 as well.

3. Chanel Perfection Lumiere Velvet, 30ml – I am loving this foundation.  I haven’t had a chance to write my full review of this yet, but the condensed version is that I am a huge fan.  This gives your skin a beautiful smooth, matt finish with an incredibly light texture even with its SPF15.  It goes on as a liquid but dries to a powdery type finish, and that’s how it makes your skin look so great.  It is light enough that you can use it under your eye area too without it settling into all of the fine lines and looking like a hot mess.  This is great for travel because of the packaging, but also because you’ll look gorgeous on holiday.  The packaging is very slim, flat, and compact so it fits in your little bag of liquids really well.  This is the best liquid foundation packaging I think I’ve come across for traveling.  Also, you don’t need to use a lot of it so this little bottle has good longevity.   You can get this at Boots or Harrods for £33.00.

4. Lancôme Définicils High Definition Mascara, 6.5g –  I’ve used this mascara for years and love it.  It will always have a place in my mascara collection because of how you can use it to either get a very light coating or layer it up for a more dramatic look.  The small brush is the key I think because it is can easily coat all of your lashes, upper and lower, without clumping.  It’s nice for travel because of the slim packaging, which I’m sure they can achieve because of the small brush.  Also, I never have a problem with this flaking after a long day, which is great since I wear contact lenses.  Lately I’ve been getting my Définicils Mascara from FeelUnique for £22.50.  You can use this without an eyelash curler because it will actually give your lashes a bit of curl it seems, or you can pack the very compact Muji Portable Eyelash Curler (£3.95) which takes up way less space in your travel bag than your traditional eyelash curler.

5. Aveda brilliant Retexturing Gel, 25ml – Dave and I have both been using this for years in our travel kit.  It works really well to give your hair body and control without making it look dry or dull.  I like it because I can use it to bring out my curl or to keep my hair sleek and smooth when I blow it out straight.  This has all kinds of reasons for being in my travel bag really, not the least of which is that both Dave and I can use it and it works for curly or straight hair.  It’s quite good for hold too, so sometimes I don’t even need to bother with hairspray, which means I can save that much more room.  I’ve only had luck finding the travel sized version of the brilliant Gel from Aveda for £5.50.

6. L’Oreal Elnett Flexible Extra Hairspray, 75ml – Even though I just got through saying that I don’t always need hairspray with the Aveda gel, sometimes I do, it just depends on where we are traveling too.  I like the L’Oreal Elnett Flexible Extra because it keeps my hair soft to the touch, and to the eye, but still manages to have great holding powers.  I find this to be really useful when it is humid too because it doesn’t ever seem to get sticky like a lot of hairsprays.  I normally get mine when I order from my groceries from Ocado for £2.50 because it seems to be less expensive than other places I’ve found it. It is kind of expensive for this little can, but I haven’t found a good replacement that is less expensive for a travel size.

7. bareMinerals Natural Sunscreen SPF 30, 4g – Okay, this doesn’t need to go into your clear baggie of liquids, but is something you should always take when you’re traveling.  I’ve only been using this for about a month now, but I love it.  The powder sunscreen works so well to protect my skin, but doesn’t feel heavy or make my face feel greasy or sweaty.  I like that this does double duty as a way to protect my skin from the sun, but also as a light finishing powder to set my makeup.  The packaging is nice because it comes with its own retractable brush so you don’t have to worry about bringing one along with you but is still really compact.  This can easily tuck away in your carry on luggage or even your handbag.  I got mine from FeelUnique for  £21.95.

So, that’s not an exhaustive list of what’s in my travel bag, but these are the things that are always going to be in there.  If you are looking for some other travel sized suggestions, Vogue recently had a great article with 20 petite products that they think are tops for travel.

Glossybox: June 2014

I took a bit of a holiday right at the end of June, beginning of July, so I’m a bit late posting about my June Glossybox.  The June box is all about Summer, as you might expect.  The items in the box have all been selected to help you get that gorgeous, effortless Summer glow quickly and without a lot of products involved.  June is also the last month that there will be a printed magazine in the box because they switched to an online version instead.  This switch is kind of nice because it allows them to add videos and more information than in the print version.  And unlike the print version, they’ll be able to update it and add information all month long.

The June box had four full sized products, which I think it great and the other product was a decent sized sample too.  I love it when they include the full sized stuff because I really feel like I’m getting good value, plus, you have enough of something to actually see if it works and you like it.  Since I’ve been Glossyboxing for about a year now, I also got a special little treat: a Green & Black’s Organic Dark Chocolate Bar.  The bar was not full size, but big enough to enjoy and have a little treat.  I like or at least can use all of the items this month, so this seemed like a decent box to me.

So Susan Cosmetics Universal Blush
So Susan Cosmetics Universal Blush

So Susan Cosmetics, Universal Blush, 4 gram full size container.  I love this blush!  It is the perfect colour for me, even now that I might have a hint of summer colour on my face (probably not, but it’s possible).   The blush works with your skin’s natural chemistry to create a colour that will give you that perfect glow.  Here’s what they say about the blush on the So Susan website:

A micronized, jet-milled blush that works with your skin’s natural chemistry to create a universal healthy flush that is flattering on all skintones. Made with Buriti Fruit Oil to repair the epidermis and improve skin elasticity.

I like how it goes on and looks just right on my skin without any need to break out a second colour for contouring or highlighting.  There’s just a touch of shimmer in the blush, so it gives you just a nice subtle glow that doesn’t look over the top or too shiny.  I also like that it is free from mineral oil, phthalates, and fragrance.  Plus, no animal testing.  They’ve added Pink Kaolin Clay into the blush, so that you can use it if you have sensitive skins or dry skin, since the clay doesn’t draw oils from the skin.  And if that all wasn’t enough, it is also made with Buriti Fruit Oil to nourish and repair the epidermis as well as improve the skin’s elasticity, plus it is also known to reduce redness and offer sun protection from harmful UV rays.  It’s obviously a hard working blush. And of course, it looks great on too.  I’ve found myself reaching for this all the time now because the colour is so nice.

You can buy this directly from So Susan Cosmetics via their website for  £17.95; free shipping on orders over £50.00.  I’m not positive, but I think you can only buy it directly from So Susan actually.  I haven’t been able to find it at Amazon, FeelUnique, Boots, or anyplace else either.  I would say that the Universal Blush is comparable to the Stila Custom Colour Blush (5 grams) that you can buy at FeelUnique for £13.00, which I also have.  The So Susan blush is a bit more expensive, but I like the formulation better and the colour and result on your cheek is just more flattering.  While I was on the So Susan website, I did a quick look around and have to say that they have a great selection of gift sets and products at pretty reasonable prices too. I will definitely have to check out the website in more detail next time I’m looking for some cosmetics.

QV Skin Lotion
QV Skin Lotion

QV Skin Lotion, 15ml sample bottle.  As I’ve mentioned a number of times on here, I’ve got a bit of a picky skin situation.  I have a little problem with eczema on my hands especially, and my skin usually flips out and gets a nasty outbreak (red, scaly, gross looking rashy type thing) when I change lotion or use certain products, but luckily not with the QV Lotion.  The QV line of skincare products was created by dermatologists for everyday use by everyone, even those with skin issues.  The QV products are all suitable, and gentle enough, for people with eczema, psorisis, or dermatitis, as well as babies.  Their products are free from sodium lauryl sulphate, fragrance, colour, lanolin, and propylene glycol.  

I have been using a combination of Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream and L’Occitane Shea Butter Hand Cream for a while now to keep my hands from having eczema issues and that combo has been great.  However, neither of those are exactly low cost and they are both creams which means they have a very thick texture which can take a while to absorb and the Eight Hour Cream can sometimes leave you feeling a bit sticky if you don’t let it absorb or you put too much on.  Plus, I can’t really use either of those for other areas on my body either without it costing a fortune.  So, the QV Lotion is a great alternative to find.  It is a lotion, not a cream, so the texture is pretty light, especially in comparison to the other two products.  It is especially nice for summer because of that lightness since you don’t feel like you have anything on your skin after it absorbs.  And it absorbs into the skin easily and quickly and just leaves you skin feeling soft and well moisturized.  I’ve also read that you can use this to remove makeup but I haven’t tried that since I have plenty of great products for that purpose.  However, if you have really sensitive skin on your face you might want to try this out as a makeup remover.

I’m thrilled that this hasn’t caused my skin an issue, especially after I saw how reasonably priced it is.  I can buy a big 500ml pump bottle of this at Amazon for just £9.45, and it is a Prime item, so if you have Amazon Prime you can get it shipped to your front door by the next day for free.  Glossybox directs you to purchase it from Crawford Healthcare, where the 500ml bottle is a bit higher at £9.61 or you can get a 250ml bottle for £6.06, but you’ll have to pay around £5.00 for shipping, so it’s definitely more pricey than Amazon when that is included.

Schwarzkopf go2b Rise 'n Shine Soufflé
Schwarzkopf go2b Rise ‘n Shine Soufflé

Schwarzkopf got2b Rise ‘n Shine Soufflé, 100ml full size container.  Rise n’ Shine is a new line from got2b that is supposed to give you lots of textured volume while still allowing your hair to be sleek and shiny.  The texture of the soufflé is light, as you would expect, and it has a nice fruity kind of smell.  The product is a little sticky feeling on your hands but doesn’t seem to feel that way on your hair.  I have curly hair, unless I blow it out, and I have used it to give my curl a bit more volume while keeping the flyaways at bay.  That flyaway, furry look can happen quite a bit here in London because of the humidity, so I’m always looking for something that will help my hair stay shiny and tame that frizzy humidity look.  I’d say that this had okay results, it isn’t great but it isn’t horrible either.  It did work much better/effectively when I blew my hair out.  The Rise ‘n Shine managed to give it some extra oomph while still keeping my hair shiny.  If you want really big volume you can work a bit into your roots too.  I have found that this works really great if you want to put your hair up because you can keep it still really natural looking but the texturizing properties of this product makes your hair stay put much better that shellacking it into place using hairspray.  I do like that you can get good volume, but still have some shine, and not have to involve hairspray.  I’m not a huge fan of hairspray in summer, it just seems to get sticky or weird feeling.

This is a pretty inexpensive hair product that you can pick up at places like Boots or Superdrug.  Right now you can get the Rise ‘n Shine Soufflé at Boots for just £2.00 for the 100ml tub; they’re having a 1/3 off sale so it is normally £3.00.  At Superdrug it is £3.99 regularly, but right now you can get two selected Schwarzkopf products for £5.00.  Seems like a better deal at Boots.  I doubt I’ll buy this again, but it is nice to have a little variety in my hair product lineup.

Nip+Fab CC Eye Fix
Nip+Fab CC Eye Fix

Nip+Fab CC Eye Fix, 1.8ml full size dispenser.  I’ve heard a lot about how great Nip+Fab products are, so I was really looking forward to trying this out.  And what woman my age, doesn’t want something that will make their eye area look better?  Unfortunately, my relationship with this product didn’t start off on a good foot.  This is one of those pen type dispensers with a little brush on one end, where the product comes out, and you twist the other end to get the product to actually come out.  Well, I don’t know if I got a bum applicator or what but I twisted and twisted and twisted and twisted and kept doing it for way more twists than I should have needed before anything came out.  And even then, barely any product made its way into the brush area; I could just see the barest hint of colour.  So, I twisted some more and even shook it a bit.  I was holding it with the bristles pointing down too, to try to get some help from gravity.  I finally managed to get some of it out but it was at the point where I was ready to just chuck it right into the bin.  I’ve had a couple of other products with this same type of pen applicator that you twist or click to get the product to come out, and none of them has worked so poorly.  So, yeah, not an auspicious start.

The actual product, once I could get any out, is pretty good but not outstanding.  CC Eye Fix is an eye cream and concealer in one.  It’s  made with oat extract and light diffusing pigments which are supposed to brighten and lift the appearance of the eye area.  It also contains beeswax to help protect the delicate, thin skin under the eyes.  I think it does do the brightening and refreshing part but where I think it falls down is in longevity.  Something about the formulation starts to settle into the fine lines that we all have under our eyes (unless you’re super young, but then you are probably not using this), after a couple of hours, which doesn’t look so great.  I tried it with a very light powder over it to see if that would help and it did seem to stop the settling a bit.  I’ll try a few different methods of application to see if I can get better results though.  Unfortuantely, the product doesn’t really work so spectacularly that it can overcome the truly annoying packaging issues for me.

You can find Nip+Fab directly through their own website.  The CC Eye Fix is £9.95 from them.  However, you can also get it at Superdrug for that same price normally, though right now you can get it for 50% off, so £4.97.  You can also find it at Boots and Amazon, but it is a better deal at Superdrug.

Teeez Trend Cosmetics Flat Eyeshadow Brush
Teeez Trend Cosmetics Flat Eyeshadow Brush

Teeez Trend Cosmetics, Beautiful Flat Stiff Brush, full size.  Um, yeah, I’m not really a fan of the decorative motif on the handle of this brush.  At all.  The brush is nice enough, but the design is not.  I think it is the disembodied eyes that freak me out and make it unappealing to me.  The bristles on the end of the brush are quite soft and made from natural hair.  The bristles are short enough that they don’t have a lot of fluff to them, so this is great for putting your eye shadow just where you want it.  I think this is a little more gentle feeling than the other eye shadow brushes that I have with this same flat and stiff (ish) design.  I would like it better if the handle were a either shorter or longer though because at least for me it is a bit of an awkward length.  Of course, if it were longer there’d be more of the ugly, creepy design, so I guess shorter would be my preference.

Glossybox says that you can find this brush at for €19.00, however, I wasn’t able to find it at all. does have a lot of other products from Teeez, so maybe I’m just somehow not looking in the right place or something.  I also haven’t been able to track it down anyplace else either, so I’m at a bit of a loss on where to tell people to look if they want this brush.  I think you can find makeup brushes that are just as good, or better, at a host of places from a wide range of brands, and they won’t have the ugly design on them.

Glossybox Anniversary Treat: Green & Black's Organic Dark Chocolate
Glossybox Anniversary Treat: Green & Black’s Organic Dark Chocolate

How do the numbers stack up for the box this month?  Here is the breakdown:

  • So Susan Cosmetics, Universal Blush, 4 gram full size container: £17.95 value.
  • QV Skin Lotion, 15ml sample bottle: £0.29 value.
  • Schwarzkopf got2b Rise ‘n Shine Soufflé, 100ml full size container: £3.oo value.
  • Nip+Fab CC Eye Fix, 1.8ml full size dispenser: £9.95 value.
  • Teeez Trend Cosmetics, Beautiful Flat Stiff Brush, full size: £15.08 value.
  • Total Value: £46.27

Overall this was a pretty good Glossybox, like every month there are some hits and some misses.  Thankfully, this month was much more hit than miss in my opinion.  The price of the So Susan blush that I really love, more than covers the price of my Glossybox subscription for the month, so I’m really happy with the value of the June box.   Plus, I got an extra little chocolate treat.

I think I’m going to post a little review of how well the Glossybox subscription has worked out for me this past year.  I know that there are several new products that have been introduced to me through my Glossybox subscription that I have gone on to buy, so that is great.  I just want to be a little more exacting about it all.

Olay Total Effects 7 in One CC Cream

The Total Effects CC Cream has the skin perfecting powders of a BB cream but with of the anti-aging VitaNiacin complex than the Total Effects BB Cream, according to Olay.  So, you should get the benefits of skin perfecting with good anti-aging all rolled into one product.  I really thought that I would love this, but I’m not a fan it turns out.  There was just nothing that I really liked about the product.  I didn’t like it the first time I tried it but did keep giving it a go, hoping that it might grow on me.  I was wrong, it did not.

Olay Total Effects 7 in One CC Cream
Olay Total Effects 7 in One CC Cream

The first problem is that the colour ranges are not quite fine enough with just two options.  I got the lightest version, Fair to Medium, and it’s just too dark for me.  To be fair, I am a girl with a Casper-esque skin tone though and wear the lightest foundation colour in every brand I’ve ever tried.  However, Olay should know that there needs to be a finer gradation of colours than just Fair to Medium and Medium to Dark.  We all think that is ridiculous right?  There are so many different variations of skin colour that you can’t just divide it into two and think that will work for everyone.  I might be able to get away with this at the height of summer after I’ve been on holiday somewhere sunny and have somewhat of a tan, but for a person with fair skin this just doesn’t work.  The one good thing is that this does have an SPF 15 to protect your skin a bit from the sun, though that is lower than my normal day-time moisturizer, so it could be better too.

The texture is not at all what I was expecting, and is the least appealing part of this product, feeling heavy and greasy.  I don’t have oily skin at all but I would guess that if you did, even slightly, this would be a really bad situation for your skin.  For myself, I found it too heavy feeling on my face, far heavier feeling than my usual moisturizer and foundation for sure.  Also, the greasy feeling of the texture doesn’t do anything for the look of your skin, especially in combination with the over-dark colour.  I feel like I’m wearing a mask with it seeming to sit on my skin rather than blend in with it and create a flawless complexion.  Which it also doesn’t really do.  The complexion correction nature of the product just seems to be some name that they have put on this as it really doesn’t do much of anything in that respect.  You would think that with the thick texture and the dark colour that it would be good at least at covering any imperfections, but somehow it doesn’t.  It’s quite the conundrum.  The other problem is that it makes your skin look really dull.  I can’t imagine how it manages to feel so greasy but make your skin look so dull.  Also, a puzzle.  With the trend now for really fresh looking skin, this is definitely not the product you want to put on; definitely not on trend.  And don’t mistake what I am saying to mean that it has a smooth, matte finish, it does not.  You look dull, not matte, and there is certainly a difference.  Plus, it leaves your skin feeling weird and somewhat sticky to the touch.

I had purchased this because I thought it might be a great way to cut down on the amount of stuff I need to take with me when we travel, and also because I had thought it would be great for summer when I like to wear less stuff on my face.  But it doesn’t feel like I have less stuff on my face, quite the opposite, so that doesn’t help me in the slightest.  It’s kind of anti-summer skincare I think because of the heavy, greasy feeling.   The one time I wore it when it was somewhat hot out, I felt really hot and sweaty on my face and the CC cream felt definitely not good, almost melty or something.  To be technical, it felt gross.  When we got home I just looked sweaty with dull patches.

So, I don’t know what I’m going to do with the rest of this but it probably won’t be use it.  If you like this though, the price at Costco does seem to be really good, even without the coupon I had used; thankfully I didn’t pay full price for this.  At Costco you get two containers of the cream for £18.59 with VAT, which is less than they would be at Amazon UK or Superdrug where a single container is £10.00.  So, if there is any doubt, I’m not a fan, won’t be buying it again, and do not feel like I could recommend this to anyone either.