Sunday, December 29, 2013

My First Birchbox: Product Reviews

That's my December Birchbox! (all of the photos in this post are from my Birchbox app on my phone, by the way) Okay, so I was pretty sad when my first box didn't arrive by Christmas, but what a surprise to find it in the mail the day after! It was SO cute, too; the box was gold with white stripes on it that looked like ribbon and a little "Sparkle and Shine" blurb in white on the outside. Then you open it up and there's the regular Birchbox box inside that's so perfect (and 100% reusable for gifting!!!) with its tissue paper and everything. It's literally like a present you ordered for yourself but you're not exactly sure what's going to be inside!

I decided to finally bite the bullet and sign up for Birchbox because let's face it - $10 a month for five or six personalized samples (and sometimes full sized!) of beauty and hair products, a possible snack-type item, AND shipping - that's pretty darn good. Since I've decided to end my Mary Kay business, and I've been wanting to make some changes to the products I use, I sort of wanted to accumulate a bunch of samples of high quality stuff to choose from. So, Birchbox it is! (side note about the Mary Kay: I still have a TON of product that I normally use, like cleanser and eye shadows and stuff, so I won't actually be running out real soon, but wanted a bit of direction as to what products are out there for when I DO run out. Products that aren't necessarily found at the drugstore, that is.)

I heard about Birchbox on my friend Lauren's blog, I'm Better in Real Life. Check her out!

So, here we go with the reviews!

This nail polish came to me in the same color as in the photo - it's called Top Shelf. It's a regular polish, not gel-like or anything super fancy, and for $8 for a full sized bottle I'd say it's pretty good. Definitely up there with Essie and OPI, which are about the same price point. The color is sort of a muted copper, with a shimmer that's just perfect for someone who's 28 - still trendy without being like WHOA. It's a more neutral color, so it goes with skin tones really nicely (I'm super pale, so some neutrals can look kind of funny on my see-through-skin, but this color is great on me). The consistency of the actual polish while I was putting it on was great - not too thin, not too thick, and easy to apply even layers with the brush. I didn't apply a top coat, so it did chip after about a day (this is VERY typical for my nails, I think they must be weak or just flex really easily, because this happens to me no matter what brand of nail polish I use), but because the color is so neutral, it's almost impossible to see the chips. I'm going to apply a second coat today to touch up. Also, it dries pretty quickly. Overall, I like this product. The sample size I got might actually be really close to the full size bottle, so I won't be buying this product because nail polishes last me forever! Thanks Birchbox!

Side note about nail polishes: I got a free color change at Nordstrom from the girl who works for Julep (nail spa and nail polish brand), and IT WAS AMAZING. Literally the only regular (read: not Shellac or gel or gel-like) nail polish I HAVE EVER HAD that did NOT chip after day one. She did apply a Julep top coat, and that might just be the secret - I don't know. It was amazing. It's also kind of expensive, BUT the regular polish manicure lasted me about 5 days without chipping - and then it chipped because I was weakening my nails with the gloves at work and hand sanitizer and sci-can wipes (surface disinfectant wipes for health care facilities...). Bottom line: I'd pay for a Julep manicure.

This ChapStick was the Birchbox FIND for this month - every once in a while, the people at Birchbox find a brand new product that is just SO GOOD that it goes in everyone's monthly box that month, and this month it happened to be a FULL SIZED tube of this new ChapStick product (that's why the price says zero dollars). I haven't used actual ChapStick brand stuff in a long long long time (I typically use the freebees from dental conventions and Burt's Bees lip balms), and I never realized just how much of this brand (and probably other brands, too...) are made of chemicals! The ingredients list for a tiny thing like lip balm is ridiculous - and to think it goes ON YOUR LIPS, which you're then going to lick and touch your food to, and...ew. So, some of those chemicals aren't that bad - oil extracts and stuff from various plants like coconut, scents like peppermint or vanilla, etc. The chemical name for a lot of that stuff sounds scary but the actual thing is not. What is scary to me is phthalates and parabens, and other preservatives, and artificial colors and and and...yuck. This product is chock full of chemicals. But I have to admit, it feels good on your lips. If you're a ChapStick/lip balm fiend, you will probably love this product. I like it, I just have to clear my mind of my chemi-phobia before I use it. The good news is that it feels so good that I've only had to apply it once a day (or night).

I don't actually eat pretzels (or any wheat) regularly - I make conscious choices to enjoy a holiday cookie (and suffer the discomfort later), let's face it, but normally I don't eat wheat. The sample of the gourmet chocolate covered pretzels above was truly a tiny sample, about two bites' worth of a single pretzel, so I tried it. The full size pack is of course larger, and contains five regular sized pretzels for $7. The flavor I got was dark chocolate with toffee crunches and toasted coconut flakes - it sounded AMAZING. After my two bites, I can honestly say my expectations weren't exactly met, unfortunately. If you're a pretzel fiend, you will like these, no matter what flavor probably. I wasn't impressed; maybe it was bland when I had expected wonderful flavors of toffee and coconut to accompany some chocolate? Maybe the pretzel was too thick for all the flavors of the coatings to be fully enjoyed? Not sure. This didn't do it for me, though.

The Beauty Protector Protect and Detangle leave-in conditioner - WOW. That is all I can say - WOW. Smells GREAT, kind of a subtle vanilla without being sickly sweet, and the product definitely does what it says it does! Here's the blurb about it from Birchbox: "This paraben- and sulfate-free detangler seals the cuticles (the microscopic scales that compose the outermost layer of each strand of hair). It also smooths and moisturizes, thereby minimizing frizz, while safeguarding color and adding shine. Lastly, it provides protection against UV rays and heat. Happily, it accomplishes all this through a weightless, non-greasy formula that leaves behind an airy floral scent." So, it's without a couple of the chemicals I like to avoid, AND it has super protective features! AND IT WORKS! I used it the last time I washed my hair; I blow-dried my hair (didn't straighten it that day, because IT DIDN'T NEED IT!), and WOW. Felt amazing. So soft (and still is, two days later, and without being greasy), weightless, added volume to my stringy-thanks-a-lot-late-20s-aging hair, and smells wonderful. The scent is NOT overpowering, it's very light, so don't worry. My only complaint - the pump on my sample sized bottle didn't work, so I put a pump on it from one of my travel bottles, and it worked fine. So, that's not even really a valid complaint! This product is FANTASTIC, and I'm seriously considering buying the full sized bottle (the sample bottle is about the size of a normal travel-sized bottle of anything you'd buy at the drugstore). Bonus - because I don't wash and dry my hair every day, it will last me a LONG time. And, a little bit goes a long way to amazingly soft hair! Love this!

This moisturizer from Embryolisse is definitely another WIN from Birchbox!! FABULOUS product!! Also seriously considering purchasing the full size of this product as well - another one that doesn't have several of the chemicals I try to avoid, this moisturizer (can also be used as foundation primer and makeup remover!!) is SUPER silky and lasts all day/night. It's really lightweight, doesn't clog my pores (which are huge, by the way), and feels amazing. I love this product. The sample size is smaller than a normal travel sized tube of lotion, so that's kind of a bummer...another reason I'm seriously considering buying the full size - I WANT MORE! And to me, the price is worth it! Win for the French, win for Birchbox, win for me. Love it.

Alright, I know you're thinking "WHOA, a buck-80 for this perfume?!" Yup, that's exactly what I thought, too. It smells great - again, not sickly sweet like most vanilla-scented things can be. It's a light vanilla scent with jasmine and a hint of lime. Definitely a mature take on the food-scented perfumes (remember the days of vanilla sugar scented lotion and eau de parfum from, like, Victoria's Secret and Bath and Body Works?! Ya, that's not this...). The sample was not a travel sized bottle of it, it was one of those tiny tubes with the hard-to-remove cap on it with a little info card. Smells good, but I absolutely will not be purchasing a full sized bottle of this, nor will I ever ask for it as a gift for any occasion. To me, that's ridiculous. There are plenty of fantastic perfumes out there for under $100, and although this is pretty unique and does smell's not necessary.

Well, there we have it! First Birchbox product review: CHECK! Hope you enjoyed, and if you already subscribe to Birchbox and received different products in your December box that you'd love to share, please do! Thanks for reading, and until next time - ciao!

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