should/could write an introductory post but at this stage, I feel like I’ve procrastinated enough on beginning this blog, (months, so many months.) So, I’m just going to get down to it.
It’s fair to say that the subscription market is booming, from booze to books, you can even sign up & have a pair of shoes delivered each month from NET-A-PORTER if you have £8000 a year to spend on a monthly pick up.
While I would really, really, really like a monthly pair of Choos, Louboutins or Zanottis, realistically I had to resign myself to select something more modest yet still fun. Solution: a beauty box. I like to check out new beauty brands and products as it is and this seemed like a great way to do it without having to commit to the expense of a full-sized product that might turn out to be a poor fit. Faced with a myriad of options at various price points, I plumped for Birchbox last spring after a little research. All the choice can be bamboozling but Birchbox has been around for a while and has an international presence so it seemed like the place to begin, I also liked that you had to fill in a beauty profile as it seemed that would be a help in preventing products that I didn’t want or are unsuitable. I recommend http://whichbeautyboxuk.com/ for different box reviews and discount codes. I signed up during a late Saturday night bout of insomnia which resulted in me blocking my debit card. Apparently, middle of the night purchases don’t mesh with my spending pattern. (Thank you to the lady at Barclays’ call centre for not sounding judgemental when I called up at 4 am to resolve the issue.) So top tip, do your signing up during sociable hours!
I went for the 6-month subscription, thinking that would be long enough to form an impression & decide if it was worth keeping and ended up adding an extra 3 months via rolling payment before ultimately deciding to cancel. Read on to find out why:
(My review is for 2017 boxes but for those of you looking to see the contents over several months, back to back and in one spot then this will be good for you.)
Monthly subscription price: £10 + £2.95 P+P
April 2017: Birchbox x Boden:
This was an ok start to the subscription, I joined in late April so I don’t think there was any time for my sign-up preferences to be catered for. I suspect that I got whatever was left over at the end of the month.
The highlight was the Polaar scrub, you’re going to learn that I’m an exfoliating fiend and love scrubs and this was a really pleasant one with a soft refreshing fragrance, rough enough to do the job but gentle enough to not cause irritation, importantly it’s also microbead free.
The powder arrived smashed and was nothing special, the Amika spray was pleasant in fragrance and did a good job, same story with the Baïja hand cream. The worst item here was definitely the Nip + Fab colour corrector, they sent me the ‘terracotta’ shade which was incompatible and unusable with my ghostly skin tone.
May 2017 – It’s all in the details
I enjoyed the May box more than my first. I’m working on building up a brush collection so I was glad to receive the Spectrum eye brush and have found it very effective for applying from my shadow palettes and it cleans nicely.
Didn’t see any great effects from the Dr Brandt cleanser but it was a very small sample, too small to be useful. The Doucce Punk mascara was the star, a good size and great at lengthening and adding volume to the lashes, no problems with flakiness or crumbling after hours of wear. Great product.
On its own, I wouldn’t use the Marsk eyeshadow, the colour is too light to suit my skin tone or eyes, but it makes for a really good base to layer under other sparkly shadows. The Kueshi mask wasn’t anything special and I didn’t find it any better than using a supermarket conditioner.
June 2017 – Daytripping
Not a box this month but a bag! In itself, the bag has been useful for corralling make up together for short trips but it’s beginning to look tatty and showing the dirt.
On its own, the Vita Liberata Body Blur wasn’t for me, just too dark for my skin tone and even after rubbing in, I looked orange and streaky. I had much more success when I mixed with some regular lotion and then I was able to find a nice balance and used it to give my legs a light glow.
I really wanted to love the scrub as it combined two of my favourite things, exfoliating and coffee. While it smelled nice, it was just difficult to use, not the right balance of moisture to granules so it felt like I was scrubbing a jar of Nescafe Gold Blend on myself and at least that would have dissolved in the water. This was also messy to use. Don’t recommend.
I liked the texture of the Estee Lauder lotion but it was another of those samples with so little inside that it’s impossible to form an opinion.
The Meech & Mia Browliner is a decent product, it wasn’t quite the right shade for me but because I used it to fill in the brows before using either Benefit BROWtones or Gossier Boy Brow layered over the top, it made a fine base. Some people might find the texture too waxy but I didn’t mind because it blended well.
Best find of the month was the ecoTools blenders. Having used more expensive versions, from Real Techniques & Beautyblender I was delighted to find a low-cost version which works so well. These do a great job of blending concealer and tinted moisturisers. I’m yet to try them with a heavier foundation as I’ve been giving my skin a rest the past few months but I think they’d stand up to the task. I’ll repurchase these and others in the range.
July 2017 – Summer Daze
Hands down, this was my favourite box of all the ones I received during my subscription.
I’d used Cha Cha Tint in the past and it was nice to have a play with it again. It’s an intimidating colour when you see it in the bottle but it goes on as a warm, pink coral which suits pale skin tones. I particularly like to use this beneath my go to powder blush Benefit CORALista for some extra depth. I didn’t try it on my lips as in general I find stains too drying.
If you have frizzy/dry/sad/damaged hair, or like me all of those things, then I 100% recommend the Percy & Reed Overnight Recovery Mask. I love this product because it’s so effective at leaving my hair smooth, manageable and a lot easier to style. It isn’t greasy after application and doesn’t have an overpowering fragrance which can be such a put off when you have to wear a product overnight. A little of this goes a long way and I used the tester 5 times before I ended up purchasing a full tube.
Another item from this month which lured me to buy the full size was the Balance Me Micellar water. I didn’t have much experience with this brand but I’d seen it on the shelves in Waitrose. The sample was a good size so I was able to try it out for a while and I found that it removed make up effectively without making my sensitive skin feel itchy, red or dried out, this isn’t an easy feat. Apparently, the micellar water also contains peptides and hyaluronic acid to prevent wrinkles and keep the skin plump. I can’t speak to how effective this is alone as I’m always using multiple products but it can’t hurt.
The Kensie perfume tester had fruity floral notes, it isn’t something I’d naturally pick but it’s a pleasant and refreshing summer scent. I’ve left it in one of my bags and every now and then when I find it, i’ll dab some on. I was a little on the fence about the deodorant balm. I’ve just used it when I’ve been staying home as i’m not convinced that it would stand up to the rigours of exercise as it doesn’t contain an antiperspirant. I’m not a super sweaty person but I like the peace of mind. On the other hand, most mainstream deodorants contain chemicals that I’d rather avoid and this is a more natural alternative. It smells great and feels nice when put on, though sometimes needs a while to soften up before application. I need to experiment more.
Was delighted to receive a new Tangle Teezer this month. I’d been using them since 2014 and had lost a couple in the past, once during a hospital stay and another in Vegas! So glad to have a back up on standby for whenever I inevitably mislay the current one. No hair pulling or missed knots and tangles, definitely the best hair brush I have ever used,
August 2017 – Mermaid Vibes
Not quite the exciting experience of opening July’s box but still some decent items. The Whish mask was not a good a sample, most of the tube was air and there was barely enough inside to manage a single application. From what I could tell it seemed like a standard mud mask.
I’ve been a fan of Nuxe Huile Prodigiuese for several years, particularly the shimmer edition, so was more than happy to have another sample. It has a light golden tint to it which looks great in the summer when layered over a tan and I always take some on holiday. Despite being an oil, when applied to the skin it dries down quickly so you won’t be leaving grease marks all over the place.
Another Spectrum brush for the collection this month, the Blush Crush is soft bristled and very effective at blending out bronzers and blushers over the cheekbone. I’ve used it with both powders and stick blush such as NARS the Multiple with success. One of my most used items from all the boxes.
My hair is fine and prone to going flat at the roots so I’ve used all kinds of volume boosting products and salt sprays to enhance my waves. My go-to product for this purpose is Bumble & Bumble Surf Spray though I’m not sure it’s my holy grail product as it’s quite drying when used regularly. This was my first time trying a sugar spray and it semi-worked but no better than anything else I’ve tried. On the plus side, it smelled good and seemed more hydrating than salt sprays.
The LOC eyeshadow stick was a nice colour, highly pigmented and easy to apply and blend. In the winter it takes some warming before application to go on smoothly A plus to the whole line is that it’s cruelty-free and doesn’t contain parabens. I’m not 100% there yet but I’m trying to be more mindful of picking ethical beauty products where I can. A downside to this style of shadow for me is the regular need to sharpen. Probably not an issue for most people but my sharpener has a wandering spirit.
September 2017 – Birchbox x Oliver Bonas – Work hard, play hard & be kind:
I torture my locks with the curling wand at least once a week, so protecting it from damage is genuine concern that I should pay more attention to. Beauty Protector Protect & Detangle guards against heat, UV, takes care of colour and softens, all while being vegan and paraben free. I spritz a little onto my hair when damp whether I’m intending to heat style or not and it seems to dry feeling softer and easy to manage. I haven’t quite finished the sample size yet but I like this enough to consider buying a full bottle.
Another vegan and paraben free product in the ARROW BOOST lip balm. This was a full size item that I am still using frequently. It’s the definition of ‘your lips but better’ using the natural skin PH to cause the colour change. It’s very hydrating and has stopped my usual horror lip cracking in the wind this winter. Also, the balm has a lovely invigorating minty fragrance.
I liked my first Polaar product back in the April box but I couldn’t get on with this at all. It was difficult to tell if any product was coming onto the rollerball or if you were just feeling the cool sensation of the metal. I didn’t notice any effect at all and would suggest that they redesign the dispenser.
Another brand from April, Manna Kadar, this time with an item which arrived in one piece! This item bills itself as a 3 in 1 product in that it can be used as a shadow, blusher and highlighter. So useful if you’re travelling and have limited space. I didn’t try the 3rd option, the colour shade was too dark for my skin tone to be used that way. As a blush & shadow, it held well and went on without any cakiness. Overall nothing special and I haven’t been moved to come back and use it again after my initial test.
Dr PawPaw Original balm was already one of my favourite travel products, so I was glad to have some more to add to my stock. So many uses for this: as a lip balm, brow taming, soothing dry skin patches, cuticle care and probably more which I’m yet to discover but I’ll be delighted when I do. Just a handy multi-tasker, I usually keep some in my bag at all times.
October 2017 – Feeling Good
October’s box was in association with CoppaFeel! a London based breast cancer awareness charity, hence the provocatively named Anatomicals shower gel this month. Definitely a worthwhile cause & smart way of grabbing attention even if I can’t stomach the smell of anything melon scented.
I’m not into contouring so the ModelCo stick was wasted on me. I had a play out of curiosity but found it way too dark for my skin and after some effort, it blended into an unappealing orange tone. Just not for me.
The Amika dry shampoo smells lovely in comparison to your bog standard Batiste or Superdrug own brand versions and works around about as well as those. The price for a full bottle of this doesn’t tempt me to make a purchase and I think I’ll be sucking up the synthetic smells for a while longer.
I liked my previous Balance Me inclusion so much that I purchased the full size. Not so with the face wash. It does exactly what you expect, cleans well, isn’t drying and leaves skin soft. Yet there isn’t anything which recommends it versus other similar products, apart from possibly that the ingredients are 99% natural.
There may have just been a solitary Biore Charcoal strip included, but it was by far the most satisfying thing in October’s box. I don’t have a dire blackhead problem but there is room for improvement. I moistened the strip and stuck it on firmly, hopeful but not expecting much. The removal wasn’t the comfiest few seconds but I guess that’s necessary to get the job done and rip the gunge from out of the pores. Looking in the mirror and at the contents of the strip after use, there was a visible and pleasing amount removed.
November 2017 – Birchbox x Vogue
I was meant to get a box in December but never received it (more on that shortly) so November’s was my final Birchbox. A collaboration with Vogue, it would have been a nice touch if they had included a travel size copy of the magazine. It seemed like a missed opportunity to showcase #NewVogue and the changes under recently appointed editor Edward Eninful.
As for the items within, there was a sample of the first bronzer I ever used, Benefit Hoola which is apparently the best selling item in its category in the UK. Not having tried it out in years, it was fun to revisit. I like the texture and staying power but ultimately the matte finish isn’t my preference and it’s a touch dark for my skin.
The Percy & Reed hair oil is lightweight and a little goes a long way. I like to run a little through my ends after I’ve finished curling just to smooth everything down and keep flyaway hair in check. This does the job of a much thicker oil without the greasiness and stickiness that can come as a side effect. One I would consider purchasing in the future.
More Nuxe Huile Prodigiuese, this time without the shimmer. Still a great product but it seemed way too soon to be having something which is essentially a repeat just 3 months later.
The Clarins hand cream is another I’ve used in the past but have no problem trying again. It’s thick and creamy and does a great job of hydrating the skin and nails. I’ve been having some issues with brittle nails recently, in part down to long-term gel polish use so I’m going to use this more frequently to see if it can help strengthen them up again.
Lastly, there was a grooved silicon brush cleaner. It works but I’m not sure that it’s any better or faster than regular hand washing.
In conclusion, I did find some great products & had old favourites replenished via Birchbox. On the other hand, some sample sizes were particularly stingy to the point where they were useless and it would be a push to call some of the so-called full-size items that. Also, I don’t think that a lot of care was taken to match the products to the beauty profile.
In the last few months, there were several repeat brands and very similar items which was a disappointment. I suspect that this happens with all of the beauty boxes after a while and it may be sensible to swap around to a different service after a few months (now trying lookfantastic) But what ultimately turned me off Birchbox was their use of Hermes as a courier, who I have a consistently poor experience with. Every month they would claim via tracking to have attempted delivery while I was indoors and available to receive it, yet there was no sign of any attempt or card left behind. Usually, it showed up after several days and several ‘attempted deliveries’ but not so in December where it wasn’t delivered at all. It was after this that I decided to cancel and make a change.
I’ve now received my first two lookfantastic boxes, delivered by the reliable Royal Mail. Review on the way.
So that’s 9 months of a Birchbox UK subscription. Any thoughts? Let me know! Have a great week and lots more to come soon!