Wednesday, October 1, 2014

September Birchbox Review

It's been a busy few weeks, so this is a little late, (ok maybe more than a little late, given that it's October...) but better late than never!  At this point I'm sure no one is really interested in unboxings so I'll just get straight to the point! September was Birchbox's anniversary (see my post about their Customer Appreciation Day) which was the occasion for the extra special boxes (literally, the box itself).
September 2014 Birchbox Unboxing Review Design

But I know what really matters is what's on the inside (or so I'm told), so I suppose I'll share that too:
September 2014 Birchbox Unboxing Macadamia Treatment Healing Oil Spray Acure Organics Day Cream gotu kola stem cells CGF chlorella growth factor brandt vacuum cleaner temptu highlighter champagne shimmer ruffian nail lacquer naked dressing room

From left to right:
1.  Macadamia Professional Healing Oil Spray (at 2 oz., this extremely generous "sample" (generous for a hair oil, at least) is actually sold as a standalone product for $14.5 so if nothing else I certainly got my money's worth, given that a Birchbox costs $10 and you get $4-5 back in points!)  This is supposed to be like a hair oil lite.  In spray form it's much easier to distribute evenly, and the risk of instantly taking your hair from freshly washed to oily mess is much smaller.  It's also supposed to reduce frizz, boost shine, and protect your hair against UV rays.  I think it's a nice spray, and it did seem to make my hair a bit softer.  I thankfully don't really suffer from frizz, and I rarely notice any difference in shine (no matter what I use), so I can't really speak as to those qualities.  I won't even try to get into how well it protected my hair from the sun.  In any case, my hair felt pretty nice, but I already have other products I love too much and make my hair crazy soft that it's hard to compete.  Also, for some reason the smell of the Macadamia Oil spray reminds me of summer camp.  Mind you, it has been quite some time since I was anywhere near a camp-attending age.  But it's a sweet, earthy smell, which smells nice (but not as nice as my trusty Beauty Protector).

2.  Moving on, this month's box also contained the Acure Organics Day Dream - Gotu Kola Stem Cell + 1% Chlorella Growth Factor (1 oz., which is apparently worth about $10 because the $19 full size is only 1.75 oz?)  Anyway, this highly scientifically-sounding anti-aging moisturizer is supposed protect collagen and elastin fibers, which keep skin elastic and firm.  Obviously, this is due to the chlorella growth factor ("CGF") (everyone knew that, right?).  Research indicates that CGF promotes the rapid growth of chlorella (during which each cell multiplies into four new cells every 20 hours - this is faster than any other plant on Earth. That's a lot of new cells.)  It's also been shown to enhance RNA/DNA functions responsible for producing protein, enzymes and energy, stimulating tissue repair and providing protection against certain toxins (source).  So if you're going for anti-aging, this sounds like a decent bet.  But wait, there's more!  The day cream also has gotu kola stem cells, and gotu kola has been used for thousands of years to treat wounds and conditions including psoriasis.  The wound healing properties come from something called triterpanoid which some studies have suggested strengthens skin, boosts antioxidants in wounds and increases blood flow to the area (source - it's a .edu link therefore must be legit).  So overall, sounds pretty great, no?  Well, looking at the ingredients list, there seem to be a whole lot of things that come before either the gotu kola or the CGF (the CGF in particular is almost at the end of the list).  But I can't honestly say I can fairly interpret that - just pointing it out.  As for my experience, this moisturizer has a citrus-y scent but for some reason I don't love it, though I can't pinpoint the reason.  It actually seems to be keeping my oiliness at bay a bit, which I love, but for some reason I'm just not loving the product.  The texture is fine, though not as soothing or refreshing as some other moisturizers.  It works fine with my makeup, as well - no balling up, which I often get.  So why don't I like this?  It's kind of irrational, really, but I think the not-so-refreshing scent, the fact that it just feels ok when I put it on, and the packaging will prevent me from really getting into this.  It's kind of silly, but the packaging just reminds me of a random drug store product.  It doesn't scream "groundbreaking skincare developed by actual scientists" but it also doesn't look especially nice.  So who knows, maybe that's making me biased, but oh well.

Anyway, the third (and fourth) products are the Ruffian Nail Lacquer in Ruffian Naked  and the Ruffian Acetone-Free Dressing Room Perfumed Nail Lacquer Remover Towelette (that name needs to be cut down).  I really like nude nails for work, so I was excited about this one, but I'm feeling kind of meh about it overall.  The hue isn't great for my skintone, and as you can see the formula ended up kind of uneven, so sadly this will have to get used by someone else.  I haven't tried the nail polish remover wipe, which I hear is black, has vitamin E and has a lily scent, but I can't imagine having anything revolutionary to say about it anyway.

September 2014 Birchbox Unboxing ruffian nail lacquer naked dressing room swatch

5.  Next up is the TEMPTU S/B Highlighter in Champagne Shimmer.  In case you're not knowledgeable about these things (like me), S/B means silicone based, which gives it a nice, smooth texture.  That being said, this is called a highlighter, but given the shade, it would be more appropriately called a bronzer ,at least for me.  I put a bit on my cheeks one day and it seriously made me look more tan (and I mean darker, not just a nice glow).  I wear blush every day but with this on, there was no room for blush.  So I think the name is a bit misleading, but otherwise it's a fine product, except that I don't really use highlighter or bronzer.  I do like the texture though.
September 2014 Birchbox Unboxing Temptu S/B Highlighter Champagne Shimmer
Do I look like a highlighter to you?
The final product I got to try this month was the dr. brandt pores no more vacuum cleaner (and I will respect dr. brandt's apparent disdain for proper capitalization).  This is described as a "blackhead extractor mask" that degunks pores for fewer blackheads and smoother skin. It's a light blue gel that turns into a pale blue, crumbly substance when it dries.  After rinsing, I really so no difference in my pores, but I have noticed that if I use a pore strip immediately after, it seems to get out much more gunk than usual, so I think it does help to loosen stuff up, even if it doesn't actually remove anything on its own.  So I do like it for that.  Unfortunately it also seems mildly irritating, at least to the inner corners where my nose and cheek meet (unfortunately also where I get the most gunky stuff).  This may be because the second ingredient is benzyl alcohol, which is a preservative, a solvent (i.e., it dissolves stuff) and the main ingredient in head lice treatment and above all, a potential skin irritant (see here and here).  Or it could be the fifth ingredient, denatured alcohol (i.e., ethanol) or the sixth ingredient, methyl lactate, which is probably responsible for the cooling effect the gel has, since it's a derivative of menthol, but is also classified as a skin irritant (source).  One morning when I used this + a pore strip, the edges of my nose were slightly raw feeling all day.  Nothing painful or even that bad, but still mildly uncomfortable.  So while it does seem to be effective, I probably won't continue using it (or at least, I'll only put it on tougher spots on my face).

Oh and one last thing - Birchbox has a system where each month (for the past few months, at least) you can choose one of your samples out of a select group.  This month, I chose the Davines Oi Conditioner, which came with the Oi Shampoo and Oi Absolute Beautifying Potion, but was very sad when I got my box and that wasn't included.  (Instead, I got the Macadamia Oil, which was another one of the options).  But, I emailed Birchbox about it (they have great customer service, by the way) and they promptly sent me the Davines samples separately.  Unfortunately I rushed too quickly to try them that I forgot to take a picture, but the conditioner was a big, generously sized tub, while they included only a foil packet of the shampoo.  Technically the conditioner was the sample and the shampoo and oil were just bonuses, but come on, why would you give someone one use of shampoo to go with their 15 uses of conditioner??  But I digress.  Overall, using the combination of the three products worked well for my hair, and it made it very soft and light.  Unfortunately, I really don't like the smell - it reminds me a bit of baby powder, which some people are fine with, but it's just not up my alley.  So that's kind of a bummer.  But even if I won't be using the shampoo/conditioner, the Davies Oi Absolute Beautifying Potion seems to make my hair super soft and the scent is pretty faint and doesn't linger, so I may consider buying the full size, but we'll see.

Anyway, that's my September Birchbox for you.  In my opinion, totally worth my $4 (since I got $6 back in points for reviewing each of these on the Birchbox website).  Now, onto October's box!

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