Saturday, January 28, 2012

Birchbox One Year Later. Is Birchbox Really Worth It?


I signed up for Birchbox at the end of December 2010, having had some experience with a beauty-program-delivered-to-your-door from years ago.  

Because I blog and do videos for YouTube, I decided to take the plunge and share my experience with my viewers.  For me, $10 per month is not going to break the bank and part of the appeal was that I could cancel at any time.  I also liked the fact that I could rate products and accumulate points towards future purchases.  

I whipped out my debit card, filled out my Beauty Profile and I eagerly awaited my first Birchbox. I expected to receive a mix of the following samples each month - hair care, skin care, cosmetics, fragrance and maybe one miscellaneous item from (mostly) different companies, based upon my hair color, eye color, and skin type.  The miscellaneous item is in there because I selected that option in my Beauty Profile.  I don't mind getting something that is not beauty related - but more on that later.  

It is important to remember that the idea behind Birchbox is that it is a sample program.  Try it and buy it, or try it and toss it.  It's that simple.  You usually get around 5, (supposedly deluxe) samples a month or, around 60 samples per year.  You are paying $2 per sample. And I can guarantee that you are not going to like all 60 samples, and most certainly not every sample is "deluxe".

My Birchbox year started off with a bump, accelerated like a rocket, and ended on a whimper.

Some months definitely tried my patience and after August something seemed to go awry and I felt like the team at Birchbox were ignoring our Beauty Profiles and just dumping anything into some of our boxes.  

By December 2011, my Birchbox videos had been viewed over 100,000 times, and I got so much feedback from my viewers about Birchbox that I decided to blog about the realities of Birchbox.  And many of my viewers had become disillusioned with Birchbox and canceled their subscriptions in favor of other hot, new beauty sample programs.  But many more have chosen to stay with Birchbox - for the time being at least.

January 2011 Birchbox

Ahava - Dermud Intensive Nourishing Hand Cream
Dr. Dennis Gross - Alpha Beta Peel (skin peel)
MyFaceWorks - Sheet Mask (face mask)
Oscar Blandi - Olio Jasmine Hair Serum
Birchbox Treat - Zhena's Gypsy Tea - Coconut Chai Black Tea


I ended up giving away the tea because no one in my house would drink it and I gave away the Ahava hand cream because I couldn't stand the scent of it.  These are not bad products, but they were just not for me.  The other products were good but I have not purchased them, which means I probably never will.

This was my first Birchbox and it was kind of ho-hum.  Nothing earth-shattering here.

RATING: 3 out of 5

February 2011 Birchbox

Bare Escentuals - Flawless Definition Volumizing Mascara
Befine - Exfoliating Brown Sugar Cleanser
NARS - Orgasm Illuminator
Pomega5 - Green Tea Mattifying Moisturizer
Birchbox Treat - Sweetriot - Chocolate-Covered Cacao Nibs


This Birchbox was so good and undoubtedly one of the years best - that it prompted many of my viewers to subscribe to Birchbox!  It was truly as advertised - filled with deluxe samples.  

I still have a good amount of the divine NARS Orgasm Illuminator left because you only need a small amount of product and it was truly a deluxe sample!  I had never tried this product before, and it prompted me to revisit NARS (after years of abstinence) and I ended up spending far too much $$ on NARS in 2011!

I was introduced to the company Befine and their incredible Brown Sugar Sweet Almond & Oats Exfoliating Cleanser which leaves your skin super-soft.  Even my mother and sister now use Befine products because of this one sample. 

I loved the Pomega5 Green Tea Mattifying Moisturizer, but the scent was overwhelming to me, which is a pity because the product itself is so good.  But if you like the scent of green tea, try this product - it's really good.

My husband nibbled the Sweetriot nibs and really enjoyed them (I'm not keen on coffee).  I have had more Sweetriot chocolate since this Birchbox and if I see it I'll buy it.

RATING: 5 out of 5

March 2011 Birchbox

Blow - Thickening Mist
Marvis - Classic Mint Toothpaste
Pangea Organics - Lip Balm
Birchbox Extra - Pangea Organics - Egyptian Geranium Scrub
Pomega5 - Daily Revitalizing Concentrate
Birchbox Treat - Brow Brush


I like the Blow Thickening Mist, but I have only used it a few times I still have a lot left.  Nothing earth shattering for me here and I would not purchase this again.

I love the idea of organic toothpaste because regular toothpaste contains so many nasty chemicals, but Marvis didn't do it for me. Quite a few of my viewers didn't care to get the toothpaste, but I think that dental health is essential and I'm open to sample many more.  I just think that Marvis didn't do the job well enough and I would not purchase it.

Pangea Organics? Yes to both the facial scrub and the lip balm!  I did not purchase any full size Pangea Organics in 2011 products but I will in the future.  Pangea is on my shopping list.

As for the Pomega5 Daily Revitalizing Concentrate - it is a repeat brand for the second month in a row, but this product is good and I would purchase it.

The Birchbox treat was the little spoolie wand.  It's cute and compact, but I've never used it.  There were complaints about this item - one of which was that this wand appeared to be from the Dollar Store - but I don't mind it.  I have just forgotten to use it for the past 11 months...


Unfortunately, from this point on Birchbox started including multiple Pangea Orgranics (and multiple Ahava products) in some of the Birchboxes and many for many viewers this became annoying after receiving Pangea and Ahava products for the umpteenth time!  While I don't mind receiving about two products from the same company within a year, I don't want 4 products from Ahava, thank you very much!  Ditto the response from many of my viewers and this became a touchy subject leading to Birchbox cancelations.  

RATING: 4 out of 6

April 2011 Birchbox

Juice Beauty - Green Apple Peel
Juice Beauty - Stem Cellular Repair Eye Cream
LIV GRN - Earth de Parfum
Weleda - Wild Rose Smoothing Facial Lotion
Zoya - Nail Polish in Caitlin
Bloomin - Seed Paper


With this Birchbox I was introduced to one of my all time favorite brands - Zoya!  Since April I have purchased at least 10 Zoya nail polishes, and other Zoya products like scrubs and nail polish remover.  I wore Zoya nail polish in Shay and it lasted 10 whole days with only one teeny chip!  This is incredible for a nail polish -  although not all Zoya polish lasts that long, I find they do last longer than almost any other nail polishes.  In the scheme of the year, Zoya was one of my favorites!

I loved Juice Beauty's Green Apple Peel and Stem Cellular Repair Eye Cream, and Weleda's Wild Rose Smoothing Facial Lotion.  But would I buy them?  I'm not sure.  Great products but I kind of forgot all about them until I started writing this blog post.  So, nothing wrong with the products, but out of sight, out of mind...

The LIV GRN Earth de Parfum is pleasant, but I haven't actually worn the sample and I wouldn't buy it.  It reminded me a little of the Donna Karan Be Delicious scent.  Very pleasant but I wouldn't buy that either.

I had every good intention of planting the Bloomin Seed Paper and growing a garden full of heavenly flowers, but the reality is that the seed paper is still in a drawer in my kitchen...

By April, Birchbox was on a roll and this was the third really good box I had received in a row.  Absolutely worth the $10.  

But lets face it - the Juice Beauty Stem Cellular Repair Eye Cream is NOT a deluxe sample!

And from my viewers, I heard rumblings about the fragrance being less than deluxe (although I disagree on this point as this particular vial of perfume is larger than your average perfume sample). 

RATING: 6 out of 6

May 2011 Birchbox

Stila - Black Cat Eye Shadow
Bulgari - Mon Jasmin Noir
Erno Laszlo - Transphuse Night Serum
Archipelago - Pomegranate Soap
Birchbox Treat - Tiny Prints Card
Birchbox Extra - Oribe Beautiful Color Shampoo and Conditioner


In May, the magic continued!  

This Birchbox included one of my all time favorite makeup brands, Stila!  I was already familiar with their finely milled, high quality eye shadows and I didn't have one in the color Black Cat.  I did buy many Stila items 2011, including a their fabulous In the Light Palette.  Love, love, love!

And then there was Mon Jasmin Noir.  I fell in love with this sexy fragrance and promptly purchased a full size bottle.

A surprising addition was the Erno Laszlo - Transphuse Night Serum.  A favorite brand of Marilyn Monroe and always beyond my budget, this really was a treat.  I enjoyed it but the sample was too small for me to determine if it was worth spending $190 (shudder!) on a single product.  Simply because of the price, I doubt I'll be purchasing this serum - ever.

The Archipelago Pomegranate Soap was pleasant enough, but nothing I'd buy.

A big disappointment was the Oribe Shampoo/Conditioner combo.  I really wanted to like this product but it dried out my hair, leaving it feeling like straw!  I hated this!

The "treat" was a Tiny Prints card with a cute but retro card with 1970's linoleum style print.  Would I buy this?  Never.

RATING: 4 out of 6

Birchbox June 2011

Kate Spade - Twirl
Laura Geller - Baked Blush n' Brighten
Shu Uemura - Essence Absolute Nourishing Protective Oil
Sircuit Cosmeceuticals - Molecular Mist
Deborah Lippmann - Stripper to Go Nail Lacquer Removers


I was more than a little surprised this month I received a full size Laura Geller - Baked Blush n' Brighten blush and highlighter combo worth $29.50!  I loved it but my mom loved it even more and liberated it from me!

Next up, Kate Spade Twirl.  Reminiscent of Yvresse By Yves Saint Laurent, a classic fragrance, I was enthralled with the sweet champagne-like scent of Twirl and I did purchase a full size bottle.

Shu Uemura - Essence Absolute Nourishing Protective Oil was fabulous, and it set me off on a Shu Uemura buying spree!  I now own Shu Uemura cosmetics and makeup brushes - and all because of Birchbox!

I took Sircuit Cosmeceuticals Molecular Mist to the beach, spritzed it in my face and had a coughing fit!  It definitely hydrated my skin on that scorching hot day so it is a good product, but the coconut scent was overwhelming and it felt as if someone threw a piña colada in my face!

The Deborah Lippmann Stripper to Go Nail Lacquer Removers proved to be more than a little convenient when I had unexpected and unwanted chips in my nail polish at the office.  I bought a different brand of these to try as a comparison, and there really is no comparison at all.  This product is a must-have and it led to me purchase several Deborah Lippmann nail polishes.  

RATING: 4 out of 5

$60 later, I liked 26 out of 33 products.  So is it worth it?  Yes!  Birchbox introduced me to many brands I had never heard of, and I would never have found all of these brands on my own.

Unfortunately, in the next six months the Birchbox's were not always as stellar as these.  

If you want to sign up for Birchbox for $10 a month.

Check out the Birchbox site here:

Take care,
- The Sassi Wench

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Edward Bess Luxury Eye Brush and Luxury Face Brush Review

Now that some Edward Bess cosmetics are available at Sephora, I thought I would do a long overdue blog post on some of his products.  I don't know why, but his makeup brushes aren't available on Sephora just yet.  Instead, visit Nieman Marcus.

Last year, several beauty blogs were buzzing about Edward Bess and I found myself drawn to his cosmetics with their elegant, neutral colors packaged in sleek black packaging.

Edward Bess Luxury Eye Brush (L) Edward Bess Luxury Face Brush (R)
I purchased Edward Bess Ultra-Luminous Eye Shadow, Defining Lip Liner and Ultra Slick Lipstick, but I held off on the brushes.  Not because I wasn't interested, but because I already have so many face and eye brushes that I wasn't ready to spend nearly $100 on two more brushes.  

Edward Bess is a luxury cosmetics brand, and it's certainly not for everyone.  His Sheer Satin Cream Compact Foundation alone is $60.  If you want a basic Edward Bess face, foundation, concealer, blush, lipstick, mascara and an eye shadow palette will cost you $262.  Not for the faint of heart.

Add the two brushes featured here, and say goodbye to $358.

After my initial cosmetics purchase (I'll review those later), I was so pleased with the products that I just knew I wouldn't be able to rest until I tried out the brushes.
Edward Bess Luxury Eye Brush bristles
The first brush I bought was the Edward Bess Luxury Eye Brush ($40).  It has a weighted metal handle and densely packed natural bristles.

The design of this brush reminded me a little of  Urban Decay's 24/7 Shadow Pencil Blending Brush, which also has a metal handle - although the comparisons end there.

The bristles on this brush are dense enough to pick up a good amount of eye shadow, but best of all, it blends the eye shadow better than any brush in my collection.

As it turns out, it's good for a wash of color all over the lid, and for depositing color in the crease.  

If you are on a budget but wish to own a small selection of only good quality, multi-use brushes, it's worth the investment.

If you want a high quality blending brush, it doesn't get much better than this one.  

The Edward Bess Luxury Face Brush
I was so pleased with my Luxury Eye Brush, that I promptly ordered the Luxury Face Brush ($56)! And for the past five months I have been alternating using this brush and my Hakuhodo angled face powder S100 Finishing Brush, mainly for applying beauty powders.  The Hakuhodo S100 is my favorite face brush of all time (my HG), but the Edward Bess Luxury Face Brush comes a close second.

The Edward Bess Luxury Face Brush is not the softest brush I have (quite unlike the Hakuhodo brush which is super soft), but the bristles aren't rough, either.  Instead, they are densely packed in a well designed weighted handle which fits easily between your fingers for a good application.

It did surprise me, but the weight and length of the handle truly makes a difference.  I wasn't sure how I would like it when I first received this brush, but after a few swift strokes, application of the powder was evenly distributed and my face had a dewy glow!  Now, it's just easy to reach for this brush.

As it is a multi-use brush, I tried it with with my Stila bronzer (I only use bronzer when filming videos), and MAC blush with equally pleasing results.  

(L) Burberry Beauty Brush (R) Edward Bess Luxury Face Brush

Edward Bess and Burberry size comparison

Edward Bess bristles compared with the Burberry Beauty Brush Bristles

You can see how densely packed the bristles are in comparison with the Burberry Beauty Brush  ($52) (which I will review later).

Bottom line, I would definitely repurchase these brushes if (horror!) something ever happened to them.  You certainly pay more for this kind of quality, but if you are serious about makeup and want to invest in brushes that should last you years and years with good care, take a look at what Edward Bess has to offer.

- The Sassi Wench

p.s. I liked the brush so much I included it as part of my October Favorites (video below - it was the Halloween edition so don't be shocked when you see me in this video!)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

❧❦ Birchbox January 2012 - Stila ❦❧

January 2012 Birchbox - Stila!
The theme of the January 2012 Birchbox is "Clarity" and the idea is to jump start your health regimen with a night cream, eye cream, and granola!
January 2012 Birchbox

Birchbox - Stila Smudge Stick Waterproof Eyeliner in Blue Ribbon
VWV Hypoallergenics - Re-Everything Eye Serum  
Befine Food Skin Care Night Cream 
Juicy Couture - Viva la Juicy
Wichcraft Granola
I absolutely LOVE this Birchbox - although I ate the granola and it wasn't good at all.  It seemed to be overly baked and had a bit of a burnt aftertaste.

I have a Stila Smudge Stick in dark brown and it's fabulous!  Yay for this full-size product!

The January 2012 Birchbox includes:

Birchbox - Stila Smudge Stick Waterproof Eyeliner in Blue Ribbon
VWV Hypoallergenics - Re-Everything Eye Serum 
Befine Food Skin Care Night Cream
Juicy Couture - Viva la Juicy
Wichcraft Granola

Click here for a link to the: 
January 2011 Birchbox
February 2011 Birchbox
March 2011 Birchbox
April 2011 Birchbox
May 2011 Birchbox
June 2011 Birchbox
July 2011 Birchbox
August 2011 Birchbox

Click here for a link to the website: Birchbox
Click here for a link to Beauty Fix: Beauty Fix
Click here for a link to my YouTube Channel: The Sassi Wench

- The Sassi Wench