Friday, July 22, 2016

REVIEW: July Birchbox -- 'My Morning Routine'

So I was an ipsy subscriber for a while. And I liked it. A lot. I'm a bit incompetent when it comes to choosing makeup and skin care, so it was a good way to get someone to choose things for me without inconveniencing friends and it meant I'd have a variety of things to play with. And I was mostly happy.

Then I started getting the same products multiple times.

Then they started sending samples with no instructions. (Maybe some things are second nature to people who have been using makeup and beauty products for a while, but not all of us are that clued in.)

Then they sent open and broken samples.

And all things considered, I needed an alternative.

I'd been seeing Birchbox ads on Facebook for a while, and finally decided to look into it. They promised decent-sized samples, instructions for using all of them, and occasional extras in the form of snackies or the like. Plus, they do a men's monthly subscription box, so my dude-friends who like to have nice skin and hair can play, too.

Seemed promising to me.

So this month was my first Birchbox, and I'm already a lot happier with it than I've been with ipsy for a while. Everything was securely closed and wrapped, there was a single instruction card explaining what everything was and how to use it, and everything I got was in line with the profile I filled out.

The theme for the month is My Morning Routine, and covers primarily hygiene, facial/hair care, and freshening up. Granted, my morning routine usually involves a massive mug of Irish Breakfast and a few rounds of Crossy Road, but they can't know everything.

Yeah, here I am talking about beauty supplies on a geek blog. But guess what? I like looking pretty while I interview actors at cons, so I think that's more than fair.

Where to start...

Balance Me Radiance Face Mask

Oh, boy. So among the things I'm learning about are masks. Some are sheets, some are pastes, some dry, some peel off, some you've gotta mix in three parts and they make you look like a mummy. Luckily for awkward Kara, this was extremely simple: put it on, let it sit, wipe it off.

It's a clay-based mask with walnut bits and a few other things in it, and claims to be 'lightweight' and work in five minutes. Point, though: it's not lightweight. Ye gods it was like I'd covered my face in a lead duvet. I mean, on the bright side it didn't make my skin sting like other masks I've tried, but it's not lightweight if that's what you're looking for. Works? Yes. Heavy? Also yes.

Exfoliation isn't really a thing I need to worry about terribly much on my face, so I don't see myself buying it, but it wasn't a wasted sample.

Beauty Protector Protect & Detangle

One thing I definitely got from my mom (besides my temper) is my hair. In my case, my hair is a lot like an iPhone earplug cord, in that if you look away for five seconds it gets tangled. So I'm all for trying detanglers, spray-in conditioners, anything to make it less frizzy and more manageable.

This stuff is probably the lowest maintenance of anything I've tried, and doesn't leave my hands covered in goop after I've worked it in. It also smells a bit of cinnamon roll, which I much prefer to the one I got a few months ago that smells of a very specific drink I had at an anime con party back in '06.

I really do like this and will probably end up buying a full size, because honestly my hair doesn't need volumizers and argan oil and all that as much as it just needs to not be in knots.

Supergoop! Daily Correct CC Cream SPF 35+

I had to go Googling around figuring out BB vs. CC vs. DD (yeah, that's a thing now) cream. I've used BB cream before back when I wasn't sure what it was but didn't want to deal with expensive foundation, but I went back to a mineral powder foundation. So 'CC' stands for 'Colour Correction,' apparently, while 'BB' stands for... I dunno.

Anyway, by way of coverage and colour, this was so cool. I had this and a tinted moisturizer from a previous ipsy box that I was testing opposite each other, and the tinted moisturizer felt awful and greasy (I have a low tolerance for oiliness in general). This felt like an actual foundation and covered really nicely.

My only complaint is that it felt weird after being on for about a minute. In that sort of 'that means it's working!' way. And I don't want my makeup to make my face tingle or ache or sting. It wasn't intense, but at first I wondered if I was having some sort of allergic reaction. (I wasn't.)

So, end of the day? I won't be buying it, but it did singlehandedly win me back over to BB creams. I'm using a Burt's Bees one now (which they could have called Bee Bee cream and the fact that they chose not to bothers me).

Marcelle Xtension Plus Curl Mascara

NASA TECHNOLOGY! MASCARA FROM SPACE! I genuinely don't know what different shapes and sizes of wands do, I just want mascara that's not gonna leave me with raccoon eyes within five minutes of putting it on. Seriously, my eyes water a lot, to the point that my optometrist had to do an outpatient procedure on my tear ducts. Mascara/eyeliner and I don't get along.

What I'll say for this is that it took longer for this to go raccoon on me than most. So that's definitely a positive. I still don't see myself becoming a mascara convert anytime soon, but I'll keep trying the samples as I get 'em. Because you never know.

Okay, let's talk about this.

It is indeed a spray bottle of water. The instruction sheet claims it's good for after workouts, after shaving, and that it 'even sets makeup' (which I don't feel like trying). Is it good for other stuff, like after taking off makeup and the aforementioned? Yes. It really is. Is it better than a spray bottle of tap water? I don't know. I haven't tried yet.

This could very well be placebo effect, so I decided to do some research.

The source of Avène's water is the Sainte-Odile Springs, whose waters have apparently undergone 'stringent dermatological testing' and are meant to be amazing for skin conditions. I do know that there are springs like this. However, I also notice that the main sites to really tell me that the Springs are good for anything but tourism are all under the Avène banner (though they are quite thorough).

Which is not to say it's not true. I did find one spa review that says Avène is the real deal, and maybe it is. And I will admit that the spray does feel a lot nicer than I imagine just spritzing myself in the face straight-up with tap water -- though that could be the type of bottle. I'm still not sure I'll be springing for a full-size when I run out of this, though.

This technically wasn't part of the Morning Routine box; it was a free gift for joining. But it was easily my favourite thing in the package.

I have a love-hate relationship with makeup remover, and not just because I'm lazy at the end of the day. A lot of it stings and burns, even the stuff that's not supposed to. But this stuff is magic. Seriously. Not only does it work, it DOESN'T HURT. It's so nice. This is my go-to makeup remover from now until forever. Seriously.

Overall, it was a good first box. Everything arrived intact, everything was useful to at least some degree, and even the stuff that didn't completely win me over was still nice. I'm looking forward to sticking with Birchbox for a while.

If you're interested in trying Birchbox, click here and give them a go!