Belated September Birchbox

You know how sometimes you have a birthday party coming up, and a wedding, and an anniversary, and a brunch event, and someone has a baby, and your mom keeps calling you, and then it’s suddenly three weeks later?

Yeah, that happens to me a lot.  But here I am, back from God-knows-where, with a belated September Birchbox post.  In my defense, this box came super late in the month.. so late that my October box shipped less than two weeks after I got this one.

Again, I’m not super thrilled (as you can tell by the lagging post), but here’s what was inside:

SEPTEMBER BIRCHBOX

kate spade Twirl fragrance sample
I love the whole kate spade brand, but this doesn’t wow me.  It smells very “generic Elizabeth Arden grown-up perfume at JC Penney.” It’s nothing special, but I bet it’d make a little girl feel fancy as hell.

Color Club Birchbox Custom Polish in Insta-this
This polish is a gorgeous creamy opaque royal/indigo blue.  I gave away my last Color Club nail polish because it was too similar to my Essie Turquoise & Caicos, but it looked fantastic on my sister.  If “Insta-this” has the same kind of color intensity, it’s going to be a favorite in my collection.

Skin, An Apothecary Soy Body Whip in Poppy
I’d give the scent a 7/10.  It smells bright, soapy, and fresh, but there are manly, cologne-like undertones.  The texture is very fun – somewhere between whipped cream and pudding with a non-greasy, non-sticky feel.  It absorbs quickly and easily without leaving a trace (except for that overly strong scent.)  In a fragrance-free world, I’d be a fan.

twistband Birchbox custom hair tie
It was hard for me to leave this in the box long enough to take a picture.  I’ve heard so much about these non-crease comfy ties, and this one is fantastic.  No weird bumps when I take my hair down!  It looks cute on my wrist, too, unlike my standard black ouchless bands.  There are a few flaws, though – after wearing it daily for about a week, the lace print faded significantly, and the band stretched out.  It got really mangy really fast, and at a retail price of $11 for four ties, I couldn’t justify buying more.  It’s a knotted piece of elastic.  Luckily, my broke ass found a way to DIY these.  The material is called Fold Over Elastic, and it’s available in all kinds of colors and prints online.  I ordered a few yards (YARDS!) here for less than $10.

Jouer Matte Moisture Tint in hazel
I’ve never heard of Jouer, and this wimpy little sample (notice the tiny black tube next to a mini polish and a hair tie) doesn’t encourage me look the brand up.  I tried a little on my hand, and it’s too dark and orange for my NC35 skin.. so, essentially, useless.

Hollywood Fashion Secrets Fashion Tape
As thrilled as I am to be let in on these “Hollywood Fashion Secrets,”  I’m afraid they’re a little too covert.  In the fashion tape envelope, I received four small pieces of tape – a quarter-sized circle, a rounded arc, a 1/2″ strip, and a 3/4″ strip.  No instructions or anything.   There’s a subtle clue on the package, “Includes One of Each: Hollywood Fashion Tape, Special Occasion Tape, Accessory Dots, Temporary Hem Tape.”  The back of the envelope tells me I can use these to eliminate blouse gaps, hold accessories, adjust jean length and secure plunging necklines, and even with a bachelor’s degree in apparel design and years of sewing experience, I can’t visualize how this set works.  Hollywood Fashion Secrets are beyond my realm!

Birchbox offered two options for October’s box – the standard selection, or a goop-curated box.  I’m not especially a Gwyneth Paltrow fan, but I have no hard feelings toward her, and I’m inclined to think she can do better than a miniscule tube of dark orange Jouer.

I chose the goop.

M

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The Naturals VoxBox

My first Influenster VoxBox came a few days ago, and the theme is Naturals!  While I don’t always write about my “green” lifestyle in this blog, I do make it a priority to live as responsibly and sustainably as I can.  I do my best to stay informed about environmental issues, and to use products and practices that support a greener earth.  That’s why I’m particularly excited about this VoxBox – these samples have introduced me to a few new eco-friendly brands and products, and I’m glad to share!

Here’s the loot:

First off, I received GEODEO Deodorant in Island
Typically, I don’t ask much of a deodorant – a little sweat protection, not too much residue on my clothes, and a nice scent (no “powder fresh” or “spring rain” here.)  As far as the scent goes, I couldn’t love this more!  Geodeo Island smells like a super juicy pear, fruity, simple and awesome.  The texture is smooth – not chalky at all – and completely clear.  Like, unbelievably clear.  I even tried rubbing the stick directly onto my black tank top – no white marks!  That’s an absolute first for me.   Geodeo doesn’t last as long as my usual stick (Secret deodorant in Va Va Vanilla), but I get about 4-5 good hours out of one swipe.  And I’m alright with re-applying, especially if it means I’m absorbing fewer toxins.
Geodeo’s bragging rights include no animal testing, sulfates, parabens, or phthalates, and the packaging is recyclable.  There’s a lot to like!  Try it out for $4.99 from Drugstore.com.

Next is LypSyl Intense Protection LypMoisturizer.  Check out this adorable tube!


I actually love this balm.  I’m a sucker for cool packaging – so the oversized oval tube with it’s cute little bee push-up switch is right up my alley.  I’ve mentioned that in the past, I loved Burt’s Bees, but noticed their balm seems harder and more waxy  in recent years.  LypSyl balm reminds me of my first tube of Burt’s Bees – super smooth and buttery with a minty tingle and scent.  In a way,  I’d say LypSyl even trumps old Burt by moisturizing my lips without a detectable layer of product.  This balm has earned a coveted place in my everyday purse, and I will definitely buy another when it’s out!  You can find it at Walmart for $2.82.

CleanWell Individual Hand Sanitizer Wipes
I’m actually very familiar with this brand, and I keep the sprays in my car and purse.  I love that they’re alcohol and triclosan free – very rare in sanitizers.  I’m a little bit of a germaphobe, but I hate dry, cracked hands and I’ve read a lot about how triclosan interferes with hormones.  CleanWell is a staple for my family, and these handy wipes are welcome in my arsenal.  I found mine at Trader Joe’s, but you can also get them online at GNC, $3.49 for a pack of 10.

Desert Essence Coconut Shine & Refine Hair Lotion
Hair Lotion?!  The bottle and the product look like your average body lotion and I read this carefully, front and back, to be sure of its purpose.  It IS for hair, and it’s pretty lovely.  The scent is awesome – very strong, sweet coconut.  The texture is that of a light, smooth body lotion.. not a heavy pomade or cream, but not as runny as a serum.  The instructions recommend applying a dime size amount to the ends, and distributing it evenly.  Being overly enthusiastic, I squeezed almost a tablespoon into my palms and rubbed it generously over the ends of my hair.  Even with my super-sized dose, Desert Essence added softness and shine without an oily wet look or chunky separation.  I’ve been known to overdo it with leave-in conditioners (leading to last-minute greasy updos), but it’s safe to say this hair lotion is nearly fail-proof.  If you’re looking for soft, manageable hair with a Malibu Barbie scent, check this out for $9.99 at Desert Essence.

EBOOST Natural Energy in Orange
If you’re familiar with Emergen-C, you’ve got an idea of what EBoost is all about.  Little packets of citrus flavored vitamin powder mix with water for an energy and immunity boost on the go.  I’m not a huge fan of Emergen-C, but EBoost is a step up.  It foams up quickly and easily, and tastes like orange soda at the first sip.  The aftertaste is decidedly vitamin-y, and I’m not crazy about that.  Overall, I’ll skip the powder packets in favor of trusty, taste-free vitamin pills.  If you’re good with vitamin drinks, and you want a tastier option, EBoost is $23.99 for 20 pouches on Amazon and it comes in Orange, Superberry, Pink Lemonade and Acai Pomegranate.

Then there’s The Original Dish Drying Mat
It doesn’t sound like the most exciting product in the world, I know, but I really like having this mat around.  Even though most of us have dishwashers, there’s always a cocktail glass, wooden spoon, or coffee pot that can’t handle the rigors of machine washing.  I hand wash a decent number of dishes every night, and end up perching them on my stove or leaving them strewn over a dish towel.  It’s not ideal for drying, and it wouldn’t make Martha Stewart very proud.  With The Original Dish Drying Mat (yes, I’m going to use its whole name whenever I can), I have a set area for my hand-washed dishes.  They dry faster, they’re safely cushioned, and my kitchen doesn’t look like a junkyard.  Its pretty cream color won’t last long in my house, but luckily, it’s machine washable.  The Original Dish Drying Mat is available for $4.99 at Bed Bath & Beyond.

NECTRESSE Sweetener
Nectresse is a zero-calorie monk fruit sweetener from the makers of Splenda.  The package says monk fruit extract is at least 150x sweeter than sugar, and I believe it.  Nectresse looks a lot like standard granulated sugar, but it smells a little more like maple syrup.  I put a tiny bit in my coffee, and it was pretty sweet.  Out of curiosity, I poured some straight into my mouth (don’t tell my dentist), and it was really sweet.  If you’ve had Truvia, you’ll know what I mean.  I have no problems with monk fruit or Nectresse, but I’ll be using this sparingly since a little goes a long way.  You can score a free sample at Nectresse.com.

M

Disclaimer: I received these products in a complimentary VoxBox, for testing purposes, from Influenster.

Alterna at Hautelook til Friday!

Hey friends: more beauty sales this week!

An Alterna hair care flash sale starts today on Hautelook (you have to be a member to shop, but membership is free and sign-up is way easy).  I picked a few things up at the last flash sale, and I’m loving them.  (You can click over to reviews of the Hemp Repair Gloss and Overnight Hair Rescue here.)

The discounts are pretty substantial, and I’d love to try more of their organic, sulfate-free products.  If I were in spending mode right now I’d go for the Caviar Brunette Conditioner, Life Solutions Volume Restore Conditioner, and the Hemp with Organics Volume Lock Hairspray.

If you decide to give Alterna a try, let me know how you like it!

M

The Spending Freeze

While touring Sparkle Girl’s Life’s blog hop, I came across an interesting post by Beautiful Kayekie in which she challenged herself to a 60-day buying ban.  At first, I admired her, because I knew I could never go two months without buying a beauty product.  But the more I thought about it, the more I welcomed the challenge.

I spend a lot of money (and time) on beauty shopping.  I have more makeup than I could ever use, and it lies neglected in my vanity for months on end.  I’ll admit I’ve gotten a little out of control, and it’s time to pull in the reins.  I’m hopping on the buying ban bandwagon!

My rules are similar to Kayekie’s:

  • No beauty purchases for 60 days – including hair styling products, nail polish, skin care, makeup, or freebies.
  • Refills on my existing daily use products are acceptable (moisturizer, cleansers, primer).
  • One week of hogwild buying freedom, starting today, before the ban begins.  I’M ONLY HUMAN.
  • Birchbox doesn’t count as a purchase, since it’s a subscription and I’ve already paid for it.
  • I’m free to add to a wish list, play with makeup in stores, and daydream about shopping as necessary.

Here we go.

I’m planning to pick up the Urban Decay Naked palettes this week, while I still can.  I’ve had them on the back burner for a while, and I know they’ll keep my attention while I’m “fasting”.

If you had one week left before a ban, what would you stock up on?

M

Frizz Fighters

My hair is not especially dry or damaged, but I’m addicted to blow outs and it shows.  Even with ceramic, tourmaline, ion blah blah blah, I get little flyaway frizzies around my part and hair line.  I’ve been through a few products to keep my hair polished and smooth – and these are my favorites:

Bumble & Bumble Defrizz

Softness: 4/5
Shine: 5/5
Frizz Protection: 5/5
Hold: 4/5
Next-Day Texture: 2.5/5
Price: $15 for 2 oz. or $26 for 4 oz, at Bumble and Bumble
Value: 3/5

Overall:  Defrizz is one of those “use very carefully” products.  Too much will flatten any volume you’ve built up and add greasy patches of sheen.  It’s VERY shiny, which is lovely when done right.  I rub a very small amount between my palms (all over my palms) and then carefully rake my fingers through the ends, then middle, then over the top surface of my hair.  The secret is dispensing it as lightly and evenly as possible (combing it through helps).  Once it’s in, it offers a little bit of hold and a super-smooth high shine finish.
The real bummer with Defrizz is its high maintenance.  It’s a great one-day product – meaning when I go to sleep with it on, I know I won’t be leaving the house in the morning without a thorough wash and dry.  The next-day texture is greasy, a little stiff, and totally unattractive.

Bumble & Bumble Hairdresser’s Invisible Oil

Softness: 5/5
Shine: 5/5
Frizz Protection: 5/5
Hold: 2/5
Next-Day Texture: 5/5
Price: $38 at Bumble and Bumble
Value: 5/5

Overall:  BEST STUFF alert!  I scored a free sample from Sephora, and prepared myself to be creeped out.  I’m usually pretty oil-averse, but this is one product that’s completely won me over.  After a blow dry, I put a dime size drop in my palms, rub it together, and carefully coat the surface and ends of my hair.  It’s super soft, naturally shiny (unlike the shampoo-commercial-shine of B&B Defrizz) and controls my flyaway hairs completely.  It doesn’t hold, which is fine since I wouldn’t use a frizz product for that anyway.  The next-day texture is a dream, too – I wake up with perfect hair – smooth, soft and pretty.  I only wish they offered it in a smaller size, since it takes so little for each use.

Alterna Hemp Repair Gloss

Softness: 5/5
Shine: 4/5
Frizz Protection: 3.5/5
Hold: 3/5
Next-Day Texture: 5/5
Price: $19 at beautybar.com
Value: 3.5/5

Overall:  This is a very subtle gloss – I use it for softness and a little extra texture (and it’s fresh, healthy hair scent).  It’s intended to repair split ends and damage, so I think of it as a leave-in conditioner.  It seems to keep my hair moisturized, and the ends soft.  While I wouldn’t use this on its own to tame frizz, I love it mixed in with a styling cream or lotion before a blow dry.

These three products have been lifesavers in the frizz department, so if you’re looking a little mangy, give them a try!

M

Splurge, Steal, or Skip – Conditioner

The Splurge: Bumble & Bumble Creme de Coco Conditioner

It’s no secret that I’m deeply in love with Bumble and Bumble’s Creme de Coco scent.  I love the Hair Masque, and this conditioner is equally fantastic.  While I don’t see the dramatic improvement I do with the mask, I get smooth, soft, and deliciously scented hair without the time commitment.  Perfect for the everyday shower routine.  $24 at Bumble & Bumble (and buy one get one free at Target!)

The Steal: Aussie 3-Minute Miracle

Surprisingly effective for the low, low price, Aussie 3-minute Miracle delivers “deeeeep conditioning.”  There’s a noticeable difference in my hair texture after one use.  It’s not as softening as Bumble & Bumble, but it’s the nicest drug store conditioner I’ve used.  The scent is a little bit like a strong, cheap fruit punch, but it’s not unpleasant.  For the $4.29 price tag (at Ulta and drug stores), it’s worth smelling like the Chiquita lady.

The Skip: Terax Crema Conditioner

Insultingly priced at $24.99 at Amazon, this ‘luxury conditioner’ was surprisingly lackluster.  I’ve read about its cult following, and checked out the rave reviews… but for me, it did almost nothing.  It has a truly bizarre scent – a little bit fishy with hints of plastic and play doh – but I rubbed it into my hair anyway.  (Seriously, why did I do that?)  I gave it a few minutes to get to work.. then a few more minutes when it didn’t feel any different.. then eventually I had to get out of the shower.  Nothing.  Even after a few tries, I’m struggling to see what this fish paste does to my hair.  I don’t know what the hype’s about, but this bottle’s been lonely in my shower for a few months now.  Skip.

M

Orly, Supergoop and Alterna at Hautelook

Heads up – it’s a beauty extravaganza over at Hautelook!

If you’re not familiar with Hautelook.com, it’s a great flash sale site, similar to Gilt.  Right now (and I mean RIGHT now, these sales will be over in the next two days), their beauty section is killer – Alterna hair products, Supergoop sun protection, Tweezerman tools and Orly nails.

Orly polishes are on sale for $4.50 each, marked down from the usual $8-$8.50.  It’s a good time to try out the brand, if you haven’t, and experiment with new colors at about half the price!

Alterna hair products are going for 50-70% off, and Supergoop’s not too shabby at 30-40% off retail prices.  I haven’t tried either brand yet, but I’ve read great reviews, so I picked up a couple of things on the cheap.

I’m excited to share my haul when it gets here.

M

Bumble and Bumble Bargains at Target

I don’t know if you know about this, but daaamn – Target has some killer deals on Bumble and Bumble!

Their selection is pretty limited, but right now, the full-size bottles are buy one get one free.  And at $20-$27 each, that’s a great deal.

Target offers Salon Travel Kits if you want to try before you invest – $29.99 for a 2 oz. bottle of a shampoo and conditioner (either Creme de Coco or Seaweed), plus 2 oz. bottles of Styling Creme and Styling Lotion.  The styling products work fabulously with just a couple of drops, so those mini bottles will last you several months at least!

I already love the Creme de Coco hair masque and conditioner, so I decided to try the shampoo.  I also picked up the Styling Lotion (because I’m digging the Styling Creme) and a Seaweed shampoo.  Four full-size products, and I only paid for two.  Big ups to Target.

M

Best Stuff: Bumble & Bumble Creme de Coco Masque

I confess, I often neglect my hair.  It’s reasonably healthy, and my stylist is basically a miracle worker whose cuts last me months on end.  It’s totally passable with a quick wash-and-half-dry, but with a bit of extra work I’ve discovered it can be amazing.

I’ve noticed in my everyday “good enough” hairdo, I have a lot of little flyaway pieces and frizzies.  They don’t bother me much, but I figured if I could tame them with just a little conditioner, I’d give it a go.  So after a few clicks around the internet, I found Bumble & Bumble Creme de Coco Masque ($27).  I’m already a sucker for skin masks, so I figured I’d like a hair mask too.

I wasn’t prepared for the explosion of YUM smell when I opened the bottle.  This stuff smells like a coconut milkshake on an island beach.  I smoothed it on in a bath while watching Jersey Shore re-runs (sorry).  After about ten minutes, I rinsed, and re-rinsed.  It took me awhile to realize that the super-silky feel wasn’t leftover cream, it was my hair!  Whoa.

After towelling off, I ran a comb through my wet hair.  It was surprisingly easy – a world of difference from my normal nest of tangles.  The coconut smell lingered and my hair was smooooth.  Even after drying, my hair had a whole new teddy bear softness and a little extra shine.  I can get used to this.

Essentially, the Creme de Coco Masque is a ten-minute miracle that makes me want to swoosh my hair around like a Pantene commercial.  While my hair wasn’t bad before, it’s awesome whenever I use this.  It’s surprising what a little extra care can do.

M