As a person [who is not Korean but] writes a blog about Korean beauty products, I have fairly little contact with Western products despite living in NYC. I do love Sephora and plenty of Western makeup brands, but recent-ish developments such as low-cost U.S.-based beauty boxes such as Ipsy and Birchbox have only ended up on my radar thanks to the occasional facebook sponsored post and unboxings on subscription box blogs I follow. I’m as American as defiled apple pie, but non-Korean products haven’t even hit my hair in 2015. In some ways, I’m a bit out-of-step with the culture that surrounds me, and while, like an emo teenager looking to self-differentiate, I kind of dig that, I’m also too old to act like a emo teenager looking to self-differentiate. Maybe it’s time to see what my relatives are getting in the mail each month.
In reality, psych, it wasn’t the desire to connect with the beauty stashes of my friends and family that first drew me to Birchbox last month–it was the addition of kbeauty brands Peripera and Chosungah22. Dr. Jart+, early Korean beauty success story, was already at Birchbox before my gaze landed on it. It’s possible that more Korean brands will end up at Birchbox in the future, so I’ve decided to get on this diversifying ride for a bit to hopefully watch and experience kbeauty explode into the American mainstream. Even more than it already has.
The reason I call Birchbox a ride is because it seems to be one of the most hated things that one can receive in the mail aside from an IRS audit notice, if one is to believe the reviews. I’ve never been particularly enticed until the addition of kbeauty, in part because it seems like most voices rise in disgust at the $10-per-month box of 4 to 5 deluxe samples. When I asked people in the past year why they subscribe to something that seems to only bring them misery they told me about the Birchbox points system that awards subscribers 10 points for every product review submitted on the site; 10 points equal $1 in spending power in the Birchbox store, which includes products from a ridiculous number of brands including BECCA, GLAMGLOW, Laura Mercier, Paula’s Choice, and Tatcha. That actually makes sense, ok, cool–turn your misery into a 10-point review, use points to buy products you actually want. I am so down for this sort of beauty gamification that leads to more nice things for my worktable. *coach clap* Let’s do this!
My first box shipped last month, but I consider June 2015 to be the real start of my Birchbox experience: I got to actually select one of the samples in my box this month (last month, as someone late to class, I got the blogger-curated box). Let’s see how I fare in this new and exotic-to-me land of American beauty boxes.
Rather than typing all of this out I’m going to dump the card here and just give my first impressions of the products (yes, I’ve tested all of them in the last 24 hours).
I’m super excited to be receiving Dr. Jart+ Dermaclear Micro Water in my box–it won Get It Beauty’s blind test of micellar waters, beating out favorites like Bioderma. The full-size version of this has been on my to-buy list for some time, but I’m always held back by the price ($25-35 depending on the retailer) vs. my complete inexperience with micellar waters. This small sample is exactly what I need to determine if this type of product is for me.
My first test of this worked well enough. I love oil cleansing and low-pH foam cleansing and don’t want to replace those steps with micellar water, but I’ve heard of people using this after those steps to grab any stray makeup and tone before starting their actual skincare routine. That seems generally fine because the pH was 5.5-6 when I tested it, so it’s not like it’s going to drag my skin’s pH in the wrong direction (keeping skin close to its natural low pH is important because it protects the moisture barrier and discourages the growth of acne-causing bacteria).
I found this really effective as a stray makeup remover–it got everything off. My eyes were irritated by it, but then again, my skin in general was screaming yesterday for some reason. When I used the Micro Water this morning as a toner, my skin was fine. I’m going to keep testing this. I’m not certain at this point–given my love of oil and foam cleansing–that I need the Micro Water, especially since I’m using it as a stray eye makeup remover and I have a whole bottle of my favorite two-layer silicone remover already (Laneige Lip & Eye Remover Waterproof).
Let me give you a hint: when an eyeliner’s claim to fame is that it’s hypoallergenic and perfume free, you need to bail the f out and find another one. Like, if an eyeliner ISN’T hypoallergenic and fragrance free, what is it? Eye death. So…that’s not a good enough claim. That’s like saying “I’m not that sub-Wet n’ Wild garbage you find mixed up in a shoebox at your local sells-everything store that hasn’t had a name since the sign fell off in a storm last spring.”
Needless to say, when I swatched this, it was too soft (see the hanging bit of pigment?) because I was digging it into my skin to try to get the pigmentation levels up. This is supposed to be $11. Rimmel makes a fab waterproof liner for much less. If you want great purple liners you may still be able to find the gorgeous Clio Spring/Summer 2014 set that’s all orchids. This? TRASH.
Holy mother of god, what the actual fluff is this??? My skin was uniquely grouchy last night and from the moment I applied this, it started screaming. It reminded me a bit of home blonde hair dye kits–I expected to find peroxide in the ingredient list, but it’s not there. The good is that after about 2.5 minutes (after awhile I had to admit defeat to this nightmare) my skin was really smooth. The bad is that after 2.5 seconds my skin was in anguish. I rinsed this off and found red, bitchy skin. The reviews seem quite favorable and this claims to be pH neutral, so maybe the issue is that I already exfoliate aggressively and my skin was particularly unhappy going into this treatment. I just…look at this with fear, yikes.
This seems like watered-down Aveda to me. The shampoo seems especially weak. That said, after 3 washes (taking up most of the tube) and most of the tube of conditioner, my hair actually feels really nice and soft. I don’t think this is a particularly good value, given the amount it took to get my hair clean. I mean, I basically spent these two tubes on one cleaning.
I tried this hair tie and I’m confused. This is a ponytail holder? That’s supposed to be fashionable? I mean, it holds my lazyass hair. It holds it ok, but not as good as the black ones I buy by the dozen. A cute color and tail isn’t going to save me from style death by lazy hair, so…in what universe would I…NO. No.
This first real Birchbox resulted in me receiving a deluxe sample of something on my kbeauty to-try list for a long time, a crappy eyeliner, a scary mask/scrub, useful but not amazing shampoo and conditioner, and a hair tie that my kitten will no doubt steal when I deem it neither fashionable nor functional. For $10, less than the cost of Midtown lunch depending on where you dine, that’s not bad, really. This box seems better than others I’ve seen Birchboxers receive, so I’m curious what the future brings. So far? No regrets and a Korean product I wanted. Rock on.
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