March 2017: Birchbox vs. Ipsy vs. Play! By Sephora

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These $10 subscriptions can be a lot of fun.

It’s time again for battle of the $10 subscription boxes! I’ve decided to change up my unboxings and try out this style. Boxycharm is really in a category all it’s own, since it’s twice the amount of these other subscriptions.

So were there any clear winners this month? Let’s find out!

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Contemplating whether Birchbox downgraded my boxes since I changed my subscription plan…

First up is the OG beauty box. Y’all know about my rollercoaster with Birchbox. The last two boxes got me hoping they were on the uptick. Unfortunately, it seems that it’s “a two steps forward, one step back” situation.

I wasn’t impressed with any of the sample choices or pre selected box for March. And,  yes, what I got were old, tired recycled samples and brands.

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I mean, it could be good for a new subscriber…

I do love that they did a collab with Reese Witherspoon’s company, Draper James. The box itself is absolutely adorable. The samples didn’t leave me excited, though.

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Cleansers, cleansers. I don’t really want you in my boxes.

Real Chemistry Fresh Start Foaming Cleanser (USD $24.00, full size)

I like what I’ve tried from Real Chemistry, but I’m not in the market for a new every day cleanser. I’ll probably keep this on hand for travel, but it’s a bit of a miss for me.

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A hair product I might use.

Beauty Protector Protect + Volume Spray (USD $23.50, full size)

I do like this brand, and volume is something I deal with, though mainly at the roots with second and third day hair. This could possibly fit into my routine, but I’m so overwhelmed with hair care products at the moment. It’s going to be a while before I can try this. Or maybe I’ll use it once and if it’s not impressive enough declutter it out of my collection.

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Please stop.

TOCCA Emelia Eau de Parfum (USD $72.00, full size)

Ah, how Birchbox loves throwing in perfume samples into non-pre selected boxes. This isn’t the worst I’ve gotten from Birchbox, but it’s nowhere near close to what my profile indicates I would like. A bit too fresh smelling, since I prefer warmer fragrances. It’s a waste of a sample on me.

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A repeat, but worse.

Coastal Scents Revealed Smoky Palette (USD $19.95, full size — and NOT a $40 value, as they claim)

Yes, Coastal Scents has come back to haunt me again. I decluttered this palette, which Boxycharm sent two years ago, out of my collection and now have two dinky shadow samples back in my possession. My beef with brands like Coastal Scents is that they just try to dupe high end brands instead of putting out unique palette. I don’t need a cheaper take on an Urban Decay Naked palette. Into the donation bin you go!

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A potential winner?

ARROW Enhance Waterproof Liner + Brightener (USD $16.00, full size)

This is what I picked for the box. I have other brightening nude liners in my collection, so I wasn’t excited when I picked it. However, now that I looked at it, I’m intrigued. My other nude liners are a very true nude, which does brighten my eyes but sometimes is too much of a stark contrast (aka, they give me the crazy eyes). I wonder if this more pinky formula would work better. Color me surprised, but I’m really interested in trying this out.

Verdict: Birchbox was a definite miss for me. This tends to happen in February/March, but this was particularly disappointing because of the improvement in my January and February boxes. I hope they do better, because if not I will nix by subscription.

Maybe you’re looking at my box and actually think it’s pretty great. Hey, why not give it a shot? If Birchbox appeals to you, you can sign up here.

Up next, is Ipsy.

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When you’re slightly more excited about the bag than the samples.

Ok, ok. That’s a bit of an exaggeration. But I am in love with this blush tone bag. It’s really cute for spring and the color is incredibly on trend. Plus, this is one of Ipsy’s bigger bags, so I’ll be able to stick a couple of more things in there when I travel.

The samples weren’t bad. I’m just not really enthused on first impression. If anything, I feel much better about this bag than I do what Birchbox sent.

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Great affordable brand. Not my favorite form of concealer.

City Color Photo Chic Dark Spot Corrector (USD $3.99, full size)

Ipsy got the tone of this color collector just right, since I wear peachy correctors on my tan complexion to even out dark spots (especially in the under eye area). City Color is one of my favorite affordable makeup brands. However, I just don’t like cream concealers that come in compacts. It gets way too messy and unsanitary.

I’ll be adding this to the donation bin.

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This poor company doesn’t have the most English language friendly name

Doucce Freematic Eyeshadow (USD $10.00, single or $35.00 if you build your own quad)

Doucce is one of those brands that you see all over the beauty subscription box market. I’ve tried some mascaras from them. Some I liked, others not so much. I’ve yet to try their eyeshadows, though. I was sent a wee single pan in the shade Marissa.

This is totally something I would wear. I also like that the pan is magnetized, so I can stick it in a magnetic palette. If the formula works out, this could be a great little addition to my eyeshadow collection!

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When you’re not so sure about that blush color.

OFRA Pressed Blush in Peach (USD $15.00, full size)

Man, do I love getting Ofra products in my bag. I’ve heard great things about their blushes, so I was pumped when I saw I was getting one. This peach shade looks incredibly pretty.

However…

I’m not sure if that tone will show up on me. If it has enough pigmentation, I think it’ll be fine. But with peachy shades, I need a saturated blush for it to work. Still, I’m a big fan of Ofra and am glad to at least try out the formula.

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My favorite type of skincare to get in subscriptions!

MUDMASKY Facial Detox Purifying Recovery Mask (USD $75.00*, full size)

*Wow, I did not see that high price tag coming!

I love getting masks for pampering in my subscription boxes. Of course, the majority of the time they don’t make any real difference, but they’re still fun to try. The ingredients look good for this mask, minus the inclusion of fragrance. I really don’t understand skincare brands’ desire to add so much fragrance to facial skincare. Body stuff, I get. But the skin on our face is so sensitive and the majority of the time we want ingredients that will fight inflammation and treat skin.

Anyway, this will still be fun to try.

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Tools in subscriptions are the way to my heart.

Elizabeth Mott Blending Brush (USD $15.00)

I can always use a blending brush, especially since I get lazy about cleaning my brushes. (Don’t worry, I do wash them. But it’s still such a pain in the ass.) This one from Elizabeth Mott is a nice, synthetic brush that’s soft and seems well made. I prefer synthetic brushes for the type of eyeshadow I use. I also love the aesthetic of the brush. The Tiffany Blue is a nice touch.

Verdict: Ipsy did a solid job. Again, this isn’t my favorite bag, but they’re still doing a good job of matching up products with my profile and feedback. In theory, all of these should be a hit with me, but there are some personal preferences that just don’t line up with a few of the samples. Still, I love the eyeshadow, brush, and the mask. Plus, this is probably the prettiest bag I’ve every gotten from Ipsy. It’s nice enough that you could probably get away with using it as a party clutch.

Ipsy really does get better with each feedback I give them. I think they’re doing a great job of offering a variety of samples so each month it really feels like you’re getting new things. Birchbox could learn a thing or two from Ipsy. If you want to try them out, you can sign up here.

Now, we have Play! by Sephora:

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Probably not your favorite box if you’re a fan of the matte look.

It was all about the glow over at Sephora this month. Personally, I love the theme because they’re showing how to achieve the radiant, glowy look without having to resort solely to glittery or shimmery highlighter.

I have to say, though, now that Sephora is doing box variations, I was a little disappointed with some of the products I received in my box. They’re not bad, but not as good as what was previewed for some boxes.

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You’ve got that multi purpose highlight.

Josie Maran Surreal Skin Argan Finishing Balm (USD $36.00, full size)

Apparently, this can be used as both an illuminating primer or a cream highlighter. I don’t think I would use this quite as an illuminating primer because Josie Maran’s products tend to be slightly too oily to go all over my skin. Still, I’ve been loving using cream highlighters lately under powder to boost the glow.

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And the priming, glowing moisturizer.

GLAMGLOW GLOWSTARTER Mega Illuminating Moisturizer in Nude Glow (USD $49.00, full size)

I haven’t had much luck with GlamGlow masks in the past (I just don’t see anything to justify the price), but maybe I’ll have better luck with this. I do love using an illuminating primer under matte foundation. The combination gives a beautiful finish to my skin without leaving me looking to oily. I’m excited to try this.

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Good cult classic, but…

Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion (USD $20.00, full size)

This is where I give Sephora the side-eye. Yes, Urban Decay Primer Potion is a cult classic, which is great for makeup newbies to try. (Though personally, I prefer Milani’s formula.) But, the other option in box variations was a Bobbi Brown shadow stick.

I’d much rather get the Bobbi Brown product. This is the original formula, and not even one of the new primers that have come out. I just think if you’re going to offer this as an alternate to Bobbi Brown, at least make it one of the newer launches.

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Hair oil. I have so much of this.

VERB Ghost Oil (USD $14.00, full size)

Another hair oil to add to my growing stash. The other variation was a texturizing spray, which I go through like candy and would gladly welcome.

Yeah, I’ll probably go through this eventually. But now that there are box variations, I wish  there was a way to let Sephora know that there are certain products we’d prefer in out boxes.

Or just don’t do as many variations.

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And the traditional cream highlight.

Benefit Cosmetics Watts Up! (USD $30.00, full size)

I’ve never tried this highlighter, but I’ve heard good things. Stick highlighters aren’t my favorite, but maybe this cream to powder formula will be more in line with what I like.

 

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A nice, citrusy scent.

Atelier Cologne Clementine California (USD $75.00 for 1 oz.)

I really like what I’ve sampled from Atelier Cologne. It’s a pricey fragrance brand, but if you’re a citrus lover you should really take a look at what they have to offer.

This isn’t my absolute favorite of their citrus scents, but it still smells really good. It’s a great fragrance to include in the box as we hop into spring. Very season appropriate.

Verdict: Sephora did a great job with this theme, with the exception of the variations that don’t really act as good alternates to some of the products in the other boxes. Still, there are some really interesting products in here. Sephora continues to offer a strong beauty subscription.

Sign up for the waitlist as soon as it’s available in your area. This beauty subscription is absolutely worth it.

So out of the three, were there any clear winners this month?

Honestly, Birchbox was the worst but both Ipsy and Sephora were good, though not terribly exciting. If I had to pick one, I’d give it to Sephora this month for having a few more samples that I’m enthusiastic to have. Not really a stand out, but not a bad month for subscriptions either.

February 2016 Birchbox Review #4: Catherine Malandrino Romance de Provence Eau de Parfum

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Man, everyone wants Catherine Malandrino to happen.

Perfume samples in subscription boxes can be so hit or miss. I don’t mind receiving them, but they’re not my favorite. I’ve actually only had one perfume sample work out for me in the four years I’ve been receiving subscriptions. (That would be Harvey Prince’s Sincerely). I also don’t like reviewing them too much, because scents are all about personal preference and what works with your body chemistry. A perfume can smell amazing on one person and terribly on another. Still, the review must go on!

I’ve received a few Catherine Malandrino samples from Birchbox and Boxycharm and have been less than impressed. This pricey perfume line’s scents just don’t work well for me. I find them both too sweet and too mature for my taste. (Full disclosure, there’s absolutely NOTHING wrong with being “mature” or liking “mature” scents. They’re just not my personal favorite.)

Birchbox served us up with yet another perfume from Catherine Malandrino, this time the Romance de Provence Eau de Parfum (USD $80.00 for 1.5 oz). See, I told you this brand was pricey. The scent is described as beginning “with subtle fruity layers and opens up to a floral bouquet of jasmine, orange flower, rose, violet and lily (all against a backdrop of powder musk, amber, and patchouli)”. When I read the description, the fact that amber and orange flower, two of my favorite notes, made me a little more excited to try this perfume.

For reference, I have two types of fragrance preferences: very light, non sweet citrus scents and warm, amber and sandalwood scents. Here’s a link to the Harvey Prince Sincerely ingredients so you’ll get an idea of my scent preference.

And here’s what’s up: this is definitely miles beyond the other scents I’ve tried from this brand. The warmer background notes definitely make this perfume more pleasant. I can definitely sense the orange flower in there. However, it is still way too sweet for my personal taste. The fruity notes are just too strong.

Sweet scents just don’t mix well with my body chemistry. It’s not sugary sweet, but still strong enough that I didn’t like the way it meshed with my skin. However, I think this perfume could smell quite lovely on someone with the right body chemistry.

Rating: 3/5. While this scent is still too sweet for my taste and didn’t work with my body chemistry, if you love fruity scents against warmer notes, this perfume may be up your alley. Still, $80.00 for an eau de parfum still seems very pricey. Definitely make sure to try this in person before making an investment.

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