Saturday, 30 April 2016

Birchbox April 2016 and Glossybox Starter Kit

I signed up to two beauty box subscription services in the third week of April after hearing a lot online about American beauty box services and finding this article by the Independent that listed ones available in the UK. I chose Glossybox and Birchbox as I couldn't decide between the two, even after reading a mountain of blogs and watching half of YouTube for more information.

For Birchbox, I did get an April box, which contained a guaranteed Benefit product sample in it. For Glossybox, I had missed the April box and received a starter kit instead. To me, this is my April box, so I wasn't bothered. I don't know if they offered anything special in the April boxes or not. I literally signed up for them on the day I learned of their existence.

Both boxes are £10 a month, with postage pushing Birchbox to £12.95 and Glossybox to £13.25. Each subscription boasts around 5 products to be sent each month (sample, travel size and full size) and upon subscribing, you complete a questionnaire to help your boxes be tailored to your needs (hair colour, hair type, skin type, etc). You can also edit this throughout your subscription, which is useful. Glossybox was sent via Royal Mail, which meant I could fetch it from the sorting office that's practically next door, but Birchbox was sent via Hermes and delivered to a neighbour. I've got no idea where it would end up if my neighbour hadn't taken it in for me. Neither box fits through a letterbox, so this may become an issue at some point, but I hope not.

The Glossybox is much larger than the Birchbox - almost double the size - and was packed with shredded black paper inside to stop everything from rattling around too much. There was also a removeable pink paper lining sealed with a sticker and a black ribbon to protect the box and keep everything together. The Birchbox, on the other hand, was tightly packed inside the box in a drawstring bag, to the point where the box didn't actually close properly with the products inside. As this is my first month for both boxes, I don't know if these are standardised sizes or not. I got full size products from Glossybox, so it would make sense if their box was a standard size as it can accommodate a range of products at full size. I actually really like the size of the Birchbox too though, and I particularly like the drawstring bag as this protects the box from any damage from the products moving around inside (even if it stops the box closing properly) and is reusable for other things. For April, Birchbox teamed up with the Rifle Paper Co. and the box is so beautiful, I'm glad that it's pristine inside so that it can be kept. I'm going to keep the products I got in their respective boxes, so it's nice that they're both suitable to keep and they look nice to display. Subsequent Glossybox deliveries will probably be condensed into one box though; there's plenty of space in the one I have so far for more products to fit inside.

Here's what I got in my boxes!

Birchbox April 2016:

First Impressions

I was so happy to end up with the box design that I chose, even though I was late subscribing. I really like the range of products in this box! I ended up with hair care, skin care and makeup items, which I thought was fantastic. I've only heard of and used one brand in here and that's Benefit, but I've never used a Benefit mascara before, so everything in this box is totally new to me. The accompanying leaflet explaining the products is, therefore, extremely useful. It tells you what each product does, how to use it and how much the full size version costs - except the Nuxe, which I believe is a bonus item. There are four things listed on the page with this, no prices included and very little by way of usage instructions, but I assume it was one of four possible bonus items for this month. The only downside is that it doesn't mention whether a product is full size or not. So for reference, everything is a sample/travel size except the Nuxe, which was full size. (It's fine, I can Google.)

1) Benefit Cosmetics BADgal Lash Mascara (4g/0.14oz) - full size RRP £17.50
Benefit is one of my favourite brands, but as I said above I've never tried one of their mascaras. I wore this to work on the day it arrived. It looked just as good when I took it off as it did when I put it on. It didn't smudge all over my face (it was quite warm outside) but it washed off easily. It's a black mascara, not clumpy, and made my lashes thicker and added extra length as well. It's the kind of mascara look that I really like, and this will definitely be well used. Because it's not clumpy I can layer it if I want a more dramatic look. It's not a full size product, but I never seem to finish mascara tubes properly anyway, so I'm not fussed about that. It's a good size, the brush is big and it's perfect for my mini makeup bag. 5/5

2) Cynthia Rowley Beauty Eyeliner in Black (0.8g/0.03oz) - full size RRP £11
I swatched this on the back on my hand straight away and was impressed with it. It is so smooth to apply, it went on like butter. And then it wouldn't budge. I rubbed at it until my hand was red, and it was a bit faded, but not smeared all over my hand. It didn't come off until I put a bit of the Absolution cleanser onto it. It's very creamy and very black. I don't generally like eyeliner - it's difficult to apply on my eyes (I think anyway) - but I do like this. I've only tried it so far for tight lining. It didn't transfer to the waterline and it did stay for far longer than other eyeliners have done (it beat Perversion by Urban Decay, at any rate). When it did come off, it only came off closer to the eyeball, so it still looked like it was there (if that makes sense). It didn't make a huge mess, it didn't look awful, and my eyes were watering a lot because it was very windy outside (as usual). I'm curious to see how it would fare if it wasn't windy, or on the upper or lower lash line. I'm impressed with it so far at any rate. 4/5

3) Absolution L'Eau Soir et Matin (30ml) - full size RRP £27
I already knew this was a good makeup remover because of the eyeliner swatch, so I was expecting to love this when it came to removing the eyeliner from my eyes. I did not. I definitely did not. Aside from the fact that it has a very strong chemical smell, it says on the packaging that it's "organic cleansing and purifying water for eyes and face". It might be for other people's eyes, but it burned mine so badly I had to stumble around with my eyes shut trying to find something to wash it off with. My face looked nice after I'd used it, and I've heard it does wonders for clearing skin up in general (at that price it had better be doing something, to be fair) but if I have to use another one for the eye area then I might as well cut this out and just use the other one that I can put near my eyes. I'll continue to use it on my face, because aside from the horrible smell it did a good job, but it's going nowhere near my eyes and I doubt I'll bother with it beyond this sample. 3/5

4) Beaver Professional Hydro Nutritive Repairing Shampoo and Conditioner (40ml/1.35fl.oz shampoo, 10ml conditioner) - full size RRP from £11.50
First off, these both smell amazing. This seems like a product influenced by my questionnaire answers, as I tend to have very dry hair, so that was nice. The shampoo is in a little travel sized tube but the conditioner is in a packet. I would really rather the conditioner had also been a tube. It's hard to keep packets nice for another use if you don't use the whole thing in one go. I also didn't get that there was four times the shampoo as conditioner, since I generally work the other way around. I have very long hair and it needs a lot of conditioner. But the directions for this say to use the shampoo mainly on the scalp and mid-lengths and the conditioner on the ends, so I thought I'd give that a try. However, in practice I was right. The shampoo lathers up really well but the conditioner sample just wasn't enough. When I tick the box to say I have long hair, I mean my hair is almost touching the tops of my legs, so I imagine that most samples like this will be too small. I used the conditioner on the ends but the rest of my hair felt dry still, so I had to use more than the directions said was necessary. My hair is soft and shiny now and feels really nice but I had to use a leave-in conditioner on it as well as it wasn't conditioned enough. Not entirely the product's fault that I didn't get along with this as much as other products: the conditioner sample was just way too small for me. I'm sure it's great for people with shorter hair as the ends of my hair felt extra silky afterwards and they're usually super dry. For that it gets a rating upgrade, as my hair needs cutting at the moment and anything that makes it nicer until then doesn't deserve a 3 just because the sample is small. 4/5

5) Kueshi Foot Care Cream (40ml/1.3fl.oz) - full size 100ml RRP £12
First thing to note about this is the smell. It smells of TCP. Almost as strongly as TCP smells of TCP. I had to go and wash my hands after using it because I couldn't stand it on my hands. It's definitely the kind of foot cream to use before bed, which is what I did. It was nice to apply, not greasy, and in the morning my feet were noticeably softer. I've seen a lot of complaints about getting foot creams while I was looking up previous boxes, but it's coming up to summer and sandal weather and soft feet in time for that is more than welcome. It definitely did work and I will keep using it. It's just a shame that it doesn't smell nicer. 4/5

6) Nuxe Masque Crème Fraîche de Beauté (50ml/1.7oz) - £18.50 (Birchbox website)
I tried this at night on the day the box arrived. I was too curious to leave it much longer than that. It smells really nice - not overpowering but nice and fresh and clean. I really liked the scent. There's not a lot of instructions on how to use this, either how much to use or how often. It's a no-rinse mask, which I've never tried before. You leave it on for 10 minutes and at the end either rub any excess product into the skin or cleanse it off. I started off with a tiny amount and built up from there until I felt like I'd used enough and in the end I didn't need a huge amount so the tube should last a while. It made my skin super oily looking and I was a bit nervous of it, but after 10m it had done its magic, I massaged the excess into my skin and went to bed. When I woke up, my skin looked amazing. I have very oily skin (but still dry and flaky in places. I wouldn't call it combination because it's still oily where it's also dry - it's weird and hard to cater for) and it's usually oily when I wake up, but there was no oil on my skin at all. It felt hydrated and looked great. It actually looked like I'd cleansed already, even though I'd just woken up. I am definitely going to be using this and am already considering repurchasing once it runs out, even though I've only used it once. 5/5

Glossybox Starter Kit April 2016:

First Impressions

Less varied than the Birchbox, but I can't compare the two fully as I know I didn't get the Glossybox for April. This is definitely more makeup centred, but I have no idea if they're all like that. The card for Glossybox does say what size each product you actually get is - all of mine say they're full size except the moisturising gel which is a "luxury size" (whatever that means. I googled it and this is the size that's sold, so I assume that it's also full size and have no idea why it isn't called that). It also gives the prices. However, there's precious little information on the card about how to use each product. It's a double sided card as opposed to the Birchbox leaflet, so there's less information. It's not impossible to look up products so this isn't a huge issue, but it is extra hassle. I did really like the contents though. It's mostly makeup but a good range of makeup and definitely colours I would not normally have chosen, but still really like. I'd heard of Nails Inc and MUA before but never had any of their products, so this is all new to me.

1) Être Belle Aloe Vera Moisturising Gel (40ml/1.36fl.oz) - full size RRP £15.93
This has a lovely fresh scent to it - it is aloe vera after all - and is definitely a gel! I usually use Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturising Gel (I actually just bought a whole new bottle: I might regret that now) but this is much more gel-like than that. It soaked straight into my skin and didn't leave behind any slick. The scent did linger, so someone who was sensitive to things like that might not like it, but I didn't mind as it was so nice and it did fade eventually. I really love this product and it's another that I'm considering a full size of when I've run out (sorry Clinique). It moisturises my skin without making it greasy and when I used it before my usual makeup, my skin stayed matte for much longer. I barely even needed to powder, my makeup lasted for my entire work shift almost and that literally never happens. I'm not sure if it's the Nuxe or this but since these boxes turned up my skin has improved hugely. All the flaky patches have almost gone and it's less oily as well. Both products are on my wishlist now and I would definitely recommend this to people with really oily skin! 5/5

2) Nails Inc Nail Polish in Battersea Park (10ml/0.33fl.oz) - RRP £11
This is a lovely khaki colour. I would never have chosen this for myself so it's definitely a new thing for me, but I have it on my nails now and I really like it. It's very thick to apply, which I'm not used to, but it still went on very smoothly and had no air bubbles in it. It dried fast and it looks great after just one coat. I would never normally have gotten this: Nails Inc is not sold near me and I'd never get khaki either, but it looks great and I really like it. I didn't use a top coat (my usual top coat is amazing, so I felt it wouldn't be a fair test of the polish) and although some nails could have done with a second coat, I left it after one. I was expecting it to chip off the next day as I use my hands a lot and though it has worn off very slightly on the tip of the nails (it's barely noticeable), it hasn't actually chipped and this could easily be fixed if I'd used a top coat. I'm not sure how often I'll use the colour, but I did like the formula and in a way I'm glad that it isn't something I already have by a million other brands. 4/5

3) So Susan Statement Skin Highlighter Pencil in Starlight (1.8g/0.06oz) - RRP £15
The first obvious thing about this product is the cruelty-free rabbit proudly displayed (and rightly so) on the packaging. It's a beautiful golden highlighter and swatched on my hand very smoothly. I didn't own a highlighter before this turned up so I was excited to try it. It doesn't look very large for a £15 full size product, but after trying it it's pretty obvious that it's going to last a long time. I used it as a cheekbone highlight and inner corner highlight for work and at the end of the day, it was still very much there. It's the perfect shade for my skin tone and it looked really nice. It can be blended for a more subtle highlight or built up if you want something stronger. It's just a shame that I don't have anything to compare it to. I have an Anastasia Beverly Hills order waiting on a decent payday and when I finally get that, I'm getting the glow kits. It never occurred to me to look at highlighters that weren't in powder form. I'm not sure how it'd compare to a powder, but having the stick did make applying it really easy and really fast. 5/5

4) MUA Power Pout Glaze Low Voltage Gloss in Enchant (3.2ml) - RRP £3.50
I was horrified when I saw this in the box! It was the first thing to be opened and played with because it's such a bright pink and I never wear any bright lip colours, so I couldn't wait to see what it was like because I was worried I'd hate it. It's the only lip product I've had across the two boxes, so it seemed to matter that I liked it. And I do! It's not opaque, it's quite sheer and subtle with a touch of colour and very nice. So although it is bright pink it doesn't look bright pink. I don't own many glosses, so I was happy to get one. I'm not a giant fan of the packaging as I prefer wands and this is a brush. To get more product onto the brush you twist the silver end, which can result in too much product coming out. It's not awful packaging though, I can live with it, and I will definitely get some use out of this. I also don't think I can beat it for the price. I wore it to work and it felt really nice and lasted for a few hours until I needed a drink of water. It's obviously just a gloss and does need to be reapplied, but it smells lovely and looks really nice. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I didn't hate it. 5/5

5) The Vintage Cosmetic Company Floral Slanted Tweezers - RRP £8
This is a product that I wasn't bothered about when I saw it. It's certainly very pretty, but I have tweezers and I tend to stick to those: tweezers for me aren't the kind of product where you try loads of brands and types. They're just tweezers. However, when I signed up for these boxes I swore I'd try to give everything I got a fair trial. So I did. And I can't stand them. I tried to tidy my brows with them and they didn't remove a single hair, they just cut them and made it harder or impossible for me to rescue with my usual tweezers. I think you'll find, Vintage Cosmetic Company, that that's not the purpose of this whole tweezing exercise. Normally I'd say they look so nice that they'd make a nice stocking filler or something, but there's no point in them looking nice if they don't do the job. My usual tweezers are plain silver and I'd still use those over these any day. It's a shame, because they are pretty, but they just didn't work. 1/5

Overall Impression 
My favourites are definitely the Nuxe mask and the Être Belle moisturiser. I don't know if I'll change my mind with continued use or not but at the moment I feel like building a shrine to these two products. Skincare is definitely an area that I need to improve on. Closely on the heels of those are the MUA gloss and the Benefit mascara. With the MUA gloss I really didn't think that I'd like it and I love it. I didn't have the same reservations about Nuxe and Être Belle that I had for this and it's nice to be wrong. But I was expecting to like the Benefit product before I even opened the box and saw what it was (there were four possibilities I think). It felt like a safe bet because I've loved everything I've tried from the brand so far, so I ended up not being as excited for it as the others which was perhaps a little unfair, as I've used it every day since it arrived and loved it.

I'm not too bothered about getting the tweezers since I loved everything else. I still got way more than my money's worth out of that box, so I'm not going to whine about the one thing I got that I didn't like. Four other full size products (that moisturising gel alone, really) more than made up for it. 

Overall I was very happy with both boxes, and I can't wait to see what I get next month/in a couple of weeks (one benefit of subscribing late in the month, I suppose - not long to wait!) - I know there's a Spectrum Collection's Wonder Sponge in Birchbox's May box because they emailed to ask for my colour preference, and I know there's a full size Revlon mascara in the Glossybox because of a sneak peak email (apparently you did get to choose this, but really early into April, so anyone who subscribed in April gets a random one I suppose) but otherwise I have no idea about either box. Because it's my first proper month I also don't know when they'll be arriving. Glossybox start shipping their May box at the end of the first week I think, but I have no idea about Birchbox or when either one will arrive. I may split the reviews after this initial post though to keep the two boxes separate.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to set up camp online to see if I can get a Too Faced Sweet Peach palette when they finally launch online here before they sell out. Fingers crossed!

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

ACEOs 11-15

My laptop died (major compatibility issues) and then was recently resurrected, so I'm quite late posting this batch.


Cotman watercolour and white gouache.

used the Mini Plus palette for this painting. Colours were fine, mixing space was fine. It's not as detailed as I'd like but for a quick sketch, I'm fairly happy with it. 


Cotman watercolour and white gouache.

Note to self: next time, mask the jellyfish. Or don't bother with a background. One or the other. This was complete hell and I ended up just giving up trying to get it to look the way I wanted. I even have a masking fluid pen for fine details, it just never occurred to me to actually use it.


Winsor and Newton professional watercolour (with the tiniest amount of white gouache).

Again, didn't think I'd need to mask so I  had a bit of fun with the blue leaking into everything. Was unintentional to do two paintings one after the other with a blue background and dominant red subject. This was actually an abandoned professional paints test that I decided to finish up while waiting for number 15 to dry. Professional paints are a whole new world compared to the Cotman range when it comes to mixing colours, so I'm going to need a lot of practice before I'm comfortable using them. 


Schmincke Horadam watercolours, Copic Multiliner SP, white gouache and white gel pen.

The latter two materials are purely to correct my monumental inking fuck-up, so while the water container does have a brass-coloured lid, it's never going to have one in this sketch. It was only a quick sketch but most of it was a salvage operation. I really like pen and watercolour though and it's definitely something I want to work on improving. This is the first time I've tried it and I don't even care that it's super wonky, I still like it! Also yes, I have Schmincke paints now. So far I like them more than Winsor and Newton's professional range. 


Winsor and Newton professional watercolour and white gouache. 

Another eye. I really struggled with the professional pigments on this painting. I just could not get the colours the way I wanted them. In the end I quit messing with the skin before I made it into a bigger disaster and then finished up the rest of it. I know I could probably mix some gouache in to try and salvage it, but at this point I'd rather just leave it. It's better than the last eye painting I did for ACEO 5 and I didn't use a reference this time. It's nice to be able to see improvement as I keep doing these, even though I know I can still do better. Practice practice practice!

Thursday, 5 November 2015

ACEOs 6-10

More ACEOs! 

There's a huge gap between paintings here (and a big silence on this blog): I had a family tragedy in June and I lost my motivation to do anything. I tried to carry on as "normal" and it didn't feel right. I needed some time to just be a human blanket pile in my spare time, so I had it. 

I bought a Deck Box during the course of this batch of paintings because I couldn't deal with the mini paintings scattered everywhere, so now they have their own little white box to live in. I'd highly recommend them to anyone who does ACEOs. They're the perfect storage containers for them, and it'll be a long while before I've filled mine up. 


Cotman watercolours. I decided to try the waterbrush again with something a bit more sketch-like, and this was the result! It blotted an area of the fence without my permission, but otherwise was fine to use. I'm much happier with this than I am with the last waterbrush test.


Cotman watercolours. More of the waterbrush, and I used the exact same colours for this as I did for the previous one. I still had mixes leftover on the palette and the colours were so beautiful that I didn't want to waste them. I'm less happy with this one, but I think I've found my favourite bright green mix (sap and cobalt). 


Cotman watercolours, white gouache, Copic multiliner and clear wax crayon. This was a test for using a wax crayon on a water painting. It doesn't really work so well when the painting is this tiny. The wax was a bit overpowering, but it was certainly fun to try and I'd rather have tried it for the first time on an ACEO than a large piece that had taken ages to prepare for paint. Using the ACEOs like this was one of the reasons I bought them, after all. I used the waterbrush again for this one. 


Cotman watercolours. The tree went wrong pretty early on, but this was a very quick scribble done while another was drying, so it was never going to be all that great. I didn't have anything planned, I just wanted to play.


Cotman watercolours and white gouache. This is my first try at painting something like this. Apart from the too-large blobs (let the initial spatter dry before reworking some of the dots!), I quite like how it turned out. It was a lot of fun to do. It could do with more contrast in the lighter areas, but for a first go I'm fairly happy with it. It's the first time I've tried using white gouache with a toothbrush and the effect is perfect for things like this. Adding the gouache is a bit scary; if it goes wrong, like it did, it's usually impossible to fix. I thought it would be better to leave it as it is than to try and amend the blobs.