Sunday, March 31, 2013

How Does It Work? Black Spotted by Opi

We've already talked a little bit about a proposed mechanism for crackle nail polish. This effect is similar, but less ubiquitous and more interesting.

Opi's Black Spotted is a special effects nail polish that enjoyed a limited release in Sephora stores in France. Like crackle nail polish, it has its effect by selectively revealing the color underneath. But, instead of cracking, Black Spotted creates a bubble-like effect that almost reminds me of a disease.

Because of its unique appearance and limited release, people went ballistic, eager to get their hands on this fancy new polish. Ebay sellers who could get their hands on a bottle were retailing it for up to $100. (That's more expensive per ounce than printer ink!) At the time of this posting, there are still a few ebay sellers trying to charge $60-$70 for 0.5oz of this stuff. 

There are lots of beautiful pictures of Black Spotted manicures, but I especially like this one by Nailderella.
You can read her full post here: http://nailderellanails.blogspot.com/2012/06/opi-black-spotted.html
I decided to investigate the mechanism of this fabulous effect. Unfortunately, there are very few resources that help give insight.

Luckily, a blogger called Peek-a-Polish thought to upload the picture of the ingredients.

Source: http://peek-a-polish.blogspot.com/2012/06/opi-black-spotted-swatches-review.html
Ingredients: Ethyl Acetate, Butyl Acetate, Heptane, Nitrocellulose, Water, Adipic Acid, Acetyl Tributyl Citrate, Isopropyl alcohol, benzophenone-3, Styrene, Sodium Magnesium Silicate, Phenoxyethanol, Methylparaben, Ethylparaben, Butylparaben, Isobutylparaben, Propylparaben.

Ethyl acetate and butyl acetate are common solvents in nail polish. But heptane? Heptane? That's the third ingredient? That's very unconventional and almost certainly not coincidental.

Heptane
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heptane
Heptane is a straight-chain alkane with seven carbon molecules. An alkane is a type of hydorcarbon (meaning it contains only carbon and hydrogen) that is fully saturated (meaning that there are only single bonds-- every carbon atom is bound to four other atoms). Heptane (along with all alkanes) is non-polar.

The other odd thing that I saw on the ingredients list was water. Water is not commonly found in nail polish. Water molecules, with their two shared electron pairs, is in a bent formation and, thus, is polar.

In chemistry, a good rule of thumb is that "like dissolves like". This means, of course, that two unlike substances will not mix. A nonpolar substance, like heptane, and a polar substance, like water, will repel each other, leaving you with puddles of water left on your nail, which creates the effect you find in Opi's Black Spotted.

Putting It To the Test

To confirm my hypothesis, I decided to see if I could recreate the effect of Opi's Black Spotted. You should NOT try this at home for personal safety reasons.

Source: http://cdn.buzznet.com/assets/users16/sydneylovestrange/default/say-don-t-try-home--large-msg-126393352091.jpg
However, on the off chance that you are bad at following directions and do attempt this, please remember that heptane is not good for you. Be careful and smart so you don't hurt yourself. Also, since you are not adding additional preservatives, be sure to trash your creation once you make it, lest it start festering with weird, unpleasant bacteria. Also don't do it at all. But if you do try it, at least do that.

"Heptane, flammable, harmful"
I took a jug of n-heptane and some anonymous Halloween-themed drugstore nail polish as my sacrificial victim. I also took a bowl of water.


Next, I started my very un-methodological task of figuring out the correct ratio of polish to water to heptane.

Too much heptane gave me weird, unusable clumps.

Clumping
Too much water gave me very little bubbles.

Small bubbles
Unfortunately, those little bubbles didn't translate into an effect on the nail. It just looked lumpy.

Lumpy.
As Goldilocks would say, "Just right". Well... kind of.

Good enough!
The end result was clumpy, ugly and inelegant. It seems the proportion of traditional nail polish ingredients is also important in creating a usable product. However, the effect of bubbles was definitely created, indicating that my proposed mechanism successfully accounted for the appearance of this special effect polish.

Over Sinful Colors Fusion Neon
Sadly, it seems that starting with an already-made polish will not create the gorgeous special effects Black Spotted- coveters crave. Still, it gave insight on the mechanism, which is fantastic enough on its own!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

How Many Swipes are in a Tube of Lipstick?

Birchbox recently released a blog post called "How Many Swipes Are in a Tube of Lipstick?"

To make their estimation, Birchbox took a sheet of white butcher paper and swiped four lipsticks in 50mm increments until they wore down their tubes to nothingness. They estimated that there were 293 swipes in the average tube of lipstick. 

Source: http://blog.birchbox.com/post/46250122706/how-many-swipes-are-in-a-tube-of-lipstick-beauty
Although I appreciate their intrepid attempt to answer this question, I found their methodology to be dubious. When one applies lipstick, one does not go in a straight line, oblivious to the patchy white places and to the contours of one's lips. You also would not press down nearly as hard when applying lipstick to your lips, as opposed to butcher paper.

Even more problematically, Birchbox did not specify the size of the lipsticks that they tested. In order to check their math, I picked up four random lipsticks off of my counter, and found that they ranged in size from 0.1oz to 0.15oz. That's a really dramatic difference, and if you are calculating how many swipes are in a tube of lipstick, it's pretty important not to exclude that information.

Their test is a cute idea, but almost certainly inaccurate.


I devised an alternative test. Using my handy-dandy accurate-to-the-milligram scale, I determined the mass of an application of lipstick using four lipsticks and five trials per lipstick. Using this average, I calculated the number of applications in a tube of lipstick based on the advertised mass of the product.

From left to right: Covergirl "Flame", Revlon "In the Red", MAC "Party Parrot", NYX "Merlot"
Covergirl Lip Perfection - Flame (0.12oz)

Covergirl Flame
Trial 1: 0.008g
Trial 2: 0.010g
Trial 3: 0.006g
Trial 4: 0.008g
Trial 5: 0.008g
Mean: 0.008g
Number of swipes in the lipstick: 425

Revlon - In the Red (0.15oz)
Revlon In the Red
Trial 1: 0.011g
Trial 2: 0.006g
Trial 3: 0.007g
Trial 4: 0.006g
Trial 5: 0.008g
Mean: 0.008g
Number of swipes in the lipstick: 531

Mac - Party Parrot (0.1oz)
MAC Party Parrot
Trial 1: 0.010g
Trial 2: 0.010g
Trial 3: 0.009g
Trial 4: 0.007g
Trial 5: 0.006g
Mean: 0.008g
Number of swipes in the lipstick: 354

NYX - Merlot (0.14oz)
NYX Merlot
Trial 1: 0.006g
Trial 2: 0.006g
Trial 3: 0.008g
Trial 4: 0.008g
Trial 5: 0.008g
Mean: 0.007g
Number of swipes in the lipstick: 566

It seems that Birchbox's numbers were an underestimate.

It also seems that applying and removing lipstick 20 times in a row is quite painful. I don't recommend attempting this.

The mean is more-or-less 0.008g per application of lipstick, and that number seems to be pretty consistent. So, if you want to calculate how many applications are in your tube of lipstick, simply calculate the mass of the product in grams and divide by 0.008!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Review: theBalm Sexy Mama

TheBalm's Sexy Mama is a translucent, mattifying powder that "matches the skin so perfectly that even your most attentive admirer will suspect nothing".

Not totally sure why there are daisies between her knees, but I'll allow it.

I bought this product a while ago, and I think it's perfect for dusting on your face at the end of your makeup routine, pulling your whole face together.

Big old mirrors are handy.

The product looks a bit peach-colored, but it certainly appears invisible on my face. I did my best to make a swatch, but I couldn't build it up enough to display any sort of color. To me, that suggests that this product will probably work acceptably for a variety of skin tones.

The product close up.
I hate being a greaseball, but I don't always want my skin to be an eerie, rubbery looking matte. One of the things I really like about Sexy Mama is that it stops me from looking like I rubbed my face against a plate of french fries, but it doesn't take away any of the luminous qualities of my skin.

Before and After applying theBalm's Sexy Mama

At full price, this costs $20 for 0.25oz, or $80 an ounce. Although this isn't an unreasonable price, I have officially reached the point that I refuse to pay full price for theBalm products. Their frequent appearance on HauteLook alone makes it difficult to justify paying full retail price for these products.

Case in point: theBalm recently announced a really great sale. On April 1st, every product on their website will be 50% off. Although I love and appreciate these enormous sales, this kind of thing draws my attention to both the high markup of their products. And, because of the frequency of these huge discounts, I have a hard time saying that a product is worth the full price when simply waiting for a couple weeks will give you the chance to try it for a much cheaper rate. (That being said, mark your calendars for April 1st, guys.)

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics Raises Funds for Employee's Gender Affirming Surgery

A company called "Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics" is hardly a company I would expect to be pushing for progressive, social justice-related causes. (The decision to name the company after a severe anxiety disorder for which over 50% of diagnosed individuals experience suicidal ideation is troubling, to put it mildly.)

However, OCC is stepping up to help a Manhattan employee named Jennifer Hunt raise cash for two gender affirming surgeries. The combined cost of her male-to female sexual reassignment surgery and breast augmentation will be a steep $30,000 minimum. Because her insurance company classifies these surgeries as merely "cosmetic", she must foot the bill out of pocket, something that is financially infeasible.

Source: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/january-rising-transgender-surgery-fundraiser
Working with OCC, January has put together an IndieGoGo fundraiser to help pay for her surgeries. As a thanks for making a $25 suggested donation, OCC is sending donators a new, limited edition, specially designed bubblegum pink lip tar called "January Rising". (The $25 includes shipping.)

Source: http://www.beautylish.com/a/vxrri/occ-january-rising
January hopes that her story will help make things easier for others who face similar troubles. She states, "I am entering this campaign with two goals outside of reaching the estimated cost of my surgery: raising awareness for communities of people who might not have access to this sort of story or information, and creating a resource for anyone else who might be considering this sort of process."

You can learn more about this campaign, as well as make a donation, at the IndieGoGo website:



As of this posting, there are 11 days left to make a donation.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Review: Tarte Amazonian Clay Blush in Splendor

Tarte Amazonian Clay Blushes are baked blushes that claim to last for a full 12 hours. Splendor is a limited edition mini created for both Tarte-devotees and new converts.

Outside packaging
This is a peachy pink, with big ol' hunks of gold glitter. I can handle a few glitter speckles in my blushes, but anything as large and unsubtle as this feels inelegant and clunky.

The color and the texture, however, are beautiful. It feels smooth and doesn't get weird and powdery, which is highly appreciated.

What's inside.
One of the nice things about it is that it is very buildable. I don't like my blushes to be super pigmented, because I am prone to accidentally dressing as a birthday party clown. And, as much as 7-year-old Robyn loved birthday party clowns, I would need to get significantly better at balloon animals in order to pull this off.

Thus, I really appreciated that this blush is subtle, but can be built up to intense pigmentation for those who require it.

Swatches!
The "12-hour" claim is the subject of much beauty blogger debate. I personally do get 12 hours of wear out of this product, but blush tends to stay on my cheeks particularly well, even as the rest of my makeup drips off in goopy puddles... So, if you have a problem with blush lasting power, you may want to ask someone else.

Amazonian Clay Blush on Human Face
In terms of value, Tarte Amazonian Clay Blushes cost $26 for 0.2oz, or $130 per ounce. That makes it slightly less expensive than blushes of comparable quality. For reference, Nars Orgasm is $29 for 0.16oz, or $181.25 per ounce.

Although Spendor does not currently come in a full sized version, there are 15 colors that do, and they run the gamut from pale, delicate pinks to sexy corals to rosy plums.

Monday, March 25, 2013

How Does It Work? Hair Bleaching

An estimated one third of women over the age of 18 use some form of hair dye. As any bottle blonde knows, in order to get a lighter color of hair, one needs to use a bleaching agent. This post will explore the mechanism of hair bleaching.

We're gonna need some bleach.
Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/caribooooou/3243385554/
In order to learn how hair bleach works, we'll first need to establish why some people have naturally blonde hair, whereas others have naturally dark hair.

There are two kinds of naturally occurring hair pigments: eumelanin and pheomelanin. Eumelanin is what gives hair a dark brown color. Pheomelanin is what gives red pigmentation. The molecules themselves may differ slightly, resulting in, for example, eumelanin that is brown as opposed to black. Low concentrations of both eumelanin and pheomelanin result in blonde hair.

Eumelanin and pheomelanin are long polymers. Because they are conjugated polymers, meaning they alternate between double and single carbon bonds, they are capable of absorbing light. Thus, they appear dark in color.

A quick chemistry reminder: a single bond is when two chemical elements are bound by a single pair of electrons. A double bond is when they are bound by two pairs of electrons.
Eumelanin structure
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eumelanin#Eumelanin
The primary bleaching ingredient in hair dye is hydrogen peroxide. It is an oxidizing agent, meaning that it is capable of removing electrons from other molecules. Melanin molecules, with their numerous double bonds, have a few pairs of electrons to spare.

Hydrogen peroxide reacts with melanin, breaking their double bonds and eliminating their ability to absorb light. Because pheomelanin is more stable than eumelanin, hair that is in the process of being bleached often takes on an orange hue.

In addition to hydrogen peroxide, commercial bleaching products will usually have persulfate salts to help accelerate the process and stabilizers to help prevent the breakdown of hydrogen peroxide.

The brassy mid-bleach color is the result of pheomelanin.
Source: http://misskittycharms.blogspot.com/2012/01/bleaching-hair-adventure-time-with.html
Unfortunately, lighter color is not the only effect of hydrogen peroxide on human hair. Since hair is proteinaceous, it contains many oxidizable groups. Thus, hydrogen peroxide also weakens the cell membrane complex by oxidizing thioester bonds between cuticle cells, disulfide bonds in the cortical matrix, and other areas rich in amino acids (especially cystine). This makes the hair brittle and weak. Hydrogen peroxide also can damage a lipid on the surface of the hair called 18-MEA. As a result, bleached hair will also frequently feel dry.

This is why it is so difficult to get a Marilyn Monroe-blonde color when you bleach very dark hair. The amount of time needed to fully oxidize hair melanins will result in far too much structural damage to the hair. 

It's okay. True gentlemen don't have hair color preferences.
Source: http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/dvdreviews25/a%20gentlemen%20prefer%20blondes%20monroe/GENTLEMEN_PREFER_BLONDES-3.jpg

Saturday, March 23, 2013

How Much Is My Face Worth? (By Mass)

I've been wanting to do this for a while, but I have only recently come into possession of a scale that can measure to the milligram (a thousandth of a gram).

I was inspired by my wonderful friends at Lather Rinse Repeat and the Moroccan Shopaholic.

The idea behind the original "What is my face worth?" tag is that you go through your morning makeup routine, add up the costs, and then get slightly embarrassed about how many fancy dinners you could have purchased with that cash.

Unfortunately, it's not the perfect system. As the Moroccan Shopaholic points out, "I feel like the name of this tag is misleading. Because one, my face is priceless, duh. And two, you don't actually use the whole bottle/pan of product in your daily makeup routine. At least I don't. But it would be too much of a pain in the ass to calculate price per use, so here we go."

TOO MUCH OF A PAIN? Challenge accepted.

My new scale in use.
I will admit that my methodology isn't flawless. I may have made my former chemistry professors cry by completely ditching significant figures. Also, I think a lot of stuff goes bad before you finish the whole tub/tube/barrel/whathaveyou, and that isn't factored into my equation.

Additionally, I had to modify the products that I used based on the limitations of my scale, which can't measure anything more than 20g. For example, since I normally use fancy eyeshadow palettes, which have very heavy packaging, I had to adjust to use things that were more lightweight.

It's also worth noting that I calculated all prices based on the full sized prices and sizes, which may or may not reflect what I actually paid for them.

Everything I used.
ROC 4-Zone Daily Moisturizer - 0.495g (Full sized $27.99 for 1.7oz/48.194g), $0.2875
Korres Pomegranate Mattifying Primer- 0.133g (Full sized $33 for 1.01oz/28.633g), $0.1533
Smashbox Photo Finish Luminizing Primer - 0.009g (Full sized $38 for 1oz/28.340g), $0.0121
Tarte Amazonian Clay Foundation- 0.342g (Full sized $38 for 1.7oz/48.194g), $0.2700
theBalm Time Balm - 0.004g (Full sized $18 for 0.25oz/7g), $0.0103
theBalm Hot Mama - 0.006g (Full sized $20 for 0.25oz/7.08g), $0.0169
Nars Smudegproof Eyeshadow Primer - 0.009g (Full sized $24 for 0.26oz/7.371g), $0.0293
UD 24/7 in Ransom - 0.005g (Full sized $19 for 0.04oz/1.134g), $0.0838
Sephora Arch It Eyebrow Kit- 0.003g (Full sized $25 for est. 0.12oz/3.402g), $0.0220
Revlon Brow Styling Gel - 0.021g (Full sized $5.99 for 0.25oz/7.087g), $0.0177
NYX Jumbo Eye Pencil in Milk - 0.001g (Full sized $4.50 for 0.18oz/5g), $0.0009
Maybelline Modern Metallics Chai Latte - 0.003g (Full sized $4.99 for 0.17oz/4.8g), $0.0031
UD Supercurl - 0.039g (Full sized $20 for 0.3oz/8.505g), $0.0917
OCC Grandma - 0.010g (Full sized $18 for 0.33oz/9.355g), $0.0192

Total (according to the original rules of this game): $296.47

Holy crap! And that's using fucking Maybelline and shit! That's more than I spend on a month of rent! (I have really good rates for rent.)

Total (by mass): $1.0178

Whew. I feel a lot better now. No one who regularly buys Starbucks can judge me for that. I will concede, though, that I'm a little surprised by some of the individual high prices (I use 27 cents a day on foundation?! I need better skin...).

Total Mass of Products Used: 1.08g. (That's the equivalent of about 0.038oz).

And here's what it looks like all together!
If you don't have a scale that is accurate to the milligram:
1. Congratulations on not being a weirdo!
2. You can probably calculate some facsimile of your daily makeup routine's value using the masses that I measured and the prices of the products that you use. I doubt we use identical amounts of product, but it will probably get you close.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Review: Benefit Fake Up

I have bad luck with concealers. By the end of the day, my undereyes usually have so many creases it looks like my tearducts are leaking concealer. My usual solution is let the undereye circles stand. And, when I get sufficient amounts of sleep, this is usually sufficient. I am lucky to have relatively minor dark circles.

But DAMN sometimes I just want something that works.


When Benefit cosmetics came out with their newest product, Fake Up, they promised that it would be a "crease-control concealer".

'Eh,' I figured. 'I'll give it a try'.


The formula is in a lipstick-like container, which is a bit more elegant than a traditional tub of gunk. It's also more portable. I don't use a brush to apply this concealer, so you can just throw it in your bag, which is really convenient.

If you look at the product head-on, you can see that it consists of an inner section, which provides the color, and an outer ring, which provides moisturizing benefits.


Like most Benefit foundation-products, Fake Up comes in three colors: Light, Medium and Dark. This will probably work for a large chunk of people, but anyone with very dark skin should try to swatch in person, since the "Dark" shade is not particularly dark.

I bought "Light", which was a great color for me.

Swatch of Benefit Fake Up in Light

To test it out, of course, I needed to apply it to my face.

Before Benefit Fake Up

To use this product, I just swiped it under my eyes and used my fingers to blend it in. I noticed a really significant difference in how my eyes looked. 

After Benefit Fake Up
If you can't see the change above, this closer view photo shows my eyes before and after:

Before and After Side by Side
Even better, I didn't find any creases, even after many hours of wear. Because I have never had any dryness below my eyes, it hadn't occurred to me that a more moisturizing formula might help prevent these problems... but it seems to be very handy for that purpose!

This product is on the pricey side, however. At $24 for 0.12oz, it comes in at a whopping $200 per ounce. For comparison, theBalm's Time Bomb is only $18 for 0.25oz, making it $72 per ounce. (If you can't justify the price but you still end up with undereye concealer creases, I recommend running a Q-tip across the creases as they show up. This will remove the excess product. This method works especially well for people who tend to see creases before they even finish their makeup. If you get creases throughout the day, this would take substantially more vigilance.)

Overall, I would recommend Benefit's Fake Up to:
  1. People who have problems with their concealers creasing, especially if those creases happen generally throughout the day.
  2. People who are within the relatively narrow skin tone range that Benefit tends to cater to.
  3.  People who have mild to moderate dark circles.

Beauty Bullshit: the Vampire Facelift

Reader whateveramber says “I would love to see you do a Beauty Bullshit post on the ‘vampire facial.’ My rational brain tells me that that can't possibly work, plus it looks creepy as hell.”

Anything with the term "vampire" in the common name is surely based in concrete science.
The Vampire Facelift (sometimes called the vampire facial) is a treatment that generates significant sensationalism because it involves injecting components of one's own blood into one's face. The most recent wave came when Kim Kardashian posted a rather stomach-churning photograph of herself drenched in her own blood in the name of beauty.

Proponents of this beauty regime suggest that it improves the texture of the skin and helps "treat" wrinkles. According to the Vampire Facelift website, the procedure "promotes collagen growth and long-term skin rejuvenation."

Why, Kim Kardashian? Why?
Source: Instagram
So, what is the theory behind this treatment?

Human blood consists of two broad components: blood cells and blood plasma, which is a yellow-ish liquid consisting of water, various proteins, clotting factors, hormones and other miscellaneous dissolved components. There are three main kinds of blood cells: red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Red blood cells are the principle method of transporting oxygen throughout the body. From the name, you can probably guess that they are responsible for the red color of blood. White blood cells are primarily responsible for defending the body from infectious diseases. Finally, we have something called a cell platelet.

A red blood cell, platelet and white blood cell as seen via scanning electron microscope.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Red_White_Blood_cells.jpg
Cell platelets are cells that don't have a nucleus. They are relatively small and usually irregularly shaped. Platelets are one source of growth factors, which are proteins or steroid hormones that generate cell growth.

One way to separate out the different components of blood is to use a centrifuge, a machine that quickly spins the blood sample, separating out the components of blood by density. Because red blood cells are more dense than platelets, they can be removed from the solution, leaving you with a two layers: a layer of cells including platelets and white blood cells and a layer of plasma. These come together to form something called platelet-rich plasma. This platelet-rich plasma is the basis of the Vampire Facelift.

Note that since red blood cells are the source of blood's red color and they are separated out in this technique, any procedure using platelet-rich plasma won't be red. It will be sort of a gunky yellow color. So, to be frank, I have no fucking idea what's going on on Kim Kardashian's face in that photo. I guess the yellow color wasn't as dramatic.

When someone goes in to get a Vampire Facelift, they have some blood drawn from their arm. That blood goes into the centrifuge to separate out the platelet-rich plasma, to which thrombin or calcium chloride is added. This forms a viscous gel called platelet-rich fibrin matrix. It is then promptly injected into the participant's face.

What platelet-rich plasma would actually look like.
Source: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-RIgc6zBcfxs/T_X9kipHWDI/AAAAAAAAAKQ/kkQmCcLth_0/s1600/prp.jpg

Studies that have examined the medical use of platelet-rich plasma for non-cosmetic purposes have found mixed results. Although the possibility that platelet-rich plasma may be applicable to joint and muscle injuries remains, no controlled clinical trials have indicated its efficacy and many studies report negative effects.

The developers of the Vampire Facelift looked at the clinical trials for platelet-rich plasma and somehow concluded that it would be effective as a cosmetic treatment. However, since it has been introduced to the market, no studies have indicated its efficacy.

The problem is simple: the growth-factor containing platelets are already in your blood, pumping past your pretty face. Your whole body is bathed in growth factors. Injecting a few extra ones in choice places likely won't make a big difference. In all likelihood, the platelet-rich fibrin matrix used in the Vampire Facelift is absorbed by your body in just a few days-- before you've even finished healing from the procedure. 

If you're in the market for a placebo, there are placebos that don't cost $1000 a treatment. Save your money, Kim Kardashian.

If you have any beauty claims you want researched in future Beauty Bullshit blogs, feel free to leave them in the comments below.  

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Birchbox March 2013 Review

It's Birchbox time!
Birchbox all together.
The Benefit Fake Up cardboard do-dad, as it turns out, is just an advertisement... for a product I have already purchased.
This month I received:


Whish Shave Crave Shaving Cream in Blueberry (0.75oz), approximate retail value $2.93

Whish Shave Cream

I usually just shave my legs with conditioner like any classy and elegant lady might do. Drugstore shave creams leave me with weird rashes, clog up my razor and smell unpleasant. Thus, I had low expectations for this product.

Honestly, though, I loved this. It gave me a closer, easier shave than using conditioner. Also, the blueberry scent is really pleasant, avoiding any medicine-like twinge. I also want to point out how cute the 1960s-style packaging is. I will probably buy the full sized version of this product... as soon as I decide what scent I want to try!

To me, this sort of product epitomizes what I like about Birchbox. This is a brand I hadn't heard of and a product I wouldn't have picked out for myself, but it ended up working really well for me.

Madewell for Birchbox Nail Emery Board, approximate retail value $5

Madewell Emery Board

This print is all kinds of adorable. Unfortunately, I am always afraid to use emery boards that are super cute, lest I ruin them with yucky nail shavings.

I am also having an awfully difficult time justifying the $5 price tag, since I don't tend to pay for emery boards and since glass nail files (which are far superior) usually cost less than $5.

Benefit Stay Don't Stray Primer (0.09oz), approximate retail value $7.09

Benefit Stay Don't Stray

I have already reviewed Benefit Stay Don't Stray in my eyeshadow primer comparison post here. I didn't find it to be an impressive product. It performed slightly worse than Urban Decay Primer Potion and theBalm's Put a Lid On It, despite being more expensive than both. I had put it in my "medium performers" category.

Evologie Intensive Blemish Serum (0.17oz), approximate retail value $11.90

Evologie Intensive Blemish Serum

The product smells like tea tree oil, which I like but I know can be bothersome to others.
It contains tea tree oil and salicylic acid, which are both effective acne-fighting ingredients. However, it does not have active ingredients or drug facts, meaning it does not seem to be regulated by the FDA, which it should be based on the claims they are making and the ingredients that they are using. This seems really slimy to me. I assume the reason they have bypassed FDA regulation is because they don't want to have to provide proof for their "patent pending YS3 Complex". Remember, wise consumer, that having a patent does not imply efficacy and that something that is "patent pending" is even less reliable and empirical.

I decided to check out the website to see if I could learn a bit more about what this "YS3 Complex" actually is. Unfortunately, the website is super vague and doesn't say anything meaningful. There is a section called "How It Works", but the section doesn't actually tell you how it works.

The website has three claims about the product's mechanism. Firstly, "Transepidermal absorption enhancers rapidly transport powerful natural ingredients deep below the skin's surface where they are needed most." So, in other words, "It absorbs better". How? Why? What is in the product that allows this to occur? Not explained. Claim number two: "Specially sourced healing and reparative natural ingredients are reduced to tiniest particles so they can be rapidly absorbed and transported deep within skin layers directly to the root of the specific problem - without irritating skin's surface." In other words, "We use smaller parts". You reduce effective molecules into smaller parts without disrupting function? How would you do that? Not explained. Claim number 3: "Increases blood flow to nourish and heal your skin. Keeps skin hydrated by reducing Trans-Epidermal Water Loss (TEWL)." HOW? HOW? HOW? THIS DOES NOT EXPLAIN HOW YOUR PRODUCT WORKS. ALSO THE PICTURE OF THE LADY SPLASHING HER FACE WITH WATER DOES NOT HELP EITHER.

Given the fact that there are no drug facts as required by the FDA, that the "How It Works" section has no mechanism, and that there is no available research on this supposed "YS3 Complex", I would strongly recommend pursuing a blemish serum that is empirically supported. As a nice bonus, an empirically supported product likely will not cost $70 an ounce, which is absurdly expensive.

Twistband Headband, approximate retail value $3.17

Twistband Headband

Twistbands are not mysterious products. They are what they are. If twistbands get you excited, god bless you. I have a rough time getting all googly about them.

Twistband Headband on Human Head

That being said, these are super comfortable. I have a very large head, so headbands frequently give me headaches from being too tight. This is nice and stretchy, so it will be great no matter how bulbous your cerebrum may be. Thus, I doubt anyone who buys these will be disappointed by them.

Total Box Value: $30.09

This is a great Birchbox in terms of retail value. I do think that a significant percentage of the products were atrociously overpriced... so that's worth keeping in mind. But overall, I am quite happy with this box. Everything I got will either be used or displayed for its floral pattern.

If you are interested in joining Birchbox and are feeling generous, feel free to use my referral link here

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