Birchbox May 2016 Review

Let’s just go ahead and start this review with a collective sigh of exasperation, just to get it out of our systems.
Amika Obliphica Nourishing Mask (0.67oz), approximate retail value $1.60

I don’t think that either Amika or Birchbox would have thought that I would be interested in this product if they knew quite how much hair I have. This 0.67oz sample was one use. In other words, I put a full DOLLAR SIXTY worth of conditioner in my hair in a single shower. Let’s think about this a bit further. I wash my hair about twice a week. There are 52 weeks in a year, so that’s 104 hair washings. That adds up to ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTY SIX DOLLARS AND FORTY CENTS on conditioner alone. My TRESemme Anti-Breakage Conditioner costs $3.48 for 32oz. Using the same volume and frequency of TRESemme, I would end up spending a mere $7.58 on conditioner per year.

With that price differential, you would have to give me some damn good reasons why Amika is going to be better for my hair than TRESemme. I saw no differences. It didn’t even make my hair smell extra special.

I am sure there are women with long hair who spend lots of money on hair products. (I am not one of them. My hair is long because I am lazy.) But clearly Amika does not think that long-haired ladies will be buying their products. I judge this based on the fact that the rip off top could not expel sufficient conditioner to put through my hair; I had to cut it open with scissors. Thus, I assume that even Amika doesn’t think I should be spending $166.40 per year on conditioner.

Sumita Color Contrast Eyeliner in Suman/Black (0.024oz), approximate retail value $5.25
Even though the website suggested that I was getting a lime green eyeliner, which would have been adorable and fabulous, I found that I actually got boring black, presumably to match the literally dozens of black eyeliners that I already possess.
It has perfectly adequate lasting power, and I would argue that this is a suitable inexpensive alternative to Urban Day’s 24/7 Pencil Eyeliner in Zero. At $11, it’s a good price for a pretty successful liner. However, I do already have many more pencil liners than I need, given that I am a gel eyeliner kind of lady. This is a totally fine product, but it still isn’t valuable to me if it is virtually identical to products that I already own.

Run Guyausa Tea (4 bags), approximate retail value $1.75

Runa Guayusa Teas Taste come in four flavors: traditional, mint, cinnamon-lemongrass, and ginger-citrus. I received one of each in my Birchbox. These teas are advertised as having more caffeine than a cup of coffee and more antioxidants than a cup of green tea. Both claims are a bit irrelevant to me, since I have an adenosine receptor mutation that prevents me from being affected by caffeine (I can literally drink five Monster energy drinks in a row and then fall asleep, much to the chagrin of those who doubted me) and I believe the evidence for health benefits of antioxidants is dramatically overstated, especially given the fact that you need to drink like fifteen cups of green tea a day to see any health benefits… and I just don’t drink tea that frequently.

Thus, all that really matters to me is whether or not these teas are delicious… and they are not. These are bland as hell, even when you let them steep for more than ten minutes. The “traditional” flavor is absolutely the worst. It takes like absolutely nothing. It tastes like vaguely tea-flavored water. The others are better, but still incredibly underwhelming. This is tea for people who don’t actually like tea but feel that they should chug it down in case it benefits them in some way.

COOLA Classic SPF 30 Cucumber Moisturizer for Face (0.23oz), approximate retail value $4.33
Judging by the fact that the Sephora Sun Safety Kit is still not released and that Birchbox is sending sunscreen samples out in mid-May, I can only conclude that companies have no fucking idea what time summer starts. By the time that it reaches the mid-90s, you have probably already invested in some good sunscreens and/or you are a lobster. I know it’s not hot everywhere but it is too goddamn late to send me a sunscreen and expect that I will test it out, decide I like it, purchase it, and wait for it to ship. I would have already died of skin cancer if I waited that long.

This is a totally adequate sunscreen. It didn’t do anything weird to my face and I didn’t get a burn. It smells nice and cucumber-y. But it absolutely did not demonstrate to me at all why I should pay $32 for 1.7oz of this sunscreen ($18.82 per ounce) as opposed to $10.99 for 1.4oz of Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Liquid Daily Sunscreen ($7.85 per ounce). There is nothing about this that is vaguely special except that you get to smell a faint cucumber scent for like six seconds every day while you get ready.

Marvis Toothpaste in Classic Mint (0.5oz), approximate retail value $2.10
Maybe I am just a picky woman, but I hate mint-flavored toothpaste. I absolutely cannot stand it. Along with cooked tuna and lemon-y desserts, mint-flavored toothpaste is one of the tastes, beloved by many, that makes me want to hide under the bed to escape. I would rather just let my teeth rot out of my head.

Luckily, there are other flavors of toothpaste that mean I don’t have to do that. (EXCEPT THAT I JUST DISCOVERED WHILE WRITING THIS POST THAT CREST CITRUS ZEST HAS BEEN DISCONTINUED. OH MY GOD. WHERE AM I GOING TO BUY MY TOOTHPASTE, YOU GUYS?!?! I CANNOT JUST BUY A LIFETIME SUPPLY BECAUSE I DO NOT KNOW HOW LONG I AM GOING TO LIVE!!!) This is not one of those flavors. This is so minty, it’s like a nail through the head. Marvis has other flavors that sound less miserable (I would have been okay trying the Ginger Mint flavor), but this is a generic, over-the-top mint and I am just not interested.

Total Box Value: $15.03

In summary, this box contained products that did not perform any better than stuff I can get at Safeway. I like my own conditioner. I like my own eyeliner. I like my own tea. I like my own sunscreen. I like my own toothpaste.

Both Ipsy and Birchbox were big losers this month. However, Birchbox comes out on top for one big reason: the Birchbox points system is worth it. Because Birchbox recently added my one true love, Paul and Joe, to their store, I will likely be buying a buttload on there. Getting 10% back in points prevents me from feeling like I lost out just because the bag itself was a dud.

If you do decide to join Birchbox despite my dissatisfied review and you are feeling generous, please feel free to use my referral link here.


1. I got pretty much the same Birchbox this month (minus the teas and plus a little perfume sample – cool) and had a question about the Coola sunscreen! Its main sunscreeny ingredients are Avobenzone and Octinoxate, and looking around I find stuff like this: I don’t have a very good understanding of what’s being conveyed there (and even less here:, but I got questionable bad vibes from it and just put the sunscreen in the back of my cabinet. You say you didn’t get a burn when you wore it, though? I know you did a post about SPF not very long ago, but if you’d be willing to do a ‘how it works’ sort of post about ingredients like this, I’d be really interested! (Oh my, what a long comment. Totally sorry!)

2. At least you didn’t get a pen… I like mint toothpaste, but this one was chalky tasting. It was like brushing my teeth with Tums. I was really pissed off at the toothpaste and pen to begin with, so it would have had to been magic for my to consider them a good addition to my box. I got the same SPF as you. My hair stuff was a 3 step curl system, in foil packs. They were actually good size, but foil packs+wet hands just doesn’t work for me. Plus, my hair looked the same after, my curls weren’t more defined or anything. I was happier once I found out I had a dark gray eyeliner, I would have never used lime green.. Because I wanted a small one to throw into my school bag. Unfortunately, it was melted. It was only about 80degrees that day, and it’ll get up to 100 or more this summer. I leave my bag in the car sometimes, and I don’t want a mess in my bag on a hot day. I’ll just stick to my trusty Kat Von D felt tip liquid liner. Thanks for sharing what you got, I was bummed I didn’t get the hair mask, but my hair is really long too so it’s nice to know I would have been disappointed anyway!

3. It sounds like most of the Birchboxes this month were duds. I got yet another perfume sample (my 16th out of the 22 Birchboxes that I’ve received) that smells like something my grandmother would wear; a Klorane dry shampoo sample that I haven’t tried yet (I just got a dry shampoo sample two months ago and am partial to my $2 Suave dry shampoo); a Supergoop! CC cream in Light to Medium that makes my translucent skin look clown orange (on the plus side, it should work well for my olive complected daughter); some Vitivia Pro:Vitamin Capsules – not sure how my skin will benefit from applying vitamin C and A topically; and a pen, which I’m actually cool with.

I agree, the points system makes even the crappy boxes worth it. Hopefully, next month’s boxes will be better.

4. There are a couple sunscreen brands that I use which can cost almost as much or over the cost of Coola but are completely worth it and use mineral sunscreen instead of chemical: Elta MD and Suntegrity. sells Elta MD with free shipping and they have coupon codes for discounts. Beautysage sells Suntegrity, has free shipping at a dollar amount (which would cover the facial Suntegrity products) and have discount codes.

5. I just joined Birchbox last month. If this were, say, my 11th box rather than my 2nd, I would probably be disappointed. However, the novelty of it hasn’t worn off yet.

6. The Sephora Sun Safety Kit is available – not sure when it became available. I just noticed yesterday when it randomly popped up on a sidebar ad for ebay.

I had been checking the Sephora website, thinking that it would be on their front page or under weekly specials.

7. Ordered the Sun Safety Kit on Sunday (along with a small perfume purchase to get triple points). From the comments on Sephora’s facebook post today, it seems to be sold out already, though 🙁

8. They move fast!

9. How does one find out if they have this adenosine receptor mutation?
Full DNA analysis? Does it show up in some more, hm, everyday tests?

Caffeinated drinks never did much for me, and my brother’s addicted to them… but I think it’s more about the hype than about the effect they have on him, so I’m curious.