One of the issues I have with beauty reviews is that many people are beauty fans rather than experts, and they enthuse over items that really are overrated. So, I have decided to try some beauty boxes as a mystery shopper (Super Spy) to see what the service is really like, and what you get in the box as a normal shopper. I used to work in PR and marketing and many of the samples sent to reviewers were deliberately tailored to get good reviews. Here, I test the February Birchbox UK from an expert’s point of view. I signed up for a six-month subscription via Groupon to see if this would make a difference, and it did. I had to wait over a week before I heard anything from Birchbox about my order, and received a sad box of samples.
- The order took 10 days to process, perhaps due to an influx of orders, but given most systems are computerized, I didn’t receive any notification until 10 days after ordering that my order was being dealt with.
- The box was disappointing as I had deliberately included in my profile anti-aging, but didn’t receive any items that matched this. I assume they ran out and replaced it with a repeat item Pommade Divine Nature’s Remedy Balm instead and the delay was in printing new brochures. While it does state that products can run out, as I ordered this just as 1 February came into being, I can only conclude new subscribers don’t get the best products at first.
- The well-known branded products (Ole Henriksen’s Truth Serum Collagen Booster, Eslor Firming Collagen Day Cream, and Korres Milk Proteins 3-in-1 Cleanser) were nowhere to be seen, however, they did all appear on reviews that were PR samples on other sites.
- The boxes are available on a monthly rolling basis at £10 and £2.95 postage each month, a six month subscription at £60 (+£2.95 per month postage) with one month of free postage, or yearly at £100 (+£2.95 per month postage) where you get two free boxes.
- There is a profile to complete, but is used for marketing purposes not for your boxes as far as I can tell. I received a tailored email before my box arrived with suggestions of what to buy for my skin type.
- Birchbox points can be used to buy full size items. For each box and items in it, you can get 8 points for a review. Points are valid for six months, and you need 100 points (worth £10) before you can redeem. The idea seems to be to encourage people to buy as soon as possible. If you review each box completely, you can get 56 points. Currently they are revising the scheme, but you get 1 point for each £ spent in the shop, or if you refer a friend, you can get 100 points worth £10 (and your friend will get 50 points for joining).
- Each month you get at least five products which could be trial or full sized products to try. Some maybe repeats or substitutions, and come colors may not be suitable, or a product may have ingredients you are allergic to.
- To sign up, you can use my referral link and get 50 points (£5 worth to use in the shop), or from time to time they have offer codes with money off the first box (I will try to source these each month in my updates), and students can get 50% of the first box when they verify their status.
My February Birchbox
- Spectrum Tapered Powder Brush. Full size @ £7.99. A nice brush that is vegan and cruelty free. Useful as a spare brush, but looks cheap and also as if it is geared for teenagers.
- LOC Shadow Stick. Full size @£8. This is Birchbox’s own brand of make-up, the packaging looks great and modern. However, the product has no lasting power, and poor color intensity as it wipes straight off. I have tried cheaper self-selection brands that are better quality.
- Only Fingers + Toes Nail Polish. Full size @ £16. The brand markets itself on being free from carcinogens, pledging to give back to the community and to use recyclable materials. It’s hard to find a beauty product that is chemical free, and that is reflected in the price. The brush is quite short and doesn’t result in a good finish if you have long nails, and I received a color I would not use. Sadly another item that is of no use.
- Number 4’s Lumiere d’Hiver Super Comb Prep & Protect: 30 ml sample size £3 perceived value based on on full sized 200 ml @£20. Some people like using leave in conditioners, but I am not one of them. If you have healthy hair or fine hair, then you wouldn’t need to use it. Personally I don’t think leave in products are good for the hair as it builds up residue, and many hairdressers agree (I used to be a model for L’Oréal and that’s what experts told me).
- Pommade Divine Nature’s Remedy Balm: 7 ml sample size £2.80 perceived value based on full sized 50 ml @£19.80. Although this is a great product, it’s not for everyday use, as healing balms should be used in emergencies only. It’s not really a skincare product, but a multi-purpose one for insect bites, sores, dry patches, and rashes. The best product in the box and the smallest and saddest sample I had seen in a while.
- Erickson Narrow Grab and Go Pony. Full size @£0.76p. A single hair band was included as a bonus. It was useful for me as I have long hair, but wouldn’t persuade me to buy any as it is too bulky.
- Total retail value approximately £38.59
Out of the whole box the only items I will use are the brush (as a spare), the hair band (again as a spare), and Pommade Divine Nature’s Remedy Balm, if I needed to. This box represented poor value for me. Sadly it wasn’t exciting, and while I am aware of the newer brands, it has not encouraged me to buy any.
For the service and speed of processing the order and delivery 3/5. As soon as it was processed I got an email and the box arrived the next day, but the 10 days prior was poor, considering they could have sent an email with an update.
The quality of the products was good, but the selection was poor. Reviewers who have not sampled many products may enjoy this, but for seasoned beauty users there was not much to try. 2/5.
Priced regularly at £12.95 per box (including postage) this was a hit or miss box; a miss for me. Let’s hope March can impress me.