Review: Limited Edition Birchbox for Men

Dear Groomers (and those who love them) – I must apologize that it has been so long since my last post. The holidays have kept me extraordinarily busy, and I’m sure that you can sympathize. This review will be on the items I received in the Limited Edition Birchbox for Men that I received in late November. I should note that this item went FAST. Only within a week or so of having put this box up for sale, they announced that they were sold out. I suspect they were both pretty surprised, and pleased with the reaction to this item. Anyway, without further ado, let’s jump in!

Anthony Logistics Advanced Formula Lip Balm – I really enjoyed this product. It’s not sticky like a lot of lip balms I’ve tried. It goes on relatively light. Also, guys who fear lip balm: don’t! This product does not go on shiny, so you don’t have to worry about the women in your life adjusting their hair in the reflection of your lips. It has a matte finish, which I personally find pretty attractive in a man’s lip balm. This particular one was “natural”, which I think refers to the fact that there was no scent/flavor added to it. They also offer citrus and vanilla types based on my research.  Although I do like this particular product very much, it was not impressive enough to unseat the one I currently use. (Lypsyl)

Anthony Logistics Shave Cream – I really enjoyed this shaving cream. It has a nice cooling effect when applied, which I completely appreciate. It leaves the skin feeling super soft and moisturized after shaving with it, which is great also. It doesn’t leave my skin irritated like others have before. Although, I am still loving Billy Jealousy’s Hydroplane more, and it is for one specific reason: it does a much better job on longer facial hair. This shaving cream would be great for me if I used it every day, but the truth is that I only shave twice a week at the very most, but once a week is even more typical. Anthony’s shave cream is a great product, but personally, it is not a good fit for my regimen. If you shave several times a week, or even like feeling like your facial hair is being ripped out, then this product is for you! Not recommended for guys who shave with 7 days worth of hair.

Jack Black Double-Duty Face Moisturizer SPF 20 – I’ll be totally honest: after my past experiences with this brand, I did not have high hopes for this product. I was pleasantly surprised though! This stuff smells pretty good. It’s got a light powdery scent, but nothing too overwhelming or feminine. The consistency is creamy, and it goes on very well. I usually have a problem with lotions, because I really hate the way it cakes on, or “sits” on your skin. Jack Black’s face moisturizer hits the mark in that it leaves your skin feeling soft, but does not leave any noticeable film on your face, in either feeling or appearance. This sample was a generous size compared the last ones I received in black box (1.5 oz vs .5 oz). I would seriously consider purchasing this in a full size once I use this sample up, but I suspect it’ll last a while!

BVLGARI MAN Cologne – I enjoy this cologne quite a bit. It’s very fresh and crisp smelling, which is made by what is in my opinion a perfect marriage of citrus and wood-type notes. As I have mentioned before, I don’t often wear cologne, but this seems like it would nice in both daytime and evening settings. I’m definitely going to shelve this one and use it for my next hot date. I just hope it’ll keep for a decade or two…

Field Notes (Notebook Mixed 3-pack) – These notebooks were maybe 3 x 5” in size. This was a cool little extra, but I’ll be frank and say that I have no use for it. I think it would come in handy if you like taking notes on the go. If you’re like me, then you typically write yourself notes on your cell phone. Call me old-fashioned. This is one of two items that ended up making a great prize for my family’s first annual Christmas bingo game.  Hopefully some lucky winner will have better use for it than I!

Bonobos Pocket Square – Another cool little extra. I’ve never owned a pocket square before, so now I can say that I do! Although, I am not sure how or when I will use it, since I don’t own a tux, or even a nice coat. For note, it’s something that sits on my desk and looks cool. It is identical to the photo above – the red background with white polka dots. After doing some research, it’s pretty expensive for what it is, though. I don’t know how I would justify spending so much money on a pocket square. Check out http://www.bonobos.com if you dare!

Bonobos $25 Gift Card – If you looked at the above link, you’ll see how expensive everything is there, and most of it doesn’t really appeal to me. So I began my search for something under $25.00. What did I come up with? Underwear! Olive colored boxer briefs that were $22.00, with free shipping. One of my favorite colors, so I thought that was pretty cool, and the fact that they paid for my shipping despite only using a gift card. Cheers, Bonobos!

Kerastase Pate Capital Force Densifying Modeling Paste – I’ll begin by saying that I don’t generally use hair pastes or gels at this stage of my life. I used some anyway just to test it out. I like the smell of it, it’s got a very musky, manly, incredibly masculine smell to it. I think this stuff works great for keeping your hair where you want it, but even with trying to be as conservative with it as possible, the white, creamy consistency was very apparent. I found that pretty disappointing, especially with a product that sells for $30.00 for 2.55 fl oz. This appears to be a higher end L’oreal brand, but was not worth what they ask for it at all. By densifying, do they mean we’re going to coat your hair with white stuff to make it look thicker? Hmm! Moving on.

Kerastase Bain Capital Force Densifying Shampoo – This product has an identical smell to the aforementioned modeling paste, which is a good thing. This stuff, however, didn’t really stand out to me as anything special either. It smells good, and it cleans your hair, but I’m not sure I would have described it as “densifying” my hair. Trust me, I wouldn’t mind a bit, and I was looking for it! Not too sure about this brand, other than it is incredibly overpriced. A regular bottle of this goes for about $36.00. The verdict? It’s not for me! In its defense, however, I keep my hair pretty short (about ¼” all around), so maybe the results would be far more effective on someone with longer hair.

Kerastase Gym Bag – Another that ended up being a Christmas bingo prize. This was a cool little bag though. If I didn’t already have bags and numerous other types of storage, I would’ve considered keeping it. But I thought it was pretty generous of Birchbox to include another nifty item with the box.

Supersmile Whitening Toothpaste – I’ve yet to really give this product a fair shake. I want to try a long-term experiment with it and see if it really whitens my teeth. Look for a more in-depth review in the future for this product.

EBOOST Super Berry Shots – I don’t normally consume items like this (5 Hour Energy), or even energy drinks like Red Bull or Monster. Based on that, maybe I’m not the best qualified to say much about it, but I will tell you that it tasted only slightly better than Nyquil. I wasn’t impressed with the taste of it. I also did not really notice much of a difference in my energy level, but again, don’t take my word for it. I’m not an energy junkie!

Skullcandy Earbuds – Yet another cool bonus. These things are usually pretty pricey, so I was surprised to find these in a box. I don’t personally like in-ear earbuds, so I never did use them. Instead, I decided I would sell them on the Amazon Marketplace, for which were sold at a steal of $43.00! Basically, that paid for this special edition Birchbox for Men, which I was pretty stoked about. And they made a lovely birthday present for somebody in South Carolina. Win-win, I guess!

Final thoughts – this Birchbox was an incredible value for its $45.00 price tag. While I didn’t love everything inside, I enjoy the thrill of trying to new things, and even if I find one or two things I love, I think it is a worthwhile experience. Birchbox seems to be toying with the idea of offering a monthly box to men, of course at a lower rate closer to what women pay for boxes ($10). I’m pretty excited about this prospect, and will be the first in line to subscribe. All in all, I enjoyed this box very much, and look forward to more things geared toward men in the future.

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October Black Box

October Black Box contentsHey there, inspired groomers! Time for my take on the Black Box I received in October. I am again ashamed that it has taken me a bit to get to this, much longer than I would’ve liked. However, in my defense, I do like to try to give everything a thorough testing before offering my hopelessly biased opinion on the contents. Before I dive right in, I want to say a couple of things about the impressions I have from Black Box.

First, I have read a great deal of reviews about Black Box, with people expressing incredible disdain for their customer service. Some of the things I have read say things like they send emails and make phone calls to their company, all to no avail. Others state that they were charged, but never received a box. Personally, I have had no such problems as of yet, although I’ve only contacted them once and received a reply within minutes. As someone who works in customer service, I think it is unfortunate that Black Box is receiving a negative reputation for the way it treat its customers. I hope that the management of this start-up will recognize what is being said, and take some steps to improve. I say “start-up” because that is what it seems it is, rather than a fully functioning, well-rounded business with all of its affairs in order. In their defense – their site does state it is in “beta.” I want to remain optimistic about this, though! I sincerely hope that Black Box is able to pull themselves together, and continue to offer gentlemen new and interesting products to try without frustrating their customers in the process. Good luck, Black Box!

Onto the good, the bad and the ugly for this month:

Helmut Lang Cologne – This little vial came in a small plastic bag, sandwiched between two cotton pads. I guess that is probably a good idea, in case the top popped off, or the vial broke. I have to say that I was highly offended by the overwhelming smell that wafted as soon as I opened my Black Box this month. My first reaction was actually borderline anger, as I thought the scent was awful right off the bat. Since I had not-so-nice things to say about another cologne that I received in last month’s box, I felt that I needed to do a bit of introspection. Am I being fair? Am I a cologne hater? Am I too scent-sitive? I decided to give ol’ Helmut a few more tries before dumping him down the drain. Ultimately, when approaching it with an open mind, I found that the scent has a prominent musky scent, and actually wears well during the day toward a softer, almost powdery scent, which I found both interesting and appealing. I personally feel it would be best worn as an evening product. One other thing I want to say about this cologne is that it is persistent. I personally didn’t enjoy the fact that even after taking a shower, I could still detect it on my skin. And just so there is no confusion, I’ll answer the question that may have popped into your mind – yes, I use soap when I shower! All in all, this scent grew on me, but I have to admit I have experienced other colognes that I enjoy more, so this one won’t be on my radar in the future.

True Volume Thickening Shampoo, by Jack Black – I will begin this one by saying that I was excited to see this item in the box for two reasons. First, I’ve been on the hunt for a new shampoo, especially one that is designed to help with an itchy scalp. Yes, I suffer from an itchy scalp. Don’t judge me. Second, I’ve heard of the Jack Black brand, and was excited to see a couple of items included from them this month. Also, it is probably important to know that I currently use Head & Shoulders Itchy Scalp Care with Eucalyptus 2-in-1 Shampoo/Conditioner. I honestly adore it, but the stigma of using a shampoo typically intended for dandruff sufferers has me a sad panda. I want a hip, stylish shampoo! Unfortunately, Jack Black did not have the answer for me. It has, in my opinion, a very medicinal smell to it, which I wasn’t thrilled about. Coming from someone who uses Head & Shoulders, I think that may be saying a lot! Within 10 minutes of having used it, my scalp began to itch like crazy. Now, given my history, I do not necessarily blame the shampoo for causing my head to itch, but it certainly did not help the matter. I immediately stuck my head back under the shower head, reached for the H&S, and got immediate relief. I’m beginning to think this stuff ain’t so bad. Stigma shmigma. As for Jack Black, nothing about it particularly impressed me. Although this shampoo is advertised clearly for volumizing, the label does indicate that it will, “combat dry, itchy skin.” No such luck here!

Supreme Cream Triple Cushion Shave Lather, by Jack Black – I enjoyed this product for the most part. It reminded me a lot of The Art of Shaving brand cream that I tried last month, which is definitely not a bad thing. It is infinitely superior to anything you would buy in an aerosol can at the store. It makes for a nice, close shave. It left my skin feeling soft, and not in the least irritated, which I always consider a feat considering I’m simultaneously dragging three razor blades across my face. Nothing bad to say about this product! Would I change to this product permanently myself? At this point, probably not. Why, you ask? Read on for the next product review.

Hydroplane, by Billy Jealousy – This stuff is tops. Seriously. I’m in love. Even after having tried out the other shaving creams the past month or so, this product is by far my favorite. It is not a shaving cream in the traditional sense. It does not foam up or lather considerably, and actually has more of a lotion feel to it. It has a nice cooling sensation when you put it on, which I absolutely love. Hydroplane has also proven a great match to my frequency of shaving. I only usually shave once a week, so my facial hair is relatively long when shaving. I used to have to grab my hair clippers and go my face with them first, and then shave. But with this product, I feel no friction or hair-ripping sensation like I would have with other creams. Also, this stuff left my skin feeling cool and moisturized. It is incredible. I honestly cannot say enough good things about this product and brand. And I’m not being influenced by the prominent label on the bottle cap that states, “Esquire WINNER – BEST shave cream.” But hey – after using this product, I’m not surprised it is winning awards. Although an 8 oz. bottle is about $20.00, I do plan on purchasing more just as soon as I finish using up this 2 oz. sample. Try it – you won’t be sorry. Especially if you were a Barbasol guy like I was only a couple of months ago. What a difference a shave cream can make.

Well, that’s it for yet another long-winded review. I should be receiving my November Black Box next week, in addition to the limited edition Birchbox that I ordered last week as well. I will review those just as soon as I give each of them a fair shake, and let you know what I come up with. Thanks for sticking around!

‘Til the next box arrives!

Review: September Black Box

Why am I writing a review about my September Black Box when October is almost through, you ask? Life – it has a way of interfering with these types of things! Oddly, I just received my October Black Box today, so that gave me motivation to get this one done.

Since I’ve already received two boxes, I would like to take a moment and talk about the service I’ve received from http://www.hisblackbox.com. Although their site leaves a lot to be desired with regard to navigation, sign-up was pretty easy, and managing your billing information is straight-forward. I suspect that they plan to eventually implement an area where you can view/rate the items you’ve received. My understanding is that they will eventually establish a points system very similar to that of Birchbox. It has some potential, but in total honesty, it seems that they have a ways to go. It is a relatively new service, so such difficulties are to be expected, I’d imagine. I can’t wait to see what brands they add, and what other services they add in the coming months.

I also wanted to add that I was incredibly impressed with my correspondence with this company. I emailed them to inquire about the status of my September box (around the 22nd of September). I literally received a reply within 2 minutes to let me know it would be shipping out that very day. I received the package only 2 days later. How exciting!

What did I receive in the September box? I’m glad you asked…

 

Bravado 2 Cologne, by Baxter of California – I am all for trying out new scents. Truth be told, I am not a daily applier of fragrances. I find that my deodorant alone is fragrant enough for most days. I do enjoy wearing something different on occasion. I have mixed feelings about this particular scent, though. There is no mistaking its very citrusy qualities, which I do not mind a bit. In fact, I think the smell is, dare I say, delicious. I would describe this one as more on the citrusy side of woody, citrus scents. The initial smell is excellent, but I was not particularly a fan of how it wears throughout the day. I hate to use the word “pukey”, but that is one of the words that came to mind after wearing it for a whole day. I realize that body chemistries are different between individuals, so one might find a different result than I did. I suspect that it had mostly to do with the smell becoming fainter throughout the day, and less distinct than the initial application. I’ve worn other colognes with no such problems, and after trying this one twice, I can say that it left me feeling a bit disappointed.

Shaving Cream, by The Art of Shaving – I have always seen TAOS stores at higher end malls, so I knew this product is probably an expensive item to buy.  I have to say firstly that I was so excited to try this stuff that I used it incorrectly on the first try. I squeezed a small pearlescent blob into my hand and immediately lathered it in. To my surprise, it was sticky and completely unsuitable for shaving! This prompted me to read the directions, which directed me to lather it up with warm water. DUH! I think that this only speaks to the fact that I’ve been a Barbasol man for far too long.

Anyway, I really enjoyed this product. It lathers up wonderfully when water is added, and it does help in achieving the nice, close shave that it promises. I personally found that my skin was less irritated after using it, as opposed to using other, common name brand shaving creams. A little bit goes a long way, too. I was impressed that just a small pearl in your hand when lathered with some water is more than enough for the initial shave, as well as touch ups afterward. Also, I personally enjoyed the fact that it was unscented. When I wake up in the morning, the last thing I want is to be assaulted by a barrage of offensive smells. That sounded ominous, didn’t it? Anyhow, I would certainly consider buying this product after I finish up this sample!

Pre-Shave Oil, by the Art of Shaving – I liked this product, but I’m not sure it was necessarily for its intended purpose. It is supposed to soften the beard and make shaving less irritating, but I personally didn’t notice much of a difference when using it in concert with the aforementioned shaving cream, and without it. I will say, however, that massaging the oil onto the beard brings about a sort of spa experience. Despite having no added scents, it has a really nice, light smell to it, clearly given to it by its botanical ingredients. I have a hard time describing it, but I would almost say that it has a forest-esque quality to it. It feels great on the beard, and the smell, for me, makes it worth using. I enjoy it a lot. It is hard to justify the price for a full-sized bottle of this product, in my opinion, but it is a nice product all the same.

Lip Plumping Treatment, by City Cosmetics – This is the one product that I was disappointed by as soon as I opened the box. I personally feel the fine folks at Black Box were stretching to incorporate this as a men’s product. But, being the good sport that I am, I went ahead and tried it anyway, just to experience it. I already have naturally full lips, so a small part of me feared looking like a Joan Rivers botch job. I will be the first to admit I probably didn’t give it a fair shake. Using the applicator, I smeared some on, and left it on for about five minutes. I will say that it does have a nice vanilla smell to it, but that’s where my compliments end. Toward the end of the five-minute mark, my lips were burning at an uncomfortable level. I looked in the mirror, and my lips were noticeably turning red. At that point, I removed it post-haste. Can I just say, that even on their website, City Cosmetics claims it doesn’t burn, but a video review posted on their site by an independent review said it burned his lips, too. Not impressed by this product, but I was not disappointed either. You can’t be disappointed if you weren’t excited for it in the first place. Less lip plumping, Black Box. Tyvm.

Thanks for sticking around! You can expect a review of my October Black Box in the next couple of weeks. ‘Til next time!