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: Wen Cleansing Conditioner

*UpdateI found some stories online from people complaining that Wen caused them to have hair loss. I have no idea if that’s true or not, and it’s not something I experienced personally. I wanted to make a note of it though, and encourage you to do your own research and proceed with caution.

If you’ve ever been awake and channel surfing at four o’clock in the morning (as opposed to asleep and channel surfing, I guess?), you’ve probably seen the infomercial for Wen Shampoo. Although they never actually refer to it as shampoo, instead opting for the title of “Cleansing Conditioner”. Well allrighty then. This fancy made up term, is basically a nice way of saying it’s a two in one product without conjuring up images of Pert Plus.

I’ll be honest here, I’m a sucker for infomercials. It’s not that I necessarily believe everything that they claim, even if some of them are quite convincing, I have just been known to mindlessly stare for hours at the latest and greatest products to hit the four am insomnia scene. So I had seen the Wen infomercials a few times, and they seemed pretty impressive, but I think in the end it was the QVC demonstrations that sold me on it.

As we all know, there are very few, if any, amazing miracle products that work for absolutely everyone. If there were, that’s all anyone would use, right? So let me just say, this is probably going to be a love it or hate it type of product. Personally, I really really like it, bordering on love. It’s not the end all – be all of shampoo, but I would venture to say it’s the best I’ve found so far.

Like I said before, this is a two in one product to replace your shampoo and conditioner. They have a corny little line of “I haven’t used shampoo in years!” to make you gasp in horror as you are now glued to the infomercial in hopes of finding out what the heck they mean by that. “Do they not wash their hair?” “Is it possible that I can be even lazier than I currently am and still have fabulous hair?” viewers will ask, from the edge of their seats. But no, it just means they don’t like to call this stuff shampoo.

I’ve used this product off and on for quite some time. I would probably use it all the time, but it’s expensive. A 16oz bottle costs around $30, give or take. The other big drawback is that they encourage you to use alot of product. The longer your hair is, the more ‘pumps’ you are supposed to use from the bottle. This adds up fast, especially if more than one person in your household will be using it, or if you have long hair. Personally, I never use quite as much as the suggested amount because with hair as long as mine I could go through a bottle in no time at all. From what I’ve heard, however, the more you use, the better your results will be. This kind of boils down to experimenting and seeing what works for you, and how often you wash your hair. Don’t worry though; if you wash your hair daily, want to use 40 pumps a day, and have alot of money to spend on shampoo… they even have a gallon size.

Overall, Wen makes my hair softer, shinier, less frizzy and just overall more manageable. I get more compliments when I use it, and my highlights seem less brassy. I think it’s a really nice product, and from what I’ve heard I believe it has more natural ingredients, though I haven’t researched that or anything. This also means that it won’t lather up all foamy like regular shampoo, but it still gets your hair just as clean. Wen comes in a variety of sizes, kits, and scents. The scents are a big issue for me.. the last time I ordered Fig, because it’s tailored more for dry hair, but I absolutely hated the smell. This is just a personal preference, and there are about 6 scents to choose from, each geared a little more toward certain hair issues. Today I used Pomegranate for the first time, and found the scent to be much more pleasant, and there are a few others I like as well. If you’re unsure which to try, check out sites like QVC that have variety kits where you can try them all out before committing to a larger bottle. Some of the kits even include instructional dvds, a comb, or styling products. The shampoo comes nicely sealed with the pump separated out to prevent leaks in delivery. If you’re looking for something new to replace your current shampoo and conditioner, Wen is definitely worth a look. Whether or not it is worth the price is debatable, but for me it’s a good splurge now and then when my hair needs some extra help and I can find a deal on it. Just remember, this is one shampoo you want to let sit on your hair a few minutes to soak in, and comb it through if possible. Check it out sometime when you can’t sleep. : )

[*I forgot to mention that this actually is the consistency of conditioner, so it’s possible they call it cleansing conditioner to just constantly remind you that it serves the purpose of shampoo as well. Enjoy!]