My honest review of Birch Box, plus some alternatives

October 9, 2017

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Self-care is important -- even for reclusive writers (blogger's included), and it helps to change things up now and then.

Enter Birch Box. Allow me to share my own experience with this service and the products they share. To start, I'm glad I gave it a try.

My Birch Box Experiment

I subscribed to Birch Box for a couple months to see if the five samples in each monthly box were worth the $10 per box (to me).

And while I did get some things I enjoyed using, I couldn't help but wonder if there were alternatives available for people who were used to getting full-sized containers for far less money than the full-sized versions of those Birch Box samples.

Because -- I told myself -- if I find something in this Birch Box that I really like, but it costs $40 for a month's supply of it, ... where does that leave me?

On the other hand, if I invest the same amount of money each month -- or even twice or three times that -- and buy some things at a drugstore that I'm more likely to actually use (how many people use brow highlighter, anyway?) on a regular basis, I don't have to worry that the full-sized amount will cost more than I can manage to buy once a month.

These are the things I like to find as inexpensively as possible:

  • facial cleanser (between $5 - 10)
  • a refreshing (& nourishing) facial spritz (around $5)
  • cosmetics (lipstick, lip liner, blush & eye-liner) ($5 to 8 each)
  • facial masks & scrubs ($3 - $7) -- not the sheet kind
  • shower gel ($2 - 5)
  • shampoo ($2 - 5)

And these are the things I'm most likely to splurge on:

  • a good moisturizer ($10 to $20)
  • a skin-nourishing (firming & rejuvenating) serum ($10 to $20) -- though I usually go without this, hoping the moisturizer will do enough. 

I should probably mention what was in my first Birch Box, so you'll understand better why my feelings are mixed. 

"All this for only $10?" you may be asking (or not). 

But I did learn -- shortly before they billed me for the next month's box (which will be my 2nd) -- that one of the items in that box will be a lip-liner in a color I don't hate.

Plus, I've had a peek at some of the other samples in that box (I'm one of those moms who wanted to know the sex of the baby before he or she was born, because I wanted to get started picking a name and shopping for baby clothes). And the other samples have me thinking, "Those could be nice."

So, . . . cautiously optimistic. 

I don't wear foundation or face powder (haven't found one that doesn't make my skin look and feel worse), nor do I bother with concealer. As a general rule, I buy most of my skin care and cosmetics from the following stores and websites:

  • Walmart (I'll use this option if I can get free shipping or free pick-up at the store closest to home, since they don't always have what I want on their shelves). 
  • Walgreens (They give a bag of samples with every $20 purchase, if you join their Beauty Enthusiast program, which costs nothing and takes only a few minutes.)

I have to admit that I was drawn to Birch Box, because I like the idea of receiving an affordable, attractive and reusable box with five samples of beauty products I never knew existed (because I've never seen them at Walmart or Walgreens) and that might be a nice (if temporary) addition to my skin-care routine. 

I don't go to department stores, since there are none close to home, and I won't drive far from home just to get to one.

And the one or two times I've sat at a make-up counter and allowed someone to put different products on my face (a mini-makeover), I usually came away thinking, "Why are these products so expensive?" 

And, yes, I knew even then that with many skincare products, the results aren't evident at the first application. But most of the time, I couldn't justify the extra cost (which was considerable), when what I was buying before was working well enough for me

(I wanted to love you, Prescriptives! But your prices -- and your foundation -- left me cold). 

That said, I do like to change things up now and then. And that's why I signed up for Birch Box.

$10 a month? I think I can manage that (I said to myself). 

But long-term? Will I keep allowing them to bill me for yet another Birch Box? Or will I cancel after the next one comes? 

That depends on how soon I settle on a more sustainable alternative -- preferably one that contains full-sized amounts of the products I need, plus some bonus samples of things I'd like to try. 

Make Your Own Try-Something-New Bundle

I just found the place where I can buy some reasonably-priced facial spritz (to refresh the face after work or when I'm tired and need a pick-me-up): 


4 oz. for $7.00

This is seriously as close as I get to wearing perfume.

They also have one with aloe, cucumber, and green tea (same size & price), and they have a few other things I'd like to try. They have free shipping for orders of $35 or more, and with every order, they let you choose 3 samples from a long list of options (it didn't take me long to pick 3 that I'd love to try). 

I know $35 is more than the $10 I spend on a monthly Birch Box, but if I'm willing to buy the full-sized products that add up to $35 each month, I don't have to worry that if I find something I love, I won't be able to afford it.

Here are two try-something-new bundles I've put together for different stores -- both of which offer free shipping for orders of $35 or more. 

I was going to make it three -- the last one with Sally's Beauty Supply -- but Sally's doesn't give you free shipping unless you spend $50, and $35 hurts enough, thank you. 

Walgreens Bundle:

1. Botanics Organic Toning Spritz (with rosewater) ($10.99 for 5 oz.)

2. White Egret Hyaluronic Acid Day Serum ($10.99 for 2 oz.)

Subtotal: $21.98 + $5.99 shipping (free for orders of $35 or more)

Optional add-on items: 

1. Eco Tools Bamboo 5-piece Brush Set ($10.99 for 4 brushes & a pouch)

2. e.l.f. Studio Blush, Candid Coral ($3.00)

*Update: I'll probably pick up the blush at our local Walgreens to save myself the cost of shipping. I decided, after a few hours of weighing my options, to go with the second bundle, which I'll describe next.

Mario Badescu bundle:

1. Facial Spray with Aloe, Herbs & Rosewater ($7.00 for 4 oz.)

2. Cellufirm Drops -- "Collagen-enriched serum. Nourishes, softens, and plumps.
Smooths the look of fine lines and wrinkles." ($25 for 1 oz.)

Subtotal: $32.00

Optional add-on item: 

1. Facial Spray with Aloe, Cucumber & Green Tea ($7.00 for 4 oz.)*

* partly because I'd like to have one facial spray for home & another for my purse -- and also because it's one of the least expensive items in the store. 

** Update: This is what I (finally) decided on:

  1. Facial Spray with Aloe, Herbs & Rosewater
  2. Facial Spray with Aloe, Cucumber & Green Tea
  3. Super Collagen Mask
  4. Lip wax (jar)

And these are my three free samples:

  1. AHA & Ceramide Moisturizer
  2. Cellufirm Drops
  3. Enzyme Revitalizing Mask

Because my total was over $35, I had free shipping, and I qualified for a promo discount, which knocked another $5.55 off the price.

Mario Badescu Skin Care logo

So, while I'm still (unashamedly) looking forward to my next Birch Box, I'm not sure how much longer it'll be before I cancel my subscription. Much will depend on what's in the next box and what I find elsewhere. 

In any case, self-care matters -- even for reclusive bloggers like me. Even if we don't go out much or hold jobs that require us to socialize (which I still do -- pity me), we still want to like the way we look, and we especially want to like the way we feel and the way we think. 

Self-care is an essential part of that. So, while there's no obligation to spend a lot of money on upscale skin care products -- and many of us do just fine with what we find at the drugstore -- sometimes it's nice to have a change and to try something new. 

Just to mix it up a little. 

Let me know what you think in the comments. I'd love to read something from you, too.

Take care, and have a great week!

Even reclusive writers need self-care. Here's my honest review of Birch Box + some suggested (long-term) alternatives. #selfcare #blogging

By Sarah Lentz

Writing and designing book covers are two of Sarah Lentz's favorite things. She lives in Minnesota with her husband, their four kids, and two messy but adorable guinea pigs.

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