Surprise Lessons from a Birchbox Review

And Re-Evaluating the November 2018 Birchbox

What started as a Birchbox socially conscious review turned into a lesson in not buying what you don’t need

Reviewing Birchbox Again, 2021 Edition

In February 2019, I published a video on YouTube reviewing the November 2018 Birchbox. That review focused on how conscientious the beauty products themselves were:

  • Cruelty-free yes or no?
  • Quality and composition of ingredients?
  • Value for the money and accessibility at all income levels?
  • Quality of product as a whole?

Considerations like packaging were noted, but not assessed.

For the April 2021 edition, I planned to review Birchbox again using this criteria, as the scope of the boxes appeared to have grown considerably. Plus, I planned to go into more depth with the packaging analysis this time.

But also, I admit now, I fell into the intense marketing for Birchbox, and the excitement of a surprise gift box got to me. Plus they threw in a bonus box for free! So why not justify it with a review?

Adding In The Buyerarchy of Needs

Buyerarchy of Needs. Photo credit: Sarah Lazarovic

As I recorded my thoughts on the 2021 Birchboxes, a pattern began to emerge:

Would I buy this product again? Well, I won’t need to, because Birchbox is just going to send me more next month.

Will I even use all of this before the next box? Probably not, because I either didn’t really need that solution or already had a product for that issue in my cabinet.

I sat on the videos for a year, pondering how to meaningfully assess the socially conscious nature of Birchbox as a whole, not just the products in it. It came down to the Buyerarchy of Needs.

While the products themselves may have been made with ethics and environment in mind, when looked at in the macro sense, buying most of these things was at the top of the Buyerarchy pyramid, especially when I had so much already that could be used. A year later, I knew the real message: Birchbox is not socially conscious if it is selling you things you do not need.

The November 2018 Birchbox In Hindsight and Buyerarchy Lenses

The Original Birchbox Review from 2019

Here is what became of the products reviewed in the original YouTube video:

  • Amika Soul Food Nourishing Masque: Reviewed positively and I said I would buy again. Met my criteria for being socially conscious except for some questionable ingredients. Used it eventually in my travel bag but no specific memory of it being that great and in fact I think I did not like it as much after that first use. Did not need it as I had several travel size hair masques and a full-size tub in my bathroom.
  • Love of Color Shimmer Shadow: Met my criteria for socially conscious makeup and even looked pretty. But I absolutely did not need it, down to having a similar shade of shimmer shadow already. I finally gave it away in March 2022 in a large shopping bag filled to the brim with makeup I either didn’t like or had to admit I would never wear. I’d like to believe it’s with someone who will actually use it now.
  • Stila All-Day Lipstick in Paradiso: Passed the criteria, looked nice, stayed put. I still have it because it’s unique. Probably wear it once per year but trying to increase that.
  • Supergoop CC Cream: This fit my criteria and I loved it. Used it up quickly with daily use. Never purchased again because I had so many others to get through, even though I liked those a lot less. At the time I also mentioned that it was out of my price range, but after having to get through lower cost options that I don’t like as much, I would buy this now. (But not until I run out of every other option I have on hand.)
  • Vasanti Makeup Magnet Wipes: Struggled to use these up as I already had wipes that I liked. I was able to use them in my travel bag. I still have cold cream from 2015 that does wonders for makeup removal and a bottle of micellular water so it will be a long time before I need something like this again.

April 2021 Birchbox Breakdown

  • Magnitone Reusable Makeup Remover Pads: Didn’t need these but they are socially conscious. I still don’t need them yet, and rarely use them. The other one not shown in the video is literally still in the box.
  • Grace + Stella Rose Spray: I used this up at my desk at work within a few months. As mentioned in the video, I didn’t need this at all, having more than one bottle on-hand, but I found a way to utilize it. It’s a quality socially conscious product, but again, I won’t need to buy for a long time.
  • Stasher Silicone Sandwich Bags: The only item in all of the Birchboxes that I actually did need. I ordered the horrible Bake Everything bags because they were cheap (a lesson I’ve learned the hard way) and when I received them, I compared the quality to this Stasher bag and spent the money to get a set of Stashers anyway. It was a product I did need, and I learned a lesson that you get what you pay for quality-wise. Now I know all of this, I would save money and the environment ordering Stashers directly, instead of ordering Birchbox and Bake Everything first only to come to the same conclusion.
  • Vitamasques Detox Leafy Greens Face Masque: Used it right away, worked great. Always can use these but much less wasteful to just buy directly and when needed, which was not right then. A good socially conscious option that I would look for again when the time comes. Which will be a while, as I have a box of sheet masques and jars of mask as well.
  • Payot Paris Hydrating Facial Cream: Finally used that up a THIS MONTH, aka one full year later. And that’s only because I forgot what a rash the cream gave me and put it in my gym bag to use it up finally. I thought it was OK otherwise and conscientious, but absolutely not needed as I have so freaking many hydrating creams. Good thing the Colorado air is so dry, amiright?
  • Re.fil Beauty Balm: A major greenwashing here. MAJOR GREENWASHING. Oh, a refillable stick that you can use for lips, skin, cuticles? It’s petroleum jelly, basically. I didn’t need this for any reason, and I still have it. BUT YOU CAN’T EVEN REFILL IT! So there is no point at all to my having this, and it’s not even good for its promise of being refillable. I had cuticle cream I liked, tons of chapsticks, and jars of Vaseline already, not to mention dry skin balms.

Taking Care of Your Skin Bonus Spa Box

  • Birchbox Jade Gua Sha Tool: Possibly would have bought this from a different brand, but I had wanted one. Although whether I ‘needed’ one is questionable, since I used it about 1-2 times per month at most. Plus, I had my jade roller which worked in many ways similarly which is why I did not buy one independently. I’d like to find my gua sha now but it got misplaced in the move. I believe it is worth finding and using and putting more into my regimen since the benefits even from watching the video are very notable.
  • Marcel Brow Pencil & Shaper: Not a particularly conscientious product and not needed. I do like it more than all the other eyebrow products I have from other boxes. In fact, I still have it and it is still my go-to.
  • The Buff Stuff Citrus Body Scrub: Conscientious and great smelling. I would buy this again someday, but again, same old story: I didn’t need it and I have a lot of other products to get through. Currently this is in my shower as I attempt to use it up finally.
  • R + Co Waterfall Moisture & Shine Hair Lotion: Used this up in my travel bag. Very socially conscious and worked well for my hair. For my fine and long hair this is amazing, I like more than oils or sprays. Will be a long time working through every other hair moisturizer I have stocked up before I can even think about buying again.
  • Po Pomegranate Superfood Sleeping Mask: A great socially conscious brand but I believe I gave away this product. I have a lot of night creams/ oils/ masks and I never used this sample besides the once for the video.

Final Thoughts: Buy What You Need – And You Don’t Need A Beauty Box

The emerging pattern here? One product out of 16 – the Stasher bag – was something I would have purchased otherwise and didn’t already have a solution for at home. (Interestingly, that is also the only non-Beauty product.) All the rest, not needed, and not all of it I even liked.

Instead of subscribing to a box where you truly need only one thing at most from it, save the environment and your money by buying just that one item! If you have absolutely no moisturizer left, find a socially conscious solution in your price range. Try some from a friend, read reviews, or get a smaller size if you want to try something new.

Think it through with boxes like Alltrue (formerly Causebox), too. When I looked at everything it offered in the box, including customizations, it seems like an incredible deal. And it’s all socially conscious, too! Good think I decided to wait for the spoilers, because in reality there is nothing in the box I need. Not one thing. Not a new purse (I sold or gave away dozens), not a water bottle (I have 3), not a blanket (we have them all over the house). Nothing.

In a culture that’s constantly screaming at you to BUY CONSUME BUY CONSUME, take control of your own life and destiny by tuning that all out. It’s a journey, but I’m finding it’s totally worth it.

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