Over the last few months, I subscribed to four different beauty boxes from four of the most popular subscription box companies – Birchbox, Love Lula, My Littlebox and Glossybox. My plan was to find one or two that’s worth subscribing to long term. Naturally, I want a box that offers good value for money, a good range of products to try on, and most importantly, products that actually fit my profile. Having compared all the four boxes, I’ve finally decided to go with Love Lula. If you’re interested to know what I think of any (or all) of the boxes, please do click on the appropriate link(s) above. Otherwise, let’s go see what’s inside my May 2015 Love Lula beauty box:
What’s in the box:
1. Ren V-Cense Youth Vitality Day Cream, 15ml
I’ve always wanted to try Ren products; I’ve only ever heard good things about them. I’m not quite sure why I haven’t actually tried them – I just kept putting off buying them for some reasons. So when I saw this in my box, I was really happy, and I’m not disappointed with the cream either. I love the fruity smell and the texture – it’s creamy yet it absorbs so quickly into the skin I can almost apply my make-up instantly. It’s also very moisturising but not at all oily; in fact, it leaves the skin feeling soft and rather silky. I can’t comment on whether it really reduces fine lines and wrinkles or not – I haven’t used it long enough to find out, but overall, I think it’s a good cream.
2. Salcura Skin Repair Moisturiser, full size, 50 ml
I’ve never heard of this product before, but it’s a moisturiser and I’m always up to give moisturiser a try. The cream is formulated specifically for people who are prone to eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis, dry and itchy skin, and contains anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and itch relief properties. It’s perfect for me as I suffer from very dry and sometimes itchy skin! Again, I really like the texture – it’s fast absorbing, it’s not oily but I do find that if you applied too much, it feels rather sticky – so, a little goes along the way.
3. John Masters Exfoliating Body Bar, full size
I love natural bar soap and sometimes, I prefer it over shower gel. I don’t know, I just feel like it’s easier to wash off and it makes me feel cleaner; not to mention that bar soaps are also generally cheaper than shower gels. Anyway, this one is really nice – it’s got amazing smell, it doesn’t dry my skin out (unlike a lot of other bar soaps out there) and it’s grainy so it does have an exfoliating effect. So as you can probably tell, I’m really glad I got this.
4. Teatox Skinny Detox Morning Tea
This tea contains lemon grass, dandelion herbs, yerba mate, goji berries, sencha green tea, ginger root, birch leaves, nettle leaves, goldenrod herbs and horsetail herbs. Sounds delicious. I haven’t actually tried it but can’t wait to do so.
5. Figs & Rouge Rambling Rose Balm, full size, 17ml
Again, I’ve never heard of this product before, but I love this balm. It smells wonderful and very nourishing. It says it’s multitasking – so you can apply it on your lips, body and face, but I’m using it as a lip balm mainly and also around my cuticles sometimes.
Verdict: I love this month’s box as I love my first Love Lula box. It always contain products that I actually like and would buy again. That’s why I chose Love Lula over the others, and so far, I’m very happy with my choice, and I’m really looking forward to receiving next month’s box.
As I mentioned last month, I’m currently shopping around for that perfect subscription box that I think is worth… well… subscribing to. I said that I’m going to try a few over the next few months or so and I’ve promised to keep you in the loop. Last month, I subscribed to Birchbox – it was okay, I liked my box, but I wasn’t overly impressed. You can read my review here. This month, I subscribed to Love Lula and here’s what I think of my box:
First impression: I really like it. Okay, so the samples came in a normal box, so in terms of the box itself, there’s really nothing to shout about (and I complaint about Birchbox’s box design last month!). But I think the products that I got are better than the one I received from Birchbox. I like the fact that Love Lula specialises in natural and organic products and I’m actually looking forward to try out all the samples I received. The only downside with Love Lula’s subscription is that everyone receives the same items – unlike with Birchbox, you can’t customise your ‘beauty profile’, so you won’t receive a box that’s tailored for you. Despite that though, I still think that the items I received from Love Lula fit my profile better than Birchbox. I’m tempted to continue with my subscription… really tempted… but I’m going to give My Little Box (yeap, the one from Paris) a try next. Love Lula is definitely in my shortlist of beauty box to subscribe.
What’s in the box:
1. Yes to Cucumbers Facial Wipes, 10 wipes
I bought these wipes before from Waitrose and I really like them. They’re 95% natural, they smell really nice, they don’t leave my skin feeling dry and they’re quite effective in removing make-up as well. I’m glad I got this and the size is perfect for my purse.
2. Nourish Kale Enzymatic Exfoliating Cleanser, sample size
I’ve never heard of this product before, but I like the fact that it’s a multi-tasking cleanser and mask, and that it’s made with pomegranate and organic kale. The sample’s really small though, but I can’t wait to try it out.
3. Funny Bee BB Cream, sample size
I’ve never been a fan of BB creams; I don’t think they like me either. I find them really oily, heavyweight and I just can’t stand the smell. This one is made in France and it’s 99% natural. I’ve tried it out and I must say that it’s not oily and it doesn’t have that weird BB cream smell that I dislike. It’s also not as heavyweight as the other BB creams, but for me, it’s still a bit too much – it’s not very easy to blend and the colour doesn’t really match my skin. I actually looked like I had foundation on. So, I’m still saying no to BB cream.
4. Ecotools Mini Brushes
I love Ecotools brushes. They’re just so soft and give a natural finish. I have one that I use everytime I apply my MAC Studio Fix Powder Plus foundation. These ones from Love Lula are really small… I’m not sure they’ll be of much use to me really. I suppose they’d be more useful for people who have never tried Ecotools brushes before.
5. Vinali Body Lotion, 25 ml + Day Cream, sample size
Again, I’ve never heard of this brand before, and again, it’s made in France. Not much I can say about body lotion and day cream except that I use them everyday. So I’m happy that I got these and I’ll definitely give it a try.
6. Madara Detox Mud Mask, 12.5ml
I was actually looking to buy a mud mask since I saw an advert for Glam Glow on board British Airways on my recent flights to and from Tenerife. Love Lula read my mind!
7. Balance Me Rose Otto Hand Cream, 30ml
I love Balance Me Cleanse and Smooth Face Balm. I use it at night to clean my face when I’m wearing make-up or when my skin feels like it needs a bit of ‘aromatherapy exfoliating’ treatment. So I’m really glad that I get to try their hand cream. I love the smell. My husband said it’s a bit too strong, but I love it, I’m obsessed with aromatherapy. I also like the texture – it’s not sticky, it’s not oily and it gets absorbed really quickly. I’ll probably buy it again when it’s finished.
I’m new to subscription boxes. I decided to give them a try because I like the concept. How do they work? Well, basically, you pay a monthly subscription fee and then each month you receive a box filled with sample and full size beauty and lifestyle products. You can’t choose what goes into the box, but certain companies let you take a ‘style quiz’ and send you products that best fit your profile. I think they’re great – they let you discover new products and different brands, which you might not have known otherwise, and they give you an opportunity to try the products out before deciding whether they’re really for you. Besides, who doesn’t like receiving a box filled it with beauty goodies? But with so many subscription boxes out there, the question becomes, which one should you sign up for? I’m going to try a few over the next few months or so, and hopefully, at the end of it all, I’ll be able to find one or two that’s worth sticking up to (and of course, I’ll keep you in the loop). This month, I subscribed to Birchbox and I’ve received my box – so let’s see what’s inside:
Price: £10.00 + £2.95 P+P
Got my December box for: £7.95 (with £5 discount using the code: 5OFF)
First impression: I like it (not love) – I think they could have have done a better job with the design of the box, but hey, it’s just a box. I’m slightly disappointed with the samples I got – don’t get me wrong, I think they’re good value (I’ve got 2 full size products worth £21), but I’m just not very keen in trying half of them out. I think they don’t really fit my profile. To be fair though, I haven’t actually completed my ‘beauty profile’ yet, so maybe that’s why the contents of the box are not ‘tailored’ enough.
What’s in the box:
1. Benefit High Beam, sample size
I love Benefit’s products and I’ve been wanting to try the High Beam for a while, so I’m glad I got this. And just in time for Christmas too.
2. Electric Hair Hydrate Shampoo, sample size
I’ve never heard of Electric Hair before, but it’s got good reviews, so why not – I’ll give it a try.
3. English Laundry Signature For Her EDP Spray For Women, sample size
This smells nice, but the thing is, I’m not very keen on trying out a new fragrance. I’ve got my favourite perfumes and I’m quite particular about the scents I use. This ended up being my bedroom spray…
4. Eyeko Fat Eye Stick Trio, full size, £16.00
I haven’t actually tried this out yet, but why not. I guess I’ll be experimenting with smoky eyes for my Christmas dinner.
5. Vasanti Brighten Up! Enzymatic Face Rejuvenator, sample size
This scrub is enriched with papaya, professional microcrystals and aloe and claims to work like professional microdermabrasion, which delivers that soft, smooth and radiant skin. I’ve only used it twice and already I’m falling in love – the texture, the smell, the way it makes my skin feels after – it’s just amazing. The full size product costs £26; I think it’s a bit pricey, but it’s 99% natural and according to the label, it lasts 6 months. So, who knows, I might just get it. If it were slightly cheaper, I’d definitely buy it.
6. Models Own Velvet Goth, full size, £5.00
It’s a nail varnish and I rarely polish my nails and I don’t like the colour they gave – so there you go. But I’ll give it a try anyway.
(You might also be interested in Beauty and pregnancy (part 1): your hair – what is safe and what is not? and Beauty and Pregnancy (part 2): your face – what is safe and what is not?)
1. General body care: body wash, body scrub, body lotion, oil and cream
The majority: In the majority’s view, exposure to general personal care products is unlikely to be harmful to your unborn babies. According to them, yes, certain products do pose a chemical risk, especially if they contain the so-called ‘toxic’ chemicals (like the foaming agent SLS, which is often found in shower gels and bubble baths), but there’s simply not enough evidence to suggest that these chemicals are a risk to your health. They say that as long as you don’t wrap yourself in bubbles, there’s really no need to worry. In fact, the Cosmetics, Toiletry and Perfumery Association’s spokesman, Dr Chris Flower, says, “All cosmetic products are assessed for safety before they are allowed on the market. That assessment is by qualified experts who understand cosmetics may be used by women who are pregnant, or who might not be aware they are pregnant at the time. Unless cosmetics are safe for use in pregnancy, they would not be placed on the market. It really is that simple.
The minority: The minority advices pregnant women to take extra caution when it comes to choosing their personal care products, even though the risks associated with the so-called ‘toxic’ chemicals are minimal, precisely because “there’s simply not enough evidence to suggest whether or not they’re safe”. They say that expectant mums should avoid using chemical-laden shower gels, bubble baths, body lotions, etc, etc, and opt for more natural products instead.
My opinion: Interestingly, when I read about general hair care products, the opinions of the majority and minority are completely different from the above – the majority says: take extra caution; whilst the minority says: there’s really no need to worry (Beauty and pregnancy (part 1): your hair – what is safe and what is not?). Confusing, isn’t it? Well, I’ve said it before that I’m still using my usual shampoos and conditioners, and I’ll tell you right now that I’m still using my usual shower gels and scrubs (although I’ve stopped taking bubble baths and I’m using organic sweet almond oil for my body instead of the usual lotion or cream). I suppose, it’s good to change your lifestyle and stay closer to nature, but organic products can be quite expensive and may not be accessible to a lot of people. So, I think we should all use our common sense and not be unnecessarily stressed about using non-organic personal care products. After all, stress itself is unhealthy and may be more harmful to your unborn babies than lathering your body with your favourite shower gel for a few minutes.
2. Shaving and waxing
The majority and minority: According to everyone, it’s safe to shave or get waxed during pregnancy – there’s no studies to suggest that hair removal products are unsafe. But due to all the hormonal changes in your body, your skin may be more sensitive; so getting a wax and the regrowth of hair itself are likely to be more painful than usual.
My opinion: This is good news, isn’t it? Just make sure you go to a reputable salon and tell your therapist that you’re pregnant. I’m definitely getting a bikini wax before labour!
3. Deodorant and antiperspirant
The majority and minority: When it comes to deodorant and antiperspirant, both camps agree that you should steer clear of those products that contain aluminium-based compounds (which keep you from sweating), Parabens, PEG 20, Propylene Glycol, Triclosan, Sodium Benzoate and Synthetic Fragrance. They say that repeated exposure to these chemicals may cause hormone disruption, damage to the foetus and birth defect. Even for non-pregnant women, these chemicals have been linked to breast cancer and alzheimer disease. If you must use deodorant or antiperspirant during pregnancy, they suggest that you go for the natural and aluminium-free brands.
My opinion: I’m afraid I can’t be of much help here. Personally, I’m not a fan of deodorant and antiperspirant. I’ve tried using them, but they’re too sticky for me; I could actually feel them under my arms and I don’t like it. I also don’t like their smell – I think it just interferes with my perfume. I usually just dust a bit of baby powder under my arms when I sweat and it works.
4. Tanning and bronzing
The majority: According to the majority, fake tan products are generally safe to use during pregnancy. This is because, the ingredients used in fake tans only react to the cells in the outer layer of your skin (thus, changing its colour) and are not absorbed into the body, so they can’t harm your unborn baby. They do, however, suggest that you avoid spray tans as the effects of inhaling the spray are unknown. Also, since your skin is more sensitive, you might want to do a patch test first in case it causes an allergic reaction.
The minority: In the minority’s view, since the effect of self-tanners on pregnant women hasn’t been studied much, it’s probably best to err on the side of caution before bronzing yourself during pregnancy. They say that using fake tan products occasionally may be less harmful than baking yourself under the sun or the tanning beds, but still, you probably shouldn’t overdo it.
My opinion: There you go again, the famous phrase ‘don’t overdo it’. Until today, I still don’t know what it means. I personally have never used fake tan products before – I don’t have pale skin and I suppose I’m blessed in that regard. I think you can survive without bronzing yourself for 9 months, but if you must do it, then perhaps once or twice wouldn’t do any harm?
The majority: Since perfume is made up of combinations of natural and chemical compounds, the majority’s view is that pregnant women should avoid using it directly on the skin at least during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. There’s a study which links perfume usage during the first trimester to fetal male development (that is, it could render a baby boy infertile); the tests were, of course, carried out on rats, but hey, better be safe than sorry. They also say that since your sense of smell is probably heightened by now, you might find that some scents make you dizzy, nauseated, more prone to headaches, etc.
The minority: According to the minority, it’s completely safe to use perfume during pregnancy. But they agree that due your heightened sense of smell, certain scents may make you feel uncomfortable, so you just have to choose one that suits you.
My opinion: I’m quite lucky in the sense that I don’t have that ‘heightened sense of smell’ they talked about, so I can still wear all my favourite perfumes. I’m far beyond my first trimester now and I know that I have a baby girl, but I still try not to spray it directly on my skin (it’s just a habit, really). There’s no conclusive evidence that the chemicals used in perfumes will harm your unborn baby in any way, but if you’re feeling anxious, then you might want to avoid wearing them during your first trimester.
6. Manicure and pedicure
The majority and minority: Both the majority and minority agree that getting your nails done during pregnancy is safe since chemicals aren’t absorbed through your nails. They do, however, say that some nail varnishes contain Phthalates, which may be harmful to your unborn baby, but as long as you polish your nails in a well-ventilated area, you should be okay. If you’re not convinced, then they suggest that you use Phthalate-free nail varnishes, which are widely available. They also say that nail varnish removers are safe to use when pregnant; they usually contain Acetone, and if you’re worried, you can always buy Acetone-free removers.
My opinion: I agree with the above. I rarely polish my nails, but I don’t see why you couldn’t do it when you’re pregnant.
7. Spa and other professional treatments
The majority and minority: Everyone agrees that when you’re pregnant, you should avoid heat treatments which raise your core body temperature (like, body wraps, saunas, steam rooms, whirlpools, etc) since there’s no way of knowing how much heat is making its way to your unborn baby. But a dip in a warm bath or hydrotherapy pool is okay as long as the water temperature is no higher than 35 degrees C.
My opinion: I’m not going to say anything. All those things above, they’re my favourite spa treatments!
(You might also be interested in Beauty and pregnancy (part 1): your hair – what is safe and what is not?)
1. General skin care: face wash, toner, serum, face oil, moisturiser, eye cream
The majority: When it comes to your regular skin care routine, the majority suggests that, whenever possible, you should only use the most natural and chemical-free products. This is because, what you choose to put on your skin may be absorbed into your bloodstream, and thus, could potentially reach your unborn baby. If you don’t want to go all organic, that’s fine, but you should at least avoid products that contain these ingredients: Retinoids (Vitamin A), Salicylic Acid or Beta Hydroxy Acid, Benzoyl Peroxide, Sulfates, Parabens, and Phthalates – all of which have been linked to birth defects and other pregnancy complications, such as, miscarriage and impaired growth.
The minority: According to the minority, yes, you should avoid taking any form of oral Vitamin A and Salicylic Acid when pregnant, but there’s simply not enough data to prove that they carry the same risks when applied topically. The minority thinks that doctors are just being extra cautious, and in their opinion, a small amount of Retinoids, Salicylic Acid or Benzoyl Peroxide (say, 2%) is considered safe.
My opinion: I think, as long as the jury is still out there with regards to topical Retinoids, Salicylic Acid, and Benzoyl Peroxide, it’s probably best to avoid products that contain these ingredients during pregnancy. After all, it’s not that difficult to find alternative, safer products to use; it’s not even that difficult to switch to entirely natural and organic products, which may even be cheaper to buy. You could, for example, ditch your commercial facial cleanser and use organic oatmeal or sweet almond oil to wash your face instead, or replace your chemical-laden toner with organic floral water – if you need some ideas, read my post on the “3 natural and organic beauty products every girl should own”.
The majority: We all know that it’s very important to wear sun protection before you… well… go out and play in the sun. And in the opinion of the majority, it’s even more important to wear sun protection while you’re pregnant because your pregnancy hormones cause your pigment-producing skin cells to react more strongly to the sunlight; without sun protection, you could end up with dark-brown patches on your skin (officially known as chloasma or melasma, but commonly called ‘the mask of pregnancy’). Having said that, the majority suggests that pregnant women should choose sunscreens that don’t contain Retinyl Palmitate (that is, a topical form of Vitamin A) – (I’ve written about Vitamin A when discussing general skin care above, so I’m not going to repeat it here). Other ingredients to avoid include: Oxybenzone, Homosalate, 4-Methylbenzylidene Camphor, Octocrylene, Para-Aminobenzoic Acid, and nano-sized ingredients (as they can be easily inhaled – I’ll write more about nanoparticles below in the make-up section). They say that you should use physical or mineral blocks made with either Titanium Dioxide or Zinc Oxide instead as they don’t penetrate the skin.
The minority: The minority agrees with the majority with regards to the potential effects the ingredients mentioned above has on fetal development. But, they say, even though your body absorbs them, they’re only absorbed in such small concentrations that it’s hardly a cause for concern. So, all sunscreens are perfectly safe to use during pregnancy. If you’re not convinced, then use sunscreens that are made of Titanium Dioxide or Zinc Oxide – they should put your mind at ease because (as you already know) they don’t penetrate the skin.
It’s probably worth mentioning at this point that there’s one article online which question both the majority and minority’s views with regards to Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide. It says that there is research to show that: (i) these ingredients have reproductive and developmental effects in animals if they’re nano-enginereed; and (ii) doubts exist as to whether they’re actually absorbed into the skin or not.
My opinion: Honestly, I don’t know what to say. I mean, if you had to avoid all the ingredients mentioned above (including Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide), then you’d be left with very little choice when it comes to sunscreens. I suppose, you could use sunscreens for babies? I personally think that Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide in cream or lotion form is okay; you should be concern with nanoparticles only when using sunscreens in powdered form (as only then they can be easily inhaled). I might have to ditch my BareMinerals SPF 30 Natural Sunscreen for a while – not only is it in powdered form, it also contains Retinyl Palmitate! Blimey!
The majority and minority: I’m combining their views here because they basically say the same thing when it comes to make-up (yes, they finally agreed on something). According to them, make-up products that are non-comedogenic or non-acnegenic are safe to use during pregnancy; but you should avoid cosmetics that contain Retinoids, Salicylic Acid or Benzoyl Peroxide (you know why). They also say that if you want to be super careful, then you might want to try minerals-only make-up as these products use ingredients that don’t get absorbed into the skin. Also, be careful with lipsticks that contain lead; the risk of getting lead poisoning from lipstick is unknown (and probably very small), but it’s perhaps best to use one of the many lead-free lipsticks that are out there.
My opinion: I agree with the above, but that’s probably because I have to use non-comedogenic products anyway. As far as mineral make-up is concerned, well, I’ve heard of the benefits: they provide better coverage, they look more natural, they feel weightless and are more comfortable to wear, and they’re also kinder to the skin; but to be honest, I have yet to try any of them. Many of the mineral make-up that are currently out in the market come in powdered form, and so, may contain nanoparticles. They’re basically finer particles of minerals like Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide, which (because of their form) become airborne when they’re applied and thus can be easily inhaled. Rumour has it that they have similar effects as asbestos and can cause lung cancer! But of course, not all mineral make-up manufacturers use nanoparticles in their productions – the question is, which one doesn’t? I’ll look into this in more detail as I think they warrant a separate post, and I’ll keep you updated. In the meantime, I’m sticking to liquid and compact foundation.
4. Spots treatment
The majority and minority: The two groups, again, agreed when it comes to spots treatment. They say that prescription oral acne medications, such as Accutane and Retin-A are dangerous during pregnancy and can cause birth defects. Okay, so they differ a little when it comes to topical acne creams that contain Retinoids, Salicylic Acid or Benzoyl Peroxide – which most of them do. The majority says that you should avoid using these products completely, while the minority says that products containing not more than 2% of these ingredients are safe to use.
My opinion: Erm… avoid? And use tea tree oil instead? I think it’s less irritating to the skin anyway than those commercial acne creams.
5. Facial and other cosmetic treatments
The majority and minority: The reason why I’m combining both views once more is because the only thing they differ on is (again) whether you should avoid products which contain Retinoids, Salicylic Acid or Benzoyl Peroxide completely or not (remember that some of the products your aesthetician used in the course of your facial treatment may contain these ingredients). Other than that, they agree that as long as you tell your aesthetician in advance that you’re pregnant, you can totally get a basic facial done during pregnancy. You should, however, avoid treatments which involve electric currents, such as chemical peels or light therapies. With regards to other cosmetic treatments (those that are more invasive, like, botox, etc), they say that it’s best to skip them when you’re pregnant.
My opinion: I have to agree with the above. I don’t see why you can’t get a basic facial done during pregnancy. I mean, you’re practically just deep cleansing your face – only done professionally. As long as you tell your aesthetician that you’re pregnant and you’re cautious over the products used, go on and indulge yourself with some relaxing facial.