Korean skincare company AmorePacific has long been an insider fave for their ultra-luxe creams and serums that combine science and tradition. This month’s Birchbox Crush, Kim Phan, swears their Time Response Skin Renewal Cream works miracles on travel-wrecked skin. Now AmorePacific has brought their sister line, Sulwhasoo, to the United States.
If AmorePacific is the rigidly chic older sister, all tailored black dresses and Louboutins, then Sulwhasoo is the hippie gorgeous younger sister who teaches yoga and designs her own organic cotton fashions. The company’s skincare philosophy is that there are yin and yang ingredients and for effective products, you have to balance both types. All their products are made from traditional Asian herbs and ingredients, such as Korean red ginseng, white lily, and Chinese lotus.
Don’t let the herbal ingredients fool you — the serums and signature cream are just as pricey as the fanciest European tincture. But the products we’ve loved, namely the Cleansing Oil that breaks up makeup and leaves skin soft and the peel-off Skin Clarifying Mask, pack a huge punch for the price. Here’s hoping they bring their famed facials to NY soon!
Need some extra incentive to sign up? Curious about what you’re missing? Or are you a member just looking to relive the glory of your September Birchbox Discovery Moment? Look no further than our Birchbox.com shop, where you see the September box samples and stock up on full-size versions. October’s treats are just around the corner!
I know I’m only supposed to wash my hair every other day. Every hair stylist I’ve gone to (not to mention Katia, Hayley, and Thanh) lecture me on the values of letting your hair generate its natural oils in between shampoos. But I just can’t get on board with it - that is, unless I’m at the beach, in which case I’m happy to be a salt-crusted mermaid for days on end.
Despite my daily wash addiction, I love the look of second-day hair: piecey, slightly textured, and smooth. During my last hair cut, my fab stylist told me how I can get the dirty hair look without skipping suds: Jonathan’s Dirt Texturizing Paste, a water-based product that you can work through damp or dry hair to give it that slightly lived in feel. Perfect for that messy updo that I’ve been meaning to try…
Yesterday, Hayley received a little surprise in the mail. It was a Birchbox from our beta trial, postmarked March 26, 2010. It only took six months for it to leave Cambridge, not find its intended recipient, and return itself to Manhattan. (Don’t worry - we sent the poor Birchbox member a new box back in March!) Despite being a very (very) young company it was fun to compare our early efforts with our latest product - and we’re sure there will be many iterations to come!
Some people remember playing with their grandmother’s cold cream or spritzing their mother’s Chanel No. 5. But my earliest product memories are of tingly peppermint Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap. We always packed an economy-sized bottle of the Dr. Bronner’s when we went on overnight sailing trips or vacations because it was the ultimate do-it-all: shampoo, body wash, hand sudser, and more.
Recently, I discovered what might be my new vacation staple: Davine’s Authentic Cleansing Nectar. Unlike Dr. Bronner’s, which, truth be told, could be a little harsh, this wash has essential oils to moisturize. It left my hair slippery and shiny, and has a fresh, unisex scent. And, since it’s a two-in-one, it qualifies as a practical - definitely a win-win purchase.
Fashion’s Night Out is just an excuse to do two of our favorite things: drink delicious cocktails and look (buy) at pretty fashions. In honor of this year’s festivities, we threw a happy hour party in Bobo’s magical garden. Chef Patrick Connolly, a longtime FBB (Friend of Birchbox), created a menu of delicious snacks (mini mangalista ham and pickle sandwiches, oatmeal ice cream sandwiches) as well as our own special cocktail. We (ahem, I) requested nothing fruity or pink and Patrick came through with a boozy, sophisticated drink. Cheers!
.5 oz combier
.5 oz aperol
.25 oz lemon
1 oz gin
Shake, top w prosecco, serve in coupe with lemon wheel
8,000 feet of elevation is no joke. Obvi, but true. I was in Colorado this weekend for a wedding and in addition to wheezing up every set of stairs, I also got a serious case of high-altitude skin. Desiccated, flaky, wind-burned, and sensitive — not so pretty. Luckily, I had the chance to visit the lovely Allegria Spa at the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek, where I landed in the exceedingly capable hands of esthetician Victoria Mastrogiovanni. Not only did the 11-year spa veteran revive my skin with a mix of SkinCeuticals and Epicuren hydrating products, she also gave me her high-altitude skincare secrets.
Brush, don’t scrub: Instead of sloughing away dry skin, Mastrogiovanni uses a Clarisonic face brush to cleanse every other evening. She says it’s much better at removing makeup and keeps skin fresh.
Layer on the moisture: Don’t just slather on the thickest cream you can find. Mastrogiovanni says it’s more effective to apply layers of hydration, even though “it’s annoying because it’s more steps.” Our go-to choice? Caldrea’s nourishing body lotion.The lightweight formula comes in three signature scents, while plant-based botanical increase elasticity and hydration.
Invest in a superhero gel: Hyaluronic gels boost your skincare products and helps the moisture bind with cells instead of sitting right on top of the skin.
This past weekend Hayley and Katia presented at New York City Startup Weekend. The event assembles budding entrepreneurs in one space and gives them the resources (and deadline) to come up with an idea for a company, flesh it out, and make it happen - all over the course of one weekend.
Birchbox teamed up with Market Publique, an innovative online marketplace for vintage clothing, for a presentation on Saturday. Hayley says, “It was the perfect pairing because of the similarities between the two companies: emphasis on design, curation and editing, plus the fact we both built products we would use ourselves.”
In addition to the presentation, there was a Q&A where it was clear that the male audience members wanted their own Birchboxes (Manboxes?). One techie even stopped Hayley and Katia in the stairway to get skincare advice. (If you’re curious boys, we especially love Peter Thomas Roth, Anthony Logistics, and Malin & Goetz.)
It was an exciting and inspiring experience. Katia walked away feeling like she had actually learned from the audience members’ questions: “It is always great to hear the questions, even when you think you know the answers- helps put things in perspective.”
Let’s start with the bottle, shall we? Marc Jacobs Lola comes in a shapely vial that is topped by a twist of gold a riot of emerald, cobalt, violet, and red petals. It’s excellent decoration for your vanity, and nearly as lovely as the scent itself. As with Marc Jacobs’s previous scents, Lola is both playful and sophisticated. Here’s a fruity floral that knows it’s sweet but has enough wit to cut that sweetness with layers of rich musk and spicy pepper. The result? A cheerful, sophisticated scent that I can – and will – wear year-round. Coupled with that stunner of a bottle, I’m smitten.
I owe Katia an apology. When we received Deborah Lippman’s sparkletastic nail lacquers in the office I took one look at the glitter party and shook my head. Uh uh. Too many bad memories of ill-conceived 7th grade manicures. But this morning, “Bad Romance” (a Lady Gag inspired aubergine with thick flakes of fuchsia) caught the corner of my eye. I idly opened the bottle and applied a coat to my thumb. And another coat. I was hooked. The color looks like a deep dark purple from afar; it’s only when you look closely that you see the tiny pink sparkles. It’s a nice update on the ubiquitous dark fall nail and, well, I’m in love. As for Katia, she happily put on two coats of the silvery “Today Was a Fairytale” and couldn’t stop waving her shimmery nails at us. Touché.
We know our friends and relatives think Birchbox is awesome (Hi Mom!) but it’s nice to know that the greater public thinks so too. We’ve had some great press this week, which we hope will only continue as we launch full-scale. We hear it’s gauche to brag so we’ll leave things at this…
In honor of Fashion’s Night Out, Brooklyn artist Andrew Yang created these limited edition rag dolls of Anna Wintour and Grace Coddington for Barney’s. The sweetly old-fashioned dolls have a wide-eyed Coraline aesthetic but a tailored uptown polish. Anna Wintour is infinitely more appealing in rag doll form - perhaps because Yang left off her trademark withering stare. As for Grace, she’s just as wonderful as she was when she stole the show in the September Issue. The dolls will be auctioned off for charity, the New York City AIDS Fund, starting today.
If there was a theme to this weekend’s Montauk getaway, it was SPF. (With biking and ice cream running a close second and third.) Friends had rented a big house, complete with kitschy nautical paraphernalia, just steps from the beach, and we hunkered down with plenty of books and board games. Makeup was forbidden but that doesn’t mean we came beauty empty-handed. Essentials:
Kate Somerville SPF 30: Celeb favorite Kate Somerville knows how to create lovely feeling products that really work. This lotion is fairly thick but rubs in easily, smells great, and keeps my face burn-free.
1. We almost have a website. The folks at Copious have been working their tushes off on a new & improved Birchbox.com. In the process, we’ve been learning all about what goes in to creating a website. It’s not quite sausage but there are fun words that fly around: cookies, crumbs, and the like. Get excited - we are.
2. We have videos! We spent an action-packed day shooting hair and makeup how-tos with the fab Nam Vo and Jeff Chastain. Lots of Team Birchbox cameos in this one - we’ll be looking for volunteer models the next go around!
3. We have boxes. And stuff to put in them. Everything is currently safe in a warehouse in NJ, patiently awaiting time when it’ll get put in the mail and whisked to Birchbox members across the country.
4. We have press! Marie Claire, InStyle, and NY Mag gave us shout outs this week. We hope it’s only the start.
My friend Kim, the fabulously talented designer behind the Yumi Kim clothing line, is always perfectly pulled together. I’ve never seen her without immaculate eyeliner and blush, even on days when she’s dashing between showrooms, fabric shops, and the office. And so, when she has a beauty tip, I grab it and run. Her latest obsession is The Face Shop, a Korean beauty brand with a few US outposts.
I took a trip to the Korea Town shop yesterday and spent an hour exploring the shimmery shadows (everything is sparkly), high-quality moisturizers and, best of all, the huge selection of face sheets. Face sheets, an Asian phenomenon, are one-time use masks. Each sheet is designed to fit over your face and soaked in a specialized elixir - there are clarifying ones, anti-aging ones, brightening ones, and more. At $2-$6, they’re a weekly facial that I can afford.
Weeks ago, when it was too hot to even contemplate cold weather clothes, my most fashionable friend was already raving about J.Crew’s fall collection. The brand’s creative director, Jenna Lyons, has a loyal (nay, obsessive) fan club that covets her girly but chic mashups. The fall collection has Lyon’s trademark soft meets hard, tailored meets sparkly aesthetic but what we really - and I mean really - love is the hot pink lipstick that the models are wearing. The color is NARS “Funny Face” and it may be the most perfect, wearable fuchsia out there. It’s slightly matte so you won’t look like Grandma Edna, and and gives you fun pop of color, even if its the only makeup you wear.
Cake Liner Press Wiggle. That’s what Katia calls her favorite eyeliner application technique. I simply call it genius. You’ll need a flat, stiff brush and dry cake liner (Katia has a super special one from India but I like Laura Mercier). Dampen the brush with a little water and swipe it through the liner to pick up color. Now comes the exciting part: lifting up your top eyelid, carefully press and gently wiggle the brush along the inside lashline to place the color. Yes, you’re putting the color on the inside of the lid (as long as you use a clean brush and don’t paint your eye, this is perfectly safe). This darkens the lashline and adds definition without looking made up; plus I find that it lasts longer than regular liner.
During our shoot this week, Jeff Chastain demystified back combing for us (video to come). The technique is so easy (and the results so cute) that we were all inspired us all to buy teasing brushes. Available for less than $10, this boar bristle brush is the key to successfully backcombing hair for buxom ponytails and buns. Jeff says it’s possible to tease with regular fine-tooth combs but you won’t be able to smooth over the top (read: you’ll look raggedy). Best to get thee to Ricky’s and pick up one of these cheap-o gems.
Voiceover magic! Ben Spell and our improvised soundbooth
You may have noticed that our videos are of a much (much) higher quality than the average scrappy startup. The reason? Katia’s husband Greg and his company, Red Productions, have been bending over backward to help us. They’re the rock stars behind our snappy Master Highlighter video and sexy animation.
Yesterday, we had an all-day shoot with Greg, Eric Ryan Anderson, and Ben Spell at our friend Jeff Chastain’s gorgeous Union Square salon. In addition to Jeff, we enlisted makeup artist Nam Vo to star in our short videos - they’re both naturals! The day started at 8am with Birdbath cookies and we went nearly nonstop from there. There were a few improvisations along the way: we jerry-rigged a sound booth with a closet, a yoga mat, and a strategically placed mike; and when we needed an extra model we snagged one of Jeff’s stylists. But by the time we wrapped, with beers at Rye House, we had shot not one, not two, but seven videos. Can’t wait to see the final product.
Last week, Thanh and I went to Union Square to meet with hair stylist Jeff Chastain, who is being kind enough to lend us his gorgeous penthouse salon for a video shoot. While we were waiting, we did what any self-respecting beauty peeps would do: headed to Sephora for market research. I hadn’t been in the beauty mega-store for awhile and had forgotten how intimidating it can be. I saw a wide-eyed girl being given the hard sell on the Temptu airbrush foundation (a devilishly tricky product), and another poor NYU student standing in front of the Givenchy display, looking baffled by the medieval club-like wand of the PhenomEyes mascara. I wanted to take her by the hand and help her, but in New York that tends to freak people out. And so, Thanh and I wandered around the store on our own, happily playing with products - I finally tested out Amazing concealer I have been hearing so much about (really thick, but goes on smoothly), and Thanh found the perfect Givenchy red. We decided to wait to buy, though, unlike the girls being shepherded to the registers with overflowing baskets. And, as we were leaving, I noticed that Sephora is selling samples of some of its best products for… $10.
My friend Julia (she of the Chanel red lips) is Castor & Pollux’s latest fashion muse. And she’s a worthy one: the girl mixes vintage and indie designers with ease, throwing in little tailored equestrian prep for fun. She’s also a lipstick expert - not a week goes by without her telling me about her latest crimson or fuchsia find.
I’m getting over a cold and have to look picture-ready this weekend. Any tips for hiding red and splotchy?
Colds are such a nuisance. Not only are you sneezy and snuffly, but your skin gets majorly irritated and flaky. We have just the thing for you. We’ve been testing Dermalogica’s latest line of results-oriented skincare products, UltraCalming. The five product collection is geared toward calming irritated, inflamed sensitive skin. As always, the products are no-nonsense (no fancy packaging or scents) and effective. The UltraCalming cleanser is a thick, non-sudsing gel that doesn’t leave a tight, dry feeling and the UltraCalming serum feels light but is a good way to keep skin extra hydrated. You can try the whole line with their special Treatment Kit, with minis (and you know how we feel about minis) of each of the products - at $40, it’s a great deal. Once your skin is under control, try Stila’s new One-Step Correct to counteract redness before you apply the rest of your makeup. And when all else fails, highlight highlight highlight. Peachy shimmer cures all.
I’m not usually one to go all spendy on bath products but I can’t resist Molton Brown. The UK company creates delicious scents with equally delicious brit-fab names (Blissful Templetree, anyone?). For years, my favorite has been the Re-Charge Black Pepper, their bestselling men’s scent that has a cult following among women too. It’s wonderfully spicy and clean without being masculine. Now, Molton Brown has finally created a feminine follow-up, the new Paradisiac Pink Pepperpod. Tongue-twisting properties aside, it’s an instant charmer, warm and delicate without being too sweet. The Pink Pepperpod bath gel, bath milk, and lotion all hit counters in Sept - start making space on your shelf for this new classic.
AquaFresh Look, Modern Tech: Stila's One-Step Correct
remind you of this
Maybe it’s just me. But I digress. Stila is known for fun, innovative products — witness the mindblowing Custom Color Blush. (Do they just have a cadre of mad beauty scientists running quirky experiments around the clock?) Their latest, One-Step Correct, is a multitasking primer that uses classic color theory to address three skin woes: green neutralizes redness, lavender perks up dullness, and peach adds overall brightness. It slides on easily and dries matte, which is great in this sticky weather. Even under tinted moisturizer and translucent powder, my skin feels clean and my makeup lasts longer. Magic!
Counter-intuitive beauty truth: licking your lips makes them dry out. As someone with chronic parched lips, I am always on the lookout for a good lip balm. Criteria: non-sticky, lasting without being gummy, and low-grade shiny. My hall-of-fame includes Fresh’s Sugar Lip Treatment, Rosebud Salve, and good old-fashioned Chapstick. Lately, I’m adding a new balm to the rotation: Joeur’s Lip Enhancer. I started using it after Jenn Falik, my beauty guru, told me she was obsessed with it. (I trust Jenn in all matters beauty and style.) As always, she was right: the lip enhancer (which is really just an amped-up lip balm, loaded with Vitamin E, Jojoba Oil, and Shea) is super moisturizing and lasts me through my morning coffee. Look ma, no cracked lips!
With our new website still under construction, we’ve slowly started to roll out membership invitations. And the response has been amazing! So much so that we’re starting to get pretty nervous about promising to do a pushup for every new customer … we’re going to get pretty buff. And tired.
What appears on the runway or a magazine spread is typically light-years from what you’d see in real life (though in New York you see some pretty ballsy outfits). But there’s nothing stopping you from using high fashion as inspiration for everyday looks. Case in point: Katia loved this ultraglam look (makeup by our fave artist, Nam Vo):
She immediately created her own version of the knotty ‘do (blurry photo is my fault):
Here’s a question for you: I’m thinking of getting my eyebrows tinted. Crazy idea? Where should I do it?
Wide-Eyed in Manhattan
Dear Wide-Eyed in Manhattan,
Eyebrow tinting is a fairly tricky thing and can be dangerous if not done properly. First things first, it should never - never - be done at home. If you’re going to dabble in lightening or darkening brows, always go to a salon where the specialize in the service. Julie Tussey, at New York’s Warren Tricomi salon, is one of the city’s top brow gurus. She is a huge fan of brow tinting as long as it’s done properly. “The tints are safe,” she says. “It’s a product that is created specifically for usage on brows and it doesn’t get anywhere near the eyes.” It’s also not just glopped onto the brow. Tussey paints on the color systematically, using different amounts depending on what kind of effect she wants. “I can tweak the color to really match the hair and then I apply the tints to different parts of the brow so I can get a nice shape.” In between appointments, Tussey recommends using a colored eyebrow gel to maintain the color, like Laura Mercier’s brow definer, which comes in a pot, or Anastasia’s Tinted Brow Gel, which comes in five shades. Good luck and tint happy!
This morning got off to a rocky start (rain, wrong subway, humidity) but immediately improved when I met a friend for coffee in her leafy Fort Greene nabe. I felt limp and wilted in the heat but she looked bright-eyed and glowy - even though she wasn’t wearing any makeup, not even tinted moisturizer or mascara. The key? A bright swipe of radish-hued lipstick. With a completely done face the color (Chanel Rouge Coco’s Paris #22) might have seemed older and more serious, but here, with a bareface, it was just right - modern and fresh.
Bridezilla? Pshaw. Our lovely Katia was lowkey and low-maintenance on her wedding day, doing her makeup on her own and pinning her hair up with the help of a local stylist. (As far as wedding hair, we agree with fab Joanna Goddard - easy breezy is best.) How’d she achieve her blushing bride look?
Before leaving for Greece, Katia had a on-one-on lesson with Lauren Genatossio, owner of Boston’s Sarra beauty studio. After a primer on perfect brows (see the video here), Genatossio showed her how to create a flawless face.
"Everything has three steps," Katia says. "Primer, wet makeup, dry makeup." For her face, she started with Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer, then mixed a full coverage foundation with her Dior HydrAction tinted moisturizer. Her favorite new makeup technique is the “press-wiggle” (we’ll get a live-action demo and report back) using a makeup sponge (“so 90s, so good”). According to Genatossio, when you use this method the foundation becomes a part of your skin instead of laying on top of it. After foundation, she applied Bobbi Brown Touch Up stick concealer using a thin, precise brush to blemishes and the dark spots at the corners of her eyes. The final step was an eye primer over the entire lid.
How to Prolong a Haircut (Or: Lazy Girl Tress Tricks)
All of a sudden, my hair is way too long. It’s not creepy Rapunzel long, but it’s long. It’s been at least two and a half months since my last cut - a major tress sin, I know - but I haven’t had time to get to see my favorite guy at Bumble & Bumble. Therefore, I have developed a few strategies for avoiding raggedy head look:
Leave-in conditioner: It’s key for dealing with snarls and keeps the ends from looking dry. Lately I’ve been loving Phyto’s Phytomist, which is technically for color-treated hair but seems to work perfectly on mine. It has a fresh scent (yeah, you’ll end up sniffing your hair) and adds shine. On days when I’m going to be outside for a long period of time (like this past Saturday, when I escaped the city heat on my friend’s boat), I love Fekkai’s Beachcomber. It’s slightly heavier, so better to deal with sun, sweat, and salt.
Good old bobby pins: Katia is the expert in this department, but I’ve been experimenting with all sorts of pinning — braided bangs, twisted side part. Keeps my hair out of my eyes.
Grade-school style: There’s a reason why braids and ponytails were the height of style when we were kids - anyone can master them. Adultify them by mussing them up a bit (low, messy braid), amping them up a bit (the teased ponytail), or combining them (braided bun). Next, I’m going to try sleeping in braids for an old-school crimped look. We shall see.
Then again, I could also get a haircut. Any suggestions for what I should do?
I love hanging out with makeup professionals because they always clue you into the coolest products and techniques. The other day I met Sarah Lucero, Stila’s awesome in-house makeup artist, to talk about the line’s upcoming launches. They’ve got plenty to brag about (more on that later), but what really blew my mind was their new Custom Color blush. It’s the color of a chalky Pepto Bismol, which only sounds appealing if you’ve got a wicked stomachache. But wait - the blush actually senses the skin’s pH and adjusts it color to match your skintone. Implausible-sounding, till you try it. On me it was a peachy flush, on Hayley more of a cool pink, and on a porcelain-skinned friend at last night’s outdoor movie, a pale rose. Now how’s that for an awesome party trick?
One thing you’ll start to notice if you pay enough attention to us (and we hope you will) is that we all have our quirks. Mollie is always talking about food, Hayley likes blingy jewelry and sneakers (together), and Thanh has a soft spot for spoiled cats. As for Katia, among other things, her highest form of praise is to deem something “magical.” Her Dior tinted moisturizer? Magical. Momofuku Noodle Bar ramen? Magical. Her new Birchbox team? Magical. (Ok, I made that up but I’m sure she’d agree.) So I couldn’t help but think of her when I saw this on Fuck Yeah, Packaging’s awesome design porn blog:
pack⋅ag⋅ing /ˈpækədʒɪŋ/ [pak-uh-jing] 1. Packaging is the science, art and technology of enclosing or protecting products for distribution, storage, sale, and use. Packaging also refers to the process of design, evaluation, and production of packages. 2. Magical.
A beauty-savvy friend recently sent me an urgent string of missives praising her latest obsession: Tarte Aqua-Gel Eyeliner. Here’s how it went down:
Email 1 (Initial discovery): "The old Tarte eyeliner was gone after about 30 minutes, but this new gel stuff stays for hours. And I love the cooling feeling as you apply!"
Email 2 (Additional selling point): “Also, yay! Fun colors! the only other natural eye liner I found that stayed was the Dr. Haushka liquid eyeliner, but it only came in boring colors, brown and black. Finally, a natural liner that comes in pretty colors! I bought brown and purple.
Email 3 (On application): “It’s more like a pen, actually. You can’t press too hard - treat it more like a liquid liner. But it stays forever!”
If that’s not a great pitch, I don’t know what is. Keep the tips coming!