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7 Super Unique Gifts for Creative Beauty Buffs

We fell hard for Natalie Alcala last fall, when the LA-based writer and blogger spent a week guest blogging for us. In fact, we loved her posts so much that we asked her to be a contributing editor. In addition to blogging for us once a week, she’ll also be writing for the Birchbox Magazine and keeping us up to speed on all things fashion, beauty, and fun.


(Photo: The Fancy)

We’ve been talking about it a lot lately, but only because it’s so true! Finding holiday gifts for your friends is always a stressful process. Do you go for the foolproof item on his or her wish list, or do you leave that up to their family and instead scour for out-of- the-box items that they didn’t even know existed? Oftentimes, I veer toward the latter, simply because it’s more fun. Thanks to the wondrous World Wide Web, there are a slew of sites that offer inventive giftables in a range of categories—including beauty. Here are some of my current favorites.

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The Perfect Smoky Eye in Four Steps

We love the look of the ombré sultry eye featured in this month’s stila in the light eye shadow palette sample, but our fear of the ending up with a sloppy version has kept us away. Thankfully, the always adventurous Ops Associate Noha jumped at the chance to put the palette to the test. She showed us that creating the perfect ombré eye is actually incredibly easy, and only took four simple steps. Here’s our guide to recreating the look at home:

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Japonesque Brush Set Touch Up Tube Silver: Gift of the Day

‘Tis the season, which can mean only one thing: You are in search of great holiday gifts. Well, look no further. Whether you’re stumped about what to get a co-worker, your dad, or your bestie, we have something for everyone on your list. Check back every day this month for a new dose of gift-giving inspiration — and get ready to deck your halls with much more than holly. 

Why This Makes A Great Gift: This is one of those convenient gifts that women always need but rarely buy for themselves. The five-brush set includes tools for touching up foundation, powder, lips, and eyes. Better yet, the sleek silver tube keeps the brushes neat and fits easily in a purse or makeup bag. Keep it on hand for midday and evening touchups and definitely pack this when traveling. 

Perfect For: Your friend or co-worker who carries her life with her in her oversize handbag. She won’t have to worry about being caught unprepared for touchups, but her years of losing makeup brushes at the bottom of her way-too-big bag are over. 

Price: $20, available at

For more great gift ideas, visit our Holiday Gift Guide.

Lemme Upgrade Ya (Part 1): You’ve Got Male

Change can be scary. I get that. I think many guys feel intimidated when it comes to overhauling their regular routine — and with good reason. When we have habits that we’ve lived with for years, the idea of a ‘makeover’ is terrifying. Too much change all at once! So, I have decided to take a step-by-step approach to upgrading and will be dedicating the next few weeks to offering small but impactful ways in which guys can step up their grooming game.

Step 1: The Nail Clipper

I have spoken about the importance of hand care here before and you need clippers, files, and scissors that are high enough in quality that they won’t damage your nail beds, cuticles, or skin. (Read: get rid of those inexpensive nail clippers from the drugstore!) Personally, I love the Japonesque Manicure Set. It contains all the tools you need for nail care and it will probably introduce you to some that you didn’t even know you needed. When it comes to quality, Japonesque leads the pack, so you’ll be in good hands (pun intended). Plus, the outer case is sleek and black and makes a classy addition to your medicine cabinet.

Dry hands are unhappy hands. Give them the moisture they deserve with Ahava’s Mineral Hand Cream.

Polished and Pretty: Guest Blogger

We’re always looking for good sartorial inspiration, which is why we regularly turn to PR exec Jaimen Sfetko’s Tumblr, Jaimen Lee. Documenting her own stellar (and quirky cool) style, Sfetko gives us a daily dose of outfit envy — and has us wishing she did costume changes throughout the day. Naturally, we’re curious about the savvy New Yorker’s product picks, too. This week, Sfetko is guest blogging about her beauty musts. Today:

Given the NYFW just ended, let’s take a moment to check out the smallest, and often most anticipated, detail on the runways: nails! While some season’s see a predominant trend or color among a majority of shows, this season proved to be a quirkier mixed bag. BCBG Max Azria, for example, was all about neutral pinks; Erickson Beamon's show featured a different bright shade on each nail, and Nicole Miller mastered the checkerboard nails in rich blue and hot pink shades. Inspired by all the cool looks for spring 2012, I’ve rounded up three easy things you can do to your nails to be on trend:

1. Press and Go: I’m not talking about the first pair of fake nails you purchased at age six only to find out that they wouldn’t stay on for more than an hour. These Incoco Nail Polish Appliques are strips of actual polish that come dry to the touch and are easily pressed onto your nails. Not only do they last for two weeks, but they come pre-shaped so you can easily achieve a smooth manicure. I love their variety of neutrals for everyday and the leopard print is pretty amazing, too!
2. The Nothing Nail: If you’re like me, you have polish on every single day. Every once and a while, you should give your nails a nice vacation filled with sun and fresh air — it’s good for them.  When I do go sans polish, I always make sure to clean up my cuticles and give them a nice buff so they actually look decent. I love this travel manicure set from Japonesque as it’s easy to throw in a bag and fix hang nails as soon as they appear.
3. Greens and Golds: I’m a big red, pink, and off-white kind of girl, but I love experimenting with fun shades. Right now, I’m really into greens and golds. Zoya’s polishes are really long-wearing and their soft green shade, Gemma, and shimmery metallic, Jules, are my current favorites. 

What are your favorite nail trends right now? 

Never forget the importance of a good base and top coat!

Guest Blogger: A Totally Easy Summer Look

A style force to be reckoned with, Sara Zucker is well known for providing daily outfit inspiration and scoping out incredible finds via her Tumblr, Farpitzs (which is the Yiddish word for ‘all dressed up,’ just in case you were curious). As if being one of the most popular fashion voices in the blogosphere wasn’t time consuming enough, the well-heeled trendsetter also happens to be Glamour Magazine's community manager. Lucky for us, she was able to make some time in her busy schedule to guest blog for us this week. Check back daily as Zucker shares everything from her favorite fall trends to what's in her cosmetics bag.


1. Amika Obliphica Curl Defining Cream, $24,; 2. Jouer Luminizing Moisture Tint, $30,; 3. Japonesque Tweezers, $20,; 4. Lipstick Queen Medieval Tinted Lipstick Treatment, $20,

With the summer heat at its highest in decades, Manhattanites such as myself (and the Birchbox team!) are clinging to tried-and-true ways to stay sweat-free. It’s a lofty goal, I’ll admit. But after seeing the image of the girl above, I was inspired to come up with a new hassle-free warm weather beauty look. Generally speaking, when temperatures soar, I strive to keep my makeup to a minimum, sticking to only a light tinted moisturizer and a bold lipstick. Of course, well-groomed brows are a must when you don’t have much else going on. And I also tend to use just one product on my hair when it’s hot to keep the curls bouncy and to prevent buildup, which can lead to a greasy mane.

For more great summer products, check out the Birchbox Shop.

College Girl: Don’t Be Bad To Your Brows

This summer, Birchbox’s content team is extremely lucky to have awesome intern Shana in the office. She’s a student at Syracuse University (the smarty pants is a dual major in magazine journalism and psychology) and she’ll be helping with researching, writing, product testing and, of course, blogging. In addition to daily beauty news posts, she’ll be writing a weekly column called College Girl.

Scene: That bubble we live in, also know as college.

Crime: Beauty on the run.

Victim: Your eyebrows.

Witnesses: All of your friends and professors that have started to confuse you with the Grinch.

Solution: Luckily, there is one! At college, it’s hard to access the things we take for granted while at home, like your rockstar eyebrow girl plucks your brows to perfection. But don’t fret — there are plenty of ways to maintain unruly hairs on your own. First, you need the ultimate pair of tweezers, like these cute ones from Japonesque, as well asa mirror and good lighting. My strategy is to go and get my brows done once by a pro (the ladies of Birchbox are newly excited about Browhaus here in NYC) just to make sure I start with the right shape. Then I just consistently pluck stray hairs as they pop up.

Rachel, our brand marketing and merchandising manager (and chic office comedian), convinced me that everybody benefits from a good eyebrow pencil. I was hesitant at first, but the moment Rachel filled in one of my brows and left the other bare (she got distracted), I truly saw a major difference. Watch Rachel’s amazing how-to video for using our favorite tool, ybf beauty’s Automatic Universal Taupe Eyebrow Pencil. Lastly, for quick touch ups when I don’t have time to fill in my brows, I brush hairs lightly into place with a brow gel. Voilà, your Frida Kahlo days are a thing of the the past. 


Showcase your tamed brows with pretty shadow from our Birchbox Shop.

Packing List: Bermuda

Bermuda is one of my favorite places in the whole world. Just an hour and a half flight from New York City, it’s my perfect summer getaway. I can’t wait to be on the soft pink sand beaches for the next couple of days hanging out with friends (and always under an umbrella, of course—that’s me below!). Here are a couple of the essentials I’m taking along with me, now I just need the weather to cooperate. Fingers crossed for nothing but sunshine.

Victoria’s Secret Daisy Triangle Top and Adjustable Hipster Bottom: Somehow every year I always manage to loose either a top or a bottom of a swimsuit, so I buy one new one every summer. This bikini is my latest purchase; I love the color and the adjustable bottoms.

Japonesque Tweezers: I never travel without tweezers. For years and years I was a Tweezerman devotee, but since discovering Japonesque, I have a new favorite.

Havaianas Slim Sandals: I first discovered this Brazilian flip-flop brand while living in Argentina in 2003 and have been addicted ever since. In the summer, I usually walk to work in them (I currently have about five different pairs to choose from) and they are a must for Bermuda beach-going.

Lipstick Queen Chinatown Glossy Pencil in Crime: In the winter, I love deep red berry-stained lip colors, but for summer, I am all about brights. As we proved last week, this hue is perfect for anyone and I think there is nothing more appropriate than rocking a bright pink pout when you’re somewhere tropical.

Ray-Ban Aviators: Many sunglasses styles come and go, but these are a classic.

RMS Beauty Living Luminizer: I love the healthy, dewy skin look so I always keep my eyes peeled for products to help give me that radiant glow. With this Luminizer, it was love at first sightI just swipe it on top of my cheekbones and instantly look more fresh-faced.

Kiehl’s Super Fluid UV Defense SPF 50+: I am a true nut about sun. I am as pale as can be, so I prefer to spray tan and load up on the SPF when going outdoors. This ultra-lightweight and fast-absorbing sunblock is the perfect addition to my daily regimen; I put it on my face, décolleté, and the tops of my hands before doing anything else in the morning and I definitely wouldn’t leave home without it.


To help me organize all my belongings, I’ll be packing my makeup in our chic new travel pouches. Just spend $50 in our Shop, use the code ‘birchboxtravels’ at checkout, and it will be yours!

These Tweezers Are Here To Stay

The perfect cure for the tweezing blues: the tweezing pinks! Not to mention, combining giraffe print with pink improves everything by about a thousand percent. Last month you could get these adorable brow-shaping, stray hair-plucking gems from Japonesque with your purchase, but we love them so much that we’re now selling them in our Birchbox Shop.

If you received them as a gift with your previous purchase then you surely fell in love. Now you can invest a second pair for your on-the-go needs, or gift them to your mom and girlfriends! Or if you missed out the first time, you’ve got another chance! Trust me, these tweezers truly are an investment—if they ever get dull, Japonesque will restore their original sharpness for free.

Tweezer-shy? Read up on our Eyebrow Beauty Quick Fix and get a sneak peek into the tool kit of a brow genius, and soon you’ll be the plucking expert.


PS - snag our new gift with purchase, a Birchbox Travel Pouch, by spending $50 in the Birchbox Shop!

Spend $75, Score Top-Notch Tweezers!

There are plenty of things that we’re exceptionally picky about (we define the term, ‘tough customer’) and tweezers are definitely one of them. All too often we’ve gone to the drugstore and bypassed the Tweezerman section in order to save, just to be disappointed that our newest purchase doesn’t grab the super-fine hairs or takes several tries to remove stubborn stubble. So it was somewhat skeptically that we tried Japonesque’s pretty extractors and wow, were we impressed. These pink giraffe-print pincers are exceptional at plucking even the teeny tiniest of hairs.

Want a pair of your own? Just spend $75 on full-size products in our Shop (subscriptions don’t count) and use the code ‘pinktweezers’ at checkout. This promotion is only available while supplies last, so act fast and score a pair now!

(Note: Only one pair per customer and this offer can’t be combined with any other discounts or promotions. Additionally, the tweezers will not appear in your cart, but you will receive them with your order.)