Saturday, September 26, 2015

Birchbox for Selfridge's London 2015 Review

Stop III of my "Birchbox Around the World" tour was Selfridge's Department Store in London. Last but not least, as this was my favorite Birchbox of the three! 

Here's the basic information:

Where: Selfridge's Department Store - Flagship at 400 Oxford Street, The Beauty Workshop at the back of the Ground Level Floor

When: August 28th, 2015 until September 27th, 2015

Cost£15 including tax (about $23) for 6 deluxe samples

Can't make it to Selfridge's by tomorrow? No worries, there is a limited edition Birchbox available on the Selfridge's website. It was just introduced on September 10th, so it should be around a little longer.

A typical Birchbox in the UK runs £12.95/month (about $20) which is about double what it costs in the USA. The difference is that each month Birchbox UK subscribers receive all deluxe size samples presented in a cloth pouch. I think the UK customer demands the larger sample size because there is a long history of getting beauty samples for free with magazines like Harper's Bazaar or Elle in the UK, when you purchase them from a newsstand - sometimes even full sized products! 

Again, I only heard about the Birchbox pop-up at Selfridge's from Birchbox Co-Founder Hayley Barna's speech at the World Retail Congress in Rome. Otherwise, I never would have known about it, despite my frequent trips to the UK and extensive knowledge of British beauty products.

The set-up was pretty much the same as that at the Build Your Own Birchbox station at the Soho NYC store and at Le Bon Marche in Paris. In this case, you go around and select 6 samples:, one skincare, one body care, one haircare, one beauty treat, and two makeup items. Because the Selfridge's staff tie up the pouch for you and check off the items, it did not seem like you could change the rules and select two samples in any category other than make-up. This was kind of unfortunate because I was much more excited about all the other categories, especially skincare and body care.

The first make-up sample I selected was this Stila Lip Glaze in "Glitter EF" because it looked nearly full-sized. This was .05 fl oz and a full-size retails at $22 for .08 fl oz. Not too exciting for me, as I've owned this in the past and Stila is an American brand. However, there were no British brands in this category aside from the Eyeko eyeshadow which was a rusty copper color I swatched on my hand and didn't like.

My second choice in the make-up section was this Wild About Beauty lip balm. There were three colors to choose from and I picked Rosaria because it had the highest concentration of pigment. I mainly picked this sample because the brand was new to me and is Italian rather than American, so I thought it might not be as easy to find at home. Admittedly, I was initially tempted by the Benefit Air Patrol BB Cream Eyelid Primer but the sample was very small and I figured I met get it sometime through my Birchbox USA subscription.

The skincare category was actually my first tough decision. I own a number of Caudalie products and really love them, but I didn't necessarily need another makeup removing product (especially since I own and love their Make-up Remover Cleansing Water).  When I swatched it on my hand, it also came out quickly and felt pretty greasy. I was really tempted by the Sarah Chapman Skinesis 3D Moisture Infusion Mask because I've been trying out a lot of masks lately and this looked like a British brand that hasn't yet made it to the US. Ultimately, I went for the Caudalie product because I know the brand is good quality and the bottle would last me a long time rather than a one time use mask. It seemed a shame though to go for the French product and not the British one! I wish I could have taken home both or purchased a Sarah Chapman mask separately. 

I saw that earlier in the summer this category and the body care one included another one of my favorite French brands, Nuxe. Unfortunately during my visit the options had changed and there were no Nuxe products in any of the categories.

I was beyond thrilled to see Cowshed included in the options! If you're not familiar, Cowshed is the spa owned by Soho House. I love how their products all smell bit spicy and are pretty gender-neutral. The liquid hand soaps and lotions used to be in all of the Premium Economy bathrooms on Virgin Atlantic flights, but I noticed the last couple of times that they aren't's just the standard issue VA soap now.

That's a shame because I first fell in love with the product during one of my flights. I really like the Cow Pat scent which reminds me a bit of anise seed and cracked pepper. It's been sold out on the Birchbox US website for a while now and is typically quite expensive. I did get my hands on one of the travel sized lotions in Cow Pat for about  £6 (approximately $9) at the Cowshed shop in London during GQ Style Night (Fashion's Night Out) on Carnaby Street, which offered a 20% discount. That travel size lotion is 50ml/1.69 fl oz, but this deluxe sample is actually 100ml/3.38 fl oz. So, needless to say, it has very significant value! I like the Gorgeous Cow scent too. It has floral notes and is a bit more feminine than Cow Pat...but still a little bit spicy!

Again, this was a tough choice because Dutch brand Rituals was also included in this category and I adore them too. This time it was the Honey Touch Body Cream, but I saw that earlier in the summer they had one of the foaming body washes. Ultimately, I had to go with the Cowshed product because it's British, quite valuable, and not as easy to find as Rituals (Rituals has a store in NYC on my subway line). I also have quite a few Rituals products already, as I stocked up at their shop on my last stopover in Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport.

The haircare category was not especially exciting, as there were no British brands on offer. I think I saw Phillip Kingsley products were on offer earlier this summer and I've never tried that British brand, so I would have picked them if they'd been on offer. Given my options, I picked the Macadamia Professional Moisture Shampoo because it was a large sample and I've used their moisturizing hair mask several times before and really liked it. It's definitely a good brand for very dry, color-treated hair. Also, this product is almost always at TJ Maxx. So if you end up liking it, it can actually be quite affordable.

The beauty treat category was a fun and creative one. There were only four options though and two of them were basically the same (two versions of a This Works Pillow Spray in varying intensities). I'm not quite sure what the difference is between the two but I really like the idea of the product and since I'm not a great sleeper, assumed the "sleep plus" option was the right one for me.  I was a bit torn between that and the Birchbox key ring. It's the same one that I've seen a lot of US subscribers get a promo code for after they've subscribed to Birchbox for one year and I've been a subscriber for more than one year but never received it. It is a cute pink leather tassel, but honestly I wasn't really sure how much I would use it. The other option was a whitening toothpaste which was very practical but maybe less fun than the others. Ultimately, I decided on the "deep sleep" pillow spray. It is a British brand and has a lovely lavender scent.  If this product really works, I would definitely buy it!

Like the box at Le Bon Marche, this one also included a discount code for new subscribers. Since it's a pretty obvious promo code (SELFRIDGES), I'm going to go ahead and share it! It's good for £5 off your first Birchbox UK box, which makes it a total of £7.95. It needs to ship to a UK address, so this offer is only good for my UK based readers I'm afraid...although it would make a nice care package for any friends you have who are studying abroad in the UK too! From everything I've seen about Birchbox UK, I like the offer more than Birchbox US. I wish we could get them over here!

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