I apologize it’s taken so long to get to writing up all the goodies Birchbox have been sending me. Real life has unfortunately gotten in the way of taking time out of my (increasingly) busy days to write jokes on the internet. Luckily, Lauren has only gently chided me a half dozen times for slacking off. “What is this site without your wry wit and excessive use of metaphor and hyperbole?”, I like to think Lauren thought to herself, as she rended her garments in anguish at my continual failure to provide serviceable – or even any – material.
The truth is, when the first Birchbox arrived in the mail, I was not only rocking a full on regulation beard but I’d also gone slightly bananas and started shaving my head. I pick the best times to make personal grooming choices, don’t I? Sure, I’ll write a review on razors when I’m cultivating a full beard, and yeah, I’ll sign up for the assorted shampoos, pomades and what-have-you that Birchbox peddles when I don’t have any damn hair. So, in order to give these products a proper review and a fair shake, I’ve been patiently growing out what remains of my 34-year old hairline so that I may scientifically test every single thing in the box and ahahaha just kidding, I use it a couple of times and decide if I like how it smells. Without further ado, let’s get to brass tacks, or this preamble’s going to get so long-winded you’ll think Tolstoy wrote it.
Birchbox wasn’t a hard sell for me, to be honest. After the dollar-store joke that was Danklo (author’s note: look out for that review in the near future, where I attempt to convey my reaction at receiving a box full of screen wipes and hand sanitizer – NOT KIDDING), I needed to feel like I was getting something for my money, even if it was through accruing more bathroom accoutrements that would eventually pile up the way the lipsticks have piled up in Lauren’s purse, which will eventually bury her in an avalanche when one of her twelve cats accidentally knocks it over.
It seems that Birchbox is in the habit of slightly customizing boxes. I filled out a profile – which can be updated any time – that asks you questions about your grooming habits, hobbies, the kind of products you’d like to own, hopes, fears, and dreams. I almost felt like I was filling out some kind of psychological profile that Birchbox was going to compute to figure out all my passwords and steal my money and identity, like in David Fincher’s “The Game”, but I haven’t noticed any unusual bank account activity, strange vans following me, or Sean Penn freaking out at me in the middle of the street so I think I’m good.
Oh right, you probably want to know what was in it, yeah?
Here we go, with their applicable full sized claimed value:
- Baxter of California deodorant (full size) – $18
- Billy Jealousy Fuzzy Logic hair strengthening shampoo (full size) – $22
- Gilchrist & Soames Spa Therapy body wash (full size) – $15
- Hanz de Fuko Sponge Wax (full size) – $17.50
- Bonobos pocket square – $42
Lauren kindly pointed out that these are not themselves the full size products, but samples made to handily conform to TSA volumetric standards. I was not aware of this and thought that some amazing geniuses had figured out how to sell 2oz of shower gel for $15. So, good info to know!
Baxter of California Deodorant: First on the list and the first product I tried was this fun little stick o’ smell-good. I haven’t worn deodorant since an ill-advised flirtation with Axe, which was an embarrassing holdover from my high school days and lasted up until I was 27. Sigh. Yes, I know, shut up. And quite frankly, I never felt that I needed it, despite spending several years in Texas, where sweating is as much of a national past time as talking about guns and cows is. I am now retroactively terrified that I have spent all these past years smelling really, really bad and my friends were just too polite to say anything, even though I changed my clothes daily and often showered three or four times. Such is the power of the beauty industry – to present a product we don’t feel like we need and to then make us wonder how we ever coped without it.
This is a backhanded way of saying, I really, really dig this stuff. I felt kind of ridiculous adding the “citrus and herb musk” to my body, because I am generally used to smelling like a combination of bourbon and dryer sheets. I was even more paranoid that my friends would notice that something was different and say, “What is that smell?…Rob, is that you?” which would lead to me sprinting to the nearest garden hose and dousing my arm pits until my own familiar scent was the only thing assailing their nostrils. Instead, I started using it and a few people remarked, “Hey, you smell good!” and I was actually quite fond of the scent myself. Maybe it’s because I’m a sucker for the smell of citrus in general – a childhood throwback to a weird fascination with the smell of satsumas that my mother would eat fairly often – but there was something tempered about it that came off as fresh, rather than sweet. It also lasted through the night. Often I would wake up in bed the next day, put my hands behind my head and still catch a smell of something good…oh wait, that’s me.
The only real downside to this fine product is that the deodorant stick itself is just kind of nestled in there, and you have to push it up from the bottom when you use it. Though if you push too hard, the whole thing falls out and skitters along the bathroom floor, collecting all manner of stray hairs, dust and cat litter along the way. That’s kind of annoying, but not so annoying that I haven’t ordered more of the stuff since it ran out. It was sold out on the Birchbox site, but BoC’s site had it just fine. I consider this a pretty lavish expenditure, and maybe there’s a cheaper deodorant that smells just as good, but for simply persuading me to even use deodorant again I think they’ve earned my custom for now.
Billy Jealousy Fuzzy Logic Shampoo: I don’t really know what to say about this, to be honest. My hair is so short right now that I’m not really sure I’m going to see the benefit of any proclaimed “strengthening” and even if I did, my hair’s thinning and all that good stuff anyway, and no shampoo is going to change that fact. The product claims it “blocks the build-up of DHT, which causes hair loss.” Well, TOO BAD, BILLY, that horse has long bolted out of the stable and is probably drunk and married in Vegas by now. Is this even a legit claim? Can you really say “this shampoo blocks hormones that cause you to go bald” and not have the FDA step in? I get that the beauty industry has really made its bones by essentially preying on the insecurity of women everywhere, and I suppose the men’s division is no less mercenary. I’d love to have been a fly on the wall for that particular focus group, though it’s pretty obvious most dudes really freak out at the prospect of their hair falling out. Only in America, you guys. To end this screed on a cheerful note, the Wikipedia article on dihydrotestosterone says of (actual) treatments for male pattern baldness:
“5α-reductase inhibitors are thought to have persistent side effects that can continue after quitting the treatment, including diminished libido, erectile dysfunction and male breast cancer, and are suspected to have persistent cognitive side effects, including depression, brain fog and memory loss.”
So there’s that. Let’s just hope the claims of DHT inhibition are snake-oil sales pitches and not a precursor to you forgetting stuff and not being able to get it up.
The shampoo itself is fine, smells kind of minty, but doesn’t really lather up in a very satisfying way. My preferred shampoo brand, for those wondering, is Organix. A shampoo I like so much I find myself washing my hair pretty much every other day. This is just kind of watery and feels like you’re rinsing milk out of your hair.
Gilchrist & Soames Body Wash: The card that tells you how awesome all the things Birchbox sends you had this to say:
A moisturizing cleanser brimming with minerals and extracts of Japanese sea wrack…massage a generous amount into wet skin. Soak in the sea’s healing properties; rinse away.
The only thing missing from that blurb is “namaste” at the end of it. Also, my excitement at the novelty of rubbing parts of a Japanese sea wreck into my skin (which kind of WOULD justify the cost of the stuff based on labor alone) was dashed when I re-read the card. This stuff smells kind of watermelon-esque. I’m not entirely convinced of the need to spend $15 on shower gel ANYWAY, but I can’t honestly say that I felt invigorated by the sea’s healing properties whatsoever. Do people really get that feeling when they use certain bathing products? Perhaps if I were sitting in the tub with the sound of waves lapping the coast playing gently in the background I’d get more of the vibe they’re going for with this? Or maybe if it contained fragments of actual ship wrecks?
Hanz de Fuko Sponge Wax: It’s hair product. I used it a couple of times to give my returning hair some texture a couple of times, but it didn’t really do anything exciting. Traditionally, hair products have never really been able to tame my hair anyway – it grows out kind of wavy and wild and does its own things despite the best efforts of every stylist I’ve ever been to (part of the reason I ended up buzzing it off after a particular heinous day at work), and this product is no different. Perhaps men with hair that responds better to more mild styling products would have better luck, but in order to conform to the original intentions I had with it, my hair tends to require such an excessive use of styling product that even Ross from Friends would be appalled. I also have this annoying knack of running my hands through my hair when I’m thinking, which means that whenever I use something, my right hand smells like pomade. I can’t fault this particular concoction for MY hair travails, though, so I’m sure it’s fine for dudes with finer, straighter hair. Excuse me while I take a moment of hair-envy for myself.
Bonobos Pocket Square: Okay, NOW we’re talking. If you’re a fancy pants kind of dude, you know that pocket squares are awesome. You may have spent a couple of hundred on a fancy one from Hermes, which is something you would do if you are a douchebag lawyer type. Here’s a fun story:
A few weeks ago it was a friend’s birthday. After I somehow invited myself along because karaoke, I was given the memo that everyone would be dressing up super snazzy. I own a pitiful amount of clothes at the moment, but I do have a few sharp blazers that were ideal. What better time to take a pocket square on a test run that for a fancy karaoke birthday? My friend who was watching me lay my clothes out laughed – LAUGHED – when I busted this out of the wrapper. “What, are you going to wear a hanky as well?” (Note: pretty sure this is why a lot of men do not get too adventurous with things. Derision from peers when they do something out of the ordinary.) I banished him to the kitchen as I hit the shower, dressed up, and folded the pocket square as best as I knew how, which was not very well. Satisfied, I dressed myself and strode out into the kitchen, to which my friend immediately recanted his mockery and said I looked hella sharp. Which I did.
Nobody else commented on the pocket square, and nobody else from the male contingent really dressed up, but I looked like a badass, and sang like one because of it. Respect the power of the pocket square. If you dress like a baller, you will feel like a baller. QED.
Final grade: B+
Potentially erection-killing shampoo notwithstanding, the deodorant and the pocket square alone made this whole box shine. The shower gel was meh, the sponge wax is not useful to me, but I am now obsessed with the idea of curating a collection of pocket squares and the deodorant is going to be a regular fixture in my grooming habits. Good job, Birchbox.
February and March reviews to follow. I promise not to leave you all hanging, my friends. If you are interested in subscribing to Birchbox Man for yourself for $20/mo, click here!
Rob pays for this box; all opinions are his own. Post contains affiliate links.