Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Birchbox Store BYOB Experience

BYOB, or Build Your Own Birchbox. When Birchbox's first store opened in SoHo back in July, I was instantly interested in coming down to pick out five mini beauty products of my choosing for $15 + tax, because a) I'm a control freak, b) minis are adorbs. Right?
I used to get my monthly boxes from Birchbox, a sample subscription service, back in 2011 - but after less than a year, I cancelled my subscription. While the boxes were fantastic for discovering new brands and products, and overall a good value for money with occasional full sizes thrown in, after a while I started amassing large quantities of deluxe samples I had no use for; some products just plain didn't interest me or weren't a good match for my skintone/ skin type/ hair type/grooming habits, while others I wanted to try, but couldn't keep up with the constant stream of new stuff. And so I cancelled.

But I still love getting minis and travel sizes, because they're a great (and cheaper) way to try new things without committing to the full bottle, on top of actually being useful for travel or carrying around in your purse. So for me, the Build Your Own Birchbox service is the best of both worlds: you're getting five deluxe samples to try out, but you get to choose what goes in your box. Perfect!
The area for making your own Birchboxes is located in the back of the store. There are glass top counters set up, displaying the samples available at the time. You choose one sample in each of the five categories: make-up, hair, fragrance, skincare and nails/ bodycare. In each category, there are three to five choices; I was hoping for even more products, but I'm guessing that the choices are a reflection of what's coming in Birchbox subscription boxes in a given month, and so the selection probably changes frequently. A sales associate helps you pick your samples by explaining the available choices (+ current deals and offers) and packing them all in a Birchbox  for you - you get to choose from a white, pink or brown box.
Here's what I picked for my own Birchbox: a Laura Geller Beauty GlamLASH Dramatic Volumizing Mascara in Black (the other choices were a MAKE Make-up Remover, Smashbox primer or Cynthia Rowley lip stain), Klorane Extra-gente Dry Shampoo with Oat Milk (from Amika Blowout Spray, Frederic Fekkai Glossing Conditioner, DevaCurl Flexible Hairspray, and Beauty Protector Protect & Detangle), Juliette Has a Gun Mad Madame perfume sample (from an MCMC sample and something else - sorry, I can't remember), a COOLA Natural BB Cream Unscented Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30 Matte Tint (from Juice Beauty Green Apple Peel, Marcelle 8 in 1 Power Serum, Suki Exfoliate Foaming Cleanser and Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish), and lastly a pot of Egyptian Magic All Purpose Skin Cream (from Ruffian nude nail polish + nail polish remover wipe, or Whish body scrub).
I'm actually really excited to try all the samples I picked out: I've wanted to try the COOLA matte sunscreen for ages, and Egyptian Magic always intrigued me. Both the Laura Geller mascara and Klorane dry shampoo are super handy for travel, and I was happy to find two niche choices in the perfume category - I've read lots of reviews on Juliette Has a Gun perfumes on various perfume blogs, but have never seen the brand in person.
As for the rest of the store, the first floor offers full-size 'star products' from brands that make appearances in Birchboxes, divided into make-up products (further categorized into lips, face, eyes etc) and skincare. It can be a bit difficult to find what you're looking for, as the Birchbox doesn't carry a full range of products from a given brand, and then all products from one brand are not shelved together, but divided into subcategories. However, there are many helpful sales associates close by, and you can even test and swatch products before deciding on the samples to go into your own Birchbox, like I did when I was unsure whether the tint in the COOLA sunscreen would match my fair skintone (it was a bit too dark, but so sheer it still blended in, so I went for it).
The lower level houses haircare, bodycare, nails, men's products and services: there are hair styling, make-up application and manicures available, but I haven't really looked into that (here's a link for the list of services and pricing, in case you're curious. You can also book services online).
The benefit of shopping in the Birchbox store is that it carries a lot of niche and not easily available brands, like Marcelle (Birchbox is the exclusive retailer in the US), Liz Earle, Cynthia Rowley Beauty, Jouer, Sunday Riley, Dermablend, Sachajuan, Davines and many, many more, and everything has testers so you can swatch to your heart's content. You can also earn and spend Birchbox points (the members rewards program for subscribing, shopping, reviewing and referring through Birchbox) in the SoHo store.

Overall, I was really happy with my Build Your Own Birchbox experience, and the store had a nice ambiance for browsing hard to find products. I would definitely recommend the BYOB service, and in fact, I'll probably do it again myself with my best friend when she comes to visit New York in October. New Yorkers, have you visited the Birchbox store already? What are your favorite beauty spots in SoHo?


  1. Glad you liked the store! I wish I could have been there when you visited! The Coola Matte Sunscreen feels amazing when I tested it on my hand and I love showing it to everyone who comes in looking for a lightweight sunscreen. We need to sync up soon so we can chit chat and shop around :)

  2. I've never been tempted by subscription boxes for all of the reasons you mention, but I think I'll make a point of going to the Birchbox store next time I'm in NYC, if only to try some of those hard-to-find brands. I've heard good things about Marcelle in particular.

  3. I'd much prefer this kind of Birchbox experience -- although I don't think I've subscribed to Birchbox before (I'm trying to think, I used to subscribe to a beauty box but I don't think it is BirchBox... scratching head). Let us know how you like the items you chose!