Review: EWG's First Ever Beauty Box

Monday, August 8, 2016

By: Ariana Palmieri
Environmental Working Group (EWG) is one of my favorite green resources: When I want to know what's really in my products, I go to them. That's why I couldn't be happier when they announced their first ever beauty box. Each item in this box has the EWG verified symbol, meaning the product has no unsafe, unnatural ingredients in them. If you haven't watched my unboxing video of it yet, check it out here. These products didn't disappoint, as you'll see for yourself.

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The Basics



About the company:
EWG isn't a beauty brand or a business - it's a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment. They're widely known for their Skin Deep database which allows consumers to look up a product, a company, an ingredient, or find healthy alternatives to their beauty current products. The database offers over 62,000 searchable beauty products, each with their own EWG score. The lower the health hazard, the lower the score. For example: Lets say you searched your favorite beauty product and saw it was given a score of 1-2. That's a great score: It means it has minimal or no ingredients of concern in it. However, if you see it has a score of 3-6, that means there are some questionable ingredients used in it, and it's up to you if you're okay with that. But if you see 6-9, that's an incredibly bad sign and means you better stop using that product ASAP because it's loaded with ingredients of concern. This isn't even the beginning of why EWG is great - they offer many other free services, such as the annual dirty dozen list, food scores, healthy cleaning, and more. They're an all-around green digital resource everyone should be supporting and utilizing to create a better home and world. This particular beauty box was a first for them, and the money went straight to funding their incredible organization since it was a donation. Just recently they launched the EWG Verified symbol for cosmetics - this symbol can be found on products that pass the same regulations in EWG's Skin Deep database, guaranteeing their safety for human use. It's similar to the USDA organic symbol, in the sense both are strictly regulated (unlike the FDA) and designed to help you make a better, more informed consumer decision. The products in this box all deserved the EWG Verified symbol of approval for being free of EWG's ingredients of concern, fully disclosing all ingredients, and following good manufacturing processes.  To get your own box, go here. You'll not only receive amazing beauty products, but also be supporting a company dedicated to making the world a better place.

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Biossance


Why you want it: This super light weight moisturizer barely feels like its there when you plop a drop onto your skin.

Its value: $22

My review: Cakey moisturizers? No thank you. This oil-based revitalizer will wipe out any dry patches you have without clogging your pores. I don't know about you, but one of the most disgusting feelings in the world is super thick moisturizers that just sit on your skin no matter how much you try to rub it in. Don't expect that from this one - made with only one ingredient (100% plant-derived squalane), it's so light weight you won't even feel it. Not to mention it's fragrance-free, paraben-free, phthalate-free, and mineral oil-free. I plopped two drops of the oil onto my hand and it nearly soaked into my fingers (that's how quickly and effectively it absorbs). I rubbed some onto the drier areas of my skin (mainly near my nose) and was amazed to see how quickly my skin accepted it. It didn't feel greasy at all, and it certainly helped minimize the flaky, dry skin around my nostrils. I also used it in my hair to tame frizz (just ran one drop through my hair with my fingers), and it did a pretty decent job at controlling it. It's also good for any dry patches on your body (such as legs, feet, hands). While I can't say I have rough, or dry skin, I tested some of this oil out on the soles of my feet and was pretty impressed with the results. I noticed almost an immediate (but not drastic) difference in skin texture. The soles of my feet became even more soft, and I can only imagine how they would feel after extended and frequent application. So for people suffering from dry skin - give this a shot! It's pretty impressive.

Ingredients
Squalane (that's right - only one ingredient! Pretty simple huh? To find out what this ingredient is and does, go here.)
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Cocoon Apothecary


Why you want it: If you like moisturizers that make your face smell like roses and as soft as a baby's bottom, give this one a try.

Its value: $45

My review: Funny story: I thought this was a blush at first. After all, it is called rosey cheeks (guess my eyes didn't quite catch the 'facial cream' part). That said, it's called rosey cheeks for a reason: It smells like you're putting a bushel of roses on your face (which made me a happy camper since I'm rose obsessed). To add to that, the cream hydrated and kept my skin super smooth all day long. I applied it morning and night and didn't need much at all. In fact, once I opened it, I used whatever cream was stuck to the top of the cap by dabbing it with my finger and rubbing it all over my face and neck. I usually used this at the end of my morning and night routine, finishing off with it for an extra boost of hydration. Due to the prominent use of shea butter and avocado oil, this cream is extra nourishing, but also a little on the heavier side. My suggestion? Use it lightly, not generously. Designed to soothe inflammation, moisturize, and fight against aging, this cream is very versatile. Unfortunately, I didn't notice too much of an improvement when it came to its anti-aging properties (but then again I'm 21). I also didn't notice any reduction of inflammation/redness in my skin (at times I even noticed more). The packaging also said it was good for rosacea prone skin, but I didn't find that to be the case. I have some rosacea, but I didn't necessarily notice an improvement in it. In fact, I wouldn't recommend this cream to anyone who has severe acne or oily skin because it would probably be too heavy for them. However, if you have dry, or combination skin (like me), you should be okay (and love the hydrating effects). All in all, not a bad cream at all, and if you think your skin can handle it, it's well worth the investment.

Ingredients
Purified water, certified organic rosehip oil, certified organic avocado oil, certified organic camellia (green tea) oil, certified organic shea butter, cetearyl alcohol (wax from coconut), stearic acid (plant-based), vegetable glycerin, sodium anisate (derived from basil), sodium levulinate (derived from corn), rose absolute, sodium cetearyl sulfate (from coconut), rosemary leaf extract.
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Isoi Bulgarian


Why you want it: Another product that smells like roses, this one moisturizes without leaving your skin feeling heavy.

Its value: $49.98

My review: While I can't say this serum was as moisturizing and nourishing as the rosey cheeks facial cream, I can say it was lighter. It practically glided onto my skin and had a silky consistency my skin absorbed almost right away, which I loved. It definitely hydrated my skin well, so I applied it to the driest areas of my face. I squeezed a dime sized amount onto my finger and rarely needed more (but if my skin felt extra dry that night, I didn't mind putting more on because of how light it was). I usually applied it to my forehead, cheeks, and chin, but it depends on where I felt I needed that extra boost of moisture. After each use my skin felt so smooth and cooperative. I used this directly after I had cleansed with the Refining Sugar Cleanser (review of that product directly below). I really loved how all the ingredients in this product were as natural and non-irritating as could be (my skin absolutely adored this stuff). I would recommend this to anyone who has dry, combination, or even slightly oily skin because of how lightweight but luxurious it is. After all, everyone needs a good, reliable moisturizer (preferably one that smells like roses).

Ingredients
Water, Glycerin, Alcohol, Arbutin, Betaine, Trehalose, Salix Nigra (Willow) Bark Extract, Rosa Damascena Flower Oil, Houttuynia Cordata Extract, Xanthan Gum, Castanea Crenata (Chestnut) Shell Extract, Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Extract, Centella Asiatica Extract, Allantoin, Panthenol, Rhus Semialata Gall Extract, Olea Europaea (Olive) Leaf Extract, Chrysanthemum Indicum Flower Extract, Sophora Japonica Bud Extract, Prunella Vulgaris Leaf Extract, Scutellaria Baicalensis Root Extract, Paeonia Suffruticosa Root Extract, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract.
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MyChelle


Why you want it: This cleanser is not only super efficient at taking off makeup (yes, even eye makeup), but also doubles as an amazing (but gentle) exfoliator.

Its value: $25

My review: By far, this was my absolute favorite product in this box. I'm not exaggerating when I say this. There are so many things that impressed me about it. I have never tried a sugar cleanser before, so I wasn't too sure what to expect. When I squeezed some onto my hands, it looked like a sugar scrub of some sort with a soothing vanilla scent. I wet my hands and began messaging it into my face, making sure to tie my hair back before doing so. At first it went on my skin and stuck to it in awkward, sugary clumps (which were exfoliating my skin, mind you), but then it transformed right before my eyes. When I added a little more water and massaged my face again, the cleanser started to lather and turn a milky white color. I was able to move it around all over my face, even to my eyes, and it went from bumpy, sugary lumps to smooth, lathery goodness. It didn't feel like foam, but some sort of light cream mixed with water. It was a very luxurious experience and as soon as I washed it off, my skin instantly felt smooth and refreshed. I couldn't believe how good it was at taking off my makeup either. Even in the mornings (when I obviously had no makeup to remove) it still felt absolutely amazing and woke up my skin right away. I actually looked forward to this cleanser every time I used it. Just writing about it makes me want to use it. In a way, it even beats my other favorite cleanser (the carrot butter one I've reviewed on my blog before) because it's not oily at all. The carrot butter cleanser is great, but it leaves behind oily residue that's hard to get off (it is an oil based cleanser, after all). But this stuff leaves nothing behind other than water (which I wipe off once using a towel, and then I'm done). So, do I recommend this product? Yes, yes, yes! Get it if you need an amazing cleanser in your life that gets the job done (and smells like sugary vanilla in the process).

Ingredients
Sucrose, Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate, Canola Oil, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Silica, Zea Mays (Corn) Starch, Vanillin, Zeolite, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-38, Crocus Chrysanthus Bulb Extract, Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract, Sodium Hyaluronate (L), Sodium Polyglutamate, Aqua (Water), Glycerin, Acacia Senegal Gum, Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Water, Alcohol, Hydroxypropyl Cyclodextrin, Citric Acid, Potassium Sorbate, Lonicera Caprifolium (Honeysuckle) Flower Extract, Lonicera Japonica (Honeysuckle) Flower Extract.
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Silk Therapeutics


Why you want it: If you're looking for a silky, easy to apply anti-aging serum, this might be for you.

Its value: $122

My review: The price of this item might scare you away, but hear me out. While I don't have any wrinkles to date (thank god), I've talked about how important it is to start using anti-aging serums while you're young before. This is because it's a great way to reduce likelihood of premature wrinkles and keep your skin looking youthful and glowing. Even if you don't have wrinkles, chances are your skin doesn't look as clear and bright as it used to. Sure, when I was in high school I had more pimples, but the overall brightness, elasticity, and radiance of my skin were amplified. That's why serums like this are so important (even in your 20s). While I won't say this serum preformed miracles, I enjoyed applying it. It smelled kind of lemony and I only needed 1 drop of it. I dabbed it all over my face after massaging it between my fingers. It worked well with all the other products from this box. It gave my skin a little boost that I felt it needed, especially with one of the ingredients being Vitamin C. The coolest thing about this product is that it's made with only 7 pure, simple ingredients, which is great for all those green minimalists out there. If you're thinking about getting it, just remember that it's also good for balancing out skin tone, reducing dark spots, and lifting/firming skin (so a lot more than just reducing wrinkles). I did notice a reduction in dark spots (I have some from acne scars), so this serum isn't just smoke and water. I recommend it for any skin type, since it was super lightweight and non greasy. Overall, it was a good product (not my favorite, but still impressive).

Ingredients
Water, Vitamin C (Ascorbyl Glucoside), Sodium Hyaluronate, Silk, 
Sodium Anisate
, Aspen Bark Extract
, Rosehip Oil.
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Silk Therapeutics


Why you want it: If you prefer moisturizers with barely any scent and silky application, this is for you. 

Its value: $45- $95 (depending on size you choose)

My review: I kept trying to identify the scent I was smelling while applying this and just couldn't. It's very mild (good for someone with a sensitive nose, like me), but mysterious. Other than that, the actual application of it went on super smooth. There were a lot of moisturizers in this box, but I'd have to say this and the Isoi serums were the best in terms of smoothness. The Isoi came out clear, while this one was a creamy white. Perfect for pairing up with the C Advance anti-aging serum (reviewed above), this moisturizer packs a powerful punch of Vitamin E and antioxidants. Made with only 8 ingredients (just one more ingredient than the C Advance serum) it's guaranteed to keep your skincare routine simple, but effective. My skin felt super soft after applying 2 little drops all over my face morning and night. In combination with the rest of the EWG box's products, this moisturizer was a winner. If you have the money to invest in it, I'd definitely recommend doing it because this is good for all skin types and won't leave you feeling greasy.

Ingredients
Water, Shea Butter, Coconut Oil, Sodium Hyaluronate, Silk, Vitamin E, Sodium Anisate, Aspen Bark Extract.
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W3LL PEOPLE


Why you want it: A great brightener that'll illuminate your skin without making it look overtly sweaty.

Its value: $24

My review: I've only tried one other brightener (it was in my July Petit Vour box), so I can't say I've had much experience with them. However, I've certainly used W3ll People products before (currently in love with their Expressionist Mascara), and I know they're a great brand. With that in mind, I was thoroughly impressed with this brightener. I applied it using my fingertips on my cheekbones, cupid's bow, bridge of my nose, and sometimes on my brow bone. It gave a subtle, shimmery highlight to those areas (in my opinion, it did a better job than the one in the July Petit Vour box) and glided on effortlessly. I only needed a little bit to make it work (and it didn't make me break out). It didn't make my skin look like I was sweating either, and I only needed a scrape of it for all the areas I applied it to. This sample was a little hard to use since it wasn't really a stick, but a balm (every time I tried to get some I wound up scraping it with my fingernails - hence the claw marks in the photo above). I'm sure using the full sized version would be a lot easier, considering you could just apply it anywhere you needed it directly, then blend with your fingers (or a brush). That just gives me further incentive to want to purchase a full sized version of it, honestly. I'd definitely recommend this product to anyone looking for an all-natural, cruelty free brightener to add to their collection. And if you've never tried brighteners before either, no worries - they're super easy to use and will add an instant glow to your face. Great for anyone who feels their complexion lacks luster!

Ingredients
Vitis vinifera (grape) seed oil, cera alba (bees- wax), silica, mica (ci 77019), olea europaea (olive oil)*, castor isostearate beeswax succinate **, camellia oleifera (camellia) seed oil, ricinus communis (castor) seed oil*, mica (ci 77019), carthamus tinctorius (safflower) seed oil (and) aloe barbadenis (aloe) extract, essential oil blend, tocopherol (natural vitamin e), lysine, camellia sinensis (green tea)*, roman an- themis nobilis (chamomile)* [+/-: titanium dioxide (ci 77891), iron oxides (ci 77491, 77492, 77499), carmine (ci 75470), manganese violet (ci 77742).
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W3LL PEOPLE


Why you want it: If you like contouring, or just giving your skin a summery look, give this a shot.

Its value: $24

My review: Up until now, I've never used a bronzer. Similar to brighteners, I didn't see the need to, so I never bothered. Plus I'm not very interested in contouring (but that's not necessarily the purpose of a bronzer). Bronzers help to warm the complexion and reduce the appearance of redness, and I must admit this did exactly that. When I paired this with the brightener, my face really lit up and looked a little more defined. In my opinion, it made me look more European (it really brought out the Italian in me) because it gave my skin a glowing, more tan complexion which I liked. You can see what I mean here. Adds a nice touch right? Similar to the brightener, it was a little hard to get the bronzer onto my finger without scraping it (as you might be able to tell from the picture above). However, the actual full-sized product is a stick (just like the brightener), so it would make for a lot smoother application (and less scraping). When I did manage to get the product on my fingers, I applied it below my cheekbones and rounded it up towards my temples in a "C" shape using my fingers. I applied some to my forehead, nose, and chin, but it kind of just made those areas look dirty so the following times I used it I stuck to applying it under my cheekbones. I really recommend this product to anyone who wants their face to look a little warmer, more sculpted, and a little tanner. It's perfect for people who don't care much for contouring either, and great when paired with the bio brightener (reviewed above).

Ingredients
Tri-isostearyl citrate, caprylic/ capric triglyceride, c12-c15 alkyl benzoate, beeswax, macadamia oil, caster seed oil, silica silylate, acacia decurrens/jojoba/sunflower seed wax/ plyglyceryl-3 esters, mica and titanium dioxide, hydrogenated jojoba oil, aloe leaf extract, polyglyceryl-6 distearate, vitamin E, olive oil, green tea, safflower oil. [+/-: mica, iron oxides (ci 77491, 77492, 77891), iron oxides black (ci 77499)].


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The (quick) rundown


The pros: Thankfully, the pros outweighed the cons.
  1. I really admire EWG's standards and felt safe putting all of these products on my face.
  2. I love skincare products, so this box was a win for me (though I would've enjoyed more makeup too).
  3. I really adored the Refining Sugar Cleanser and the Rose MoisturiZIP out of all the skincare products.
  4. I loved trying the brightener and bronzer from W3ll People (I knew it was a great brand, but I'm still fairly new to the brightener/bronzer world).
  5. The donation went straight to EWG, which will only further their research on safe, green cosmetics, skincare, and hair care brands (which is something I wholeheartedly support!).
  6. All of these products really made my skin the softest its ever been - no joke!
  7. I loved how they included a Freeset Global makeup bag that's made from 100% organic cotton, and also supports women who were otherwise trapped in India's vicious sex trade. Go here to find out more information on this company's beautiful impact.
  8. For each sample in this box, there was a coupon for the full-sized version of it (sweet!).

The cons: Not many cons at all, honestly.
  1. These products were mainly skincare (which I don't mind), but I would've liked to try some more makeup samples too.
  2. There were a lot of moisturizers in this box, which is nice but not ideal for someone with combination, acne-prone skin (constant usage of each moisturizer made me break out a little, to be honest).
  3. A lot of the full sized products are kind of pricey (but coupons came with the box, so not too much of a problem).
Conclusion: I loved this box! EWG has never let me down before, and it hasn't this time either. I'm so happy I was able to try some of the products from these brands (some I had heard of, most were new to me though, which was exciting). These products all deserved the EWG Verified symbol of approval for being free of EWG's ingredients of concern, fully disclosing all ingredients, and following good manufacturing processes. Overall, I'm very happy with the performance of the products and would recommend everyone to get this box (or purchase the products individually, if that floats your boat). Just a note: If you have sensitive, oily skin, I would avoid most of the moisturizers in this box. Aside from that, happy shopping!

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