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For me, creating an anti-aging skincare routine always seemed incredibly daunting, especially considering how taboo skincare ingredients can be. This challenge is what led me to Violet Grey, a luxury beauty retailer that curates the best in skincare, makeup, body care, hair care, fragrance and wellness, each adhering to “The Violet Code,” meaning that it has been tested and vouched for by the industry’s finest editors and experts. This thorough vetting process is what sets Violet Grey apart from other retailers as it not only ensures a luxurious beauty experience but also guarantees each product’s efficacy.
Every year, Violet Grey releases its Violet Box comprised of the year’s best-selling products across its beauty categories. Combining full-sized and travel-sized skincare, makeup, hair care body care and fragrance formulas, the 2020 Violet Box ($425) allows beauty lovers to sample the industry’s biggest names while giving them the tools they need to craft a new routine. Violet Grey releases two custom boxes a year, each sharing the best products of the season. So, while you can't purchase this exact box, you can check out the bestsellers within (and keep an eye out for a new Violet Box launching this Spring).
For two weeks, I tested out everything in the Violet Box with hopes of finding some new skincare BFFs. The 2020 best-sellers featured plenty of skincare basics, minus a cleanser, toner and eye cream. Thankfully, my go-to cleanser, toner and eye cream were perfectly filled and on hand to prevent any holes in my new routine. For the most part, everything in the box can be used in the morning and night and it was very easy to build a new regimen around the products provided. Here’s what I thought:
BeautyStat Universal C Skin Refiner ($80)
I kick-started my routine with the BeautyStat Universal C Skin Refiner, which is a potent vitamin C serum that contains 20% vitamin C to effectively fade dark spots, improve tone and impart a radiant glow. The Violet Box includes a full-sized 30-milliliter version of the serum, which gave me the perfect amount of product to test and enjoy after my trial run.
Unlike other vitamin C serums I’ve used, this serum has no slip and has an almost mattifying effect on the skin despite being a creamy texture. But, that dry serum-feel came in handy for my pores. I noticed they were instantly more refined and that my tone had improved tremendously. Over the two-week period, my complexion became more radiant and I found that this serum helped speed up the departure date of some stubborn acne scars as well.
Dr. Barbra Sturm Calming Serum ($250)
Every skincare enthusiast is low-key dying to try anything from the Dr. Barbra Sturm line, and I was overjoyed to see the brand included in the box. The Calming Serum is a plant-based rebalancing serum that is rich in anti-inflammatory ingredients to soothe stressed out, sensitive skin while neutralizing redness and damage caused by free radical exposure. The Violet Box includes a travel-sized 10- milliliter version of the serum, which I thought could have been a little bigger considering the hype surrounding the brand. But nonetheless, I was still incredibly honored to have a bottle of Dr. Barbra Sturm anything on my vanity.
As someone with rosacea and redness-prone skin, this Calming Serum is everything that I could ever want and need in a serum. It has a rich, almost, milky texture that melts into the skin and instantly soothes it. I used it in the morning and night so my redness defense was always strong and I must say, it really did a great job at calming and evening out my T-zone. According to the brand, the serum also makes for a lovely after-sun treatment, which is good to know for the summer.
Augustinus Bader The Face Oil ($230)
Another skincare coveted brand that has amassed nothing but positive reviews, Augustinus Bader was also featured in the Violet Box. The Facial Oil is a stem cell-repairing face oil that hydrates, nourishes and brightens the skin using a blend of strengthening amino acids, moisture-retaining fatty acids and firming pomegranate seed extract. The Violet Box includes a travel-sized 13-milliliter version of the face oil, which at first seemed super small, but I quickly realized that a little goes a long way.
My skin has been on the drier side due to winter weather, so I made sure to add a little drop of this facial oil in the morning and night to ensure that my skin was getting enough moisture. I’ve never met a facial oil I didn’t like and Augustinus Bader’s most certainly did not disappoint. It offers the perfect texture and thickness without leaving your skin greasy or slick. It also absorbs quickly into the skin and really locks in moisture, even on scary cold, 30-degree New York days. Over the two-week period, I noticed that my skin had a nice, dewy glow to it and that it had a semi-firmer appearance. I’ve found that it works better in my nighttime routine due to how intensely hydrating it is. But, I will say that it wears nicely under makeup and makes for a nice, dewy base, keeping in mind that it can feel a little greasy if you apply too much.
Royal Fern Phytoactive Anti-Aging Cream ($250)
This was my first experience with Royal Fern and their Phytoactive Anti-Aging cream, which is an expert-developed moisturizer that delivers rich hydration to the skin while boosting collagen production, increasing skin’s firmness, elasticity and radiance while fading dark spots and other sources of unwanted texture and tone. The Violet Box includes a travel-sized 15- milliliter version of the moisturizer, which, again, is small but has been exceeding my expectations in terms of how long it’s lasted.
Popular anti-aging moisturizers are known to fall on the thicker side, but the Phytoactive Anti-Aging Cream proves that lightweight formulas can also pack the same punch without weighing down your skincare routine. Its formula is incredibly weightless and somehow manages to blanket your whole face in the product even with just the littlest dab. In addition to providing the perfect amount of slip, I noticed that this moisturizer instantly softened and smoothed my skin and kept it adequately hydrated throughout the day and night. I used it in the morning and night and have already started saving so I can buy a full-sized jar to make it a staple in my skincare routine.
U Beauty Resurfacing Compound ($228)
The only product that I used exclusively in my nighttime routine, the U Beauty Resurfacing Compound is an all-in-one resurfacing serum that is powered by retinol, AHAs, peptides and vitamins C and E to restore, refine and rejuvenate the skin’s radiance, smoothness and firmness. The Violet Box includes a full-sized 50-milliliter version of the serum, which I thought was very generous and exciting.
I’ve always been intrigued by resurfacing serums but have never actually found one that seemed like a good fit for my routine. According to the brand, this serum is gentle enough to use twice daily if your skin can tolerate it, but I knew my skin wouldn’t be able to hang and decided to only use it once at night. Offering a traditional serum texture that’s golden and smells just as intense as its active ingredients list, I was surprised by how gentle the formula actually was. By the end of week one, I noticed that my T-zone was looking a little red after using it nightly and decided to scale back to every other day. Despite my sensitive skin moment, I was very impressed with this serum; it has really helped retexturize and smooth my skin. Not to mention, it’s also really boosted my radiance and has been great for fading dark spots and acne scars. I’d definitely repurchase and recommend it.
111Skin Y Theorem Bio-Cellulose Facial Mask ($135)
I love a good sheet mask, and 111Skin’s Y Theorem Bio-Cellulose Facial Mask is a good sheer mask according to reviews. It’s a reparative and rejuvenating formula that improves the skin’s resilience by infusing it with moisture, strengthening the barrier, encouraging collagen production, calming inflammation and shielding it from environmental damage. The Violet Box includes two full-sized sheet masks, giving you enough treatments to really fall in love with it.
As far as sheet masks go, this mask is pretty standard in terms of appearance and size. It comes saturated in serum, which I love because it means there’s extra product to apply afterward. The Y Theorem Bio-Cellulose Facial Mask definitely delivered in the anti-inflammation and hydration departments for me; my skin felt instantly quenched and soft and I noticed that any signs of redness and stress were instantly calmer and toned down. It definitely puts in the work to help repair and restore your skin’s balance.
In the body care category, Violet Grey included top-rated products from cult-favorite brands Nécessaire and MUTHA that I was eager to test out:
Nécessaire The Body Serum ($45)
This wasn’t my first experience with Nécessaire’s Body Serum and it still holds up to how amazing I remember it being. Differing from traditional body lotions and oils with its lightweight serum formula, The Body Serum is infused with hyaluronic acid and ceramides to lock in moisture and enrich the skin with softening and firming vitamins and minerals. The Violet Box includes a full-sized 150-milliliter version of the serum, which I was excited to see in my bathroom cabinet again.
As someone with a sensitive décolletage and is not a stranger to body acne, especially when I use thick, fragranced body lotions, Nécessaire’s The Body Serum is heaven-sent. It’s lightweight enough where it doesn’t clog my pores but hydrating enough where my skin doesn’t feel parched. But since it is winter, I’d recommend following up with a thicker lotion if you’re prone to dryness. Like the Dr. Barbra Strum Calming Serum, this formula also makes for a great after-sun product. Its bouncy serum consistency has a very similar calming and soothing effect to that of aloe vera gel. Plus, it contains important vitamins and minerals that help repair your skin while softening and moisturizing it.
MUTHA Body Oil ($140)
This also wasn’t my first time trying MUTHA’s Body Oil, which is a luxurious, citrus-scented, vitamin-rich dry oil that is designed to absorb quickly into the skin while imparting it with a radiant, firming glow. The Violet Box includes a travel-sized 25-milliliter version of the body oil, which is the perfect size to sample.
Just like my first time around, I didn’t quite vibe with the product’s dry oil consistency. As I’ve mentioned plenty of times, I prefer my products to have some slip and this Body Oil doesn’t quite quench your skin in the same way as other formulas. It does, however, absorb quickly and leave your skin looking instantly firmer and more radiant. You can check out my full review of MUTHA’s Body Oil and its other best-selling hero products here.
Makeup & Other Fun Stuff
The 2020 Violet Box also comes with some makeup, hair care and fragrance picks, too. Inside, I was delighted to find products from Jillian Dempsey, Westman Atelier, Christophe Robin and Frédéric Malle, four luxury beauty brands that I’ve always been eager to try. The Violet Grey Bestsellers Box makeup products include:
Jillian Dempsey Lid Tint Trio ($84)
I’m a fan of any eyeshadow that I can apply with my finger, and Jillian Dempsey’s Lid Tints are the perfect formulas for easy application. These cream eyeshadows can be worn alone or over powder shadows for a more dimensional look. The Violet Box includes Lilac, a rosy pink, Bronze, a shimmery brown, and Dew, which is a Violet Grey-exclusive shade and acts more as a luminizer than a shadow thanks to its translucent glowy finish.
The Lid Tint’s creamy textures were my favorite part of the shadows. They melt into your skin and leave a dewy wash of color behind—emphasis on wash. If you’re looking for something subtle, then these are perfect but if not, then you may be a little disappointed. On their own, Lilac and Bronze added a hint of color that never really built up to anything more than its original hue. Dew delivered as a luminizer and I loved the dewy finish it left on my highpoints. But I am happy to report that the Lid Tints are very versatile; I was able to apply Lilac to my eyes, cheeks and lips and found that Bronze made a sufficient bronzer as well.
Westman Atelier Lip Suede ($85)
Comprised of four, richly-pigmented lip colors, this luxury lip palette applies with a silky-smooth texture and creates a soft-matte finish. At first, I felt limited by the palette, which features bright tomato, brick red, dusty rose and vivid fuchsia shades, since they aren’t colors I typically wear, but I quickly realized that the possibilities are endless. The shades are designed to be mixed together, allowing you to create your own custom color and I found myself channeling my inner artist as I carefully combined the reds and pinks to achieve a mauvey-nude. Shade range aside, the formula delivers a comfortable, hydrating matte that didn’t leave my lips feeling dry or stripped at the end of the day. In fact, I found that the matte finish made my pout look fuller and wider.
The box also comes stocked with the Westman Atelier Lip Brush ($38) to ensure a faultless and precise application of the Lip Suede palette. Since the brush is flat and wide, I found that it not only and deposited the product nicely but it did so without dragging my lips, adding to the luxuriousness of the experience.
Christophe Robin Regenerating Serum With Prickly Pear Oil ($51)
Since my hair is long overdue for a trim, my ends have become increasingly more split with each passing day. Not to mention that my flyaways seem to have gotten worse in quarantine, which is probably another result of postponing my hair appointments. That being said, I was very excited to see Christophe Robin’s Regenerating Serum in the Violet Box. It’s described as a lightweight and deeply nourishing hair serum that reduces frizz, protects against heat damage and adds shine with a silky feel. The Violet Box includes a full-sized 50-milliliter version of the hair serum that I didn’t waste any time using.
This serum is suitable for damp and dry hair so I decided to try it both ways. When applied to damp hair, I noticed that it helped make my air-dried strands more manageable and sleeker, imparting them with a healthy shine and calming my flyaways. I preferred this over the dry application, which successfully smoothed away my bedhead frizz but didn’t quite absorb into my hair how I was hoping it would. But between its frizz-reducing abilities and fruity scent, it was still a win for me.
Frédéric Malle Portrait Of A Lady Eau De Parfum ($390): This was my first time trying Frédéric Malle and the brand’s Portrait Of A Lady Eau De Parfum, which is a timeless yet modern fragrance with key notes of rose, patchouli, clove, sandalwood and berries. The Violet Box includes a teeny-tiny seven-milliliter version of the perfume, which is perfect for travel.
I’ve been enjoying the scent and think that the floral and fruity notes of the rose and berries really complements and mellows out the patchouli and sandalwood. While there are definitely musky undertones, I would say that this fragrance falls more on the mature-but-not-too-grandma floral side, which I prefer. My only complaint is that the travel-sized bottle container isn’t exactly spill-proof; it pours out of the bottle rather than being cautiously dispensed out with a mister or roller, which created some minor messes during the first couple of tries.
Overall, I was really impressed with my Violet Box experience. Perfect packaging aside, having the products curated for me created a sense of exploration that contributed to the fun. I went into the two-week trial with high expectations and I can happily say that they were not only matched but exceeded. Each product is luxuriously crafted and worked incredibly well with my skin; together they significantly increased my skin’s radiance and evened out any traces of redness, all while smoothing away unwanted texture and giving my face a more refined and toned look. As for my favorites from the box, I’d definitely recommend the Royal Fern Phytoactive Anti-Aging Cream or the U Beauty Resurfacing Compound, but you can’t really go wrong with any product.
5 More Reasons To Love Violet Grey and The Violet Box
- The Violet Box comes stocked with luxury beauty brands like Dr. Barbra Sturm, Augustinus Bader, Westman Atelier and more, each housed in a chic and luxe keepsake box.
- Violet Grey’s blog, Violet Files, features detailed reviews of the products so you can learn more about its bestsellers and how to incorporate them into your routine.
- Violet Grey has detailed tutorials made by industry experts that cover beauty trends, techniques and reviews using products featured on the site, like this Never Fail Makeup tutorial.
- Violet Grey’s Smart Beauty picks showcase products that utilize cutting-edge and innovative technology so you can stay up-to-date on the latest developments, launches and products in beauty.
- For those looking for a more personal beauty shopping experience, you can visit Violet Grey’s brick and mortar location in Melrose, Calif.