Even if you’re a total beauty newbie, you’ve probably seen or heard of beauty subscription boxes. They’ve been all the rage in the beauty world for a couple of years now, allowing enthusiasts to grow their collections and knowledge as well as introducing the less-enthused to new products they maybe wouldn’t have tried on their own. The idea is pretty straight forward: for a fee, you are sent a box of sample (or full size!) beauty products and cosmetics every month. You can usually create a profile of preferences, but for the most part, you are blind to what you’ll be getting till it arrives on your doorstep.
I’ve used two of the biggest ones – Birchbox and Ipsy, for 1 1/2-2 years each, to really get an idea of what you’d experience over a length of time. While I currently am not subscribed to any monthlies – looking for the next thing, any suggestions?! – I definitely can give you the pros and cons IMHO. I also just got a Target Beauty Box for the first time this month, which is a little different than the others, but I’ll throw in my thoughts for comparisons sake. Without further ado, I bring you: THE BATTLE OF THE BEAUTY BOXES. :cue dramatic music and effects:
Time subscribed – Feb 2012 – May 2014
Price – $10 per month
Samples – 5 “luxury” size samples
Delivery method – Cardboard box (sometimes curated)
- High-end brands
- On trend, big collaborations
- Boxes are reusable
- Great rewards system / reviews on site are extensive
- Good variety of products
- Perfume samples
- Sample size can be very small, rarely full size
- “Lifestyle” or food products
- Consideration for preferences set
- More skin / haircare products than makeup
Favorite Products discovered: Dr. Jart BB Cream, Chella Highlighter Pencil, LAQA & Co Lip Pencil, Essie Luxeffects Nail Polish, Blinc Mascara
Overall Thoughts: When I first started getting Birchbox, I was obsessed. Nothing made my day better than seeing that pink box on my doorstep, and I was telling all my friends to sign up. I received full size nail polishes from Essie and Color Club, great new beauty products, and skincare products I never would have found on my own. Then, after about a year and a half, I felt the boxes were getting skimpier. The “luxury” samples were tiny – ugh, foil packets or blister packs – and I swear I got a perfume sample every. month. Personally, I’ve worn one of my 3 perfumes for 10+ years. I just don’t like to switch up my scent much. I put in my preferences that I dislike perfume samples, yet I still got them. I also found the “lifestyle” extras to be completely unnecessary. Sure, a piece of chocolate in your February box is no big deal, but if I wanted freakin’ granola bars every other month, I’d subscribe to a snack box. I wanted beauty products, and thats it, dammit. I still think their website for reviews is the best of the boxes (and sometimes even better than Sephora) and their points program is fantastic so I still shop from their site sometimes. I’ve considered going back, since they have done so much expansion since I unsubscribed, and I still follow them on social media and like what they do, but I haven’t pulled the trigger yet.
Small annoyance: When I unsubscribed, I took time to fill out their survey and in detail explain why I was unsubscribing. I truly felt I should have received some kind of response, as I was pretty bummed about feeling like I need to do it and thought my points were good feedback. Just thought their customer service should be a little bit better.
Time subscribed – June 2013 – Oct 2015
Price – $10 / month
Samples – 4-5 Deluxe or Full-size Products
Delivery method – Small makeup bag or pouch
- All beauty products, majority makeup over skincare / haircare
- Frequent beauty tools (ex: brushes, tweezers, eyelash curler)
- Useful makeup bags
- Large samples / full size products
- Not as many high-end brands, more drugstore
- Brands were frequently repeated
- How many small bags does one truly need?
- Not as customizable, often received exactly the same products as other subscribers
- Black eyeliners – no joke, I think I got 7 or 8 in the time I subscribed.
Favorite Products Discovered: Emite Make Up Tweezers, Hikari Cosmetics Blush, La Fresh Eco-Beauty Be Good. Good Day. Day Moisturizer, Dr Brandt Pores No More Pore Refiner, Zoya Nail polish
Overall Thoughts: I subscribed to Ipsy at the height of my questioning to leave Birchbox, because I heard you get a lot more beauty products and that the samples tend to be bigger or full size. Both of those things are true! I really enjoyed it, even if more of the brands were a little bit less “high end” – though I still got products from Urban Decay, the Balm, and Buxom, among others. I did find some of the brands I received were repeated… and repeated… and repeated. If I got one more thing from J Cat beauty, Be a Bombshell, or BH cosmetics I was going to lose my mind – especially because I didn’t even like most of the stuff I got from them! The powders were chalky and the mascaras left much to be desired. However, I’ll never complain about all the NYX I got, so I guess it’s a preference thing. At first I thought the bags idea was really great – who doesn’t need a makeup bag? – and I was getting tired of trying to find new ways to use the same boxes from Birchbox, but when I realized I had 26 of them, I decided to call it quits.
Small Annoyance: The damn eyeliners. I must have gotten an eyeliner nearly every month. I’ll never need to buy another black eyeliner for the rest of my life. Julie came over once and asked to borrow an eyeliner, I literally handed her a basket and said please, pick one or ten and keep it. She thought I had to be kidding, but I really, really wasn’t.
Time subscribed – Feb 2016
Price – $7 per box (not subscription)
Samples – 10 items, some full size
Delivery method – Cardboard box
- Good variety of types of products (Beauty, skincare, haircare, etc)
- Not a subscription (no commitment)
- Sells out quickly
- All drugstore brand (less brand variety)
- Not always monthly (random releases)
Overall Thoughts: Full disclosure, this month was the first time I got a Target Box, but I thought I’d include my thoughts anyway. First of all, this box is huge and includes 10 (10!!) product samples, some of which were full size. That’s totally awesome, and it’s even the cheapest of the three. The big downside: it’s hard to get (part of the reason I just got my first one, I’ve had my eye on it for a few months.) It’s not a subscription, it just kind of randomly appears on Target’s website and tends to sell out very quickly – though they seem to be doing these more frequently, probably due to the popularity. The products I got included a lip balm, hair volume spray, hand cream, loofa, night cream, nail decals, BB cream sample, and more. I really enjoyed it and definitely will order again. I use a subscription site to get email notifications when the box was released, and ordered as soon as I saw the email.
So for now, I have no monthly subscriptions and am in the market to find a new one. Do you use any beauty subscription boxes? Let me know in the comments!