Disclosure: All opinions (good and bad) are my own. I received no compensation or free products for this post.
Don’t let me fool you: I am a girly-girl and anyone who really knows me gets that. I like nothing better than to be knee-deep in fun clothes, fabulous shoes, silky lingerie, funky costume jewelry, bright and shiny nail polish and, well, just about anything girly. Except maybe Hello Kitty. I draw the line.
Sephora is like Aladdin’s Cave, to me. I can (and have) spent hours inhaling the estrogen in Sephoras in San Francisco, San Jose and Tampa. Of course, the clerk demographic is all wrong for me as they’re about 17 years old, but still, I like being surrounded by pots and potions and color.
So it was with major excitement that I discovered subscription beauty boxes. That’s right! Services that deliver (usually sample-size but sometimes full-size), high-quality beauty goods right to my door every single month. Candy-colored lipsticks. Jet black eyeliner. Peachy blush. Cosmetic brushes. Rich, emollient body balm. With a click of the mouse (and the entry of a credit card number), I’ve got something to look forward to every single month.
Most of the services ask subscribers to complete a profile with some general information about coloring and preferences. Some ask for just a few details and others delve more deeply. The more questions, the better, in my opinion, IF they actually target your box to your profile. Some services don’t always pick up your preferences. Others absolutely let it drive what’s in your beauty box.
I started with Ipsy’s Glam Box. July marked my fourth box, and here’s some of my stash:
Every Ipsy box comes with its own cute cosmetic bag. Each month, the bag’s different, and they’re cute enough to be useful. Right now, two are in my purse: one holds my credit cards and money and the other my cosmetics.This hot pink plastic travel cosmetic bag will be great for spillable cosmetics. It was filled with goodies, and I mean GOOD ones, too! The eyeshadows from bhcosmetics are in colors I’ve already used and the small, slim case is perfect to tuck into a bag. I travel a lot, so this will see some action! Nailtini nail polish is one of my favorites and the bottle’s full size in a coral called Mai Tai. A nice summer choice. The Pouty Pop lip crayon in Fuchsia Flirt will also be used immediately. Lip crayons are some of my most favorite things to apply and then rub to diminish the color to a more natural tone. It’s not tiny, but it’s portable.
Coola mineral sunscreen tinted moisturizer in Rose Essence will be an interesting product to try. Mineral makeup hasn’t been a good choice in the past for my older skin that tends to dry out, and this is supposed to be good for normal-to-oily skin. But the great thing about getting a small sample is that I can try it without having to spend at least $36 for a full sized tube. Healthy Sexy Hair brand’s small sized Soy Renewal Beach Spray is supposed to offer body and light hold for hair–I don’t use hair spray, but I might try it. If not, it is something I’ll give away so someone else can appreciate it and its great, portable size.
Overall? Very good, high quality samples. I loved it all. For $10/ month, Ipsy is a terrific deal and I’ll be keeping my subscription going.
Then, I added a specialty box from another vendor that I won’t name. After two boxes, the quality was so consistently bad, I cancelled and replaced it with Birchbox.
Cute graphics and packaging. Although I signed up in July, the box I received was labeled June 2013. Hmmm. I hate when companies do that to get rid of excess inventory. I opened that box to find this one:
And then, finally, my little beauty products: (and I do mean “little.”)
First, some cute Destination Inspiration post cards. Postcards?? News Flash: We are not in Victorian times and do not send postcards, unless maybe we are actually in Paris or Rome and sending a cool card purchased there. These paper postcards are crazily common giveaways–why? But they make such good bookmarks (for real books, of course) that I can’t bitch too much. Except that I already have so many. Who knows, maybe some of you will get them in books I send you. But really, rather useless.
The pistachio-colored nail polish is in a tiny sample size, which I like. It’s a cute color and I’ll probably use it once, or give it away as a gift. The little blue tube of Coola sunscreen will be a perfect addition to my hot-climate travel bag. Our next big trips are in sunny Santa Fe (late Sept.) and hot-hot India. I’ll use the entire tube in a day or two. The blue and black larger tube is women’s shave cream. Ok, to be honest, I don’t use much shaving cream and already have a huge canister that will last a year, at least. I don’t bring shaving cream on trips –it’s just one more thing to tote. But I like my shaving cream to smell good and this sample tube of blueberry Whish smells terrific. So, I tried it. It’s wonderfully moisturizing, deliciously fragrant of fresh blueberries–but it absolutely does not lather. Plus, the sample tube felt less than half full. If you’re a shaving cream fanatic, you might check this brand out, but I won’t be buying it.
The LaFresh oil free face cleanser single wipe sample will be useful for a trip, although an oil-free cleanser doesn’t hold the appeal it did when my skin was younger. (The value of using a customer profile to drive contents is brought home once more.) But one time won’t kill me and it’s disposable. And then, there’s a sample of Juicy Couture’s Couture La La, that I’ll use as someone’s stocking stuffer. My nose got really picky about fragrances as I aged, and florals didn’t make the cut. Even though perfume samples are great for trying something new, it wasn’t much of a gift, since it’s the kind of freebie you can ask for at any Juicy counter. That was it. My entire Birchbox. Compared to Ipsy, well, no comparison.
Although I was disappointed in my Birchbox, the subscription was only $10. I did email them about it, and got a response that said the first box for the “gift” subscription I gave myself was always a little different. Seems like a bad customer acquisition strategy, since a customer’s first experience sets the tone. I’m still waiting for their answer about cancelling. Hello? Birchbox??
Now, you might notice that some of these products seem a bit youthful. Many of these beauty boxes do skew young and even those that don’t tilt that way seem to market to the young, as if we seniors don’t like cosmetics. Not that I’m defensive or anything. Good thing I have youthful friends who get some of my goodies on special occasions.
But then, by accident, I found the gold standard of beauty boxes: Wantable. OMG. Full-size, premium products, the kind grown-up women use! Here’s the website:
Had to sign up. Pricey, but looked so good. I loved the specifics of their extensive pre-subscription questionnaire–almost a guarantee that everything I get will be something I want. And the products, themselves, are more mature. My first box got me excited right away–as I opened it, these were right on top.
I love that Frownies are easy to use and non-invasive, so these new eye gel pads are like a spa treatment at home. Truth is, I don’t have many eye wrinkles at all, but these are refreshing and soothing. Already a win for this beauty box. (See? First experiences are important!)
Right below my Frownies was this cute little wrapped package of goodies, nicely presented like the gift it is. If I thought my first goody was great, what came next exceeded my every expectation.
You really can’t imagine how excited I was to find two products from luxury cosmetic purveyor Three Custom Color Specialists. Three Custom Color made news because it can recreate discontinued shades of makeup, for those of us who can’t live without something that’s now off the market. But the pots in my box are brand new, full sized cosmetics.
Now, I have some brow powder that I love, and plenty of it. Still, the brow powder on the left is a darker color, and these days, so’s my hair. I like it a lot. And it stays put all day. Also, the eye shadow in Warm Camel will easily be a staple, as I prefer neutrals. I’ve used it and I love it. On the far right, a retractable lip brush–perfect, since I misplaced mine and was just looking for it. On the lower left is a full-sized, Michael Marcus eyeliner in a charcoal shade with a little metallic in it. Promo material claims the pencil glides right on. It doesn’t, so that didn’t live up to its marketing hype. I could hardly make a line with it–what resulted was virtually invisible, and the tip broke off the liner. It’s going in the trash. Good thing I didn’t pay full price for it!
Finally, I’ve been dying for a summer white nail polish, and was disappointed that I didn’t get one in my other boxes. But this Michael polish stayed unopened for only 10 minutes–I quickly polished to prepare for a daytime tea party. Lovely and applies smoothly. What’s nice is that these are all full-sized products and the value well exceeds the subscription price.
Here’s why this box was so appreciated: I filled out an extensive questionnaire before they shipped my first box and they actually used it to guide what was sent. When I say “extensive,” I mean everything from specific colors to whether or not I have hair. That meant I received things I could actually use and enjoy. Kudos to Wantable! Worth the $40 price because the products were worth at least double that.
I almost forgot: we had an anniversary last month, and I got my fabulous husband a three-month subscription to Birchbox for men. Oh yes, there’s a service for men. M. is learning to get more in touch with his inner metro-sexual, a new experience for him. So I thought he might enjoy getting a box each month.
In his first box: A sample of hair styling cream in freebie size. A business card case. And some body powder that’s also intend for “his boys.” (That’s what the package said. I’m not sure why marketing copy has to mention things like this–it’s so unnecessary.) First, he has no hair. Second, he has a business card case. But, turns out, he liked this one better and has already used it. Third, the body powder was also sample sized. Although it smells great and he likes it. There was also a tiny sample spray of men’s cologne that was also a win–we like it. But such a small sample! A cosmetic counter freebie size. While this box was well-intentioned, you can see the value of a pre-subscription questionnaire, right?
But the second box? He loved it. A leather-accented canvas masculine apron for his sous chef duties got his attention immediately. “I can also use this for work projects,” he said. Now, isn’t that just like a guy? I had to let him know he can’t use it in the kitchen if he’s been using it out in the garage! This was a huge win.
Then, samples of a Sake bomb Body Moisturizer, a useful, cooling shave cream, face oil–which he uses. A lovely English Laundry fragrance sample rounds out the box. He’ll get one more box. The men’s box subscription is twice that of the Birchbox for women and I won’t say it’s a deal, because as you can see at left, most of the samples are truly department store freebie sample sizes. In this case, the apron was worth the box fee. Still, for a small one-time gift or a recurring subscription, it’s worth a try. I think he liked getting a surprise in the mail. The dogs get BarkBox, I get my boxes and now, he gets one, too! Brilliant…so if there’s a special man in your life, you can give him one month or more of fun stuff. But, I’d skip the women’s Birchbox.
Overall, I’d say that you get what you pay for in terms of beauty boxes. Wantable is by far the best value and has the best products for women over 40. Full size? Unheard of in the beauty box world, so this is super-special. You can expect to see me gift people with these boxes as a fun remembrance for a special occasion. If you’d also like to try Wantable, click here to use this code and I’ll get referral credit. Thanks!
Price too steep? The Ipsy Glam Bag is a great little find for women of any age, and at $10 is a steal, especially if you’re on a budget. Click here to use my referral code.
If you subscribe to a box, I’d love to hear about it. Got a favorite makeup product? Tell us about it in the blog comments–what is it, why do you love it and how to we find it— I’ll choose one or more at random for a giveaway. I just got the last giveaways in the mail to winners, so why not another?