What’s in the Box? Comparing Monthly Beauty Box Samples

By Amy Rudolph
Web Editor

Getting the email that your package has arrived in the mail room is one of the most joyous moments for a stressed-out college student. Instead of waiting for a package from home, thousands of college students around the country order themselves a package every month. I did this for myself recently by purchasing a beauty box subscription. As a consumer who is hardly ever satisfied, I bought two beauty subscriptions to compare and see which one is worth my hard-earned money.   

I first ordered an Ipsy glam bag subscription. Ipsy is a newer company capitalizing on the growing subscription product market. Their package includes five makeup samples and a cute, little travel bag to store them in when you’re on the go. The designs of these bags are sometimes a hit or miss, but, unfortunately, that’s not where their misses end.   

Ipsy and retailers like them such as Birchbox require you to share that you ordered your bag before you even come off of this supposedly lengthy waitlist. Ipsy then requires you to review their bags and individual products to earn points which get you bigger and better samples. They’re very upfront with the fact that you aren’t getting the greatest products as a newbie. Personally, I don’t feel you need to prove your worth to a company to get good products that you are already paying for. This system eventually turns into just free marketing for the company, which I did not buy into.   

Birchbox has a similar concept that they call their Loyalty Program. With Birchbox, you not only share reviews, but you get better products if your friends buy from them too. This is a lot of work for the consumer who, if they don’t share it, gets stuck with bottom barrel goods. To me, it seems as though these companies are acting like they are somehow doing you a favor. In case I’m mistaken, aren’t I the one doing them the favor by ordering in the first place?

With these schemes, the customer is taken for granted and there is next to no customer appreciation. At Birchbox, if you haven’t spent at least $280, you don’t even get priority status with customer service. Putting customers in such a hierarchy only breeds animosity amongst those at the bottom towards the brand itself.

I ordered my Birchbox subscription when my Ipsy glam bag took over a month longer than expected to arrive. In that timeframe, I was charged for the same order twice and bombarded with daily emails prompting me to buy more. Had I bought into this ploy and ordered more, I would’ve fallen into their good graces and been gifted better samples.

Both Birchbox and Ipsy hide the fact that these samples are just that: samples. These products are so small they almost look fake. Birchbox adds some insult to injury by including a price sheet with refill options of the full sized products in their box.

Not only does Birchbox supply beauty products, but they also provide, shampoo, conditioner, and grooming kits for men.  Photo courtesy of TechCrunch.com
Not only does Birchbox supply beauty products, but they also provide, shampoo, conditioner, and grooming kits for men.
Photo courtesy of TechCrunch.com

Both companies feature an online preview of the contents of your box which is fun, but also removes the element of surprise that I would love when opening the box. After gazing longingly at the samples that would not-so-quickly arrive, I became more and more frustrated with the turtle-like slowness of my packages. I started to wonder if these packages were being delivered by a second coming of the Pony Express.

Birchbox states very clearly and boldly on their website that all packages ship by the 10th of the month. This is a bold statement simply because it is not true. My package did not leave the facility until days after that, and took another two weeks to make the journey from Kentucky to my home in Rhode Island. A person could ride there and back on a bike faster than that. At one point my shipping details just turned blank and never displayed an estimated date. I guess I ended up getting the mystery element I craved.

To customize your box to you, both companies ask your preferences and have you fill out a beauty profile about your hair, skin, and eye color and what products you like. As a picky person, I don’t like much. With Ipsy there was no skipping option and you had to select products even if you didn’t like them, which essentially guarantees you will get something you don’t like at some point.

When my boxes came in and I compared the two, I didn’t give any rave reviews. I really only liked three out of the 10 total products I received and after looking at the full retail prices, I would need to lose my mind in order to pay that much for any of the products.

All in all, I wasn’t impressed with either company and was so frustrated with the horrible customer service that I may end up canceling them all together. Part of me wants to give them a second chance, but the other part of me would like to save $10 a month.

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