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Posted by on Jan 29, 2019 in Health & Beauty, Savings Advice, Seasonal & Events | 0 comments

Are Beauty Subscription Boxes the Bargain They Promise to Be?

Investing in cosmetics can be expensive, especially if you don’t know what will work for you. That’s why many people turn towards beauty subscription boxes instead; receiving a curated collection of both full and sample-sized products lets them try out new brands without paying full price.

The allure of beauty boxes makes a lot of sense. After all, who doesn’t want to receive a surprise package every month? But, are beauty subscription boxes the bargain they promise to be? Let’s look closer at some of the facts behind a few popular subscription services so that you can decide whether it makes sense for you.

What are Beauty Box Subscriptions?

As the name implies, a beauty box subscription is a curated collection of health, beauty and/or cosmetic products shipped to you on a consistent basis. When you sign up for a subscription, you’ll receive a regular delivery of products specific to the company you choose.

Determining which company (if any) is best for you comes down to understanding whether the cost of a subscription box seems worthwhile for the quality of products you’ll receive.

What Kinds of Products Do You Receive in a Beauty Box Subscription?

The kind of products you receive in a beauty box subscription depends on the company, and most are known for providing a certain type.

For instance, Birchbox is considered a lower-budget brand that provides you with sample sizes of drugstore-brand products, while Boxycharm exclusively offers full-sized products that tend to lean higher end.

Some companies, such as Ipsy, offer a higher percentage of cosmetics per order, while others like the Allure Beauty box tend to contain more skin and hair products. However, it is vital to remember one critical factor- you’re taking part in discovery commerce.

The Pros (and Cons) of Discovery Commerce

Most beauty box subscriptions fall under the category of discovery commerce, which means that there is an element of surprise in what you will receive each month. Some people find this is the main thrill of signing up for a subscription, as each order introduces them to products they might otherwise never purchase.

Likewise, this same logic can have a downside if you start to accumulate a supply of products you wouldn’t otherwise purchase (or use). Looking through reviews on of people who are long-term subscribers of beauty box brands, we noticed a pattern of people who found that they received repetitive products or makeup shades that weren’t their preferences.

Though some customers regifted these items, others found no use for them besides filling up space in their bathroom cabinets.

This leads to an important consideration of the value of beauty box subscriptions; if you aren’t using the products you receive, are they really a bargain?

Understanding “Value Per Dollar” and the Bargain of Beauty Boxes

One of the best ways to determine whether a beauty box subscription is a smart value for you is to look at its average value per dollar. In other words, what amount of product are you receiving for every dollar you spend on a brand? Below are the values per dollar for an average box from five popular beauty box companies.

What’s Included Cost per Order Average Value Per Dollar Spent
Ipsy Five sample-sized products (plus makeup bag) $10 $5.30
Boxycharm Five full-sized products $21 $4.76
Allure Beauty Box 5-7 full and sample-sized products $15 $4.17
Glossybox 5-7 full and sample-sized products $21 $3.81
Birchbox Five sample-sized products $10 $3.25


As this chart makes clear, Ipsy is the beauty box subscription that will provide you with the best value per dollar spent, even though you won’t receive the biggest products.

Boxycharm, in contrast, gives you the highest overall value of products in each order, but you’ll need to spend more than twice as much per order than with Ipsy to receive it.

And, while the full-sized products that Boxycharm offers are ideal for those who will use them, they provide the potential for a bigger loss if you don’t like what you receive than if you had only received a sample size.

Other Ways to Save Money on Beauty Products

Beauty subscription boxes can be a stellar way to source cosmetics on a budget- so long as you receive products you will actually use.

If your subscription is giving you a lot of cosmetics you plan to regift, there’s a good chance that you’ll save money by forgoing the subscription and only buying products that you know you are interested in.

For those who are fascinated by the concept of discovery commerce and want to give beauty box subscriptions a try, it’s best to do your research first so you can better select the brand that makes the most sense for you.

Be sure to pay attention to the kinds of products the company most often provides, the value per dollar spent, and whether you have any say over the types of products you receive.

If you’re looking for a better way to save money on your favorite cosmetics than hoping that they show up in a subscription box, consider seeking out coupons for your preferred brands instead.

Lydia Noyes is a health, wellness, and lifestyle reporter for who focuses on ways to live a healthier, more sustainable life. She received a bachelor’s in Environmental Studies from Calvin College and her writing work has been featured in Mother Earth News Magazine, Natural Living Ideas, and dozens of other websites, including her personal site

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