The Best Beauty Box Subscription Services for 2019

There are a lot of fads to keep up with for those who try to be on trend with their beauty routine. New products are released each season, and it can be difficult to know which ones to commit to.

That’s part of the appeal of beauty boxes; they provide you with a curated collection of products to experiment with on a monthly basis, and most companies claim that you’ll receive far more value than the price you paid.

When you sign up for a beauty box subscription, you will receive a collection of makeup, perfume, skincare and haircare products or more on a regular basis. Costs per box range significantly per brand, and they vary considerably in the size and number of products you receive.

However, online reviews reveal that many customers are far from happy with their subscription beauty boxes. Some aren’t satisfied with the brands or colors they receive, while others want a higher proportion of skincare products than cosmetics or vice versa. Most of this dissatisfaction, we’ve found, results from choosing the wrong brand for your needs.

Which beauty box company should you commit to? Does one brand stand out from the others, and how can you avoid subscribing to a dud?

This guide will go through the specifics of five popular beauty box brands – Birchbox, Ipsy, Glossybox, Boxycharm, and Allure Beauty Box – to help you make the best choice for your situation.

HighYa’s Top Picks for Best Beauty Boxes of 2019

We combed through the details of five of the best beauty box subscription services and ranked them from #1 to #5.

These rankings are based on seven categories: cost per box, value per dollars spent, number of products per box, product size, whether the brand met customer preferences, value for specific situations, and whether the brand offered additional products or incentives for subscribers.

We ranked the boxes in each category and compiled the totals to determine which beauty box ranked best overall.

Rank Subscription Overall Grade Cost Per Box Estimated Value Per Dollar Spent Amount of Products Product Size Customer Preferences Bonus Incentives Value for Specific Situations
1 Ipsy A- A A B B+ B A A
2 Boxycharm B+ C B+ B- A C A B
3 Allure Beauty Box B B B A B+ B- C A
4 Birchbox B- A C B- B- A B C
5 Glossybox C+ C B- B+ B+ B C C

 

From this analysis, Ipsy came away as our overall winner. Costing just $10 per box, Ipsy is one of the best deals for a subscription box we looked at.

The value of the products that you can expect to receive for every dollar you spend is one of the highest we looked at and that’s not counting the free cosmetic bag they include with each box.

Ipsy also offers each subscriber a blend of full-size and deluxe sample products, pulling it ahead of the similarly-priced Birchbox for overall value. 

 

#1. Ipsy
Ipsy
Highlights: Ipsy offers an impressive bargain with five drugstore brand beauty products and a makeup bag each month for just $10. It also provides the highest ratio of cosmetics per bag compared to skin and hair products.

Customer Preferences: Yes (online quiz)

Bonus Incentive: Subscribers can receive five full-size products with Ipsy Glam Bag Plus for $25/bag (valued at over $120).
Cost Per Box Value of Products Per Dollar Spent Number of Products and Size
$10 $5.30 5; Full and deluxe
More on this subscription: Read Our Full Review

 

 

#2. Boxycharm
Boxycharm
Highlights: For those who value high-end products and don’t want to deal with small sample sizes, Boxycharm offers impressive value per box – especially for makeup lovers. You won’t have any input for what you receive though.

Customer Preferences: Not met

Bonus Incentive: Subscribers can earn Boxycharm rewards that can be redeemed for free products, and upgrade their subscription to BoxyLuxe for an additional $28.99.
Cost Per Box Value of Products Per Dollar Spent Number of Products and Size
$21 At least $4.76 4 to 5; Full
More on this subscription: Read Our Full Review

 

#3. Allure Beauty Box
Allure Beauty Box
Highlights: If you want to build up your beauty collection quickly, Allure offers an impressive range of high-end and drugstore brand products in both deluxe and full-size.

Customer Preferences: Yes (simple beauty profile)

Bonus Incentive: None
Cost Per Box Value of Products Per Dollar Spent Number of Products and Size
$15 $4.17 5 to 7; Full and deluxe
More on this subscription: Read Our Full Review

 

#4. Birchbox
Birchbox
Highlights: Birchbox only offers sample sized products, but subscribers have the option to make a personalized selection for each box or to choose to receive an editor-curated box each month.

Customer Preferences: Yes, subscribers share preferences in their profile and can choose one sample item each month. Subscribers can also choose between the editor-curated box or a surprise each month.

Bonus Incentive: Subscribers can buy full-size products from the website, and earn points for the dollars they spend, which can be redeemed for more products.
Cost Per Box Value of Products Per Dollar Spent Number of Products and Size
$10 $3.25 5; Sample
More on this subscription: Read Our Full Review

 

#5. Glossybox
Glossybox
Highlights: Compared to the competition, Glossybox is expensive and doesn’t offer great value per dollar spent, though it’s the best box we looked at for discovering emerging brands from around the world.

Customer Preferences: Yes (beauty profile)

Bonus Incentive: None
Cost Per Box Value of Products Per Dollar Spent Number of Products and Size
$21 At least $3.81 5 to 7; Full and sample
More on this subscription: Read Our Full Review

 

Despite this ranking, Ipsy might not be the best subscription beauty box for everyone. Next, we’ll discuss the details of specific situations to help you home in on the best beauty box subscription for you.

HighYa’s Picks for Best Beauty Boxes for Specific Situations

There’s significant variation in the kinds of products that you’ll receive from different beauty box subscriptions, so these categories are designed to help you determine what’s most important to you so that you can make the best choice.

We’ll look at the following categories:

Best Bargain Beauty Box: Ipsy

For those who want to secure new beauty products affordably, Ipsy provides the best bargain.

Every subscriber receives five items each month, and your beauty preferences are taken into consideration during product selection. Ipsy tends to provide drugstore brands more than luxury ones, meaning that it this subscription might most appeal to budget shoppers.

We noticed reports from previous customers that the brand’s deluxe product samples were consistently larger than what was provided by similarly-priced Birchbox, and that full-size products are also common. Additionally, each Ipsy order is delivered with a reusable makeup bag that varies in design each month.

To make a meaningful comparison between brands, we divided the month-to-month subscription cost of each box with the average total value of its items. This number gave us the value of products per dollar spent. 

Rank Subscription Estimated Value Per Dollar Spent
1 Ipsy About $5.30
2 Boxycharm At least $4.76
3 Allure Beauty Box About $4.17
4 Glossybox At least $3.81
5 Birchbox About $3.25

From this ranking, it’s clear that Ipsy offers the greatest value per dollar spent on each subscription. As the box costs just $10 (compared to $15 and $21 for the competition, you need to spend relatively less to get this benefit, which makes it the best bargain overall.

Best Beauty Box for Luxury Products: Boxycharm

Boxycharm is the only beauty box subscription that we ranked that promises to deliver full-size products. Our research into previous customer reviews and forum posts on Reddit show that many subscribers received products that aren’t available in drugstores.

Some of the brands the company provides include Tarte, MAC, ColourPop, MAC, BECCA, Cover FX, tarte, and Juice Beauty.

We noticed that the total value per box was estimated to be over $130 for some months, which gives subscribers over $6 for every dollar spent. These benefits increase considerably with the purchase of BoxyLuxe, which can provide over $300 in value for a $50 purchase price.

Rank Subscription Are Luxury Brands Included?
1 Boxycharm Yes – full size
2 Glossybox Yes – full and deluxe size
3 Allure Beauty Box Frequently
4 Birchbox Rarely
5 Ipsy Rarely

Best Beauty Box for Those Who Want Makeup: Ipsy

There are two kinds of beauty box subscribers in the world: those who want cosmetics and those who prefer skin, hair and nail products.

To determine which beauty box was the best for getting makeup each month, we looked through the past four boxes for all five brands at the time of publishing (November, October, September, and August 2018).

We totaled the number of cosmetic products like makeup, and makeup accessories and compared it to the number of skin-care products like creams, masks, nail polishes, and hair products.

Percentage-wise, Ipsy was the frontrunner for makeup, as it makes up 70% of the products we looked at. Boxycharm came in second, with an average of 57% of items classifying as cosmetics.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that the precise products you receive in Ipsy depend on what you specify in the online quiz. The company offers dozens of product options every month, but the five you receive is partially based on your results.

If you want to receive even more makeup, consider signing up for the Ipsy Glam Bag Plus subscription option.

You’ll pay $25 per box and will receive more than $120 worth of products, as well as a higher-quality makeup bag every quarter. At the time of writing, customers had to join a waitlist to sign up for the service.

It’s also worth noting that Boxycharm typically includes an eyeshadow, concealer, or contouring palette each month, which is far more frequently than other brands include full-size palettes.

This makes it a better option for those who prefer to receive enough makeup for their entire face, rather than items just for the lips or eyes.

Rank Subscription Percentage of Makeup Products
1 Ipsy 70%
2 Boxycharm 57%
3 Glossybox 42%
4 Birchbox 40%
5 Allure Beauty Box 30%

Best Beauty Box for Those Who Want Skin and Hair Products: Allure

The testing method we described above also let us determine which beauty box brand offered the most skin, hair and nail products. Our winner was the Allure Beauty Box.

The past four box options averaged approximately 70% non-makeup products, though Glossybox and Birchbox weren’t far behind at 58% and 60% consecutively.

From what we found, Allure is the brand most likely to add bonus products like face masks, consistently putting your total order over six or even seven products.

According to past customer reviews that we found on Influenster, Reddit, and the brands’ Facebook pages, Glossybox has slightly shifted away from makeup in the past year and now puts the focus on providing skincare and haircare products.

Likewise, we’ve previously reported that Birchbox primarily focuses on products related to skin and hair (though the sample sizes tend to be on the small side).

Rank Subscription Percentage of Skin and Haircare Products
1 Allure Beauty Box 70%
2 Birchbox 60%
3 Glossybox 58%
4 Boxycharm 43%
5 Ipsy 30%

Best Beauty Box to Build Up Your Cosmetic Collection Quickly: Allure

If your goal is to gain a broad range of beauty products quickly and cosmetically, the Allure Beauty Box is our top recommendation.

This brand delivers at least five items every month, but our research showed that the number is more often six or seven.

The company provides a good variety of products, as our research into the past four month’s boxes showed that the contents split almost evenly between makeup, skincare, and hair care products.

You’re also more likely to receive full-size products than with Birchbox or Ipsy, so each box’s contents should last you longer. 

Rank Subscription Average Products Per Box
1 Allure Beauty Box 5 - 7, deluxe or full size
2 Glossybox 5 - 7, deluxe or full size
3 Ipsy 5, plus makeup bag
4 Boxycharm 5, full size
5 Birchbox 5, trial size

In this ranking, Allure comes out ahead of Glossybox because the price per box is $6 less. Though each brand provides you with a similar amount of products each month, you will pay less per product with Allure.

Beauty Box FAQ

How do beauty box subscriptions work?

Generally speaking, beauty box subscriptions tend to work the same way. Most brands send out monthly boxes, though a few (like FabFitFun) are quarterly. Most brands will keep each month’s products a surprise, but “spoilers” are often posted for a few items on the company’s social media platforms.

The five brands that we looked at offered different prices depending on how many months you committed to at once (longer subscriptions offered the most value).

In each case, customers are billed upfront for all the boxes that they sign up for, and these costs are nonrefundable even if you cancel your subscription early. Likewise, your subscription will auto-renew once it expires unless you upgrade your preferences to stop it from doing so.

Where can you exchange unwanted products?

The beauty box brands we looked at don’t allow customers to return or exchange the products they receive unless there is evidence that they arrived damaged. However, there are numerous online communities dedicated to trading unwanted cosmetic products, including the Reddit makeup exchange.

What is the cancelation policy like for subscription boxes?

Most beauty box subscriptions can be canceled in just a few steps, but they are non-refundable and will auto-renew unless you cancel them beforehand. The brands that we looked at require you to contact customer service or change your account settings from their account profile page.

Each company will have a set date that you need to cancel your order before if you don’t want to be billed for the following month. Missing this date means that the changes you made to your subscription won’t take effect for another billing cycle. 

Can you choose the products in your subscription box?

The amount of customization you have for your beauty box subscription depends on the brand that you commit to.

Boxycharm doesn’t offer any, while Allure, Ipsy, Birchbox, and Glossybox all let users fill out “beauty profiles” or take quizzes to show their preferences. However, these companies get mixed reviews for how well they take these requests into consideration.

Birchbox offers the most options for customization, as it lets subscribers select one item to include in their box. They also offer an editor-curated feature box each month that discloses precisely what’s inside.

Tips for Choosing the Best Beauty Box Subscription

Knowing all this, how can you choose which beauty box subscription makes the most sense for you?

1. Decide What’s Important to You

The first step for choosing the best beauty subscription box is determining what matters most to you. It’s essential to decide whether you are looking for full-size products or prefer deluxe samples and whether you’d prefer to have much say in the products you receive.

You should also decide whether you want a subscription that is primarily cosmetics, skincare and hair care, or an even mix between the two.

2. Choose a Price Point

Beauty box subscriptions typically range in price between $10 and $21 per month, though some brands offer options for higher-valued boxes that cost $25 (Ipsy Glam Bag Plus) or $50 (BoxyLuxe) per box.

The quality of the products you receive is correlated with what they cost, so the best comparison is to look at the overall estimated value of each brand’s box per dollar spent.

Below is our analysis of the value per dollar for the five brands we looked at. Note that these values reflect the month-to-month subscription rate and might change if you sign up for an annual plan or several months at a time.

  Cost Per Box (Month to Month) Expected Value Per Box Value Per Dollar
Glossybox $21 More than $80 At least $3.81
Ipsy $10 $40 - $80 $5.30
Boxycharm $21 More than $100 At least $4.76
Birchbox $10 $25 - $40 $3.25
Allure Beauty Box $15 $50 - $90 $4.17

3. Be Clear on Cancelation Dates

Subscription services make a good portion of their money from people who forget to cancel their account in time, and you don’t want to make that list.

Pay attention to your brand’s cancelation date before you sign up for a subscription, and create an alert in your calendar for when you need to decide whether you are comfortable letting the service auto-renew, or whether you need to make some changes to your account.

Learn more about how to choose the best subscription box services in our previous article. This article explains the difference between “discovery commerce” and standard subscriptions, and it dives into advice about billing details, the selection process, and how to determine whether a brand is a good fit for you. 

Methodology and Data Used

To determine which beauty box was our overall standout, we looked at each brand’s box in regards to the cost per box, the value per dollars spent, amount of products, product size, whether customer preferences were taken into account for product selection, and whether the brand offered additional products or incentives for subscribers.

From there, we ranked the boxes in each category from best to worst and assigned them a letter grade from a scale that went from A to D. When these rankings were totaled, Ipsy came out as the overall winner with an A- ranking.

To reach our rankings about the content each beauty brand provided, we looked through all the potential items that the companies promised for the past four months, and sorted them by cosmetics (makeup, makeup brushes, eyelash extensions, etc.) and skin, hair and nail products (lotions, shampoos, nail polish, etc.).

We averaged these totals and took the percentage of the two categories to determine which the beauty box brand tended to contain more of.

» Further Reading on Subscription Services:


Lydia Noyes

Lydia Noyes is a health, wellness, and lifestyle reporter who focuses on ways to live a healthier, more sustainable life. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists. 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 FirstRootsFarm.

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