Welcome back to our review of subscription beauty boxes. Which ones are worth it? Which ones are full of junk? Reader Brandi Morgan Kirchgessner guides us through this world of mystery treats. Here’s what she’s received recently.
Glossybox, $21 per month US and Canada (also has many international versions)
July gave us another solid month from Glossybox. Here what we got:
- Hey Honey I Peel Good! Biometric Creamy Honey Peel Cream (half size, worth $29.50, full size costs $59)
- Cargo Cosmetics Water Resistant Blush in Coronado (deluxe sample, worth $11.76, full size costs $26)
- Kueshi Anticellulite Booster (full size, worth $22.60) (I couldn’t find this online?)
- Face Stockholm Lipliner in Yvonne (full size, worth $17)
- Naked Lips Organic Lip Balm in Peppermint (full size, worth $5.50)
This Glossybox was worth $86.36.
As soon as I saw a spoiler showing the Hey Honey peel, I knew I would be happy. I’m a big fan of Hey Honey Take It Off!, an exfoliating honey mask that you can peel off your face like the Elmer’s Glue you loved picking off your fingers as a kid. I Peel Good! is brand new and it is making its big debut in the July Glossybox. The tube looks pretty small, but it is half of the full size, and you just need to use a little bit. I don’t know that I would ever spend $59 on a full size version of this, but Hey Honey often has 40% and 50% off sales, so I would recommend snagging one then.
I’ve gotten a few Cargo items before in my beauty boxes and I have always liked them. You may recall that I actually got their water resistant blush in the color Los Cabos several months ago in my Birchbox. The formula is great and long lasting and can hold up to sweat, rain, and swimming, so this has become one of my favorite blushes. When I saw the color Coronado, though, I was pretty skeptical it would be a good color for me. It is a pale, neutral peach, and I often have trouble with peach blushes because of my cool toned skin. It ended up being very flattering on me. It is extremely subtle, even on my super pale skin, which is often a good thing with blush. I don’t know how this would look on anyone who isn’t as pale as me. Strangely enough, Coronado doesn’t seem to be for sale anywhere. I am not sure if the color has been discontinued or if they just started making it and it isn’t being sold yet.
Kueshi is a brand from Spain that is trying to make some inroads into the U.S. market. I was first introduced to them with some amazing toner that I got in the January Glossybox. Anticellulite cream, though, is very low on the list of things I want. In fact, it isn’t on the list at all. I tried it out and didn’t see any effects, but, if it does work, it would take some sustained use to see results. It felt nice enough as a lotion. I tried out some anticellulite cream in my early 20s, but at the age of 33, I am accepting of the fact that my butt and thighs have a bit of cellulite and that it is here to stay.
I’ve heard good things about Face Stockholm, but this is my first time trying a product from them. Yvonne is a ruddy brown color and it’s not my favorite. I favor bright reds and deep burgundies for lip color. I gave it a try, though, and found it to be long lasting and it kept my OCC lip tar within the lines. OCC lip tar is the ultimate test for a lipliner because it is notorious for feathering, and Face Stockholm lipliner easily passed.
Finally, we have the Naked Lips lip balm. I am never excited to get lip balm in a beauty box subscription. It’s a boring product and I don’t use it often because I usually have lip tar on my lips. The peppermint scent was nice, though, and it felt very moisturizing. My girlfriend, Emily, loved it, so it quickly found a home in her purse.
I would call this a good, but not great, month for Glossybox. The anticellulite cream was definitely a weird thing to include. It was exciting to be able to try the Hey Honey peel before it comes out on the market.
Ipsy, $10 per month ($4.95 extra to ship to Canada)
After having a couple of great months, Ipsy just had to remind me why I so often think of canceling it. At least the makeup bag that the products came in this month was pretty cute.
- Vasanti Brighten Up! Enzymatic Face Rejuvenator (travel size, worth $10, full size costs $34)
- Octavio La Playa (half size, worth $7.75, full size costs $15.50)
- City Color HD Powder (deluxe sample, worth $3.42, full size costs $5.99)
- Essie nail polish in Fashion Playground (full size, worth $8.50)
- Be a Bombshell lip balm in French Kiss (full size, worth $14)
The July Ipsy is worth $43.67. Ipsy generally isn’t my favorite beauty box, but they almost always have a high value for a $10 subscription. They often have lower-end brands, but bigger sample sizes than many boxes featuring higher-end brands. There are some hidden gems in the beauty departments of your local drugstore; Ipsy can help you figure out which beauty products you can buy for a few dollars and which you need to spend the big bucks on.
I’ve gotten the Vasanti Brighten Up! Enzymatic Face Rejuvenator before in another beauty box. It’s exfoliating, cleansing, and brightening, so it’s a nice all-in-one cleanser. It contains micro-crystals (not to be confused with micro-beads, so it is environmentally safe) made of aluminum oxide, and it contains papaya, aloe, coconut, and vitamin E. The micro-crystals are very fine and the exfoliation is gentle, so it is something you can use regularly without worrying about irritating your skin. I love Brighten Up! It might seem a little expensive for a full size at $34, but that tube should last you six months.
Octavio La Playa is a sea salt spray and it contains algae extract. You can use it on wet or dry hair for added texture and volume. I’ve never been into the beachy look that you get with sea salt spray; it just doesn’t work for my hair.
City Color HD Powder is extremely cheap at $5.99 for a full size, so I had my doubts about its efficacy. This, however, happens to be one of those (somewhat rare) drugstore gems. It’s a translucent setting powder for your foundation that has a slightly blurring effect to hide fine lines, blemishes, and the like. I was thoroughly impressed with it. Usually I have to touch up my foundation once or twice throughout the day, but my foundation looked flawless all day after I set it with this powder. Make sure to apply it with a light touch because using a lot makes it very obvious that you are wearing it.
I’ve gotten Essie nail polish before in other beauty boxes. The formula is okay, but it is far from my favorite for nail polish. The color, Fashion Playground, is a very pale green. I thought it was a hideous color, but my lady friend loved it. I tried it out and I would say it requires three coats for best coverage. You can go a few days without serious chipping.
Be a Bombshell is a brand Ipsy seems to love. All subscribers will eventually get a few of their products, and it seems to be an almost universally hated brand. The products are always cheap feeling and not all that effective and their packaging is low quality. I can’t believe there is anyone who would pay $14 for this cheap, waxy feeling, tinted lip balm. I wanted to wipe it off immediately after applying it because I hated how it felt on my lips. This is the product I hate most out of all the products I have gotten in my beauty boxes this month. This actually might be the product I hate most out of everything I have ever received in any of my beauty box subscriptions. Needless to say, this lip balm got a one-way ticket to the landfill.
Amor Naturals, $19.99 plus $4.99 shipping per quarter (US only)
Amor Naturals, the quarterly bath and beauty box we were introduced to in the spring, is back with its summer box. This time, the theme is “I’m Really a Mermaid.” Amor Naturals is a very small company and the husband and wife team make all the products themselves, so supplies are limited. I found this out the hard way when I went to subscribe to them to get this summer box and found that they were sold out! Fortunately, they were able to send me an extra box they had from a cancellation, and they sent it to me free of charge. For ethical reasons, I gave the products away after testing them.
The summer Amor Naturals box contained the following:
- Mermaid Hair Sea Salt Hydrating Spray
- Cucumber Lime Face Mist
- Coconut Mint Foot Balm
- Blue Lagoon Bath Bomb
- Exfoliating Mermaid Mask
Because Amor Naturals is such a small business, they don’t always have the items in the box available for purchase separately. Because of this, I was unable to come up with values for the individual items. All of their products are organic and you can choose your skin type and whether or not you want a vegan box (the difference between vegan and non-vegan boxes generally being honey). For the summer boxes, there was no variation in products because everything was vegan and suitable for all skin types.
The Mermaid Hair Sea Salt Hydrating Spray gave Emily’s hair a nice, beachy look. She loved it. It didn’t have the strong smell that so many sea salt sprays have because Amor Naturals does not use synthetic fragrance, so that was a plus. It had a light scent from the orange blossom and coconut in it, but it was very subtle. On top of making your hair look great, it’s also good for your hair. It contains pro-B vitamins for shininess and seaweed extract to repair your hair. This easily beats the sea salt sprays from the bigger brands out there.
The Cucumber Lime Face Mist has a very light scent of cucumber, lime, and peppermint. It smells good, which is important with anything going on your face, but it’s not overpowering. The peppermint, aloe, and seaweed extract are cooling, which is nice on a hot summer day, and the seaweed has the added bonus of repairing sun damaged skin. Face mists have never really been my thing, but I like this more than any other face mist I’ve tried.
The Coconut Mint Foot Balm smells soooo good. I just want to eat this stuff! This balm is very hydrating. The container looks pretty small, but the balm is thick and a little goes a long way, so you can get at least a few uses out of it. This is the only product in this box that does not contain seaweed extract. I hope they make a full size version available soon!
I love bath bombs, so I couldn’t wait to try the one that came in this box! The Blue Lagoon bath bomb is coconut and peppermint scented (like the foot balm) and made for a very relaxing bath. In case you are wondering, the dark green stuff in the picture of this bath bomb above is dry seaweed. It also contains mica to make you nice and sparkly, which I love. I adore anything with sparkles, but I can see how this wouldn’t be for everyone. Not everyone likes being covered in sparkles upon exiting the tub. It reminded me of the NYL Shimmer Scrub that I loved so much in my Petit Vour a couple of months ago.
Finally, I tried out the Exfoliating Mermaid Mask. It contains sea clay, seaweed, and grains for exfoliation (no microbeads here!). It both exfoliates and repairs skin, so it is a great summer mask. My skin felt so soft after I was done. Also, if you love face masks, but hate waiting for 15 to 30 minutes while it dries on your face, you’ll be happy to know that this one only takes 3 to 5 minutes.
Amor Naturals really knocked it out of the park again! I love how all the products are high quality, organic, free of artificial scents and preservatives, handmade and seasonally appropriate. Their products are simply amazing and it is evident they really put their hearts into everything they make. I can’t wait to see what they have in store for fall.
Birchbox, $10 per month (also ships to Canada, Spain, and France; prices may vary)
Like Ipsy, Birchbox had a couple of good months and now a not-so-good month. It’s far from being a horrible month, but the products I received were nothing to write home about.
My July Birchbox contained:
- Juice Beauty Stem Cellular CC Cream (small sample, worth $3.90, full size costs $39)
- Supergoop! City Sunscreen Serum (small sample, worth $8.40, full size costs $42)
- Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick in Bella (half size sample, worth $12, full size costs $24)
- Harvey Prince Hello Body Cream (tiny sample, worth $0.92, full size costs $22)
- Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray (small sample, worth $4.94, full size costs $42)
This month’s box was worth $30.16. I can’t complain about a $30 value for a $10 box. Birchbox does consistently have a good value, but the samples are often very small because they are higher end products.
This is the third time I’ve gotten the Juice Beauty CC cream in a beauty box. This sample is quite a bit smaller than the samples of this that I have gotten in past boxes. CC (color correcting) cream is meant to even out skin tone and texture and minimize signs of aging. This also contains sunblock. I don’t hate it, but I don’t love it. My friend, Emma, as I mentioned the last time I reviewed this, broke out after using it, so this might not be the best choice for people with sensitive skin. I also am not a fan of the weird smell all Juice Beauty products have. Some people love the scent, so that is just a matter of taste.
I’ve gotten a number of Supergoop! products from beauty boxes and I’ve never been a fan. They specialize in skincare with sunblock in it. While that is very important and a feature I appreciate in my skincare, their samples are just about microscopic and their full size products are very expensive. The serum was nice enough. I’ve never had a serum with sunblock in it before. It includes vitamins E and B5, which are good for anti-aging. Supergoop! doesn’t make bad products, but I don’t believe that there is any way to really justify paying that much for them.
The Stila Stay All Day liquid lipstick was the product choice item this month in Birchbox. Usually, they let you choose from three different items. This month, though, they were giving everyone a Stila Stay All Day lipstick, but you got to choose the color. The options were Beso (a balanced red), Venezia (a coral red), and Bella (bright pink). I am all about red lips, but I have a ton of lip tar in every shade of red you can imagine. I didn’t have any lip color close to the color of Bella, so that is what I chose. It is way brighter than it looks! When they say bright, they do mean bright. It is pretty, though. It isn’t a color I am used to wearing, but I liked it. It is very matte. It also stayed on all day, much like the name suggests. I couldn’t believe how well it lasted. I didn’t even touch it up once. I have to try this in other colors. I highly recommend Stila Stay All Day.
Every Birchbox subscriber will eventually become acquainted with Harvey Prince Hello. I got the perfume very early on in my subscription and really liked it, so I was happy to see the body cream in my box this month. It had a much lighter scent than the perfume, but the scent had staying power. The formula is thick and non-greasy. I wouldn’t buy this, but I will enjoy using it while it lasts.
Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray is a hairspray that will give you some added volume and texture. I do not in any way need volume and I don’t particularly want texture, but I tried it any way so I could give you a full report. It definitely did provide both volume and texture. I had my signature puffball look going on that I always get after trying out a volumizing product. I wouldn’t use this again because it doesn’t give me the look I want with my hair, but if you need some added volume, this product is worth a try.
Birchbox again had the teeny samples it is notorious for. I loved the Stila lipstick, but the other products were just okay.
I’m going to call this round for Amor Naturals, with Glossybox coming in second place. Overall, July is not shaping up to be as good a month as the past couple of months have been. We’ll see what Petit Vour, Kloverbox, Beauteque, Vegan Cuts, and Allure have in store for us next week. I would love to hear all about your beauty boxes in the comments!
Brandi Morgan Kirchgessner has always loved getting mail and wearing makeup, so she was ecstatic to discover beauty boxes. She lives with her three dogs and five cats.
Illustration by Tara Jacoby.