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)
Glossybox is always the box to beat. It consistently has amazing boxes, so I have high expectations for it every month. June’s selection wasn’t quite what I have come to expect from Glossybox, but I was still pretty happy with it.
This month’s Glossybox included the following:
- The Aloe Source Luminosity Masque (small sample, worth $5.17, full size costs $34)
- Être Belle Aloe-Vera Moisturizing Gel (full size, worth $24.95)
- Too Faced Better Than Sex Mascara (deluxe sample, worth $14.47, full size costs $23)
- Orly Nail Lacquer in Oh Cabana Boy (travel size, worth $3.99)
- Doucce Blush Brush (worth $32)
My June Glossybox was worth $80.58. There was some slight variation in products that subscribers got, so your Glossybox might be a little different.
The Aloe Source Luminosity Masque was a much smaller sample than I’m accustomed to getting from Glossybox - it was only enough for two uses. The masque has fruit enzymes to exfoliate your skin and aloe to soothe it; it felt nice on my skin and I definitely felt like it gave a subtle glow to my face after using it. I love a good masque, but I wish this sample had been a bit bigger.
I didn’t like how the Être Belle aloe gel felt on my face at first - it felt more like the regular aloe gel you rub on your sunburn than I had expected. I don’t mind that feeling on my body, but it’s not what I want on my face. That said, it absorbed pretty quickly so the sticky feeling went away within a minute. It was very moisturizing and, with the aloe content, a great product to have around in the summer. It also works as a primer and I liked that it was full size. This will definitely get some use from me this summer.
I had heard of Too Faced’s Better Than Sex mascara many times, but I had never actually tried it. It did not disappoint. This made my lashes thick, defined them well, and gave them some serious length. I have so many problems with mascara clumping on me, but I didn’t have that issue at all with this mascara. I am swimming in mascara samples, but it’s going to be hard for me to use the other samples up after this one because I will be tempted to buy this once it runs out.
I am a huge fan of the Orly polish. This is my first time getting Orly polish in a subscription box, so I didn’t know what to expect with the formula. I got nice sheer coverage after one coat and could have left it at that. To get opaque coverage, a second coat was necessary. I preferred the sheer coverage, so I would stick to one coat, but I absolutely loved the color, Oh Cabana Boy, which was a pearly hot pink. The product information card said that colors would vary, so not everyone got this gorgeous color. I was a little disappointed to get the $3.99 travel size instead of the $8.50 full size. The low value of the nail polish and the masque are made up for by the $32 brush and the $24.95 full size moisturizer, so I can’t complain all that much. It’s still an $80 box.
The Doucce brush was not my favorite product. This is the second month in a row Glossybox has featured Doucce, and I’m just not sure it’s the brand for me. The brush has natural hair fibers and feels scratchy on my skin. However, although I prefer the feel of my other blush brushes, this does apply the blush a little better.
I liked the June Glossybox, but it’s not their best month. I absolutely loved the mascara and nail polish, but the other three items were only okay. It’s still a solid month for Glossybox, but I have hopes that July will be better.
Allure Sample Society, $15 per month (US only)
Allure Sample Society normally has five items in a box, but the past two months, they’ve had six. It’s always nice to get one more item than expected. This box was sent to me free of charge for review, so, for ethical reasons, I gave away all the products after testing them.
Starting in July, the box is no longer run by Beauty Bar, so it will now be called the Allure Beauty Box instead of Allure Sample Society. The link above takes you to the new Allure Beauty Box site.
In this month’s Allure Sample Society box, I got:
- St. Tropez Self Tan Express (deluxe sample, worth $11.17, full size costs $44)
- eSalon Perfect Ending Leave In Conditioner (deluxe sample, worth $3, full size costs $15)
- E.L.F. Studio Small Stipple Brush (worth $3)
- Lauren B. Beauty Nail Couture in Polo Lounge Punch (full size, worth $18)
- Completely Bare Wax Strips for Face, Bikini, Body (4 strips, worth $1.24, full box costs $12.99)
- Cotz Face Sunscreen SPF 40 in Natural Skin Tone (small sample, worth $2.40, full size costs $19.99)
This month’s box is worth $38.81. I’m happy with the value; this month’s box had a good mix of products, though I do wish there were some makeup items.
I wasn’t sure what to expect of the St. Tropez Self Tan Express. I don’t usually use self-tanners, but it’s summer and I’m pale, so I figured I could give it a try. It’s nice to get some color without burning and damaging my skin in the process. This self-tanner lets you choose how much color you want. You apply it to your skin and then rinse it off after one hour for a light tan, two hours for a medium tan, and three hours for a deep tan. I decided to try out a medium tan. It worked well and didn’t give me that orange tone self-tanners are notorious for. I used it a couple of days ago and it’s still looking good, but I’m not quite sure how long it lasts.
The eSalon leave-in conditioner is meant to moisturize, prevent frizz, and prevent fading of dyed hair. I don’t color my hair, so I can’t speak to whether it protects the color, but my hair felt very soft and hydrated when I woke up the next day. This is pretty inexpensive for a leave-in conditioner, so it’s definitely worth a try if you are looking for a reliable product that won’t break the bank.
The E.L.F. small stipple brush is supposed to give your foundation and concealer an airbrushed look. I had never used a stipple brush for foundation before - I tried it, but I didn’t feel it made a big difference in how my foundation looked. I might have more luck if I practiced with it a little more.
I really liked the Lauren B. nail polish. The color is a gorgeous deep magenta and I got pretty good coverage after one coat. I would need two coats with this polish to get optimal coverage, but that’s true of most polishes out there. This is also vegan and a 5-free nail polish (meaning no formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, camphor, toluene, and dibutyl phthalate are in this polish), which is a big plus.
The Completely Bare wax strips sample contained two bikini strips and two face strips. To use them, I had to rub them between my hands to warm them up. At first, I didn’t think they worked at all. Having someone else pull the strips helps because it is hard to pull them fast enough on your own body. Even with help, it got a few hairs out, but it would take a lot of strips to get all the hairs out. These aren’t bad for the face, but I cannot recommend them for the bikini area. Shave or get a professional wax job.
The Cotz face sunscreen worked well. It has a sheer tint to it that is supposed to work with all skin colors. It wasn’t greasy, my makeup went over it without any problems, and I wasn’t sunburned at the end of the day, so I suppose it’s a pretty solid product.
June was a good month for Allure. A couple of the products were misses for me, but I liked most of them. I can’t wait to see what will be in the July box.
Ipsy, $10 per month (ships to Canada for $4.95 extra)
After a few months of sub-par boxes from Ipsy, they’ve really stepped up their game. Last month was a great month for them, and this month was pretty good, too. I hope this trend continues.
This month, Ipsy sent me:
- Shea Moisture Lipstick Crayon in Sarah (full size, worth $9.99)
- Jules and Esther Facial Serum No. 24 (deluxe sample, worth $10.59, full size costs $36)
- Key West Aloe Moisturizing Lotion in Mango (small sample, worth $1.83, full size costs $22)
- Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer (small sample, worth $9, full size costs $36)
- Trèstique Mini Shadow Crayon in Kona Coffee (one mini crayon, worth $10.67, 3-pack costs $32)
My June Ipsy was worth $42.08. Ipsy always has a great value, just not always the greatest products. I liked three of the five items I got this month, though, so I’m happy with Ipsy right now. The bag this month isn’t all that pretty, but it has a sturdy feel to it and it’s black so it won’t show makeup stains.
I wasn’t expecting much from the Shea Moisture Lipstick Crayon. It’s sold at Target, so it definitely isn’t a high-end brand. Still, once I tried it I ended up really liking it. It had some serious pigment, the color was a shimmery fuchsia and completely gorgeous, and the shea in it made my lips feel really soft. It had some serious staying power, so I was impressed. If I were looking for a new lipstick brand, this would be it.
I absolutely love serums, so I was very excited to see the Jules and Esther Facial Serum in my Glam Bag. It’s a vitamin C serum, so that made me even happier. Vitamin C is great for your skin, especially if, like me, you’re in your 30s and concerned about aging. The earlier you start using anti-aging products, the better, so use this even if you think you are too young to need it! I thought this serum was full-sized when I first saw it because so many serums are teeny, but this is actually just a good size sample.
The Key West aloe lotion smelled great and felt very moisturizing. Beauty boxes are all about the aloe this month, which is a great way to start the summer. The mango scent wasn’t too strong and the lotion wasn’t greasy.
I’ve tried the Smashbox Photo Finish Primer many times, and it’s really not for me. I love Smashbox’s Photo Finish Pore Minimizing Primer, but not their original primer. Clear primers always feel thick, greasy, and make it feel as though the makeup I have on over it is floating on my face. Tinted primers are definitely the way to go for my skin. They have a totally different consistency. I’ll use this primer if I’m desperate, but given how many primers I’ve gotten from beauty boxes, that won’t be any time soon. What made me saddest about this sample is that all subscribers got either this or a Too Faced Melted lip color. I have been wanting to try Too Faced Melted for a long time, so I was hoping this would finally be my chance. Alas, it was not.
Finally, we have the Trèstique Eyeshadow Crayon. I didn’t have high hopes for this when I saw it in my bag. Much to my surprise, though, the pigment in this is amazing. I have never had luck with eyeshadow crayons having good pigment, so I had given up on them. The Kona Coffee color I got is a deep, rich brown that is very smudgeable, so you can have it as light or as dark as you want it. I am impressed with this product.
I liked four of the five items. I really loved the Shea Moisure lipstick and the serum. The fifth item, the Smashbox primer, had the unfortunate luck of being an established non-favorite. I was giving serious thought to canceling Ipsy for a few months, but May and June have both been fabulous so I’m glad I held out.
Birchbox, $10 per month (ships to Canada for $4.95 extra)
Like Ipsy, Birchbox had a few bad months for me, but last month and this month have made me happy with my decision to continue as a subscriber.
I got the following in the June Birchbox:
- Coola SPF 50 Sport Classic Sunscreen in Fresh Mango (small sample, worth $3.20, full size costs $32)
- Hanky Panky Eau de Parfum (mini rollerball, worth $7.51, full size rollerball costs $25)
- Marcelle Waterproof Eyeliner in Mulberry (deluxe sample, worth $7.33, full size costs $11)
- Number 4 Blow Dry Lotion (deluxe sample, worth $6.27, full size costs $32)
- Skyn Iceland Hydro Cool Firming Eye Gels (1 pair eye gels, worth $3.75, 8-pack costs $30)
- Emi Jay Hair Tie (one hair tie, worth $2.20, 5-pack costs $11)
My June Birchbox was worth $30.26. That’s not bad at all for a $10 box. Birchbox usually sends five items, but occasionally they throw in a lifestyle product as a sixth item and this time it was the hair tie.
The Coola sunscreen had a light mango scent. I wasn’t all that happy with the size of the sample because it isn’t even enough for one good, full application. $32 for a sunblock is expensive and this just isn’t a special enough product to warrant paying that price.
I was not expecting much from the Hanky Panky perfume - I had never heard of the company. This is the first time I’ve gotten a rollerball perfume in a beauty box before and the sample size was bigger than most perfume samples I get in boxes. The top notes of the perfume were not to my liking, but I find that is often the case with top notes. Once I got to the mid notes, though, I was in love. It smells so good. Halfway between fruity and floral, it has notes of cassis, bergamot, lily of the valley, musk, vetiver, jasmine, and gardenia. Plus, my girlfriend loved it on me so I’ll probably end up buying this perfume after my sample is gone.
I was immediately disappointed in the Marcelle eyeliner because the tip had broken off in shipping. Seems strange that it had been shipped without anything to protect it. Once I got it sharpened, though, I really liked the color. Pencil eyeliner isn’t my favorite, but I’m sure I’ll end up using this on occasion.
I don’t blow dry my hair, so I wasn’t sure I really needed the Number 4 Blow Dry Lotion. I put it in my hair after showering to see if it would have any benefits without blow drying. The next day, my hair seemed a little smoother, shinier, and easier to control, so I guess I ended up liking this product. I’ll use up the sample, but I’m not going to pay to restock once the sample is empty.
Each month, Birchbox lets subscribers pick their own sample from a selection of three items. I have always wanted to try the Skyn Iceland eye gels, so I was very happy to see them as a sample choice for June. The eye gels soothe the skin under your eyes and help eliminate puffiness, wrinkles, and dark circles. I have not been getting enough sleep lately, so I was very hopeful that these gels would work and my skin definitely looked better after the eye gels were taken off. Chances are good that I will buy more of these in the future.
Finally, we have the Emi Jay hair tie. I would not have been happy if this had been included as one of my five items for June, but since it was thrown in as an extra, I was okay with it. I don’t normally use hair ties, but I decided to give it a try. It worked well. If I were going to start using hair ties again, I would buy more of these.
Overall, I’m happy with Birchbox this month. It wasn’t my favorite month, but it was a solid one. I was happy to find a new perfume that I loved and to finally get to try the Skyn Iceland eye gels.
Beauteque Beauty Bag, $24 per month plus $3.95 shipping (ships worldwide, see website for shipping costs for your country)
Beauteque is a subscription box focusing on Korean beauty products; they occasionally have a Japanese item or something from another country. Their samples are generally full size and they always include seven items plus a bag. One of the seven items is a lifestyle item. This is one of the more expensive beauty boxes, so I have high expectations for Beauteque.
This month’s Beauteque Beauty Bag contained:
- Tony Moly Cotton Nail Ball (half size, worth $4.25, full size costs $8.50)
- May Island Peach Hand Cream (full size, worth $6)
- iCharming Nail Polish in Pink (full size, worth $5)
- Baviphat Strawberry Toxifying Mask (full size, worth $20.99)
- iCharming Witch’s Pouch Lip and Eye Remover (full size, worth $10)
- Baviphat Peach All-in-One Peeling Gel Mini (travel size, worth $5)
- Tony Moly Timeless EGF Second Skin Eye Goggles (one mask, worth $4.50)
This month’s Beauteque Beauty Bag was worth $55.74. That’s double what I paid for it and I liked everything in the box, which is pretty rare! Beauteque really set the bar high here, so they need an amazing July box or subscribers will be disappointed.
I was excited when I opened the package and saw cotton candy. I quickly realized it wasn’t real cotton candy, just cotton balls. I needed cotton balls, so it worked out well, but cotton candy would have been fun, too. It’s a cute idea and all and the cotton balls are perfectly fine, but I think $4.25 is a little expensive for a few cotton balls. You’re just paying for the cuteness of the packaging.
The May Island Peach Hand Cream came in a cute little peach shaped container. I don’t normally like peach scented things, but the scent was light, so I didn’t mind it. It was very moisturizing. Also, it’s quite inexpensive to buy so it seems worth a try.
The iCharming nail polish was a pretty, pearly medium pink. One coat of it was adequate, but it’s always good to put on a second coat. I wasn’t expecting much from a cheap nail polish, but I was impressed by this. The color was gorgeous.
I love face masks, so the inclusion of the Baviphat strawberry mask made me happy. This is a clay mask meant to control oil and tighten pores and it contains vitamin C and antioxidants. I applied it with the tiny spoon included and then washed it off after twenty minutes. My skin felt softer and less oily after it was washed off - I’m a big fan of this mask.
The iCharming Witch’s Pouch Collagen Eye and Lip Remover (think they forgot a word there) is an average makeup remover. It removed my makeup well and didn’t feel as greasy as some makeup removers feel, so no complaints here. It’s not all that special, though, and not something I want to get in a Korean beauty box.
The Baviphat Peach All-in-One Peeling Gel mini is an exfoliating peel that helps minimize pores and contains vitamin C. Peels are fun - it’s fascinating to see your dead skin come off - and it had a nice, light peach scent. It worked really well and my skin felt great after using it.
Finally, we had the Tony Moly eye goggles. This was an anti-aging and brightening mask for eyes. It was your normal sheet mask, just goggle shaped. My eye skin felt softer and looked brighter after using it. I’m not sure if it is actually anti-aging as that wouldn’t be apparent after just one use, but I would buy more of these if I ever came across them. Regular sheet masks are some of my favorite things to get in a beauty box, but the skin around the eyes is different from the rest of the skin on your face, so it’s nice to have a mask made just for the eyes.
I had a hard time choosing a winner this time. It is a three way tie! Ipsy and Glossybox each had two items that I fell in love with, and three other items I thought were okay. Beauteque didn’t have any life changing beauty products, but it had seven items that I really liked. It was a solid month for Allure and Birchbox, but Ipsy, Glossybox, and Beauteque were the big winners for me.
Come back next time for the reviews of the June boxes of Petit Vour, Kloverbox, and Vegan Cuts. I also have an additional box, Onyx, to review with the help of some friends. Onyx is a box specially curated for black women. I know that many of the beauty boxes on the market ignore the needs of women of color and send makeup products appropriate for the complexion and hair of white women, so I am so excited there’s a box that aims to fill that unfortunate void. I will, of course, have the help of some black women to review the box. I can’t wait to hear about your beauty boxes and answer any questions you might have 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.