This is a dream column for us: a biweekly review of subscription beauty boxes. Which ones are worth it? Which ones are full of junk? Reader Brandi Kirchgessner guides us through this world of mystery treats. Here's what she's received recently.
Ipsy, $10 per month
It's been a while since Ipsy has really wowed me. Their glam bags are okay, but nothing to write home about. They always have one or two things that I like and the rest I usually give away. I generally like the cute little makeup bag I get each month, but this month's was absolutely hideous. (It's the blue, grey, and yellow thing my beauty products are on in the picture above.)
Here's what was in my glam bag this month:
- Sexy Hair Soy Renewal Creme Oil (travel size, worth $5.46, full size costs $22.95)
- NYX Cosmetics Butter Lipstick in Little Susie (full size, worth $6)
- Chella Ivory Lace Highlighter Pencil (full size, worth $18)
- Dr. Brandt Pores No More Anti-Aging Mattifying Lotion (small sample, worth $9, full size costs $60)
- Marsk Mineral Eyeshadow in Lucky Penny, (full size, worth $22.50)
The bag is worth $60.96 this month, which is impressive for a $10 bag. Three of the five items are full size. I like that Ipsy usually has big samples for an inexpensive box. The three that are full size are the makeup items, while the hair and moisturizer samples are smaller. The issue for me is that I can usually tell whether a makeup product is right for me with a pretty small sample, but skincare and hair care often take long-term use to see their effects.
The Sexy Hair Soy Renewal Creme Oil is meant to be used on your hair before blow drying. I air dry my hair, so I didn't know if I would have any use for this. I decided to try it after I got out of the shower and then just let my hair air dry as I always do. When I woke up in the morning, I noticed my hair looked better than usual. I couldn't pinpoint what looked better about it, but I just looked like I was having an exceptionally good hair day. I will continue to use this product after my showers. It has argan oil in it, so it is good for your hair whether you blow dry or not.
Ipsy almost always has at least one NYX product in each bag. It's a lower end brand, but you get full size products from them. I've never found a NYX product that I've loved. The Butter lipstick is not something I will use. It's a pretty coral color, but I don't really like the formula and it isn't very long lasting.
The Chella Ivory Lace Highlighter is a little darker than I would like for a highlighter. I have very fair skin and this highlighter would be more appropriate for someone a shade darker than me. I almost didn't bother trying it out because of the color. When I finally tried it, I found that it actually worked pretty well. I recently got a cute little Tarte contouring pencil as one of my Sephora samples, so I decided to use both of the pencils to try some subtle contouring and highlighting for the first time. The pencils were much easier to use than the little pots and bottles of highlighting and contouring products I've gotten before. I really liked the results.
I've gotten a good number of Dr. Brandt products in my beauty boxes. This is my first time getting the Anti-Aging Mattifying Lotion. It is meant for people with combination and oily skin, so I was excited to try it. I'm always up for trying something to mattify my oily T-zone. I gave it a go in the morning and liked how it felt. My face stayed matte during the day, so I'm very happy with this product. I've tried a number of Dr. Brandt products in my beauty subscriptions and I always love them. I just wish they weren't so expensive off the shelf!
I loved the color of my Marsk Mineral Eyeshadow. It's a warm coppery color and coppery colors always make my green eyes pop. It has some serious shimmer and the mineral powder is really soft. Like all mineral eyeshadows, you get considerable fall out when you apply it, but a quick wipe under the eyes with a makeup remover cloth takes care of that. I didn't have any fall out after the initial application, so that is a plus. It lasted all day and looked great. I used Urban Decay eyeshadow primer under the eyeshadow; it might not last quite as long if you don't use primer. I don't know how much use I'll get out of this product because I have so much eyeshadow and I am attached to the eyeshadow I currently use, but the color and formula are nice enough that I will reach for it on occasion.
If I were to give this glam bag a star rating, I would give it a three out of five. I'll be giving away two of the five products, but I like three of them. It's worth the ten bucks.
PopSugar Must Have, $40 per month
This is my first month getting PopSugar Must Have. It isn't strictly a beauty box. While they always have some beauty products, they also include things like food, jewelry, scarves, hats, bags, and home items. It's definitely one of the more expensive subscriptions out there at $40 a month, but it always has a very high value.
Here's what was in the March PopSugar Must Have:
- Bliss Micromagic Microdermabrasion Treatment (full size, worth $48)
- Greenmarket Purveying Co. The Archivist Lemon and Cucumber Reed Diffuser Kit (worth $20)
- Samudra Pink Piña Zip Pouch (supposedly worth $40, more on that below)
- Knock Knock What to Pack Pad (worth $7)
- Wet Brush The Squirt (worth $4.99)
- Halfpops in Chipotle Barbeque flavor (worth $1.69)
- Benefit Cosmetics Roller Lash Mascara (sample, worth $8, full size costs $24)
- Benefit Cosmetics POREfessional (sample, worth $4.13, full size costs $31)
The March box is worth $133.81 if you believe the $40 value for the zip pouch.
I saw the February PopSugar Must Have and fell in love. I was heartbroken that it had sold out, but I decided to subscribe anyway and hope that the March box would be just as wonderful. Unfortunately, it wasn't. It's okay, and I will be giving PopSugar a second chance in April, but it just isn't nearly as good as the February box.
I love the Bliss Micromagic Microdermabrasion Treatment! It's worth $48, so that alone is more than the price of the box. Even though the box wasn't everything I dreamed of, it was worth it for this product. The treatment contains pumice and aloe. It is the most abrasive exfoliating treatment I've tried, and it hurt a bit when I was rubbing it on my face. After I rinsed it off, my face felt minty and cool because there is peppermint in it. My skin felt very soft the next day. I'm considering buying this product again once I'm out of it, even though $48 is a little more than I would like to spend on a microdermabrasion treatment. For those of us looking for an exfoliator that doesn't have microbeads (and I hope that is all of us!), this is a great option.
The reed diffuser kit had a strong scent of lemon and cucumber. I put it in my bathroom and it makes the whole room smell great. The scent has lasted a couple weeks so far and is still quite strong. I expect it to last maybe a month or so more.
They list the Samudra plastic zip pouch as being worth $40, but I don't know anyone who would pay that much for it. I think it is more of a $3 product. This was a special pouch made exclusively for PopSugar and there are no other plastic pouches on Samudra's website (all the pouches they have on there are made of cloth and are bigger than this pouch). It's cute, but the price is just so inflated. I will probably end up giving this away as I don't think I have any use for it.
This month was supposed to have a travel theme, so I see why they put the What to Pack notepad in the box. It's kind of silly, though, and I can't imagine actually using it. If I can find a friend who wants it, I'll give it away, but it will probably just collect dust in my house until I recycle it.
The Wet Brush they sent is travel size and it's pretty cute. It's meant to brush wet hair without damaging it. I have hair that never breaks or falls out no matter what I do and I always brush it wet with my regular brush, so I don't have a real need for this product, but I'm sure it is a little better for my hair than my regular brush. I tried it when my hair was wet and it worked just fine.
Halfpops, as you might have guessed, are popcorn that is popped halfway. They're similar to corn nuts. I was hoping for the plain salt flavor, but they sent me chipotle barbeque, so Amanda ended up eating them. She really liked them and thought they were a good snack. We haven't seen them in stores around here, but if we come across them, we'll probably buy them.
The regular products in the PopSugar boxes are always full size, but sometimes they have a sponsored product that is trial size. It is completely extra, not counting toward the six items you're supposed to get or to the minimum $100 value. I was so happy to see the Benefit Roller Lash mascara and POREfessional primer as extras!
I've seen the Roller Lash advertised everywhere and so many people were getting it in other beauty boxes. The mascara is a brand new product from Benefit and it is supposed to curl your lashes in addition to lengthening them and giving them some volume. It worked perfectly! My lashes curled up slightly and looked great, no clumping at all. I always have lots of problems with mascara clumping, so any mascara that doesn't is a winner for me. I am in love with this mascara and will probably buy some. I am just swimming in mascara samples right now, so it is hard to justify spending $24 on one. It is so good, though, that I might just break down and do it. I'll let you know.
The POREfessional has been around for a while, but I have somehow never gotten a sample of it in a box before. It's supposed to minimize pores and fine lines. I often use the Smashbox Photo Finish Pore Minimizing Primer and the POREfessional seems comparable in terms of coverage and color. The Smashbox formular is dryer, which is better for my oily T-zone, so I will be sticking to the Smashbox. I'll use this sample up and I will use a POREfessional sample if I ever get one again, but my preference is the Smashbox. It keeps the oil at bay longer. If you have dry skin, I would suggest going with the POREfessional.
This was an okay month for PopSugar, but it wasn't all I was hoping for. If they don't really impress me in April, I plan to unsubscribe. It's a pricey box and they have premium products, but what good are premium products if I won't use them? I have no interest in two of the items (the notepad and the pouch) and not too much interest in two more (the Halfpops and the brush). Let's hope PopSugar really wows us in April.
Petit Vour, $15 per month
Petit Vour is a vegan and cruelty-free subscription beauty box. This is my first month getting it. I don't keep vegan or vegetarian when it comes to food, but I see no need for my beauty products to contain animal products or test on animals. My favorite makeup company, OCC, is vegan and cruelty-free, so I know that animal products aren't required to make high-quality cosmetics. I can't wait to discover some great brands through this subscription.
Here's what was in my first Petit Vour:
- Juice Beauty Stem Cellular CC Cream in Natural Glow (good size sample, worth $11.47, full size costs $39)
- Vert Mont Perfumery EROS Wellness Perfume (small sample, worth $5.25, full size costs $35)
- The Little Alchemist Cacao and Banana Face Glow (full size, worth $32)
- Metropolis Soap Co. Lip Butter (full size, worth $7)
This box is worth $55.72, so it's a very good value. I'm used to beauty boxes having at least five items, but the four items in this box were high value, so that's okay — I'd rather have four quality items than six cheap ones.
I've gotten a number of Juice Beauty products, so I wasn't really looking forward to receiving yet another one. All Juice Beauty products have the same weird smell that I really don't like, but I'm willing to look past it if the product is good enough. The smell goes away soon after the cream is applied. Petit Vour released a spoiler that revealed the CC cream would be in this month's box, so I knew it was coming. I had never tried a CC cream before. It's meant for color correcting, so I put it on after moisturizing and priming, but before I put on foundation. I got Natural Glow, which is the lightest of the five shades Juice Beauty makes. It didn't seem to quite match my skin when it came out of the tube, but it's very sheer, so it ended up working. It has a slight shimmer to it, which I liked. It evened out my skin tone slightly, but for pimples or any serious color correction, you'll still need foundation or concealer. I liked it more than I expected. My friend Emma said it made her break out, so if you have sensitive skin, you might want to pass on this product.
I have a sizable collection of perfume samples, so yet another vial of perfume is not my favorite thing to find in any beauty box. I was interested in trying the Vert Mont Perfumery EROS Wellness perfume, though, because it is a natural, vegan perfume. I opened the vial and the first thing I noticed was how thick and oily it was compared to regular perfume. I put a little on my wrist to try out the scent and I ended up washing it off immediately. The perfume has patchouli in it and I really, really dislike patchouli. It also has red mandarin, orris root, juniper, coriander, and jasmine, but the patchouli was all I could smell because I have such an aversion to it. If you like patchouli, though, you'll adore this perfume. I would like to try the other perfumes in the Vert Mont Perfumery line because it did seem to be high quality perfume and I like the idea of using a vegan perfume. Scent is very personal, so my dislike of this perfume is not indicative of the quality of it. I'm sure there is a perfume that Vert Mont Perfumery makes that would be perfect for me.
Even though I have more face masks than I can ever use, I still love getting them in my beauty boxes. The Cacao and Banana face mask is unlike any I've tried before! You can mix it with plain water, but they recommend experimenting with different liquids, like yogurt and honey (obviously, doing that would make it non-vegan). I tried it out with water. It smelled like straight up cocoa. I didn't detect a banana scent. It's a hydrating mask and I loved how my face felt after rinsing it off. It's nice that it is full size. A little goes a long way with the powder, so I think it will last quite a while unless Amanda gets into it. She always uses way too much!
Finally, the lip butter was a creamy stick that wasn't too waxy and didn't have any artificial colors in it. The lavender and spearmint scents go well together. It left my lips feeling soft and hydrated.
This was my first month with Petit Vour. It wasn't as good as I was expecting, but I'll try it again next month. I'll get a lot of use out of the mask, so it was more than worth it for that alone.
And now we have a bonus beauty box review!
Amor Naturals, $19.99 per quarter plus $4.99 shipping
Amor Naturals is a box that I added at the last minute. The owner, Glendy Noeh, contacted me and asked me if I would be interested in reviewing her box. I looked over their website and I was in love, so I just had to say yes. She sent me a free review box, so, for ethical reasons, I can't keep the items after reviewing them. I gave the items that were not one-time use to an acquaintance. I have decided to pay for a subscription to this quarterly box, though, so you'll see reviews of it every few months.
In case there is any concern that my review is affected by the fact that I received this box for free, I can assure you that it isn't. I have more makeup and skincare samples than I can ever use (and give a ton of them away already), so there is no incentive for me to pretend I like stuff that is subpar, free or not. I will always give my honest assessment of any product and any subscription. If I am sent a box for free, I will disclose that in the review and will give the products from the box away after reviewing them.
Amor Naturals products are made by the two owners, Glendy and Henry, and are all natural, sustainable, and organic. You can choose the vegan or non-vegan box (the main difference being that the vegan box has no honey in its products) and they will also customize your box based on your skin type (oily, normal/combination, dry). Although I'm not vegan myself, I know that there is a lot of interest in vegan products here, so I opted to get the vegan box. My skin is combination.
Here's what was in the Spring Amor Naturals box:
- Almond Rose Artisan Facial Soap (small soap bar)
- Blue Agave Mask (small sample jar)
- Agua Rosa Hydrating Water (small spray bottle)
- Azul Face Elixir (small bottle)
- Spring Bloom Bath Melt (one full-size bath melt)
- Coconut Rose Bath Milk (one packet of bath salts)
I couldn't link to the products or assign them value because these products are currently available only in the subscription box. Amor has a shop on their site that sells items separately from the box, but the items change regularly. They are selling the Spring box until April 15th or until the box sells out, whichever comes first, so act quickly if you are interested.
I opened the box and it smelled amazing! The samples are handmade with high quality ingredients, so the sample sizes are somewhat small, but a little goes a long way with these products. This quarter's theme was "Hello, Spring!"
The facial soap has a soft rose scent. It's made of almond milk, rose clay, coconut oil, and shea butter. I normally do not use bar soap on my face, but I was willing to give this one a try. My face felt so soft after using it just once.
The Blue Agave mask had a grapefruity smell because of the grapefruit essential oil in it. It was a little liquidier than most face masks. The non-vegan box has a honey avocado mask in place of the blue agave. I had never tried a blue agave facial product, so this was something new. The agave nectar made it very sticky, but my face felt hydrated and soft after using it. I made sure to not use this on the same day as the bar soap so I could see how each affected my skin. The pot of this is rather small, but a little goes a long way, so you can get a few uses out of it.
The Rose Water can be used to tone after washing your face or to refresh your skin and makeup as needed throughout the day. I used it strictly as a toner and loved it. It smelled great and it felt nice and almost cooling on my skin. It is nothing like the really harsh toners you might be used to.
The bottle of the Azul Face Elixir is small, but you only need a few drops each time you use it. It's a mix of jojoba, blue yarrow, calendula, and chia seed oils. It moisturizes and reins in your oil production. It's nice that they have given you a whole skincare system in one box. You can wash your face with the soap bar, tone it with the rose water, and then moisturize with this elixir. I didn't love the smell of the elixir, but I didn't find it offensive either.
I couldn't wait to try the Spring Bloom bath melt. It's so pretty! It has a little dried red rosebud on top. The bath melt smells absolutely yummy. It is made of cocoa, shea butter, vanilla, and rose essential oil. It smells like rosy chocolate. Part of me didn't want to put it in the tub to try it out because I just wanted to keep smelling it and looking at it. When I finally convinced myself to drop it in the tub, it slowly melted with a lot of fizz. The water smelled wonderful and I soaked in it a while to let it moisturize my skin. My whole body felt soft and smooth once I got out of the tub.
Finally, I had to try the Coconut Rose Bath Milk Salts. This necessitated taking yet another bath, but I like baths, so I was okay with that. In the non-vegan version of the box, you get a Honey Coconut Bath Milk. I love the scent of roses, so I'm really happy I got the vegan box. The combination of coconut and rose was amazing. The scent was very subtle compared to the scent from the bath melt. I liked the dried rose petals that were mixed in with the salts. It made for a pretty bath! It was a nice, relaxing bath and left me feeling hydrated and refreshed.
I am in love with Amor! If you are looking for a natural, organic, handmade bath and beauty box, I can't recommend this box more highly. Every product left my skin feeling soft and hydrated. It broke my heart to have to give away the products after testing them. I'm going to be a paying subscriber now, so I can keep all the stuff from future boxes! This is a very small company (just a husband and wife team), so supplies will be limited. Keep checking their website for new products because they make things by hand in small batches, so their inventory changes often. The sample sizes are smaller than those in some boxes, but these are very high quality, handmade products, and a little goes a long way with them.
I'm giving this round to Amor Naturals! The other boxes put up a good fight, but I loved every product in Amor and really appreciate the handmade aspect of it. I hadn't even known about Amor until two weeks ago and had only planned on reviewing Petit Vour, Ipsy, and PopSugar Must Have this time. If Amor hadn't been in this round, I would have declared a draw because the other three boxes were all okay, but nothing spectacular this month. Amanda thinks PopSugar should be the winner because she liked the microdermabrasion scrub so much.
Come back in a couple weeks for the first installment of the April box review. I have canceled Boxycharm and replaced it with Beauteque, which is a box that specializes in Korean beauty products. Korean products are supposed to be some of the best out there and are very popular right now, so I can't wait to try them. I have subscribed to Kloverbox, too, which is a natural beauty subscription box that looks absolutely amazing. I will, of course, also be reviewing the April boxes of Birchbox, Glossybox, Ipsy, Petit Vour, and PopSugar Must Have.
Also, for anyone who was giving some thought to getting Glossybox, now is the time to do it! Ruelala is having a sale on Glossybox subscriptions: $15 for one month or $95 for 6.
I can't wait to hear about your beauty boxes and answer any questions you might have in the comments below!
Brandi Kirchgessner has always loved getting mail and wearing makeup, so she was ecstatic to discover beauty boxes. She lives with her very understanding wife, three dogs, and five cats.
Illustration by Tara Jacoby.