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.
I generally review the boxes in the order I receive them, so which beauty boxes end up in each column is just by chance. This month, though, I will be reviewing the more popular, mainstream subscription boxes—Allure Sample Society, Birchbox, Glossybox, and Ipsy. In the next installment I will review the Korean boxes, 3B and Beauteque, and the natural and/or vegan boxes, Vegan Cuts and Kloverbox.
Allure Sample Society, $15 per month (US only)
In this month’s Allure Sample Society box, I got:
- John Frieda Luxurious Volume 7-Day Volume Treatment (deluxe sample, worth $2.50, full size costs $9.99)
- Eau Thermale Avène Thermal Spring Water (travel size, worth $9)
- Alterna Caviar Repair Multi-Vitamin Heat Protection Spray (deluxe sample, worth $6, full size costs $30)
- Laneige Water Sleeping Mask (deluxe sample, worth $5.75, full size costs $23)
- Versace Eros pour Femme Eau de Parfum (deluxe sample, worth $6, full size costs $120)
- Julep Lip Gloss in Graceful (deluxe sample, worth $8, full size costs $20)
Allure is making a comeback! This month’s Allure box is worth $37.25. Much better than last time! Normally, they include five items in this box, but this month, they threw in a sixth. While I liked last month’s box because it introduced me to an amazing product, I know that some subscribers were upset with the low value of the April box, so including an extra item was a good move on their part.
As I’ve mentioned before, volumizing products are not something I need. While I might be willing to try a product that adds volume to my hair for a day, there is no way I am willing to look like a puffball for a week, so I convinced a friend to be the guinea pig for the John Frieda volume treatment. She had a noticeable increase in volume for about three washes, so if volume is what you need, give this product a try. You can’t beat it for $10.
I admit to being a little bit skeptical about the benefits of water sprays. I mean, it’s water. The water in the Eau Thermale Avène spray comes from a thermal spring in France and it is supposed to have a lot of minerals in it. This might be better for your skin than plain water, but I can’t really say. It felt nice, but I didn’t notice any amazing effects.
I liked the Alterna Caviar Repair spray. I never blow dry my hair, but using a multi-vitamin spray can’t hurt, so I tried it anyway. I definitely noticed my hair feeling a little softer and looking a little shinier.
I am a sucker for masks. I get so excited when I get a mask in one of my beauty boxes and can never wait to try them. The Laneige Water Sleeping Mask is a Korean moisturizing mask that you wear overnight and wash off in the morning. I used a sleeping mask for the first time last month when I got one in another box and it was definitely a little sticky and difficult to sleep in (but I still liked it). This one absorbed into my skin and didn’t make a mess at all. I loved how my skin felt in the morning, so I just might have to buy a full size jar of this.
The Versace perfume came in a 5mL bottle instead of one of those teeny vials that so often come in beauty boxes, so that really made me happy. According to the description of it Allure sent in the box, it has notes of bergamot, lemon, pomegranate, peony, sandalwood, jasmine, amber, and musk. The scent was nice enough, but it wasn’t really me. It was very long lasting, though.
Finally, there was the Julep lip gloss. The color was pretty and gave my lips a light pink tint. I really, really don’t like lip gloss because I hate the sticky feeling so many of them have. This one didn’t feel quite as sticky as most lip glosses, so that was a plus. It also wore longer than most lip glosses do on me.
Overall, I think the May Allure box was strong. The sample sizes were generous and the products were all new to me. They definitely needed an amazing box after last month because a number of subscribers were upset by the small sample sizes, and I think they succeeded here. As always, I must note that because this box was sent to me free of charge, I gave all the products away after reviewing them.
Glossybox, $21 per month (US and Canada, also has international versions)
This month’s Glossybox contained:
- Teeez Trend Cosmetics Head Over Heels Nail Lacquer in Cadmium Rush (full size, worth $14)
- Doucce Mineral Matt Lipstick in Cherry Blossom (full size, worth $20)
- Clearista Retexturizing Gel (deluxe sample, worth $10)
- Glamglow Powermud Dualcleanse Treatment (deluxe sample, worth $20.29)
- Sebastian Professional Stylbrid 9 (deluxe sample, worth $4.99)
This month’s Glossybox was worth $69.28. Yet another amazing month from Glossybox! I am almost wishing for Glossybox to have an off month because I feel weird giving them overwhelmingly positive reviews month after month.
I like nail polish, but I don’t use it all that often, so I am never all that excited to see it in a beauty box. The Teeez nail lacquer was orange, though, so that made me very happy. I don’t think I have any other orange nail polish. The colors varied, so not everyone got orange. I would have been pretty disappointed if I got a different color. The coverage on it was good. You could get away with one coat if you had to, but I would recommend two coats to make it look perfect.
This was my first time hearing of the brand Doucce, so I didn’t know what to expect from their lipstick. The color was a little too close to my lip color, so I probably wouldn’t choose this color for myself. Colors varied, so not all subscribers got Cherry Blossom. The formula had a matte finish and felt very smooth and moisturizing. It held up for a few hours without requiring retouching. It includes vitamin E and sun protection in the formula, so this lipstick is the total package. If I weren’t so attached to my lip tar, I would probably buy other colors in the line and make it my everyday lipstick.
I love exfoliators, so I couldn’t wait to try the Clearista gel. It’s supposed to smooth out blemishes and correct dry patches and pigmentation. It felt so nice on my skin and my skin felt soft after I rinsed it off. As soon as I started using it, I became worried it contained microbeads. I checked the ingredients, though, and it does not contain microbeads, so you can use this exfoliator with a clean conscience. I can’t say I like the $80 price tag on the full size version of this gel, and I would never actually buy it, but I love using my sample of it. A little goes a long way, so I think the sample will last me a couple of weeks.
Glamglow products are amazing (and expensive!). Their Supermud is my favorite mask. The Powermud is a deep cleaning mask treatment. It felt a little drying, but that is okay with my combination skin. I liked how my skin looked after using it, so it must have done something good.
Finally, we get to the Sebastian hairspray. Hairspray generally isn’t my thing, but this also offers sun protection and makes hair shinier. It did give my hair some added shine, so I liked that aspect of it. It felt a lot lighter than normal hairspray. I hate how hairspray feels normally, but I found this to be tolerable.
I loved the two skincare products and the orange nail polish, so I was very happy with this month’s Glossybox. It was also nice to discover a new lipstick brand, even if I’m unlikely to give up my current brand anytime soon. Another solid month for Glossy.
Ipsy, $10 per month (also ships to Canada for an extra $4.95 a month)
Here’s what was in my Glambag:
- Peter Lamas Naturals Detoxifying Citrus C Facial Cleanser (deluxe sample, worth $6, full size costs $24)
- Alterna Caviar CC Cream (deluxe sample, worth $8.50, full size costs $25)
- Pixi by Petra Beauty Bronzer in Summertime (deluxe sample, worth approximately $5.33)
- Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Lip Pencil in Ozone (3/4 size, worth $15, full size costs $20)
- Bellápierre Gel Eyeliner in Ebony (full size, worth $14.99)
This month’s Ipsy is worth $49.82. The Urban Decay pencil came in a little card with two small lipstick samples, but I just counted them as a bonus as there was no real way to calculate their value and they came with the lip liner. This is the best month Ipsy has had in a long time. I hated the bag the products came in this month. You can’t really see it in the picture above, but it says, “Contents: My Life.” I love makeup and all, but my life is not makeup. It also has some black marks on it because the tip of the eyeliner broke off during shipping and made a bit of a mess. I would be sad if I liked the bag, but since I don’t, I’m not all that upset about the marks.
Facial cleansers are some of my favorite products to get in beauty boxes, so I was happy to see the Peter Lamas cleanser in my Ipsy bag. It has vitamin C in it, which is great for your skin. It helped my skin clear up from a break out I got when I fell asleep with my makeup on. I will probably end up buying this at some point.
I’ve never gotten an Alterna sample before, but this month, I got Alterna samples in two different boxes. The Caviar CC Cream is amazing. I could not believe how soft and shiny my hair was after using it. I just love it. It’s a leave-in treatment you work through your hair after a shower. I went to bed with my hair wet after using it and woke up in the morning to perfect hair. I’m telling you, you need this product.
I generally like Pixi products, but the bronzer just wasn’t for me. It is way too dark for my really pale skin. The formula itself seemed nice, but I looked pretty silly with it on. It was hard to estimate the value of this sample because I can find it only in a set with a kabuki brush, and this sample doesn’t come with a brush. The price with the brush is $18, so I estimated that the brush was worth $6 and the full size bronzer was worth $12, and figured out the value of the sample using that figure.
I always use clear lipliner with my lip tars because they can bleed a bit if I don’t. Urban Decay’s lip pencil in Ozone is a clear liner, so I was curious to see how it stacked up against the OCC lip liner in Anti-feathered. The Urban Decay pencil is a lot softer than the OCC pencil, which I liked. It went on smoother. I didn’t have a problem with the lip tars bleeding when I used this, so I plan on buying this pencil in the future.
The Bellápierre liner was your basic black eyeliner. Nothing remarkable about it, but no serious flaws either. I’m not a big eyeliner person and I already have a million black eyeliners from my subscriptions, so this was the product I was least excited about in this bag.
Three of the five items in this bag were just fabulous. The other two weren’t horrible products, just not for me. I haven’t liked my Ipsy bags all that much lately, so I was surprised and elated to get such a great bag from them this month.
Birchbox, $10 per month (Also ships to Canada for $4.95 extra)
In this month’s Birchbox, I got the following:
- Macadamia Professional Nourishing Moisture Oil Treatment (deluxe sample, worth $9.51, full size costs $39.95)
- Benefit Cosmetics The POREfessional (small sample, worth $4.13, full size costs $31)
- Naobay Oxygenating Cream Moisturizing (deluxe sample, worth $14.40, full size costs $36)
- Mally Evercolor Automatic Waterproof Eyeliner in Plum (full size, worth $18)
- Real Chemistry Luminous 3-Minute Peel (trial size, worth $5.75)
The May Birchbox was worth $51.79. Not a bad value for a Birchbox! I’m not even going to complain about sample sizes in my Birchbox this month. Birchbox is making a comeback.
I loved the Macadamia hair oil! It made my hair so shiny and soft. It’s a big sample and a little goes a very long way, so it will last a long time. I’ve been all about hair oils lately, so I was very excited to try this and I wasn’t disappointed.
This is the third month in a row I’ve gotten a POREfessional sample in a beauty box! I think it’s okay, but it’s far from my favorite primer, and it’s such a small sample. Is POREfessional not selling all that well? I can’t think of any other reason Benefit is trying to get it into every beauty box.
I liked the Naobay moisturizer. It is for the face and seems like it can be used as a primer in addition to a moisturizer. It absorbed really quickly, which is a quality I really appreciate in a moisturizer. I hate when I apply a moisturizer in the morning and it takes forever to absorb into my skin. I might end up buying this just because of how quickly it was absorbed.
The Mally eyeliner was a really pretty purple, but I wouldn’t call it quite plum. I liked that it wasn’t the usual black eyeliner. The pigmentation wasn’t quite where I wanted it to be, but it wasn’t horrible. It lasted all day without smudging and it was waterproof. Eyeliner isn’t my favorite product, but I would be open to trying other colors of this product from Mally.
The Real Chemistry peel was the item I chose for my May sample choice. I had a hard time choosing between the macadamia oil and the peel, so I was so happy to get both in my box. When I read the instructions for this peel, it sounded kind of gross. It said that the peel should develop solids when rubbed into the skin and that the solids are the combination of dead skin and the peel. I gave it a try, though, and loved it. My skin felt brand new after I was finishing rubbing it on my skin and rinsing it off.
I really liked my Birchbox for the second month in a row. It’s been a while since I’ve liked my Birchboxes and I thought about canceling it, but I’m glad I stuck it out because the April and May boxes have made it worth it.
I can’t pick a winner in this round. The boxes were all fabulous. I had a couple of products I absolutely adored in each box, so I’m going to call it a draw. Come back in two weeks to see how the 3B and Beauteque fare against Vegan Cuts and Kloverbox.
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.