Your Ultimate Guide To Beauty Subscription Boxes

by Sidney Burds

Your Ultimate Guide To Beauty Subscription Boxes

Test out all of the latest beauty trends and cult classics without committing to hefty prices with beauty subscription boxes. You can never have too much makeup.


1. Beauty Subscription Box: PLAY! By Sephora


PLAY! by Sephora flat lay of beauty box


How It Works: Each month Sephora curates a beauty box filled with five prestige product samples of new and best-selling beauty products. These fantastic items range from makeup, hair care, skincare and fragrance. To give these beauty subscriptions a personal touch, you fill out a PLAY! Profile to hone in on your beauty preferences. A box will then arrive each month for you to play with and try so you can develop your beauty tastes without paying an arm and a leg.


Sample Brands: GlamGlow, Bumble and Bumble, Becca, Tarte, Clinique to name a few. All of them will be brands that Sephora currently carries.


Cost: At just $10 a month with free shipping, it’s one of the cheapest beauty subscription boxes on the market, so it’s easier to take a chance on this one with such little buyer’s remorse.


Pros: Sephora pleasantly includes quite a few perks with its beauty subscription box! Besides the five deluxe, trial-sized beauty products, you also receive a collectible makeup bag, access to tutorials for the products, a PLAY! BOOK with tips and tricks, a PLAY! PASS for 50 bonus Beauty Insider points when making a full-size product purchase in store, and PLAY! DATE a subscriber VIP event where you and a friend can come in store and test products with beauty experts.


Cons: Unfortunately this beauty box is in very high demand, which means there’s often a waitlist to get on the mailing list. Typically the line moves fast (there’s no wait at this writing!) so you don’t have to wait long, but beware, when you initially sign up, your first box will not arrive until the following month, which is a bit of a bummer in the age of two-day shipping.


The Bottom Line: If you’re wanting to try some prestigious beauty products for cheap before biting the bullet and paying full price we suggest giving PLAY! a try.


2. Beauty Subscription Box: FabFitFun


FabFitFun beauty subscription box


How It Works: FabFitFun beauty subscription box goes beyond just full-size beauty products; this box additionally comes with home decor, fashion accessories, wellness products, and seasonal goods! You can choose to do either a seasonal plan (one box) or an annual plan (four boxes at a discounted price, paid in full). Boxes ship out quarterly in March, June, September and December.


Sample Brands: The do not have a list of brands on their website, however past beauty brands they have carried are tre’StiQue, Deborah Lippmann, Pure Cosmetics, and ISH. They continuously circulate brands in and out so you won’t get multiple products from the same brand.


Cost: This beauty subscription box is a tad more expensive than the rest on our list: It’s $49.99 a box, and shipping is free —though FabFitFun claims each box has a $200+ value. So you end up getting a lot of great products for a fourth of the cost, or opt for the annual subscription and pay only $179.99, which adds up to being about $5 cheaper per box.


Pros: You get a lot of bang for your buck with this box. Plus, with full-size products, you get more time to test and see true results, which you don’t always get to do with a sample size. Besides the beauty subscription box, you also will have access to FabFitFun TV workout content, members’ only sales where you can purchase box add-ons, capsule sales, and exclusive offers with brand partners.


Cons: What comes in the box is a complete surprise, which could be a pro for some! But if you don’t end up loving everything that arrives in your box, it’s a bit of a bummer and you don’t have the option of switching out items you don’t want. You do, however, have a general idea of the types of brands they partner with by viewing past boxes.


The Bottom Line: If you want a mix of beauty, wellness, fashion, and fitness products, this is the box for you. Though it is a pricier beauty subscription box, you will receive full-size products—around 10 to 12 items a month with roughly half of them being beauty products and the other half accessories and home goods.


3. Beauty Subscription Box: Ipsy


Ipsy beauty box bag with contents spilling out


How It Works: The process begins with a beauty profile, where you explain a little about yourself (skin tone, hair, and eye color) and your beauty preferences (products, brands, shades, etc.). From there Ipsy will pull both full-size and sample-size products according to your taste, with the occasional new beauty product or brand that you may unexpectedly fall in love with.


Sample Brands: You can go to the site and view a list of more than 70 retail partners with standout brands such as Bobbi Brown, Estee Lauder, Smashbox, and Temptu.


Cost: You have the option of paying $12 monthly or $132 yearly, which works out to one free box. Shipping is free. Both subscription types renew automatically, but you can cancel anytime without penalties or hidden fees.


Pros: A pleasant mix of full- and sample-size products makes this bag an automatic steal, as most drugstore products cost about the $12 price point alone. Ipsy carries a wide variety of name-brand beauty products and because you get to pick your beauty product preferences, you’re more likely to get products you were looking forward to trying.


Cons: The dreaded waitlist strikes again! Ipsy is another beauty subscription box that is unfortunately so popular you have to wait to get in. There isn’t a definitive wait time but it does promise to start your membership ASAP upon advancing off the waitlist. Additionally, from month to month, you need to make sure you’re updating your beauty profile preferences (and you should be precise) and write reviews about past products, otherwise you may receive products far from your interests which is a bit of a chore.


The Bottom Line: Ipsy is a low-cost beauty subscription box with pros that far out way the cons. As long as you put the time and effort into your beauty profile and reviews you should reap the monthly subscription rewards.


4. Beauty Subscription Box: Birchbox  


Birchbox beauty box with beauty products


How It Works: Birchbox’s philosophy is for you to try products without buying everything blindly and going bankrupt in the process. Simply sign up for a month-to-month or annual subscription, complete your beauty preference profile, and receive five deluxe product samples to test and review. The samples you receive will be hand picked by Birchbox’s team of Discovery Specialists and they will pull products in relation to your beauty profile preferences, if you’re looking for more skincare products, what your skin tone is for the correct foundation color, etc. After your first month you have the power to choose one of your five beauty box samples each month which is a unique perk! And in the case you fall in love with a product you can shop the full size version on their website.


Sample Brands: Birchbox has a catalog of well over 100 brands with big names like NARS, Tweezerman, Gucci, and Laura Geller New York.


Cost: $15 a month with a “cancel at any time” policy. There’s also a six month plan at $14 a month. If you opt for the yearly policy, you will pay $13 a month (saves you $24), shipping is free, and also receive a gift of a free mini MAC Matte Lipstick in Velvet Teddy!


Pros: Beginning with your second box, you get the fantastic perk of choosing one of your samples, which is rare with beauty subscription boxes. That alone makes up for the cost of the box, because most sample sizes of higher end products at beauty stores will go over than $15 price. Another huge perk is that if you find a sample you are obsessed with and want to make it a permanent part of your beauty routine, simply go to Birchbox’s website where it sells full-size versions of your samples! Shipping is free, and you get one Loyalty Point for every $1 you spend. Points can be redeemed for full-size products in their shop.


Cons: Like we’ve said with previous beauty subscription boxes, when everything is sample sizes it can sometimes be difficult to truly see results from a product. Makeup is easy to see if you do or don’t love a color, but an overnight skin cream or moisturizer may take more time (and more product).


The Bottom Line: We think Birchbox is worth a try. It’s a low-cost commitment, you get to pick a sample you for sure want to try, and you don’t have to scour the internet for products you fall in love with.


5. Beauty Subscription Box: Target Beauty Box


Target monthly beauty box


How It Works: For those of us who hate surprises, Target’s beauty subscription box gives you all the product details before you pull the trigger. Target rounds up between five to eight of their favorite beauty products (makeup, skincare, and hair care) that they sell in stores each month along with a coupon for a future Target beauty purchase. They have the beauty box on display each month on their website with what’s inside. How do you get the box? Simply add it to your cart when it’s released at the beginning of the month. There’s no commitment to getting a box each month because, technically, you’re not subscribing.


Sample Brands: Will vary from month to month but will always be brands sold at Target. For example this past month (pictured above) included: Elnett hairspray, Fekkai dry shampoo, Laneige BB Cushion foundation, NYX eye pencil, and L’Oreal lipstick.


Cost: At just $7 this is an extreme steal for a beauty subscription box. Individually each product in the box is worth up to $28, so you can make your money back in one item alone. Plus the shipping is free, but it will take up to two weeks.


Pros: Target makes it easy to get in on the beauty subscription box craze. With such a low price point, there is a low chance of buyer’s remorse. Plus, because you get a preview of what’s included in the box, you can choose month by month which ones you would love to try, and which you would rather pass on.


Cons: These boxes sell out insanely fast! Target does not yet have a notification system to alert customers when they are released, but they typically pop up for availability the first Monday of every month.


The Bottom Line: This box is great for the person who loves to shop Target. If you love the beauty lines the store carries and want exposure to new products, set an alarm for next month’s drop!


6. Beauty Subscription Box: Glowing Beets


Glowing Beets clean beauty, beauty box


How It Works: Sign up for a monthly subscription and receive three to four deluxe samples or full-size beauty products. The big thing that makes Glowing Beets stand out from other beauty subscription boxes is that the products it sends are made with clean, non-toxic, and cruelty free ingredients. Glowing Beets believes in living healthy and having beauty products that don’t jeopardize your well-being. The company doesn’t believe in waste, which is why it prefers to send out deluxe samples, so the user doesn’t end up wasting a full-sized bottle of product.


Sample Brands: Get cruelty-free, non-toxic products from brands like Herbivore Botanicals, Zao Organic Makeup, and Orchid.


Cost: Glowing Beets is a monthly beauty subscription box at $29.95 plus a $5.99 shipping fee, making it more expensive than some other monthly boxes. You won’t be charged a cancellation fee, however, if you choose to opt out of the monthly service.


Pros: Finding non-toxic and cruelty-free beauty brands are sometimes hard to find at your local department and convenience stores. Glowing Beets exposes you to a variety of brands and products you don’t normally see. Plus you can rest easy and indulge in luxurious cosmetic and skincare products without the toxic chemicals.


Cons: Unless you are a beauty wellness connoisseur, it may take you more time learn about the products and brands, because they’re lesser known than those in other beauty subscription boxes. But, this can also make it exciting if you love trying new products and want to commit to a non-toxic and cruelty-free beauty routine.


The Bottom Line: If you love beauty products and also want to commit to a cleaner product routine we suggest you give Glowing Beets a go!


7. Beauty Subscription Box: JoahBox


K-Beauty Joahbox monthly beauty box


How It Works: As you may have read online or seen in magazines, Korean beauty products, are blowing up right now. Innovation with products (example A: K-Beauty introduced BB creams) and cute packaging are staples in the Korean beauty world. Want to get in on the K-beauty product craze but don’t know where to shop at or what to buy? You may want to try Joah Box, it brings you five to seven full-sized, handpicked beauty products (beauty tools, nail care, skincare, makeup, etc.) straight from South Korea.


Sample Brands: All well established Korean beauty brands, for example: A’Pieu, MemeBox, Missha, Nature Republic, and many more.


Cost: The monthly subscription is $35.95, but if you opt for the three and six month package there is a price discount and the annual membership makes your 12th box free. Shipping is free worldwide, there are no additional hidden fees, and each box is valued at $60 retail.


Pros: Unless you live in a large city like New York or Los Angeles, you probably don’t have tons of access to a range of Korean beauty products. This is a great way to expose yourself to new products and brands for an insanely low price. The box also comes with an informational card to help you understand how to properly use the beauty products, which is super helpful.


Cons: If you fall in love with a product it may take some time to surf the internet and find a safe website to purchase more that won’t cost a bunch in shipping. It also doesn’t appear that the website gives any affiliate links or discounts if you gravitate toward a brand.


The Bottom Line: Other beauty subscription boxes are very unlikely to carry a lot of Korean beauty brands, so if this is a segment of beauty that you really want to dive into, head straight to the source and subscribe to JoahBox.


8. Beauty Subscription Box: Glossybox


Pink Glossybox beauty box


How It Works: If you’re looking to treat-yo-self, look no further than Glossybox. Hands down it has the most luxurious packaging in the business (just seeing that pink box on our doorsteps would put a smile on our faces). Five deluxe or full-size samples are sent in each monthly box, and you make a beauty profile to assist them in narrowing down your wants.


Sample Brands: Glossybox has an extensive brand glossary to scroll through with stands-outs like Vince Camuto, Tom Ford, Pureology, and Lancôme.


Cost: A one-month subscription is $21 with free shipping with automatic billing, unless canceled. It also gives the option of quarterly, biannually, and annual billing, which is unique and each comes at a discounted price.


Pros: The deluxe and full-size samples are a major pro for getting more product at a stellar price. Glossybox’s roster of high-end department store brands is endless, which is a great way to find out if certain products are worth the splurge. If you don’t happen to be in the U.S. don’t fret! Glossybox has locations in more than 10 countries and ships worldwide.


Cons: The box is always a complete surprise (which can be fun!) but there isn’t a review option to state why you did or didn’t like the products your recieved, so there’s no way for them to know and improve your next box.


The Bottom Line: If we could use one word to describe Glossybox it would have to be boujee. From the packaging to the products, Glossybox appears to be the most extravagant of the beauty subscription boxes, and we highly recommend it for treating yourself.