I've been wanting to do this post for so long! I've reviewed a lot of beauty sample boxes, and while reviewing each in turn is good fun, I think it's more useful to compare them. After all, most people are only going to subscribe to a box or two, and a lot of people ask me which I'd most recommend. So, this month, I decided to do a comparative review of what I consider (as of this moment) the three best beauty sample boxes available: Birchbox, which, as far as I know, started this whole trend, and two newer entries into the market, Sample Society and Glossybox. This review actually compares the June Glossybox to the July Sample Society and Birchbox boxes, as Glossybox ships at the end of the month, Sample Society at the beginning, and Birchbox towards the middle. Still, I think the comparison is fair.
As I've mentioned before, Birchbox started this whole trend, or at least was the first of these sample boxes I ever knew about. I've been a subscriber since the first month. Lately, I've been a bit disillusioned with Birchbox, however, and this month, sadly, was no different.
First, the nuts and bolts:
Cost: $10/month, $110 for a year-long monthly subscription
Shipping: This month, I received a shipping notice for my box on July 10 and the box arrived the next day
Packaging: Birchbox is packaged in a small cardboard logo box, with products wrapped in tissue paper. I like the packaging and think the boxes are very reusable.
This month's box contained four products and two "lifestyle extras":
-Alterna Bamboo UV+ Color Protection Fade-Proof Fluide, .25 oz (full size 2.5 oz for $24, est. value $2.40): This product is reasonable and the sample size is not ridiculously small. However, it's a product for colored hair, which I don't have. I indicated this on my Birchbox profile, so I can't help but see the inclusion of this product in my supposedly personalized box as a fail on Birchbox's part.
-Jouer Luminizing Moisture Tint in Bronze, .07 oz (full size 1.7 oz for $38, est. value $1.56): This is a great product, and one I've used before, but c'mon, a .07 oz sample?? One use, maybe two. That seems pretty chinzy to me. Doesn't matter, though, since the color Birchbox sent, Bronze, is two or three shades too dark for my skin. And yes, my skin tone is indicated as "light" in my Birchbox profile. 0 for 2, Birchbox. Making things even worse, this sample is a duplicate of one I already received in a previous Birchbox!
-Oscar de la Renta Live in Love perfume, 1 ml (full size 50 ml for $78, est. value $1.56): I hate perfume samples, so this was never going to be something I was going to get excited about.
-Stila Lip Glaze in Lights, .05 oz (full size 3-piece collection for $12, est. value $4): I love Stila Lip Glazes, so this was my favorite part of this particular box. The color is very neutral and I'll definitely wear it.
-Larabar Uber in Roasted Nut Roll, .82 oz (full size 5-ct for $12.69, est. value $2.54): Like almost all of Birchbox's "lifestyle" additions, this one left me cold. I just am not interested in this type of thing, and I am too picky to get much use out of it. I did try this one, and...yeah. Ick.
-Birchbox Exclusive Earbuds: Cheap neon ear buds. These don't, for me, add any value to the box.
Total box est. value: $12.06, or 120% of box cost
Further compounding my disappointment with this month's Birchbox, I logged in to the site to review the products and found that the products listed as being in my box this month and the ones I actually received are very different. The Stila gloss and the earbuds were the same, but the site had me getting Tea Forté® minteas, boscia Green Tea Blotting Linens, Gloss Moderne™ High Gloss Masque, and Juliette Has a Gun Vengeance Extrême perfume. I'm not sure whether I would rather have received these products or not, but either way I am put off by the discrepancy.
This month's was only my second box from Sample Society, which is a joint venture of BeautyBar.com and Allure magazine. This month, just like last month, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the products included.
Cost: $15/month (price includes subscription to Allure magazine)
Shipping: This month, I received a shipping notice for my Sample Society box on July 2 and it arrived the next day
Packaging: Sample Society packages their boxes very similarly to Birchbox, in a small cardboard box with a logo. Inside, things are wrapped in tissue paper and/or shredded packing paper. Again, the packaging is very reusable.
The July box contained four sample sized and one full-sized product:
-Borghese Tono Body Lotion, 1 oz (full size 8.4 oz for $36.50, est. value $4.35): This is a nice sized sample, and I love the smell of the lotion, so I'd call it a win.
-Jouer Cosmetics Luminizing Moisture Tint in Golden, .17 oz (full size 1.7 oz for $38, est. value $3.80): Same product as Birchbox, except that this one is over twice the size and is the correct color for my skin tone. Win-win!
-Sisley-Paris Hydra-Global Intense Anti-Aging Hydration, .14 oz (full sized 1.4 oz for $250, est. value $25): I get a kick out of samples of outrageously expensive products like this one, and I'm impressed by the size of this particular sample--a full tenth of the regular sized product! I'm also a sucker for moisturizer in general, so I really look forward to trying this one.
-vbeaute Eye Never Nourishing Repair Eye Creme, 1 ml (full size 15 ml for $85, est. value $5.67): Another expensive product! The sample size is small, but eye cream goes a long way. I was excited to get this, too, because puffy eyes are one of the telltale signs of my current sleep-deprived state, so eye cream is a must.
-Vincent Longo Duo Lip Pencil in Lavender Lite and Grape, full sized (est. value $26): I'm not huge into lip pencils, in general, but this is a very nice, full-sized product, and one I've neither tried nor heard of before. Both of the two colors seem pretty usable, too. I'll hang on to it.
Total box est. value: $64.82, or 432% of box cost
Clearly, I was a lot happier with my Sample Society box than my Birchbox. The products were just nicer--more usable, more tailored to me, bigger, higher value. Packaging and shipping were a wash, but Sample Society's box out-classed Birchbox in a big way when it came to what was inside. To top that off, each Sample Society box comes with a $15 gift code that can be used at BeautyBar.com, towards a product from any of the brands featured in that month's box--so if you like anything well enough to buy it, the box pays for itself!
Like Sample Society, Glossybox is new to me--this is just my second month as a subscriber. Though Glossybox has been in Europe for a while, they just started offering a US edition. So far, I like it a lot.
Cost: $21/month, $115 for six months, or $220 for a year
Shipping: This month's Glossybox was shipped on June 29 and arrived on July 3
Packaging: Glossybox has great packaging--it's a very subtly logo'd pink box made of heavyweight cardboard, and it's about half again as big as the Birchbox or Sample Society boxes. Inside, the products are very carefully wrapped in tissue paper and/or shredded paper filler and tied with ribbons.
The June Glossybox contained one full-sized product, four sample products, and one "bonus" sample product:
-Ahava Mineral Botanic Hibiscus & Fig Velvet Cream Wash, 3 oz (full size 17 oz for $22, est. value $3.88): This stuff smells awesome, and it's for sensitive skin, which is great. It's also a nice sized sample. I'll definitely use this.
-First Aid Beauty FAB Smooth Shave Cream, 2 oz (full size 6.8 oz for $16.50, est. value $4.85): Another good sized sample, and something I've not seen in any other box, which is rare when you get as many of these as I do! I'm not sure it's something I will use, as I tend not to use shaving cream, but it's fragrance free, which I love, so I may bust it out.
-Ofra Cosmetics Eye Shadow ICE in Goldilocks, full sized .47 oz (est. value $14.95): This is a cool product--it's a USA-made cream shadow with a built-in primer, from a brand I have never heard of, and it's full-sized! Unfortunately, the color I got is just...awful. It's far more yellow and far less gold and I just can't see wearing it. Bummer.
-Vbeaute Lite Up, Buying Time, & Eye Never, .033 oz each (full sized are 1 oz for $150, 1.7 for $135, and .5 oz for $85, est. value $4.95, $2.62 & $5.61): Recognize that eye cream from the Sample Society box? Yep! These little samples, however, are not just of the eye cream, but the face serum and daily moisturizer from the same line. The samples are very small--I'd bet the face moisturizer is only good for one use--but at least they included all three of them, and they are high value, due to the high price of the full-sized products.
-Wella Enrich Moisturizing Treatment, .84 oz (full size 5.07 for $12, est. value $1.99): I'm all about a hair moisturizer, though I'm not sure this small pot is going to go far with my hair length/thickness. This is another product I've never heard of, though, which I always like to see in these boxes.
-A Perfume Organic Urban Organic perfume, no size listed, est. .033 oz (full size .41 oz for $65, est. value $5.23): Yawn. Never gonna be excited about a perfume sample. That said, this one is at least something off-the-beaten-path, not one I'd find in a fashion magazine, and I'll give points for that.
Total box est. value: $44.08, or 210% of box cost
While Glossybox doesn't offer quite the same value Sample Society does, at least not this month, I still really like it. I like the inclusion of brands I have never seen before, and the variety of products. I also really like getting bigger samples, so I can use things for more than a day or two and see if I really like them. Glossybox does something a bit weird in that they charge your credit card for your box several weeks before they ship it out, and their shipping takes a lot longer than the other two boxes, but neither of these are deal breakers for me at this point.
So how does it shake out? I'd call Sample Society the clear victor, at this point, though I'd also recommend Glossybox. The quality of Birchbox, unfortunately, continues to slide, and I'm not sure I'm comfortable recommending it anymore, between the lesser products, smaller samples, and failing customer service/web service. Paying a bit more for one of the newer programs seems like a better bet.