The Bottom Line On Beauty Boxes

Whether you're a practical person or a fragrance fanatic, there's probably a beauty box you wouldn't mind seeing at your door each month.

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Walk into any beauty retailer or browse those never-ending virtual shelves from your computer, and there’s one thing for certain: You won’t run out of options. For every skin concern, there’s a myriad of cleansers, serums, and creams; for every type of beauty preference, there are countless palettes, lipsticks, and rouges. From spendy, luxurious oils to highlighters so lit you’ll be casting beams into space, it’s easy to feel equal parts excited and overwhelmed by the plethora of products before you. This is where beauty box subscriptions come in. The idea isn’t just to amass a huge collection of beauty loot (though it’s a nice side effect), but also to learn about new brands and products in an attempt to figure out what works for you. It’s also a great way to sample products before throwing down a ton of cash on products that might not be your thing.

The convenience afforded by these subscription models really resonates with younger generations that prefer to shop quickly, digitally, and ‘set-it-and-forget-it’ … —Sarah Biggers

From avid consumers to professional reviewers, we’ve rounded up the experts to help you navigate the expansive world of beauty box subscriptions.

An Overview of Boxes

Though you can find other boxes out there that cater to things like diet, pets, and even flowers, today we’ll focus specifically on general beauty and skincare. For a more inclusive overview of such options, we’ve divided this section into categories according to lifestyle and preferences.

For the Makeup-Obsessed

If you’re specifically seeking a makeup-centric box, this is the category for you. These boxes tend to fall in the $10 to $15 per month range and provide you with five or six small samples, some luxury samples, and the occasional full-sized product.

“Start with a low price point [beauty] box. This way, if you find out it isn’t for you, it was a cheap experiment. —Liz Cadman of MySubscriptionAddiction

Liz Cadman, the founder of MySubscriptionAddiction—arguably the destination for comprehensive reviews on any and all boxes—says this is a great category to begin with because of the price point. “Start with a low price point box,” she says. “This way, if you find out it isn’t for you, it was a cheap experiment. Inexpensive beauty boxes I recommend are Birchbox, Ipsy, and Play! by Sephora—which are all $10 [per month]—and Macy’s Beauty Box and Allure Beauty Box, which are $15 each.” Each of these put their own spin on the subscription box. Ipsy’s samples always come in an original “Glam Bag”; Sephora’s Play! box always focuses on a specific theme; Allure’s samples are editor-tested and approved; Macy’s box comes with a $5 coupon you can use toward a full-sized product. For the best bang for your buck, Cadman recommends BoxyCharm, which is slightly more expensive at $21 per month, but comes with four to five full-sized makeup items. Sarah Biggers, a celebrity makeup artist and the founder of beauty brand Clove + Hallow, says Birchbox is one of her all-time favorite subscription boxes. “Birchbox was a pioneer of the subscription box business model, and I love to support that kind of female-driven innovation,” Biggers says. “Plus, they do a fabulous job curating a balance of small indie brands versus well-known cosmetic lines.”

For the DIY Queen

Gather your crew and throw a DIY party or put on your favorite jams and carve out an afternoon of therapeutic solo crafting; instead of being product-driven, these subscription boxes essentially send you an experience through the mail. For $29, My Lemon Crate sends a monthly DIY kit that contains everything you need for a specific project, ranging from bath bombs to body scrubs. All the ingredients are premeasured and organic. Mousse Coco operates a little differently: Instead of a monthly subscription that automatically renews, you go to the site and choose which DIY beauty project you want to do. Each box costs $32, comes with premeasured organic ingredients, and the projects range from lip balm to deodorant to face masks.

For the Practical Person

From razors to toothbrush heads to feminine hygiene, there are a handful of beauty subscription boxes out there that ensure you’ve always got a replenished stock of necessities. “I think the swell of utility boxes like Billie and The PMS Package accurately represents the enormous shift in how consumers are shopping and experiencing products,” notes Biggers. “The convenience afforded by these subscription models really resonates with younger generations that prefer to shop quickly, digitally, and ‘set-it-and-forget-it’ when it comes to recurring, functional items. Billie is a shaving subscription box for women that costs $9 for the starter kit then ships four blade replacements for $9 every month. Lola sends a supply of organic tampons or pads to your home every month (or every other month) for $8 to $10. The PMS Package includes feminine hygiene products along with comfort snacks and fun products for $35 per month. Another great utility subscription is Quip, which, for $25 to $40, provides an electric starter toothbrush and a toothbrush head–replacement plan for as low as $5 per month.

For the Splurger

If you’ve ever followed an influencer or reality star on social media, you’ve probably seen them talking about lifestyle subscription boxes. These are often more expensive, with their price points ranging from $50 to $150, but they’re more luxurious and comprehensive in terms of their contents. A handful ship monthly, but many ship quarterly, in line with seasonal shifts.

“Lifestyle boxes like FabFitFun are a great way for people to sample a variety of products that they wouldn’t otherwise pick out for themselves,” says Biggers. “It’s like having a best friend in your ear telling you all the fun new stuff you should try. Not to mention, they do a great job of sourcing a combination of staples [and] previously unknown products from smaller brands, so there is an air of excitement that comes with each box.” FabFitFun is a quarterly box that costs $50 and is valued at over $200, according to their website. In every box, you receive eight to 10 full-sized lifestyle products: accessories, food, skincare, makeup, and home goods. You can customize your order or opt to make it a surprise. The PopSugar Must Have box is a similar option. It costs $75 per quarter and contains six to eight full-sized products, including beautiful accessories, decor items, and high-end beauty goods. Box of Style from Rachel Zoe is $99 a quarter and is definitely a luxe treat,” notes Cadman. The box is carefully curated by Zoe’s team and includes a mixture of accessories, clothing, and skincare.

For the Fragrance Fanatic

Before you drop hundreds on a full-sized eau de parfum, consult a fragrance beauty box that’ll deliver a mini version for way less. Scentbird, which caters to both men and women, was one of the first beauty subscription boxes to do this. For just under $15 per month, you’ll receive a 30-day supply of a designer fragrance that comes in a refillable atomizer. They have over 450 different fragrances to choose from, from splurge-y, high-end options to lesser-known indie options, and they constantly add new scents to their library. A very similar option is Scentbox, which costs just under $14 per month. They, too, send a 30-day supply of your choice fragrance in a reusable atomizer, and they have an arsenal of over 800 premium fragrances to choose from. Both boxes can help you out of a fragrance rut and allow you to experiment with an expensive product before buying the full-size. For a completely different option, consider Scent Trunk, which costs $12 per month. What sets this option apart from others is that it allows you to create your own scent. To begin, they’ll send you a $5 scent palette, which you sniff and report back with your preference in notes. From there, they customize a fragrance and send it to your door monthly.

For the Organic-Lover

Anyone who gives a hard pass to traditional beauty goods in favor of organic will appreciate this category. Whether you’re all-green, interested in converting, or are simply curious about what natural options are out there and how they fare compared to traditional beauty, these boxes are where to start. They’re also a great way to learn about new brands you haven’t heard of before, as small organic brands often don’t have massive budgets for advertising.

“I know I can trust [Petit Vour] to source the best cruelty-free products. They’ve completely transformed the face of … cruelty-free into something glamorous and chic.” —Sarah Biggers

Erin Williams, a celebrity makeup artist and founder of Erin’s Faces, a natural beauty brand, says her favorite beauty subscription boxes are Oui Fresh ($30 per month), Petit Vour ($18 per month), and Organic Bunny Box ($59 per month). “I love that Oui Fresh’s focus is green beauty, and they work with both indie and mainstream brands. I recommend Petit Vour if you’re wanting clean vegan picks. They have a lot of options in skincare, haircare, and makeup,” says Williams. “For Organic Bunny Box, Amanda, [the founder], is very specific with what ingredient decks she’ll approve, so you can feel safe with her choices, which are a mix of skincare, makeup, and hair care [products].” “I know I can trust [Petit Vour] to source the best cruelty-free products,” says Biggers. “They’ve completely transformed the face of … cruelty-free into something glamorous and chic.”

For the Budget-Conscious

Fact: You don’t have to spend oodles to have a nice treat sent to your door. A handful of companies offer options that cost about the same as your Frappuccino. For starters, there’s the Walmart Beauty Box, a quarterly option that costs $5 and contains five to seven small samples of beauty and skincare products sold in stores. Similarly, Target’s Beauty Box costs $7 and includes a mix of new beauty product samples that are valued at $28. Their box isn’t a subscription, mind you, as you have to purchase it when it becomes available every month. If you’re really into K-beauty and cheap thrills, the FaceTory subscription box is another fun choice. For $7 to $9 per month, you’ll receive four to seven sheet masks.

Bottom Line

The whole point of beauty subscription boxes is to experiment with new products and, ultimately, #treatyourself. Choosing the right box for you comes down to your budget, lifestyle, and health and beauty goals. “The biggest factor for many of our readers is value,” says Cadman. “Both in the sense of retail value—is it important to you to get a much higher retail value in the box versus what you paid?—and personal value. Are you going to use the items? Did this subscription help save you time, encourage you to eat healthier, et cetera?” “If you’re looking for a box to start,” says Williams, “I’d think about what you want to get from it. Do you want tried and true brands that you know and love, or do you want to unearth some gems that you’ve never heard of? Is green beauty important to you? Do you want sample sizes since you tend to get more diversity and it’s cheaper, or full sizes, which mean less products per box but more ounces of each one?” There’s no wrong answer, of course! It all boils down to your preferences. Shop around, do some research, watch some unveilings on YouTube or Instagram. Commit to one or two for a couple months, then assess whether the box serves your needs. The worst that can happen is trying some things you don’t like, but hopefully you can still discover some gems and get joy out of mail day.