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Which Beauty Subscription Boxes Are Actually Worth The Monthly Fee?

(Angie Six)

Monthly subscription boxes are currently a hot category in retail: vendors exist that can send you curated selections of everything from pet treats to razors to healthy snacks to butt wipes. One popular subcategory of these boxes are beauty sample boxes, which send you trial-size versions of beauty products to enjoy, and perhaps buy full-sized versions later on. Beauty brands and consumers both love these boxes…but which ones offer the best value for your subscription fee?

Our thoughtfully-curated colleagues down the hall at ShopSmart magazine ordered eight different boxes filled with beauty items for women for four months to compare and evaluate them. (Yes, subscription boxes with men’s grooming items also exist.) The advantage of having ShopSmart evaluate these products is that you won’t see ads for the products or their competitors next to the reviews, or affiliate links where the publication gets a cut of everything that you buy.

Here are some highlights of their four-month test:

Best box overall: The ShopSmart team was impressed with GlossyBox, which sent a very shiny box full of generously-sized items. One box included a full-sized but neutral-colored lipstick that would normally have cost $20. GlossyBox costs $21 per month, with free shipping and a discount if you subscribe for a whole year. While you can pay up front for six months at a time, there’s no discount: you just give them $126 with no actual benefit.

Best $10 box: At this price point, ShopSmart preferred BirchBox to $10 competitor Ipsy, and not just because Birchbox offers a discounted option if you sign up for a whole year. It included “nice products from fresh and familiar brands and no random stuff.” Some months Birchbox sent along surprise values, like a full-size makeup product, or $10 coupon to the Gap.

Eco-friendly randomness: Goodebox markets itself as an eco-friendly box, with “healthy beauty and natural wellness products,” and has a neat gimmick: if you send back empty containers for recycling, you can earn points toward more free samples. It costs $19 month to month, and less if you buy a longer subscription.

For nail polish fans: Julep Maven is a box from nail polish brand Julep, which mostly sends bottles of nail polish and some other items. The subscription costs $25 month to month or $60 for three months at a time, and every month there is at least one full-sized product. However, they found the nail polish colors to be unusual shades that may not be for everyone.

Meh: Blissmo‘s beauty box sent more single-use items than others, yet was the most expensive of the bunch if you don’t commit to a longer subscription ($20, plus $5 shipping per month.) BeautyArmywas cheaper, at $12 plus $3 shipping month-to-month, but the ShopSmart weren’t impressed. The items seemed more appropriate for a teen girl, and came in teeny sizes.

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