Subscription Beauty Boxes: Frugal or Frivolous?

Subscription beauty boxes seem to be all the rage right now, and I’ve become curious whether they really have a lot to offer at a great price or if they’re just a new way to spend money needlessly. As a general rule, I prefer online shopping to shopping in a store. I like the convenience of it (using it to kill 10mins between writing projects) and the simplicity (add to basket, checkout, wait for arrival!). I almost never do any shopping the “traditional” way, which is browsing stores in a mall. Except for beauty products.

Typically make-up and other products I buy as they run out. Usually in passing, stopping by Sephora on my way home from work. I don’t have time to wait 5 to 7 days for the mascara I selected to come in the mail, so the brick & mortar store has always been my go-to choice. Over the course of my 20’s, I’ve developed some serious loyalty to beauty products that are always in my bag.

Related: 5 Products Under $20 I Can’t Live Without & Unfrugal Beauty: 5 Products Worth Their Pricetag

993068_500685756677403_172600993_nI hadn’t thought about changing anything up, until I received an offer to try Topbox (Canada), and somehow also stumbled on Ipsy (Canada & US). Both of these websites are subscription services, which you sign up for a small monthly fee, typically $12 to $14, to receive a handful of beauty samples delivered to your home each month.

542044_418663608180966_633202801_nYou can enter in some information in profile, about your preferences and style, and the beauty boxes are “personalized” accordingly. I’m not sure how good the products are, though customer reviews seem strong. I was offered a Valentine’s Day special for Topbox through my Amex, so I’m waiting for it to come in the mail (it was paired with some. I’m intrigued, even if as of right now I don’t think I’ll sign up — I’m just not interested in trying new beauty products every month, I like my colors and I’m sticking to them!

But for someone that likes to experiment with makeup and beauty products, a subscription service that sends you a few different samples each month might be the way to go.

Not only do you get to try small-sizes of new items, having the set delivered to your house might keep you from going to Sephora and spending a lot more.

548551_10150761562955708_987128000_nOne beauty subscription I do have is Wen haircare. I got it last fall after one of my favorite beauty bloggers, Cara of Maskcara, continuously sang its praises. Well, I was hooked as soon as I used it, just as she promised, and now my supply is delivered every 2-3 months. It’s cheaper and easier to get my hands on than my Bumble & Bumble collection was, so I’m really happy with it.

However, subscription beauty isn’t necessarily the most affordable choice.

Fundamentally it really is just a business getting you to pay more than you probably would otherwise for their product. By putting you on an automatic plan of monthly payments, they make it difficult for you to switch. You’d think nothing of choosing a different shampoo bottle at the drugstore, but if you have to call customer service and close your account for a subscription order, you’re less likely to do it. From a business perspective this is a great customer retention strategies, but from a consumer standpoint you might not want that level of commitment.

Likewise, with the small beauty sample subscription services, it’s too tiny for you to get mad if you don’t like something that’s in the set. If they send you purple lipstick that you would have never in forever paid money for in a store, you’ll just call it a bad bag and keep the rest — you won’t cancel and you certainly won’t try to seek a refund.

Remember that while $12 to $14 per month seems harmless, it still works out to ~$150 per year. 

If you’re in debt, or don’t have a lot of cash to spare, this probably isn’t the best way to put your money. However, if you’re a fan of convenience and variety and have money to burn, it might be fun to try.

Have any of you tried Topbox, Ipsy, or another subscription service? What did you like or not like about it?