My BFF Molly is the subscription queen and because of her, I have tried out numerous subscriptions over the past year. When people learn I’ve signed up for both Birchbox and Ipsy, they always want to know how they stack up. I have my opinions on both, and there’s a strong winner in my mind—though getting beauty goodies in the mail is never really a lose—but before I reveal my favorite in Birchbox vs. Ipsy rivalry, I wanted to review the basics of each subscription.
I signed up for Birchbox before I signed up for Ipsy, and was paying the $10 monthly fee for about six months. I realized I had no intention of unsubscribing anytime soon, so I ponied up and bought a twelve month subscription. If you know you’re hooked, this is the way to go since the annual one costs $110 as opposed to the $120 it would if you were going month to month. Insider tip though—there are almost always promotions on Gilt City or through Birchbox directly where you can get an annual subscription for $100 or less.
One of the best things about Birchbox—besides the beauty samples, obvi—is that you can earn Birchbox points. Every time you earn 100 points, it is equal to $10 in the Birchbox store. You earn 10 points for each box you purchase, 10 points for each product description you write, and there are often opportunities to earn 2X or 3X points if they are running a promotion. So essentially, Birchbox is a great payment plan towards more expensive beauty products (I always snag my Clarisonic brush heads with mine!).
The key thing to remember if you’re subscribing to Birchbox is that this is a sample box. You will be utterly disappointed if you think you are receiving full size items. A typical month includes 5-6 samples, and oftentimes come with special offers or products such as a subscription to Women’s Health magazine or a Birchbox find, which is a full sized product. Each box is themed and all associated collateral—the box, the inserts, the giveaways—is branded to the theme. The September 2014 box above is in celebration of Birchbox’s four year anniversary.
Once I was hooked on Birchbox, I subscribed to Ipsy—don’t worry, I know the first step is admitting you have a problem ;). Each month’s samples come in a small makeup bag, which is a nice added bonus and perfect for trips. Like Birchbox, Ipsy is $10 a month and there is also an option for an annual subscription. Currently there is a wait list to join, even if you are invited by a friend. However, an insider tip is that you can share a post on your Facebook page advertising that you signed up, and as a result you’re allowed to skip the line. I hate spamming my page so I immediately deleted the post, but was still ushered through the queue.
Ipsy also has a points system that operates similarly to Birchbox‘s in that you can earn points for product reviews or referrals. However, unlike Birchbox, points don’t necessarily translate into a solid dollar value, but certain products are available for purchase with points. Once you have accumulated enough points to purchase your item of choice, usually 1000, you can redeem your points for the item. Unlike Birchbox though, Ipsy refers you to outside vendors to purchase the item and does not run a store of their own.
Ipsy is also sample sizes, but I’ve found that they often include full size items. When you sign up for Ipsy, they have you fill out a complete beauty profile and select brands you would be interested in receiving. While this is all great information for them to have on file, I am not sure how much this profile actually influences the contents of your bag. And when you do receive your bag, unlike Birchbox, there is not an insert that provides a description of the product or the price of the full price item.
At the end of the day, Birchbox is my far and away favorite. I eventually unsubscribed from Ipsy as I found that even though it was nice to have full sized items, I wasn’t using them enough to justify the cost, whereas I use all of Birchbox‘s samples long before my next box arrives. It’s also worth noting that Ipsy’s samples tend to skew to more drugstore brands, whereas Birchbox always features high-end brands. This wasn’t an integral factor in my decision to cancel Ipsy, but is a good insider tip for those deciding between the two.
I’ve also found that Ipsy’s website is poorly organized and often links you to a page from the now defunct Glam Bag site, making it hard to find what you’re looking for. Birchbox‘s, on the other hand, is user-friendly and organized, making it so easy to find what you need (and probably a few other things along the way!).