Once, there were care packages, sent to your summer camp or college dorm by Mom, to show she cared. Today, they go by another name — subscription boxes — and Mom’s not involved. These are gifts we’re sending ourselves. By the thousands. The subscription box biz — launched in recent years by startups like Ipsy and Birchbox, delivering monthly surprise beauty products to subscribers by mail — is booming. And branching out into other categories: fashion, fitness, food . . . you name it. The trend is so popular that major brands are jumping onboard — Nordstrom bought the subscription service Trunk Club, and Adidas launched its own. We’ve gathered some top boxes, and newbies launched this year, that deliver everything from mascara to yoga mats, candles to dog chews. Turns out thinking inside the box has its benefits.
New this summer from bikini.com, the quarterly service is chock-full of beach-ready gear and accessories tied to an exotic locale, like St. Tropez, the Hamptons, or Bali (their most recent box, containing Boracay body oils, Hugger Mugger yoga gear, hand-crafted coconut bowls and recipes for healthy tropical smoothies).
The company estimates the value of each box at more than $250.
$75 per box, or $250 per year; at shop.bikini.com
Hopeless romantics will love this monthly service, aflame since 2015, delivering hand-poured candles by American artisans, using nontoxic materials.Each box contains a surprise gift (from bath soaks to KIND nut bars or mmm-worthy Justin's peanut butter cups).
From $10 per month (for one candle, 25 hours burn time) to $30 per month (for two candles, 75 hours burn time); at vellabox.com
A must for beauty-loving bargain hunters, Ipsy has been shipping out its Glam Bag, filled with five sample- or full-size products, including makeup, skin and hair care) since 2012, and now counts 1.5 million subscribers.
With each bag delivery, Ipsy co-founder (and YouTube beauty guru) Michelle Phan, plus Ipsy stylists and enthused members, generate thousands of online tutorial videos, reportedly reaching more than 30 million women each month.
Just $10 per month, $110 per year; at ipsy.com
Pampered pooches (and the people who love them) will howl for Bark & Co.'s curated box of four to six all-natural treats, chews and toys designed for Fido's specific needs. (Allergy-prone? Heavy chewer? No problem.)
If your dog falls in ruff with items from the box, you can easily order it again on barkshop.com
Starting at $20 per month; at barkbox.com
This monthly service has, since 2014, supplied yoga-lovers of all abilities with five to six ethically sourced, cruelty-free products (from jewelry to massage oils to mat-cleaning spray, in samples or full-size), keeping you zen-chic on or off the mat.
A portion of proceeds are donated to a different charity each month.
$40 per month; at buddhibox.com
Can't stand being spritzed in department stores but want to try new fragrances? This service (pictured, Scentbird Man) sends samples of designer fragrances (from classic Norell to Dolce & Gabbana) of your choosing, or be surprised with their scent of the month.
Pick from 450-plus designer fragrances, which are arranged in a queue, like movies on Netflix.
$14.95 per month; at scentbird.com
For all the single ladies, as Beyoncé's song goes, this service, launched last May, offers monthly boxes stocked with fashion and beauty items, artisan-crafted foods, books, journals and more.
A portion of proceeds benefits the Susan G. Komen Foundation to fight breast cancer.
$24.99 (for three to four full-size products monthly), $39.99 (five to seven products monthly), also three- or six-month options; at singlesswag.com
One of the first and still one of the best, Birchbox has been ooh'd and ahh'd over — and YouTubed and Instagrammed like crazy — since 2010, tantalizing beauty junkies (and those who just like a no-fuss way to test new products from time to time) with five sample-size products per box, from top brands like Stila, Oribe, Kiehl's and more (there's also a box for guys, who get four grooming samples plus extras like wallets, belts and socks), all tailored to your preferences (you fill out a quiz, which should help to minimize receiving items you don't like).
Boasts more than 1 million subscribers (and counting) in six countries, plus its first brick-and-mortar shop (in SoHo).
For women, $30 per box and up, from subscriptions in three-, six- or 12-month increments; for men, starting at $20 per box for three months; at birchbox.com
Avoid having to drag your kids shopping and those dreaded lines for the fitting room with this new childrenswear service. Less than a year old, this is not quite a subscription service; sign up for free (filling out a form on your child's age, size and style preferences), and you'll get four seasonal boxes (and a fifth holiday box, all great canvases for coloring), with six to seven wardrobe items (from kid-cool brands like Lucky, Diesel, 7 for All Mankind) plus surprise stickers or other gifts.
For every full box sold, Kidbox donates a new coat, dress or outfit to an American child in need.
Keep everything (for $98), select items (about $15 to $20 each) or return it all for free; at kidbox.com
Patchogue native Philip Sblendorio's fashion-forward service, founded in 2014, offers five or six essentials (socks, ties, pocket squares and more), often valued at $100 or more — perfect for guys who hate to shop but still want to look good.
Sprezza is short for sprezzatura, or "nonchalance" in Italian, and slang for stylish.
$28 per month; at sprezzabox.com
CATE & CHLOE
Launched in 2014, this quick fix for jewelry junkies offers one, two or three pieces of jewelry per month, of varying quality (though often made with Swarovski crystals, 18-karat gold and 925 sterling silver.
Each box contains an extra surprise gift — last month it was Dr. Lipps Original Nipple Balm for Lips (odd name, but liked by consumer reviewers); this month it's a Harvey Prince fragrance.
$19.99 to $39.99 per month; at vip.cateandchloe.com
A fave of Liz Cadman (of mysubscriptionaddiction.com), the service has been satisfying gym rats and weekend warriors since 2013, shipping out an estimated $200 worth of fitness, beauty, tech and home décor (the latest box, pictured, has Butter London mascara, notecards, a pendant and more), along with fun guides explaining the backstory of products, and raising awareness about worthwhile causes (this winter, it's the Starlight Foundation).
Spring for an annual membership and you get some extra perks, like being able to customize your boxes, choosing designs and colors of certain products.
$49.99 per quarter, or $179.99 per year; at fabfitfun.com
Rating the boxes
Longtime subscription junkie Liz Cadman has put her craving to work. Her online destination for “sub” lovers, mysubscriptionaddiction.com, offers comprehensive reviews of thousands of boxes, arranged by categories or price. She also double-checks various brands’ claims as to how much their boxes are actually worth. In a recent review over several months, the top two best-value boxes were from Ipsy (box price $10, average value of contents $61) and FabFitFun (box price $49.99, average value $302).
— Joseph V. Amodi
ZOE REPORTS BOX OF STYLE
Launched in 2015 by super-stylist Rachel Zoe, her Box of Style is a fashionista's dream, offering elaborately wrapped packages filled with full-size fashion, beauty and lifestyle items from top and niche brands, plus special collaborations (the winter box includes an exclusive Dylanex necklace), all curated by the impossibly chic Zoe and her team of editors.
Each box is reportedly valued at more than $350.
$99.99 per season for four seasons, or $349.99 per year; at boxofstyle.thezoereport.com