Beauty in a box


Birchbox, a leading online beauty sampling service launched in 2010, sends out monthly goodie bags filled with sample-size bath and beauty products, each bag tailored to individual customers' needs, based on questionnaires they fill out. Samples are nothing new, and standard at department store makeup counters. But those from Birchbox -- and a growing list of competitors -- come straight to your door. In pretty wrappings.

Total Beauty Collection WHAT YOU GET: There's
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Total Beauty Collection
WHAT YOU GET: There's no membership or required subscription involved here. You get about four to six samples per month, plus bonus gifts and the occasional full-size product, from a group of "collections" (like this month's Gym Essentials, which includes Neutrogena Naturals Lip Balm, Amika Obliphica Oil Treatment, Evolvh UltraShine Shampoo and Conditioner and more). Purchase as many sample boxes as you wish.
WHAT YOU PAY: Around $15; price varies slightly for certain collections (like a recent HSN Collection, with 12 products, which sold for $19.95).
OPTING OUT: No need, as no membership enrollment or subscription fee is involved.
INFO: (click on “Shop,” then “Collections”)

Beauty Army WHAT YOU GET: Unlike other
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Beauty Army
WHAT YOU GET: Unlike other services, which pick for you, members here log in monthly to choose six samples (average retail value, $65) from varying options based on your profile (the founder's husband worked at NASA and developed technology for this). They'll pick for you if you'd rather be surprised, or don't have time. The newly expanded website highlights members' fave products, and lets you purchase select full-size versions.
WHAT YOU PAY: $12/month (one month free for every three friends you refer who join).
OPTING OUT: Members can skip a month for vacations, or cancel anytime.

Beauty Box 5 WHAT YOU GET: Four
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Beauty Box 5
WHAT YOU GET: Four to five samples, from makeup and body care to nail, tooth and beauty products (brands like Cetaphil, Skyn Iceland, Weleda and other small, niche brands). All members generally receive the same box; some items (like eyeshadow shades) are customized to your beauty profile. Online you'll find how-to tips, and links to manufacturer websites to buy full-size products.
WHAT YOU PAY: $12/month, $30/quarter or $100/year (get a free month when you refer five friends).
OPTING OUT: Cancel anytime, and receive partial refunds on quarterly or annual memberships (you're charged $12/box received). There's no temporary freezing of accounts if you go on vacation, but the company reports it will hold boxes till your return.


Julep WHAT YOU GET: A focus on
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WHAT YOU GET: A focus on nail care from nail brand Julep—their Maven program offers three items per month (average retail value, $40), including treatment products and polishes in trending shades that are “so you.” (Fill out a quiz and they assign you a style profile—like Modern Beauty, Boho Glam or Bombshell). You'll also get 20 percent discounts on all Julep products and free shipping.
WHAT YOU PAY: $19.99/month
OPTING OUT: Emails describing your next box go out on the 20th of each month—if it's not for you, you have four days to go online and request to skip the month (and the fee), or have your box sent to a friend.

Ipsy WHAT YOU GET: Ipsy co-founder (and
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WHAT YOU GET: Ipsy co-founder (and YouTube beauty guru) Michelle Phan, plus Ipsy stylists and enthused members generate some 1,000 online tutorial videos per month. Each “Glam Bag” contains four to five samples or full-size products (Urban Decay, Benefit, Josie Maran, Kiehl's) and a makeup bag. (Ipsy originally launched as MyGlam in 2011, gained a bad rep online, regrouped, renamed and relaunched last year. Patience—there’s now a waitlist to join.)
WHAT YOU PAY: $10/month or $110/year.
OPTING OUT: Payments are nonrefundable; cancel and you'll receive your year's worth of boxes, but the subscription won't renew. INFO:

NewBeauty TestTube WHAT YOU GET: This sampling
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NewBeauty TestTube
WHAT YOU GET: This sampling service appears to be the first (launched in 2006), offering a tube filled with six or seven samples (delivering at least two weeks' worth of product) and some full-size products, plus info on each item, all distributed six times a year. Past brands include L'Oréal Paris, Estée Lauder, Orlane. Philosophy and Smashbox. You also get a subscription to the quarterly NewBeauty magazine and will find video demos online.
WHAT YOU PAY: $29.95/tube
OPTING OUT: Cancel anytime (but no temporary holds if you go away).

Birchbox WHAT YOU GET: Four to five
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WHAT YOU GET: Four to five samples monthly, including cosmetics, skin and hair care (popular brands like Kiehl's, Stila, Kerastase), and lifestyle items, from granola bars to votive candles. Birchbox Man subscribers get three to four grooming products (Jack Black, Peter Thomas Roth) and one or two full-size lifestyle products. You can purchase full-size versions on the site, where you'll find how-to videos, expert interviews purchase incentives and more.
WHAT YOU PAY: $10/month (Birchbox), $20/month (Birchbox Man)
OPTING OUT: Gift subscriptions terminate but regular monthly or annual subscriptions auto-renew; cancel anytime but the first shipment is nonrefundable.

Sample Society WHAT YOU GET: The combined
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Sample Society
WHAT YOU GET: The combined forces and expertise of Allure magazine and partnered to create Sample Society. They deliver five samples per month (from premium brands like Stila, Murad, Oscar Blandi and Bond No. 9), plus a mini mag with expert tips and tricks, and a discount code for $15 off any $50 Beauty Bar purchase (as long as it includes at least one item by one of the brands you sampled that month). You can buy full-size versions of any samples on
WHAT YOU PAY: $15/month
OPTING OUT: Cancel anytime. INFO:



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