- Taking something for a trial run — a snack, a gym membership, a car — is a smart way to determine whether you really want to commit to the full experience.
- If you want to experiment with and discover new beauty products, subscription service Birchbox is the best way to do so.
- Every month for $13-$15, you’ll be exposed to high-quality skin-care and haircare products from a large variety of brands.
- Then, you can purchase the full-sized product directly from the Birchbox Shop and get rewarded with loyalty points.
- We tried Birchbox for three months and appreciated it as a low-risk, low-effort method of finding new beauty products. Most of the time, we liked what we received.
People love samples. Just walk around any Costco or Trader Joe’s for living proof of our love for trying new things. In the beauty world, we have Birchbox. Granted, you do have to pay for Birchbox (whereas you could theoretically make an entire free meal at Costco), but the idea is similar: You get to sample a new product and figure out whether you want to commit to the full-size version.
In many ways, the Birchbox sampling process is much better than that of a grocery store. For a small monthly fee, Birchbox sends all the samples directly to you, so you don’t have to leave your house and compete with other shoppers, and they’re personalized to your exact needs and preferences. Ultimately, you waste less time and money by using Birchbox to find your next beauty or hair-care product.
In March 2019, Birchbox raised the price of its long-standing $10 monthly box. The new prices now range from $10 to $15 a month depending on whether you’re a new, current, or Ace VIP customer, and on the subscription duration you choose (monthly, six-month, yearly).
Despite this slight price increase, we think Birchbox is still a great value.
Two Insider Picks reporters put the Birchbox experience to the test to show you how it works and what to expect.
1. The Beauty Profile
The process starts with filling out your Beauty Profile, which asks a series of questions about your skin, hair, and personal style. You can go back at any time to change your answers.
Personally, some of my concerns include acne-prone, combination skin; undereye circles; sun protection; and dry hair. My typical beauty routine is low-maintenance, but I do love exploring different products. As I filled out the profile, I was hoping to receive samples that would both address my skin and hair concerns and expose me to brands I don’t normally come across.
Insider Picks reporter Mara Leighton signed up for an account as well and filled out her Beauty Profile. She has a different skin type, hair type, and level of beauty knowledge than me, so I also wanted to see how our monthly boxes would compare.
2. Receiving and trying out each month’s box
Each box ships at the beginning of the month. It includes five to six sample products, with a description of each product and how it works.
Looking at mine and Mara’s boxes, I was glad to see we received (mostly) different products. For example, in the August 2019 box, we both received a Living Proof 5-in-1 Styling Treatment, but everything else was more catered to our other needs and preferences.
Mara says about her three-month experience with Birchbox: "If you’re looking for an easy, low-risk way to try lots of new and recommended beauty and grooming products, Birchbox is a pretty great option — and one I’ve frequently gifted to friends and family. Not all the products in my monthly boxes were hits, but the focus is really on exposure and discovery more than being 100% perfect every time.
The company sent a good mix of new products from brands I already like — Oribe and R+Co and Living Proof for haircare, Murad and Kiehl’s for skincare — and some new brands I’d never heard of like Marcelle. All in all, it was a fun treat every month — and a good way to figure out new options without doing the legwork myself."
Like Mara, I didn’t completely love all 17 product samples I received over the three-month period. However, I did like the majority of them, gathering new favorite brands and products along the way. Sometimes, you just don’t know what you’re looking for, and I think the big strength of Birchbox is that it leads you to the place of realization where it becomes abundantly clear that a product has been missing from your life.
3. Feedback and shopping for the full-sized product
Once you’ve discovered your new favorite products, you can rate them, add them to your "Favorites," and order the full-sized version. Instead of making you search across the internet to find and order each individual product, Birchbox has a shop that contains all the full-size products. Some of the Birchbox samples you won’t even be able to find elsewhere — they’re exclusives, another perk of using the service.
Some products I loved include the R+Co Analog Cleansing Foam Conditioner and the Arrow Boost Color Enhancing Lip Balm. I’ve always wanted to try R+Co’s hair products, but was hesitant to splurge on a full-priced product, so I was glad I got the opportunity through Birchbox. This rich, luxurious conditioner hydrated my hair and also smelled great, and I was disappointed when I ran out of the sample. I gave it a five-star review and added it to my Favorites so I could buy it later. Meanwhile, the Arrow Boost lip balm, a Birchbox exclusive, was a moisturizing balm that added lip color customized to my lip’s pH. It’s not something I knew I wanted to try, but once I did, I wanted more of it.
4. The loyalty program
Birchbox has a loyalty program in which you automatically earn one point for every dollar you spend in its shop. You can also earn points by referring your friends to the service and buying gift subscriptions. Every 10 points is converted into one dollar you can use back at the Shop. If you spend $300 in a calendar year, you become an Ace member, which means you earn 1.3 points on every dollar spent.
The bottom line
After trying Birchbox myself, I’m not surprised that it has 1 million subscribers. For a low monthly cost, it gives you high-quality samples from a mix of well-known and up-and-coming brands, so you can be 100% sure you want to buy a full-sized version.
As you test new samples, give feedback, and refresh your Beauty Profile, Birchbox’s algorithms will better match you to products as time goes on. And the more involved you are in the Birchbox community by buying full-sized products and referring friends, the more you’ll be rewarded. It’s a subscription model that makes sense and is one monthly delivery you’ll always be excited to receive.
Here is the pricing for new Birchbox subscribers:
- $13/month for a yearly subscription
- $14/month for a six month subscription
- $15/month for a monthly subscription
Start your Birchbox subscription here. Shipping is free, and you can skip a shipment, switch to a different plan, and deactivate your subscription at any time online.
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