Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Subscription Services - monthly goody boxes

One of the best things about not having children is that you have spare money (that the rest of you have to spend on your lovely children) to spend on yourself. Recently, I used some of that money to try out some monthly subscription services. I decided to just subscribe, and then pair down based upon my experiences.

I have already written about a few boxes . . . (specificially Birchbox, Umba - here and here, and Blissmo Box.) I thought that rather than continue to write about them monthly, I'd photograph a few boxes and do a side by side comparison to give you a better feel for what service offers what.

I'll start with a couple of boxes I have elected not to continue . . . First, the Whimsey Box. This is a $15 per month service. Below are the March and April boxes.

Something I liked is that the boxes sent are wonderful reusable storage boxes. 

This box included an Elmer's Glue stick, Scrapbook paper, two Sharpies, lace trim, and magnets (in the plastic pouch.) 

The April box included Americana paint, two American stencils, and stencil brushes, a 4" x 4" canvas, and yarn.

While the products in the Whimsey Box were all good quality, I just felt they were too random for me. There are many online challenges to make projects with the items in each box, but that is really not where I'm at in my creative journey, and the items were a bit too basic for my skill set to feel challenging. (I don't mean that to be arrogant - I just already have tons of Sharpie markers, and Stencil brushes, and paint . . . so these aren't new items to me as they may be to some people.)

I would recommend the Whimsey Boxes to anyone who is a new crafter, or wants to expand their crafting experience to try new things.

The next box I have cancelled is Umba Box. The cost of this service is $26. per month.

I received some interesting items through this service - and they were often things I liked, but rarely anything I needed. Above is the April 2012 box that featured a Tea Towel by Kristina of Tina Produce, Fleur de Sel Caramel's by Nicole of the Caramel Jar (unbelievably delicious, btw), and a letterpressed notebook by Kim of Paper Lovely.

What I liked about the service was reading the stories of the artists, and how they came to create their products. In the end, however, because I usually gave the items away, or had no use for them, it was just not worth the cost to me.

I also tried, and cancelled, Beauty Box 5. This is a $12. per month service.

This month my Box included:
• Freeman Beauty Facial Scrub in Pink Grapefruit
• Supergoop Sunscreen Wipe SPF
• pur-lisse Daily Moisturizer Normal/Dry skin tone
• LA Fresh Waterproof Makeup Remover wipe• True Natural: Advance Lift & Firm Serum

First, these are all good brands, and good products. Ultimately, I just felt like the size of the samples, and the range of products was not worth the cost of the box. I think I have been spoiled by some of the other services that offer much better value.

Now, onto boxes I continue to receive . . . Blissmobox. This box costs $19.00 plus $3 shipping, per month. Below are two boxes I received in March and April.  The top box is the March, Spring into Beauty box.

This box included Olie Biologique Argon Oil, Neutragena NaturalsNight Cream, and Lauren Brook Organic Lip Scrub.

The April box included Dermae Tropical Solutions Anti-aging Eye Cream,  Episencial's Soothing cream, SanRe Organic Skincare 100% Organic ChocolateLips Moisturizer, and Wembe Loofah Soap.

Overall, the Blissmo boxes tend to include about $25.00 - $30.00 in value, but what is equally important, is that they include products that are of interest to me. I often find products in it that I use on a daily basis, but if I can't I can always find someone to give it to, because the products are good quality.

Another favorite box is Birchbox. Birchbox is just $10 per month, and is arguably the best value in subscription boxes available. Below are the March/April boxes. The March box was curated by Teen Vogue, and contained a fun group of products, including:

Essie Luxeffects glittery nail polish, Kate Spade New York Twirl fragrance sample, Kerastase Elixir Ultime (hair oil), and a fun Twistband hair tie.

The April box included Harvey Prince Yogini fragrance, Juice Beauty Oil-free Moisturizer, Wei Black Soy Instant Lifting Face Treatment Pad, and Zoya nail polish. 

Next is the Sample Society, in association with Allure Magazine. This service is $15.00 per month. 

The March box included Ren Glycolactic Skin Renewal Peel Mask, Oscar de la Renta Esprit d’Oscar Eau de Parfum Deluxe Mini Roller Ball, Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant, Fekkai Advanced Glossing Cream, and Skyn Iceland Icelandic Relief Eye Pen. With the exception of the perfume (which I am very strange about), I have used and enjoy every one of thee products!

Each box also includes a $15.00 gift code against a $50.00 purchase of any full size product from the web site.

The April Box included Oscar Blandi Jamine Oil Serum, Boscia Purifying Cleansing Gel, DDF Amplifying Elixir, Myrad Hybrids Skin-Perfecting Primer (for acne and shine control), and By Terry Creme de Rose. Again, I love every product in the box. 

Each box includes a small bound booklet with information on products, and tips on specific beauty needs from Allure magazine.

Next, is the Julep Maven program. Julep allows you to try the program for just a penny, so it is worth the risk! The monthly cost (after your first box) is $19.99. Each box includes at least two polishes, plus other products. 

I am something of a nail polish junky . . . more on that later . . . so getting polish in the mail every month is great fun to me! Once you are a member, you also get 20% off all products plus free shipping in the Maven Boutique. 

When you start, you take a style profile that tells them what colors to send you, etc. I am impressed with the quality of the polish, as well as the other products. It isn't inexpensive, but, for now, I'm really enjoying it!

The New Beauty Testtube, The Ultimate Product Sampling Program is the most expensive subscription service I tried, at $29.95 (plus shipping), but the box only goes out four times a year. This box includes deluxe and full-size product samples.

This Moroccan Oil is a great product, and a good example of the full-size samples.

Included with the box is a full size beauty magazine focusing on products, and this magazine style book explaining each product, the brand, and how it is used. By far, it is the most information sent out of any of the sampling programs.

I'm on the fence as to how long I will stay with this program. I like being sent full-size products to test, and I am pleased with the quality of the brands I've been sent, but it is a lot of money.

I have tried two other boxes, that I did not photograph. The first is The Look Bag. It is $10 per month. I have only received it for one month, and although the site says I have a recurring account, I was not charged for May or June's boxes, and I did not receive them. The site only has a phone number for customer service. I barely have time to deal with my own business calls during other business' hours, so calling them is probably not going to happen! 

Finally, I have recently tried GlossyBox USA. This has been a hugely popular program in the UK, and just opened to US participants. It is $21.00 per month. I have just received my first box, which included Amore Pacific Moisture Bound Refreshing Hydra Gel, Burberry Beauty Lip Mist Natural Sheer Lipstick (Copper), Marvis Whitening Toothpaste, Phyto Hydrating Mask for Dry Hair, and Zoya nail polish. With the exception of the nail polish, all of the samples were smaller than full size, and are European brands. 

What I liked is that the products are one's that I would not normally try, because they aren't necessarily sold locally (with the exception of the nail polish, obviously), but I'm not sure about the value. I will give the box another month to decide whether I will continue it.

So, that's my review of the subscription kits. Are there any out there I haven't mentioned? There are a few that I haven't tried - but mostly because many of the services have a lot of negative press on the internet. What I look for in the boxes is a value greater than what I'm paying, products I will actually use, and exposure to new products that I might not come into contact with at my usual stores. YMMV.

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