Subscription Boxes Review - Birchbox: Is it worth it?

So you want to know which beauty box subscription is the best and the not so best? In the past two years, box subscriptions have become increasingly popular - there’s a box for puppies, accessories, cleaning supplies, makeup, books, artisan cheeses, and whatever else you can think of that fits in a box.  The first beauty box subscription I ever tried was Birchbox (my fiance surprised me with a paid yearly subscription for our nine year anniversary). Birchbox advertises as offering “top brands” deluxe samples that include beauty and lifestyle products every month for 10$ (shipping included). Read below whether Birchbox is worth it or whether you should try a different subscription service.

Customer Service: The Birchbox customer service is very helpful and responsive to any inquiries - if any products are missing or if there is an issue with the shipping, Birchbox always addresses the problem.  Thankfully, I did not have any issues with the boxes but when I tried to resolve an order with the points, a customer service representative answered within 24 hours.

Cost: I’ll address the cost further in the products included, but Birchbox costs $10 a month flat (no other fees).  The price is lower than some other subscription boxes, and I feel more comfortable budgeting for $10 a month over a cost of $20-plus. You can pay for Birchbox every month (but first you have to be on a wait list for a few days) or you can pay yearly for $110 (where you receive one month’s box for free and no wait list).

Packaging and Shipping: Birchbox has become known for its simple yet cute boxes.  Overall, the boxes are safe and sturdy - Birchbox always emails when the box is shipped and provides a tracking number.  The items are packaged in pink tissue paper, and there is always an information card on how to use the various items.

Point Reward System: The best feature of this subscription service is the reward system.  For every item reviewed online, Birchbox awards ten reward points that can be used for cash in the Birchbox store (however, the review must be done in the same month you received the product).  For every dollar you spend in the Birchbox store, you receive a point.  If you do the math, several Birchboxes pay for themselves because you can easily accumulate points - I had a total of $70 to spend on the Birchbox website. Along with Laura Mercier and Jouer makeup, I also purchased a Chambre de Sucre Macaron box because Birchbox offers a variety of lifestyle products and points can be used on any type of item.

Products Included - Sample Size: Overall, the samples are lacking - samples are teeny tiny (definitely not deluxe size as advertized) and most often, I received lotion packets or plastic tubes with perfume. For skincare items, I was surprised at the small amount of product. Sure, skincare takes time to be effective, but I bet a tear-sized drop isn’t doing much either (and I used the word ‘tear’ on purpose, because that’s how sad I was to receive a ridiculous miniature item on more than one occasion). This is one beauty subscription where I can comfortably say you will not receive full sized products - the only full sized item I can recall is a pop beauty lip gloss, a Chella highlighting pen, and a Chapstick balm (…le sigh).  The size of the samples is what ultimately contributed to my decision to not renew Birchbox.

Products Included - Brands: My other gripe with the products that Birchbox carries is the brands that are actually sent out. I received two quarter sized blushes from the Balm, a Dr. Jart BB cream, a Lancome mini mascara, and a small Benefit Sugarbomb lip gloss - everything else was from brands I barely knew or brands I’ve never heard of before (and I’m a beauty blogger for god’s sake!). It used to be that Birchbox carried higher end brands but during the year I subscribed, other subscription services (cough, Ipsy, cough) sent better products. For example, I received two mini Color Club polishes, and my sister received a full sized Zoya and a mini Butter London from Ipsy during the same time period.

Products Included - Type of Items: If you want to receive mostly makeup and are looking for a beauty subscription box, then Birchbox is not for you.  I’ve received hair ties, plastic makeup bags, a pen, candy, food, a tea bag, a nail file, and bobby pins (so that’s eight months where one item was a lifestyle item). Some months, the boxes were more balanced in terms of beauty products but for the most part, there was no thoughtful curation of the products.
Products Included - Conclusion: And we finally get to the main attraction - should you subscribe to Birchbox? What products are really included in a Birchbox? As you can see from the photos, the answer is …”just okay” products - not the best-omg-how-lucky-am-I and not the worst-what-were-they-thinking either.  Birchbox doesn’t pay for the actual samples and companies provide them for free - customers basically pay to try samples.  I would strongly recommend Birchbox for some months, and I would definitely not recommend it for other months - based on this, take a look at what other people received and ask yourself if you need any of the items and are willing to pay to receive those samples.

Let us know in the comments - what has been your experience with Birchbox? Do you plan to subscribe or cancel your subscription? I did not renew and am currently subscribed to Ipsy, but if Birchbox overhauls their product sizes and brand variety, I would definitely return as the Birchbox subscription service has several positive aspects.

Visit Birchbox.com for more information and details about the boxes.

As an update, Birchbox does offer several Limited Edition Boxes that are definitely worth it (details in this blog post!).

Stay Pretty, Miranda M.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13905103397440542713 Elizabeth Tomchek

    Just found your blog after being disappointed with my first box. I had facebook friends that recommended this to everyone and I figured what the heck- $10 wasn’t that bad, and I’d never ordered a box subscription before, so why not?
    My first box came, and my daughter and I were excited. We got the following:
    One hotel-sized bottle of sample shampoo, along with one equally tiny bottle of conditioner
    One microscopic sample of some sort of skin creme (I haven’t bothered to read the oversized envelope with info it was stuffed in)
    One tube (appears to be full-sized) of lip balm in a fluorescent pink hue, with a cracked tube casing (not very sanitary and not expecting the lip balm to stay usable even if I were to want to use it.)

    And that’s it.

    Supposedly there were supposed to be gummy vitamins included (at least according to the card…but I’m not sure since I’ve never gotten one of these before)- but these were nowhere to be found.

    I could have gone to walmart and spent less than $5 and probably gotten better items.

    • http://prettysquared.com/ Pretty Squared

      hi Elizabeth, thank you for sharing your experiences. I agree about the less than 5$ comment, I always though their “value” card was not accurate because of the sample size and knowing that was not really the cost. And for $10 a month you can add another $10 and get a valuable makeup item from Sephora or Macy’s. So the value for the regular boxes just isn’t there. I did write a post about the limited edition boxes - I think those are a better value and are products you can actually use. I’ve stopped all my monthly subs and I do special edition boxes from all and any companies (this way I know what I spend my money on). Link on CEW boxes: http://www.prettysquared.com/2014/08/birchbox-for-cew-limited-edition-box-review/

    • http://prettysquared.com/ Pretty Squared

      also, I apologize for the late, late (ultra late) reply. Disqus is having issues all around.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16340477933898353421 Kathrynne Johnson

    Big respect for the honesty of this post!

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04373737784876340906 Pretty Squared

      thank you Kathrynne! sometimes reviews surgarcoat things when reality is way different, hope this helps to make better informed decisions.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02025409106850119019 Visceral Maze

    that was the most useful review I have read on this boxes. I have been debating about birchbox recently and after reading this, I definitely know that it is not for me, as I want generous samples for my skincare products, which is what I am more interested in.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04373737784876340906 Pretty Squared

      so glad we could help! there’s too many boxes out there to just settle on one that doesn’t meet your needs - based on what you said, birchbox is not the answer hope you find a great subscription service! and thank you for your lovely comment!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12616456803077234529 Karin

    This comment has been removed by the author.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12616456803077234529 Karin

      I dont think I would subscribe to Birchbox …..I have reviewed many other such packages and with Birchbox I do not see their SAMPLES to be comparable or even in the same ballpark. Maybe if they gave more quality name brands or up and coming products I think they would have a greater success. The products that birchbox seems to give are mostly sample size and nothing really special…a shame really.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04373737784876340906 Pretty Squared

      I agree on the fact that the competition is just too big right now - there are several awesome subscription services that even for a bit more of a cost give full sizes. When the customer has the option to pick the best service for herself, Birchbox needs to step up in what they offer. Some months, I was really surprised at the value of the box (in a negative way) because the samples didn’t seem to actually be worth even five dollars.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17160734493516891973 Cashmere Lace

    This was a great review…and a great way to say Birchbox isn’t worth the hype nicely. I left them a more scathing review on my blog. It just was very disappointed the samples you actually received…I do think Birchbox’s website and store is great, but I no longer subscribe to their beauty box. It was a waste of money and more often than not I threw away the samples or gave them away.

    xo
    Kelly
    http://www.dreaminlace.com

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04373737784876340906 Pretty Squared

      When I got what I ordered with my points, my sister commented I finally got a Birchbox that was suited to me haha I agree the store and reward system makes the subscription service worth it but only if the samples were worth $10 (a catch 22 really). The sample size is what ultimately made me not renew, if I see an improving trend though I may return to Birchbox.

      Heading over to see your review, thanks for your comment!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17016083975209737521 Trissaia S

    I have been subscribed since September 2013 and I must agree that my boxes are getting more boring and watching their video preview becomes a little frustration. This month they forgot to add the “mandatory” hair sample (so I got three samples and tea…)so I will be testing their customer service. As for the deluxe sample description -yeah, that’s what I thought they said when I was subscribing. If you follow your own link you will find out that they changed the wording to “Birchbox delivers high-end beauty, grooming, and lifestyle samples once a month, customized just for you.” No mention of deluxe. For me this month was a little pathetic - my 100%pure body balm was three tiny foil samples like the ones you can find in a magazine.
    And they are very aggressive about marketing the products- I counted - EVERY DAY I receive an email from Birchbox about some deal/promotion/come buy it. It is beginning to get on my nerves.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04373737784876340906 Pretty Squared

      I hope the customer service experience goes well, I do think Birchbox has some positive aspects but unfortunately, the negatives outweigh the positives. That’s so interesting about the description change, I’ll include that in the review - I still remember the “deluxe sample” advertising when I received the yearly subscription. The foil samples were my least favorite samples because I think I can get better at Sephora.

      Oh, as for the marketing, I would wait until an absolute best deal came up - I made the mistake to use the 20% off but then got a 25% off with free gift (it was frustrating to see that if I had waited two more days I could get a better deal).

      Thank you for your comment - it definitely adds to the discussion, new subscribers must know what they’ll receive not base it on the “past” Birchbox samples.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15991908412993166130 Arielle Thibodeaux

    Agree with everything you have to say about Birchbox. It was such a bore. I’m glad I cancelled.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04373737784876340906 Pretty Squared

      I was so frustrated because I kept seeing other people get better items and every month I’d get something terrible, I even changed my profile. There were some great things but definitely not worth the 10$, Birchbox has to step up its sample game because everything else was positive.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05596048246341033409 Jamie Lewis

    I fully agree. Birchbox lately has been a HUGE let down. I have subscribed for the past 2 years and in the beginning they were awesome. I am not sure if since they became such a hype that they decided their name would be good enough. But their products lately suck. You keep seeing other Instagram fefs with amazing products and I wonder do they send out great things only to over popular beauty/fashion bloggers who will post their stuff and make them more money. Cause the rest of us receive no name brands or dinky samples while other particular on the East Coast get great things like Butter London polishes or expensive deluxe size samples. In the beginning you would get some good things but lately the whole sending me a tea bag or cookie and a tiny sample of a skincare product is not worth it. Way better out there like Ipsy/Wantable/Julep etc… Great honest post!!! Xoxo- Makeuplifelove

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04373737784876340906 Pretty Squared

      I do think Birchbox is using their name and reputation to skate by lately. I also kept seeing on Instagram people with boxes that had absolutely everything from the sneak peek videos but I would receive foil packets with lotion. I tried to change my beauty profile but I do not think the customization applies, it’s not curated according to the profile. I was also frustrated with my intro box which included leftover samples from previous months (I think a new customer would deserve a better first box).

      Thank you for your comment - let’s hope Ipsy continues to be great!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01262526861613078750 Laura Gois

    Your photography is beautiful! I used to subscribe to Glossybox UK but it frustrated me how the ‘high end’ brands often weren’t at all xx
    http://www.LaurasHaven.com

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04373737784876340906 Pretty Squared

      yup, the emphasis is so much on how better the Birchbox brands are, but I never actually see these brands - for example the stock ad photo at Birchbox shows stila, kiehls and i’ve never received one product from them