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Birchbox Vs Ipsy Vs Play by Sephora – December 2016

$10 Beauty Subscription Box Breakdown!

The Birchbox vs Ipsy post series compares my Birchbox and Ipsy subscription every month to give you a good idea what you can expect from the two most popular beauty subscription boxes. (And since both boxes are $10 a month, it seems fair to stack them up against each other).

And now we’ve added Play! by Sephora to the mix! (Thanks, everyone, who suggested this addition!)

If you are interested in finding other great beauty boxes, check out our Top 15 Beauty Subscription Boxes for 2016!

FYI – I pay for these subscriptions, and as a regular customer, I get one of many variations available each month. So while one month alone might not be enough info to make a decision, looking at the results over several months should give you a good picture of what to expect with each box.


Birchbox December 2016 (Check out the full Birchbox review)

Number of items: 5

Full-size items: 1

Deluxe size items: 0

Brands featured: LOC, IpKN, Rene Furterer, The Organic Pharmacy

Categories featured: Skincare (1) Makeup (2) Haircare (2)

Total Value: $31

Favorite item in the box: LOC One & Done Eyeshadow Stick in Rock Steady

It’s paraben and cruelty-free, and these sticks have AMAZING staying power! The stick glides on smoothly and the pigment is fabulous, too.


Ipsy December 2016 (Check out the full Ipsy review)

Number of items: 5

Full-size items: 1

Deluxe size items: 0

Brands featured: Cake Beauty, Tarte, HIKARI, Benefit, REN,

Categories featured: Makeup (3) Skincare (1) Body lotion (1)

Total Value: $46

Favorite item in the box: Cake Beauty Heavy Cream Intensive Hand Repair Balm

I was expecting this hand cream to be rich and smell like cake batter – and I was not disappointed! The scent is sweet and indulgent, and this cream is heavy and provides a ton of moisture – and surprisingly it still absorbs quickly! Love it!


Play! by Sephora December 2016 (Check out the full Play! by Sephora review)

Number of items: 6

Full-size items: 0

Deluxe size items: 0

Brands featured: Sephora, Urban Decay, Make Up For Ever, Lancome, Drybar, Elizabeth & James

Categories featured: Makeup (4) Haircare (1) Fragrance (1)

Total Value: $36

Favorite item in the box:  Urban Decay All Nighter Makeup Setting Spray

I’ve used this product in the past, and this sample was a great reminder to me that I need to start using it again. It really does a fantastic job at keeping your makeup in place and looking fresh. (This is especially necessary for me on days when I need my makeup looking good post-work hours, too.)

Verdict: I didn’t have a stand-out favorite box this month. Each box had some items I loved, and some I wasn’t too crazy about. That being said, here are my general suggestions for which box to pick:

Birchbox: Birchbox allows you to pick one of your samples or the curated box for each month, so if you want to have a little more control over your box, this is a good choice. They also have a ton of great high-end brands. If you are concerned about the value of your boxes, I recommend going for the curated box each month – the values with those boxes seem to be consistently good.

Ipsy: This will likely be the highest value out of all 3 boxes every month. It’s also the best of the 3 if you are looking for full-size items. The one thing to keep in mind is that Ipsy samples both high-end, mid-tier, and drugstore brands, so you’re going to get a mix of price point brands.

Sephora: I recommend this box for the brands – if Sephora carries the brand, it may appear in the box, which means they have a ton of inventory to pick from, and you’re going to get great brands across the board. Sample sizes may be small for some products, but you get 5 beauty samples PLUS a fragrance sample.

What was your favorite box for December? And what was your favorite product?


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Written by Liz Cadman

Liz Cadman

Liz is the founder of My Subscription Addiction. She’s been hooked on subscription boxes since 2011 thanks to Birchbox, and she now subscribes to over 100 boxes. Her favorites include POPSUGAR Must Have, FabFitFun, and any box that features natural beauty products!

Posted in Birchbox vs Ipsy, Birchbox vs Ipsy vs Play! by Sephora| Tags: birchbox | ipsy | play by sephora | 26 comments

Comments (26)

  1. It could just be me, but I feel opposed to Ipsy on principle because of those darned bags every month. How many bags can one accumulate, or gift to others before they end up in the landfills eventually? Plus you’d have to incorporate the cost of labor and materials for the.bags which could’ve been used for products instead.

    • One good use of the extra bags is to donate them to a local shelter or organization who fill them with personal items and small make up donations for homeless or women who are in shelters.

    • I no longer get Ipsy or Birchbox or Play (but I’ve gotten all 3 in the past) and I made WAY more use of my Ipsy bags than the packaging of the other 2. 🙂

  2. Ipsy is not for me, I don’t want drug store brands and even though I like that you get full size stuff pretty frequently, I am just rarely impressed by non-blogger bags.

    Birchbox is not as cool as it used to be but I still get some nice stuff from them. The brands are good and there’s a good amount of skincare (which is either a positive OR a negative, but for me it’s a positive).

    Play has been solid every month since I joined and I have been really happy with them. I hope it stays that way!

    • I agree. Sephora has been amazing. I canceled ipsy.

  3. I started with Birchbox, but was never that impressed with the contents. Then I went to Ipsy. I cancelled, then went back, then cancelled. I went back one last time and cancelled for good. I saw no point in filling out a profile, if they were simply going to ignore it. Nothing was ever right. I love Play by Sephora. I love that there are brands that I use most often, with some new ones to try tossed in. I don’t, however, care for the fragrance. I wouldn’t be upset if they gave that part up. I received a deluxe sample of Clinique Almost Lipstick in Black Honey in my December box. This has been my favorite for 20+ years and am always super excited when I receive one in a box. This is the perfect size for a small bag or pocket. Play has turned out to be perfect for me.

  4. That cake lotion is wonderful but I can hardly stand the smell. It reminds me of my German great grandmother for some reason and its not pleasant. Not that she wasn’t wonderful, she was but the smell isn’t

  5. I just started subbing to Birchbox in November and Ipsy in December. (I don’t sub to Play because they always include a fragrance item and I am extremely sensitive to fragrances.)

    For the most part, I have always been a minimal makeup person and a lazy makeup user, meaning that I am interested, but not always willing to spend extra time and money on it. Now that I’m getting older (no longer in my 20’s) I’ve developed more interest in makeup and skincare (not to mention that I got sucked into this site and now I am addicted, haha).

    I have had a lot of fun so far with both subscriptions. I imagine that when I stop having fun or start getting a crazy surplus of items, I will end my subscriptions. But for now, since both Birchbox and Ipsy are only $10 apiece, I feel like the variety/value of each is a pretty good deal, especially for people like me who are not experts with this sort of thing!

    Here are my first impressions and preferences so far: To me, Ipsy seems geared toward a younger audience (more fun, adventurous items), while Birchbox seems geared toward a more mature group (more skincare and haircare maintenance options). I like that Ipsy includes a fun little bag every month (even though one was pink and hairy), and I like that Birchbox includes a nice little “cheat sheet” to tell you a little bit more about all the items in your box.

    For me, personally, I would rate both of my January boxes 4 out of 5 stars; having used and liked 4 of the 5 items offered.

    I think both subs are definitely good for 1) people wanting to explore different beauty brands and options, 2) people who don’t like shopping, 3) people who enjoy getting fun surprises in the mail at a minimal cost, and 4) people who travel a lot who appreciate sample or small items.

    Anyway, just my two cents! #coolstorybro 😉

  6. Play!! Play!!Play!! Sephora Play is my favorite. i don’t sub to birchbox. and i must admit that i am feeling a lot better about Ipsy since they began letting us pick an item for our glambag. Both ipsy and sephora have introduced me to some great brands. i love that ipsy offers discounts on full size items (i take full advantage of this). i also love that i can always go into a sephora store to purchase an item or to get another sample (i take full advantage of this as well). both ipsy and sephora offer bonus points. both are worth the ten bucks. but at this point, sephora play is #1 in my book

  7. We just started the boxes in the fall. My favorite is Sephora Play, but my daughter (21) likes ipsy best. Besides the products in the play box, I like that Sephora provides a video unveiling and ability to go into the store and discuss the products. I haven’t done a “play party” yet, but it is on my list (one of the locations is only 10 min from work). I’ve noted that some of the items in the play boxes are not yet offered in my local store, so I can’t get samples there. I also like the 50 bonus points that provide me with extra product in-store. Our initial Birchboxes (Nov/Dec 2016) were beautiful, but not so impressed with Jan/Feb 2017 design. The products don’t seem to match us as well either. However, some are interesting and new to us.

  8. I wish Play wasn’t as varied. I have had major box envy. I haven’t loved my last two boxes, but the fact that the brands are always amazing and I could find something wonderful keeps me going.

    • I don’t mind that the Play box has some variation. I take note of the other items and if interested request a sample at the store. That way I can try other new products.

      • That’s a fabulous idea! Thanks for the tip!

  9. I got rid of sephora because I wasn’t please with two of its bags. When I purchase stuff from sephora I usually get free items and these are the free items I get so why am I paying $10 a month for it? I love ipsy I think it’s worth the $$. I also had birch and cancelled them because I kept getting wrinkle creams which I don’t use and mascara which I literally now have about 20 of them. In one box from birch I got 2 mascara and that was it for me.

    • I have found that by changing my beauty profile here and there and giving negative reviews for repeats or the things I don’t like prevents repeats. I think the computer monitors your reviews and changes what box you may get. Last time my Allure box was late I called and the woman asked if I had changed my address, payment or beauty profile. I had changed my profile and she explained this takes me out of que if it changes what sample box I get. I have also read Ipsy on Facebook tell people that if they are getting something They don’t want like mascara to email customer service so they can make a note on your account.
      Hope this helps in the future😃

  10. Funny that I had and eventually cancelled all 3 of these for various reasons, but now I have and like Allure, especially since I got it during the $10 deal so I don’t feel too guilty (since I was spending way more on multiple boxes, started getting repeats, colors or items I don’t use, etc., and general sample overload lol!). Despite all the issues some have had with Allure, I guess I’ve been lucky *knock wood* that I haven’t. Anyway, I still love reading all the reviews and especially the comparisons! Great job! Thank you as always!

  11. I finally canceled Birchbox. Ipsy and Play are definitely worth the ten dollars, but birchbox just was not worth it for me. I got two black eyeliners in one box….

  12. Thanks for doing this!

  13. I like birchbox for the sample selection, and play by sephora for known and easy to find brands. Love seeing these comparisons, keep them coming 🙂

    • Love Birchboc is the best

  14. I like Sephora Play the best out of the three. I canceled BirchBox because I felt like they were becoming really stingy with their sample sizes. Ipsy is hit or miss, but I feel like I always get at least $10 of value out of each Glam Bag, and when it’s a hit, it’s great! One thing I don’t love about Ipsy is that sometimes I think they include discontinued items because I can’t find them for sale anywhere. While I haven’t liked everything from Sephora Play, I’ve liked or know I’ll eventually use most of the items and I like that it’s usually easy to find them for purchase once I run out. I also like that they include a Play Pass so you can rack up Beauty Insider points, though I wish they could be redeemed online!

  15. Thank you for doing this, Liz. Looking forward to your January Box reviews for all three. I got hooked on subscription boxes after I discovered your website. Now it’s getting out of hand. I will seek your great counsel on which of the three to keep by February, depending on your reviews. 😉

    • Ugh. Same! Like, legit addicted. But I love it.

  16. I’ve been happy with birchbox and not happy with the two Sephora bags I’ve gotten so far. Haven’t tried ipsy since I’m not interested in drug store brands.

  17. I’m so glad you brought this back. It’s nice having Sephora Play! in the mix as well. Thanks!

    • Yay! 🙂

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