In this round of our comparison series, we’re matching up Birchbox vs. ipsy, two affordable, extremely popular beauty subscription boxes. (Both boxes scored in the top 5 of our readers' favorite beauty subscription boxes of 2019!)
If you’re deciding between these two popular favorites, we're here to help you pick the box that's perfect for you! We'll break down the information you care about most: the types of beauty products you’ll get from each box, their customization options, and what loyalty programs and other benefits these brands offer.
Beauty Samples vs. Full-Size Items
What sizes of beauty products can you expect from each of these popular subscriptions? Here's the scoop:
Does Birchbox include full-size items?
Birchbox offers 5 to 6 items each month. Most are sample-sized with the occasional deluxe size item (that’s bigger than a sample, but not quite full-size.) Every so often you’ll receive a full-size product as a surprise.
Does ipsy include full-size items?
ipsy product sizes also vary from month-to-month, with their primary focus being on sample sizes. However, it’s possible that 1 or 2 full-size items will show up in your monthly bag, too. Remember, with ipsy, your 5 products per month are delivered in a cute, cosmetic bag—you can count it as a bonus item!
If you're interested full-size items, ipsy does offer the Glam Bag Plus subscription. This box costs $25 per month, but the difference is that you get 5 full-size items. The Glam Bag Plus has a retail value of $120, so it's a great deal if you love trying full-size items. (Check out our ipsy Glam Bag Plus reviews here.)
If you love the ease of sample sizes, both subscriptions are a good fit. Sample sizes let you try products and buy full sizes of what you love later.
Both of these beauty boxes are surprisingly affordable, but one does come out on top.
How much does Birchbox cost?
Birchbox costs $15 per month (or less when you sign up for a longer subscription). Each month, you'll get 5 to 6 items that often include specialty and luxury brands. (To learn more, check out our Birchbox cost information.)
How much does ipsy cost?
ipsy costs $12 per month (or less when you sign up for a longer subscription). Each month, you'll get 5 items, but you also get a cute makeup bag with each box. (The design changes every month.) ipsy features some high-end brands, but they mix it up with beloved drugstore brands, too. (To learn more, check out our ipsy cost information.)
ipsy is the more affordable monthly beauty subscription box, plus you can always count on getting a new makeup bag in addition to great beauty products!
ipsy Glam Bag and Birchbox are super affordable. (Both boxes made our readers' list of the top 15 subscription boxes for $15 or less!) But which has a better value, given what's inside? Each month, we look at the value of what we got in each box, comparing the amount of product we received with the retail value and amount associated with full-size versions. A little bit of math later, and we can estimate about how much each assortment is worth.
To compare the boxes overall, we looked at the values we came up with for 6 months of reviews and estimated the average value for each box across those months. Remember that the contents of each Birchbox or ipsy Glam Bag can vary a lot month to month, but this system should give you a general sense of the value you can expect with each shipment.
Is Birchbox worth it?
Birchbox costs $15 per month, but consistently has a value of upwards of $30 per month, according to our estimates.
Is ipsy worth it?
ipsy costs just $12 per month, but the value of what's inside ranges between $30 and $50 per month, according to our estimates. Sometimes it's worth even more!
Value-wise, both bags pack a similar punch. But according to our math, ipsy has the edge.
Is Birchbox personalized?
Birchbox has two primary subscription options: curated and sample. With the curated box, all of the items are revealed before it ships. You'll know what Birchbox-approved products you're getting ahead of time, but it’s the same assortment as other subscribers who choose the curated option will get. With the sample box, you choose one sample item and leave the rest to Birchbox to pick. The items Birchbox picks for you will reflect the preferences in your beauty profile. You can also choose to include full-size items as add-ons in your box. (Check out our Birchbox spoiler posts to learn more about what you get.)
Is ipsy personalized?
ipsy is known for featuring over 40 different beauty products in their Glam Bags every month! That means that the samples in your ipsy bag could be way different from the samples we review each month. The items you receive will align with the preferences you set in your beauty profile. You can update them anytime if you're looking to shake things up. We recommend checking out our ipsy spoilers to get an idea of what products you could get, but remember that you won’t know exactly which products you're getting until you open your box!
ipsy's subscription is specifically designed to cater to your personal preferences. Birchbox gives you the option of getting items specifically chosen for you or simply an assortment of Birchbox-recommended crowd-pleasers.
Both subscriptions feature beauty products such as makeup, skincare, beauty tools, and even nail polish and perfumes! Remember that individual boxes vary month to month, so the breakdown of what categories of beauty products you get will likely change.
What do you get with Birchbox?
Birchbox focuses on makeup, hair products, and skin care, but you can also expect body care and fragrance samples. What exact items you receive depends on your subscription (if you sign up for a custom subscription, for instance, you'll get products geared towards your preferences), but expect items from a few different beauty categories in each box.
What do you get with ipsy?
With ipsy, you’ll get a little bit of everything related to beauty. You can expect a mix of makeup, skincare, and nail polish, with occasional perfume samples. We’ve also seen makeup tools like brushes featured pretty regularly. Remember, the breakdown of which beauty categories are represented in each box is inspired by the preferences you set in your profile.
Both boxes offer a great mix of products across different beauty categories. But in our experience, Birchbox is a great pick for people who love skincare. ipsy’s inclusion of nail polish makes it the better choice for nail art fans.
Coupons & Discounts
These beauty boxes are already affordable, but did you know there are ways you can save even more?
Is there a Birchbox coupon code I can use?
Yes! Check out our Birchbox coupons page to see the most current offers. Note that you get the best value from Birchbox when you subscribe to their 12-month subscription, which brings cost down to $13 per month. (You can find more details on our Birchbox cost information page.)
Is there an ipsy coupon code I can use?
Unfortunately, ipsy doesn't offer additional discounts on their subscriptions, though they do offer programs such as ipsy Rewards that help existing members earn points towards new beauty products. Like Birchbox, ipsy's 12-month subscription is the best value, bringing the cost down to $9.17 per month. (You can find more details on our Ipsy cost information page.)
When it comes to coupons, it's Birchbox for the win!
How to Cancel Your Birchbox Subscription
- Log into your Birchbox account
- Click Account Settings
- Click Cancel Subscription under the Subscriptions heading
Birchbox subscriptions automatically renew, so if you need to cancel, do so before the next billing cycle. You can cancel Birchbox at any time, and you also have the option to pause and resubscribe.
For more information, read our Birchbox cancelation instruction page.
How to Cancel Your ipsy Subscription
- Log onto your ipsy account.
- Hit edit account settings
- Click “membership”
- Select “cancel subscription”
- Click the cancellation link in your email
We found that this process was a touch less streamlined compared to canceling with Birchbox. Since your subscription automatically renews, be sure to cancel before the next billing cycle. (Note that you have the option to pause and resubscribe to ipsy, too.)
For more information, read our ipsy cancelation instruction page.
When it comes to canceling, Birchbox has a slightly easier process.
Shipping & Tracking
Birchbox shipping details
Birchbox subscriptions usually ship the 10th of each month. New subscriber boxes will ship within 10 business days of the order date. If you purchase a product that you’ve sampled from a box, that will also ship free! Birchbox ships to the US, with international orders through Birchbox France, Birchbox Spain, and Birchbox UK.
Birchbox will send you an email with shipping and tracking info once your package is on the way. You can also log into your account and click on "Purchase History." (You can find more details on our Birchbox shipping information page.)
ipsy shipping details
ipsy subscriptions typically ship mid-month (from North Carolina) and arrive within 7 to 10 business days. Shipments are sent in batches so expect timing to vary. ipsy ships to the U.S. and its territories, APO, DPO, and FPO boxes, and Canada.
ipsy will send you an email with shipping and tracking info near the middle of the month. You can also track your package by logging into your ipsy account. (You can find more details on our Ipsy shipping information page.)
In-demand boxes can sometimes mean waitlists for potential members. So, do either of these subscriptions have a waitlist to worry about?
Does Birchbox have a waitlist?
Birchbox does not currently have a waitlist.
Does ipsy have a waitlist?
ipsy's new members start out on the waitlist, but ipsy aims to make the wait short. Past members skip the waitlist if they resubscribe.
Want to skip the waitlist entirely? MSA readers can skip the waitlist just by clicking here!
When it comes to waitlists, it's a draw as long as you use MSA's special ipsy link!
Loyalty & Rewards Programs
Both beauty boxes provide special programs to help subscribers get even more out of their membership.
What is the Birchbox loyalty program?
Birchbox offers rewards through its Loyalty Program. There's also one for VIPs (more on that below). You'll earn 1 loyalty point for each $1 you spend, and points can be used toward Birchbox purchases. You earn points through purchases of subscriptions and full-size products but note that you can't redeem them on your own re-billable subscription. You also get 50 loyalty points when one of your referrals subscribes. You can earn points through product reviews of box items, too, but only for the first five reviews you complete. They also need to be posted by the 9th of the month after the date received. It's a tight window, so you have to be organized not to miss it!
Points expire 6 months from the date they were earned. You can redeem them during checkout by clicking on "Payment Details." Points equal out to a value of around $10 per 100 points.
Birchbox also offers an "ACES" Loyalty Program for VIPs. You automatically become an "ACE" once you've spent $300 in a calendar year, and subscriptions count towards that total. Once you're an ACE, you'll earn 1.3 points for each $1 you spend. The additional benefits include early access to promotions and launches, concierge service from their Discovery Specialist team, and other exclusive offers and surprises. The "ACE" program also gives you free standard shipping on full-size orders and free two-day shipping on orders of $100 or more. The biggest perk of the ACES program is the subscription discount. ACE members pay only $10 a box.
What is the ipsy loyalty program?
ipsy offers rewards through a points program that lets you redeem earned points for products. So how do you earn points?
You have four ways to earn points from ipsy as an active subscriber:
- Referrals: Receive a unique referral link and earn 250 points for each sign-up within 24 hours.
- Follow creators: Earn 10 points following ipsy creators on Twitter and Youtube.
- Product reviews: Review Glam Bag products for 15 points each.
- Full Glam Bag Review: Review your monthly Glam Bag "experience" for 10 points each time.
As you can see, the best way to earn points is by referring your friends. Keep in mind, you can still earn plenty of points through follows and reviews. You'll get 85 a month for product and Glam Bag reviews—that adds up to a free product every 4 months or so since the products you can redeem typically start at around 350 points, and those products will be included in your next monthly Glam Bag. You can find your point total on your Points tab, and they expire 12 months from the date earned. You can see the type of reward products they offer on our ipsy Rewards page.
Both Birchbox and ipsy have great rewards programs (especially referral programs). ipsy is definitely more hands-on if you want to earn points through reviewing products. Birchbox gives you points just for spending money.
Should I Get Birchbox or ipsy?
Real talk: both of these subscriptions are awesome! That’s why they’re consistently popular with our readers. It’s easy to recommend both to your family and friends. When you look at them side-by-side, you can see that they each have their own perks and values when you break it down.
Birchbox: It’s a classic subscription in the beauty genre and a great way to try out niche brands and luxury items at a reasonable price. You get to test specialty items before making a big commitment. You also get a great variety, and usually, you'll something to fall in love with in every box. If you want control over your subscription and the option to pick a sample (or even the whole box) each month, this is the right choice for you. Sign up for Birchbox here!
ipsy: You can’t beat the $12 price point. It’s an affordable option that makes it an easy subscription to try. The cute makeup bags are a definite plus! We also find ipsy to be a great starter subscription for folks who are new to the beauty box world. If you’re looking for to try a makeup subscription, ipsy’s great because of the variety, personalization, and surprise factor. If retail value of the products is the most important factor to you, we recommend Ipsy. Sign up for ipsy here!
Remember, if you really can’t make a decision, there’s no harm in subscribing to both! And don't forget to explore other popular women's subscription boxes like these top readers' picks!