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My Subscription Addiction
My Subscription Addiction
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Super Nerdy, Super Beauty: We Put Beauty Boxes Under The Microscope

I don't need to tell you that beauty boxes are extremely popular. As I'm sitting here writing this, I have at least three different beauty subscription boxes lined up next to me. At MSA, we decided to get a bit nerdy and deep dive into the world of beauty boxes. So, we spent some time zeroing into the nitty-gritty of beauty subscription boxes from a data point of view.

Let's Get Nerdy First

Okay, before we get started, let's talk numbers... beauty boxes by the numbers! To give you an idea, the global subscription box market size reached $18.8 Billion in 2020. And don't think subscriptions are going anywhere, the same report estimates that the market will grow over 20% in the next five years.

While at MSA, we're a tad crazy for subscription boxes. Only 11% of those surveyed by Statista were currently subscribers of beauty boxes. They probably aren't checking out our spoilers yet, right? Still, Statista says about 40% of respondents are interested in a beauty box subscription – but what's stopping them? Here's what the survey found:

  • 36% don't subscribe because they think it's too expensive – in fact, the magic price for beauty boxes appears to be $11-16 per box
  • 28% are not too happy with the product range

But even with their popularity, the road for subscription boxes hasn't always been smooth. Early in the pandemic circa 2020, many beauty boxes saw an uptick in cancellations. After all, who needed new makeup products to try around the house? So, beauty boxes do what they do best, adapt! Most beauty and makeup boxes (Allure, Birchbox, FabFitFun, GlossyBox, and Ipsy) started incorporating wellness and self-care items like hand sanitizer, vitamins, and candles.

This shift in product range was probably what saved subscription boxes from disappearing in the pandemic.

Super Beauty, Super Nerdy

Now, let's get to the nitty-gritty of beauty boxes specifically. By far, one of the most popular beauty boxes is Birchbox. Perhaps because it's also one of the very first ones. According to Bloomberg, Birchbox was the leading beauty box up until 2015. In fact, a 2017 Statista survey showed that 54% of respondents recognized Birchbox. But, since 2018, it was FabFitFun, Ipsy, and BoxyCharm that topped the charts. Of them all, FabFitFun had the highest quarterly sales among the top beauty boxes.

Notably, Ipsy and Birchbox send sample sizes of beauty products primarily, thus generating lower average transaction value when compared to FabFitFun. But still, Ipsy and FabFitFun almost tripled sales compared to Birchbox, leaving the once-popular beauty box at the bottom of the chart.

The One Customers Love The Most

Graph Image via Bloomberg.

Sales are great for companies, but customers want something else. Ipsy has the most customers and highest customer retention. Since 2017, Ipsy customers have remained relatively stable, with only slight (expected) declines in 2020. While Birchbox customers continue to drop, BoxyCharm and FabFitFun keep gaining new fans.

Better Value & More Full-Size Products = Love

Customers are obviously looking for value, aka getting the most out of their buck. The clear winner for value is the Ipsy Glam Bag Plus. At just $28 per box, you get five full-size products guaranteed. With the box's retail value averaging at $120, this is one of the best deals out there.

Beauty Boxes Also Need Makeup

The concept of beauty boxes is tricky. Are they skincare subscriptions? Are they makeup subscriptions? Isn't beauty self-care? Over the years, beauty boxes have changed to include a little bit of everything – and we like it! In fact, according to Statista, 75% of subscribers would frequently like makeup included in their beauty boxes. So, who's delivering on that promise? Luckily, some of your favorite boxes, including BoxyCharm, Allure Beauty Box, Ipsy Glam Bag Plus, and Glossybox, all include at least one makeup product in their boxes.

The Ones With Cruelty-Free Products

I'm sure we're all hoping that one day ALL beauty boxes and beauty products become cruelty-free. But, when it comes to subscription boxes, things get murky. For example, BoxyCharm, Allure Beauty Box, and Ipsy Glam Bag offer cruelty-free products. Still, the items in their boxes aren't exclusively cruelty-free. What does this mean? It means you have to check each product to see whether or not they're cruelty-free.

On the other hand, you have Glossybox, which only advertise that their skincare products are cruelty-free. Their makeup products might not be. If you're looking for cruelty-free subscription boxes, you can check out brands like Beauty Heroes and Kinder Beauty Box.

Products On Repeat?

As a skincare fanatic, there's nothing I hate more than receiving the same product from a beauty box. Even if it's another sample! One of the biggest reasons to subscribe to a beauty box is to try new products. In fact, according to Statista, at least 52% of women subscribe to beauty boxes exclusively to discover new products. So when boxes like Ipsy Glam Bag, Walmart Beauty Box, and Glossybox repeat products, it's a shame. For example, Glossybox sent beauty lovers the Kab Cosmetic lipstick in their March 2021 box and again two months later in the Limited Edition Mother's Day 2021 set. Did you notice this?

The One Product That’s Following Us Everywhere

If you subscribe to a number of top beauty boxes, chances are you have one (or more) of these lying around. It’s the PMD Clean. Perhaps, you first received one in the Causebox (Alltrue) Summer 2020 box, then it popped up in the FabFitFun Summer 2021 box (as well as FFF’s most recent Winter box), Ipsy featured this beauty tool in its Glam Bag X in November 2021 and then Curateur joined in the fun with its Winter 2022 Welcome Box.

Beauty Boxes or Nail Polish Boxes?

Sure, not everyone gets excited about nail polish in their beauty boxes. After all, you can find nail polish subscription boxes for that purpose. Still, every now and then, Glossybox would throw in a beautiful nail polish into the mix. Sometimes Allure Beauty Box will include nail stickers just for fun. But, last year, we received nail polish once in our Ipsy Glam Bag, two more in our Ipsy Glam Bag Plus, and another in our Ipsy Glam Bag X subscription. So, we're officially naming it "the one most likely to send nail polish."


Let's keep this going. What's something you want to nerd out about on the topic of beauty boxes?

Geraldine Orentas
Geraldine Orentas

Hi there, I'm Geraldine! I'm a Florida-based copywriter and content creator at MSA. When I'm not going through my skincare routine or diving into the latest trending products, you'll find me writing for online publications about home decor, wellness, and lifestyle. When I'm not writing or creating content about all things that bring me joy, you can find me flowing on my yoga mat, cooking up a new recipe in the kitchen, or walking my German Shepherd Cora. 


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10 comments

Kimberly Barker

I am very disappointed with the box with customer service. I have emailed at least 10 times about not recieving my 2 January boxes that I paid for. No one will answer my emails about them sending me my boxes or giving me a refund. I really don’t want to cancel my boxes because this was actually one of my favorite boxes. I feel like I have no choice to cancel my subscription because they didn’t send me my boxes and no one will answer my emails. It a shame that they would take my money but not send out my boxes. This is very unprofessional and upsetting to me because I’ve been a loyal customer for a while now. If whomever is reading this could you please respond to me about my boxes, whether you are going to look at my account and see that I paid for 2 boxes in January and would love to get my boxes or give me a refund please. Please respond. Thank you Kim Barker

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Lindsey @ MSA

Hi Kim, I’m sorry to hear that you’re having issues with one of your subscriptions. If you’re trying to get in touch with customer service, your best bet is to reach out directly. MSA is an independent review site; we’re unable to help readers with missing boxes or refunds.

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Sherri

Kim, this is a subscription box review and spoiler site, they are not customer service for any subscription box companies and they do not have any control over them. You will need o reach out directly to the company; I k ow you have already emailed them, but maybe you can find another way aug as calling them or contacting thm through one of their social media accounts. Also, this article is about multiple different beauty boxes and you haven’t specified which box you have concerns with, so even in the very off chance that a customer service agent saw your comment, they wouldn’t know if it was directed to them. So again, your best bet is to reach out to the company again by method other than email. HTH.

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Michelle Bunning

I’d like to know where I can get a beauty box that has almost exclusive makeup. Also, is there a beauty box geared towards more mature women? I just turned 52 and so often the makeup I do receive seems (in my many current subscriptions boxes), are more geared to much younger girls/ women! I would love to find a beauty box designed to target their more mature audience. Thank you!

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Amethyst

When I saw this post on the main page, I decided to wait to read it until I had time because I thought it would take time and concentration, but it really didn’t. It was fairly simple and didn’t always make a lot of sense (all the unnecessary commas didn’t help). For instance, it says that Birchbox is by far one of the most popular boxes out there, but then it goes on to say that it is at the bottom of the chart and continuing to drop. 🤷🏼‍♀️ Also, having a product like the Kab cosmetics lipstick in a regular monthly subscription box and also in a one-off special box that you can choose to purchase or not isn’t really the same as it being a duplicate in multiple months.

I agree with Sarah. Using the word “nerdy” isn’t helpful, especially in a post that was really anything but nerdy. And I would also like to see a deeper dive into topics related to sub boxes like environmental impact.

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Sarah

I don’t love the framing of some basic numbers as “super nerdy”, especially for an interest that is so female focused. It feels reductive. I’d love to see a deep dive of truly deep topics, like the environmental impact of sub boxes, a comprehensive look at ingredients of beauty products, and how supply chains work for these boxes.

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Teresa

Also the location of manufacture as well. I quit Boxycharm with so many pallets made in China.

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Snow

I think it would have been interesting to show the evolution of these said beauty boxes. All of them have undergone some serious transformations, from packaging (Allure) to different subscription offerings (ipsy). Remember when “choice” became an option? (Boxycharm). Or when FFF was relatively simple and straightforward?!

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Lindsey @ MSA

I had no idea the PMD Clean was featured in so. many. boxes. Wow! Funnily enough, I have one, and I…. wait for it… received it in a subscription box. I think it was BoxyLuxe, so you can add that one to the list, too. Crazy!

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Jody E

I enjoyed this post. My mind is blown 18.8 billion! It is frustrating to want so many boxes and now so many repeats in the boxes. I hope things turn around this year. Some boxes are prepaid so we have to wait it out.

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