Ipsy vs. Birchbox

This post is the one I’ve gotten requested the most: “what do you think about Ipsy/Birchbox” and “which one do you prefer?”

The question comes at the right time. I’ve started to think maybe it’s time to let one–or both–of the subscriptions go.

I am overrun with samples. I have a giant box in my bathroom filled with sample sized products waiting for me to try them. Between the two subscription services, Sephora often has special sized samples with purchase and I’m a total sucker for the Sephora Favorite boxes that come out seasonally with different products to try. All these samples really add up.

And the weird thing is–I’ve actually found a bunch of products I really like–so it’s hard to play facial product roulette with untested potions that could lead to magically perfect skin, or nasty breakouts.

So my willingness to test out products has been decreasing recently or maybe I just feel so overwhelmed with mini products, I can’t focus on them long enough to give them a try.

To determine my thoughts on each option, I reviewed them on a number of areas. Here are my findings:

Our relationship

I’ve really given both of them a long run. I started Birchbox in January 2012 when a Ms. Jess Boggs gave me a gift subscription for Christmas. (we’ve been pushing product on each other for a long time!) I added Ipsy in January 2013, presumably a Christmas present to myself.

Each subscription is $10/month and gives an assortment of products, but generally five sample sizes. Rarely do you receive a full-sized option. (side note: i had a brief flirtation with Boxycharm, which is $21/month but you get full-sized options. i hated it. i rarely used the products and i felt worst getting rid of full-sized products than samples. i got rid of it after a few months.)

The Container

the boxes are super cute, just not needed by me

Birchbox comes in a box that you could collect and reuse. I do not. So the box basically makes me feel bad every time I throw it in the recycling–which is immediately after I receive my box.

this month’s bag

Ipsy comes in a bag that range from really cute, to kinda janky. But I use the bags. Mostly for packing up samples to give to friends, but sometimes for travel. I have a lot of them though.

The Brands

Regarding the brands each site carries, Birchbox offers more well-known medium to high end brands. Ipsy tends to have more independent brands that are new to me.

What’s in the box/bag?

In my mind, I’ve always viewed Birchbox as more skincare and Ipsy as makeup. I did a quick tally of the products I received through each subscription the past six months. Ipsy does seem to have more makeup samples including brushes, which is one of my favorite things to receive. Birchbox has way more hair care products. I received zero hair products through Ipsy and nine from Birchbox. But otherwise, they seems pretty evenly split between their offerings.

this month i got the curated box–i already have the stila lip AND the purlisse mask, but i wanted the hair mask and lotion.

Birchbox has also added curated boxes. Now there are three options for your box. You can either chose a box that’s curated and you can see what’s in there in advance, you can select one particular sample out of three options but the rest will be surprises or the entire box is a surprise. I’ve done all three and I don’t really have a preference. Sometimes the curated box is great, sometimes I already have many of the samples in it already. I’ve gone with the surprise boxes and had good success and also misses.

this month’s ipsy contents

Ipsy is still a surprise each month.

Both services have a quiz you take at the start of the relationship that sets the type of products you will receive. I haven’t played with the quizzes recently to see if it would change what I receive, but they do seem to be pretty close to what I have said are my makeup and skin care preferences.

The online presence

Birchbox.com is designed as an online retailer with sample sizes of its main product lines.

Ipsy is more of a product hub with links to the retailers’ websites.


One of the benefits I have found using Birchbox is you can get discounts more frequently on quality products that are rarely discounted through Ulta or Sephora aside from the few sales they offer during the year.

Ipsy offers discounts to the brands during the month their products are featured in the bags. It’s a little clunkier to transition over to the product site and use the discount codes than to just order direct from the service website. But, this also means you can get a discount on the brand’s entire product line and not just select products which can be nice.


One of the best benefits of Birchbox was its review program. Each month, you were given the opportunity to review the products to receive points. Those points added up to actual cash. So it wasn’t difficult to rack up $10 off every few months from reviews.

They recently discontinued this program. Instead, you get points for purchasing products. It’s still something, but it’s less enticing for me to stay on the service when it’s harder for me to collect points i.e. product credits. But those points still add up to actual cash off you can use on your order total. I much prefer getting cash back than points for MORE product.

Ipsy still gives points for submitting reviews. But the points are used toward select products and you need a lot of points to get anything good. I don’t bother with it.

Special deals

Birchbox has gift with purchase options that are always available, but honestly, I rarely use them. I generally order through Birchbox when they offer a percentage off–and you can only use one code per purchase–so I go for the cash, not the samples.

In addition to the retailer discount codes, Ipsy also offers discounted bundles each month. I have mixed feelings on these bundles. They are very cheap–but not always very good. I’ve ordered a few things and then I rarely reach for them. They also sell out quickly, so you have to be on top of things if there is something for a line your really like. Higher end bundles especially sell out fast.

The products

I guess it really comes down to the products. And sadly, I’m split.

I looked at the last six months and the products I’ve tried that I liked–and tbh–there are many, many products I haven’t tried yet.

Here are the ones from Ipsy that I made the grade: Skone Blending Brush, Josie Maran Face Butter, Glamour Dolls Angle Blush Brush, Jesse’s Girl Liquid Eyeliner, Royal and Langnickel brush, SKYN Iceland Face Wash, So Susan brush. (lots of brushes. lots.)

And the Birchbox winners: Benefit They’re Real Double Lip Lipstick, Schmidt’s Deodorant Stick, Davines Hair and Body Wash, Benefit Rollerlash, Number 4 Sugar Texturizing Spray, R + Co shampoo/conditioner and Moisture and Shine Cream.

I also did a quick look to see what products I discovered from Birchbox and Ipsy over the years that have become go-to options. I discovered the Oribe Texturizing Spray through Birchbox. My favorite exfoliating was from Juara was a Birchbox sample and I’ve recently discovered that my first impression of the Benefit Rollerlash was wrong and it’s actually really good.

From Ipsy, I really like the It Cosmetics Superhero mascara, Benefit Gimme Brow and the Balanced Guru No Frizz Hair Oil is my everyday finishing touch on my hair–and I love it!

Final conclusion

Ugh–it’s hard. The best thing about both services is the anticipation when the package arrives and you open it to see what you get. That 2 minutes is like Christmas morning every month and it would be hard to give that up. Even when it’s not that great–it’s always so exciting to see what’s inside.

But that said, it would save me $20/month to cancel them AND tons of space in my bathroom.

Soo…I don’t know. I think I should cancel them both, but it feels like an end of an era. I’ve really come to look forward to those pink boxes and bags each month. It’s been a constant source of optimism for the past four and five years, respectively. It makes me sad to think I won’t get fun mail each month.

usually it’s a pink box, but there’s always a cute salutation

this bag is ALWAYS hot pink–except this month when i take a picture. :/ i would miss ripping into it each month.

This is a very Gemini moment for me, I’m having a hard time deciding!

What do you think? Get out of the relationship or focus on the benefits and stay? Do you get a subscription service? How do you like it?

I pay for each subscription myself. If you feel like trying one of them, I do have invite codes you can choose to use if you want for Ipsy and Birchbox.

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