Friday, August 16, 2013

The Great Ipsy vs. Birchbox Debate

Every month around this time, I see tons of Instagram photos hashtagged #ipsyvsbirchbox & blog posts that break down the "value" of their Birchbox vs. their Ipsy bag by the price of each item. I generally try to avoid talking about monetary value of either subscription in my posts, because I honestly don't believe that's the best way to decipher the 'value' of it. Birchbox and Ipsy ARE both beauty subscription services and they're both great in their own ways, but I'm not really sure it's fair to compare the two.

Birchbox was the very first subscription box I subscribed to last October. I had stalked the Makeuptalk threads on it for months beforehand and finally decided I wanted in on all the awesome samples the other girls were getting. This month was my 10th box and I can honestly say I've been impressed with all but maybe one. I know a lot of people don't have a lot of faith in the system Birchbox uses to determine which items are in your box each month & try to tweak their profiles to get certain things. My profile is 100% truthful & the items I've received have almost always been things I get use out of.

I think the key with Birchbox is being open-minded. It's a discovery service, so the whole point is to get to try out new things. I think my blog helps a lot because I force myself to try everything, even if I'm skeptical about it working for me. For example, I saw the Stila lipstick I received this month and was thinking 'Oh my god, I can't pull off lipstick that bright!' but I tried it and actually really liked it. Plus, even though it's not my favorite color ever, I still LOVE the formula and will probably purchase it in different colors.

I've also seen a lot of complaints about the sizes of samples Birchbox sends out. Yes, they do send out foil packets and small tubes of things. BUT they also sample a lot of pretty pricey items! I am always hesitant to purchase make up, skincare, and haircare items without sampling first, but even more so when it's an expensive item. Birchbox also sends out makeup, skincare, haircare, and a variety of other products, so it's always a nice mix of things!

The best part about being a Birchbox subscriber is easily the points system. Every monthly box contains 4-6 items and you get to write reviews for each of the items you receive. Each review counts for 10 points in the Birchbox shop, so you figure you get 40-60 points each month. Every 100 points you accumulate equals $10 in the Birchbox shop. Looking at my past boxes, I've been able to come up with 100 points every two months from reviews, plus Birchbox is awesome at awarding points for duplicate/missing samples or late boxes. I always end up buying a lot of things I fall in love with from my boxes, because I can usually find a discount code AND I can use my points to knock off a chuck of the purchase! The last order I placed came to $41.95 & I only paid $1.95 out of pocket after discounts and points. THAT. IS. AWESOME.

I signed up for Ipsy last December after finding that a lot of Birchbox subscribers also subscribed to them. Ipsy sends out 4-5 items each month, usually deluxe or full sized, in a cute makeup bag. The fact that they're able to include bigger sizes of things in their bags is definitely one of Ipsy's biggest selling points, although they do tend to feature some lower end brands. Don't get me wrong; they DO send out big cosmetic brands too like Urban Decay, Benefit, Josie Maran, etc. While those items are always super fun to receive,  I do find it a little disheartening to find things I could just as easily pick up at the drug store like NYX & Sexy Hair. I realize of course that there are people living in smaller cities who can't just go get those brands at the store, but in general they are just cheaper items. I find that Ipsy tends to send out more makeup and haircare and not as much skincare.

Ipsy uses their own system called 'IpsyMatch' to choose the items that go into each subscriber's bag each month. There's a quiz you can take, and re-take, that asks you your skin type, hair type, favorite products, favorite Ipsy 'stylist,' etc. When I first signed up, each subscriber got the exact same items in their bag each month, with the exception of different colors and sometimes one 'either or' product. In the last few month's they've branched out & had a larger amount of bag variations so the IpsyMatch system has been tested a little more! So far, I'm not sure it's working as well as it could be based on the feedback I've read on various forums, but I personally have received MOSTLY items that I like and will use. Again, I honestly think this has a lot to do with being honest on your quiz and not just picking the answers you think will get you 'the good stuff.'

Ipsy partners with various brands each month for the products in their bags and usually provides some sort of discount or promotion for each brand. Each month when you get your bag it includes a card that states which brands are featured and what their promo offer is for the month. If you log into the Ipsy website, you can find the codes if applicable. These are awesome if you discover a brand you love through Ipsy! I discovered Pacifica in the May bag & used the 20% off discount to buy a TON of stuff from them. This is especially nice now that they have more bag variations because if you don't get an item you wanted in your bag, you can buy it at a discounted price.

For me, the value of these two subscriptions lies more in 1) if I'll use the product and 2) if I'll purchase more of the product/brand after using the sample. For $10 a month, the monetary value doesn't bother me at all as long as it's worth more than the $10 I paid for it. But getting a bag or box full of stuff that doesn't work well for me is pretty much worthless. I love Ipsy and Birchbox and will continue to subscribe to both of them, but it's for different reasons. I like Ipsy for the larger sizes and the discount codes and I like Birchbox for their points system and the ability to try out products I'd never splurge on otherwise. I don't think it's fair to knock Birchbox because they send out smaller sizes and I don't think it's fair to rip on Ipsy for sending out 'cheap' brands. It's apples & oranges. :)

For those of you who are subscribed to beauty subscription services, Ipsy or Birchbox or otherwise, how do you determine if you're getting your money's worth? Is it solely on monetary value or is more about finding new products to try? Or something else?


  1. Great post, Allison! Value to me is in the discovery and trial of products I would not otherwise consider or purchase. I have subscribed to both Birchbox and Ipsy and I prefer BB. While Ipsy may fill your cosmetics stash a lot quicker, I'm in it for the sampling. :)

  2. Love this post Allison! You wrote what I have been thinking too =) For me I am satisfied with my Ipsy and PopSugar right now, until I get bored I would try another sample box! I don't like to compare them since they all give different ones, which is good!

  3. Thanks, ladies! Just had to put in my two cents on the matter since I see this whole 'vs' debate every month! :) Glad I am not the only one who feels this way!