If you have to buy it, get the best deal!
There was a major update that changed the rewards program at Birchbox effective 07/11/16. I compared Birchbox to Sephora Play (another $10 a month box) without factoring in the monthly review points if you’d like to see a current match-up. Everything below the line was the case when the article was written, so I want to leave the original article in tact. Since the Ipsy program makes redeeming points difficult (I could never redeem any) with lower value and limited items, I still do not consider its rewards program valuable. The box comparisons are still an accurate match-up of the two. All current offers and details regarding the new rewards program are on my Birchbox Subscription page. It is no longer the best reward program EVER (as described below). I’ve remained subscribed to Birchbox under the new reward program based on the strength of the items in my boxes. As long as I keep getting great boxes, I will continue to subscribe without extra points.
My suggestion is try Birchbox, even without the old reward program, and customize your profile as much as possible to get items geared toward you. If your boxes miss the mark, play around with your profile to get better ones. Cancel if the boxes do not meet your expectations. They meet mine (for now), but we are all different. The standard box format is five deluxe items from different beauty catgeories: hair, fragrance, skincare, body, and makeup. While you can limit how many fragrance samples you get, you cannot limit the other categories. It is extremely uncommon to get more than two from any category (outside of bonus foils typically in the hair category). Look at pictures of all my recent boxes, and you will see the product mix is in every box. Those who do not want hair samples or want more makeup may not like that all boxes are a good mix of beauty products. There are other subscription programs that usually send more makeup per box, including Ipsy and Sephora Play! People looking for mainly makeup samples will likely be unsatisfied with Birchbox, so I’d suggest picking another subscription.
There was a six month period in 2014 where I subscribed to both Ipsy and Birchbox. When I started Ipsy, it impressed me. Every item in the bag was exciting. The best thing about the Ipsy subscription was the little bag that accompanied the samples. Most of them were very cute. If you have a beauty addiction, odds are you will never use any of those incredibly cute bags. Why? They’re way too small unless you are rocking a very natural look with little makeup, so my cute Ipsy bags are not used. Whenever I gift something small, I always put it inside a Birchbox now. They make great gift boxes or you can even repurpose them for something else.
Ever since Birchbox introduced box themes, I find them incredibly cute, like the Ipsy bags. When I run out of the boring brown boxes, will I be able to gift using my colorful treasures! Probably not. Although, I will probably not repurpose them another way, so I know I should.
Birchbox and Ipsy both cost $10 a month or $110 a year. Since Ipsy restructured its format, they both send a variety of beauty samples. You can expect to see hair products, perfumes, skin care, body care, makeup, nail polish, and more from both. The similarities end there. Ipsy stopped sending mostly makeup, which disappointed many, including myself. When Ipsy got into the skin care game, they did not enter it the same way Birchbox did. They started sending mostly low-end brands, whereas Birchbox sends items closer to mid range. I am not anti low-end brands. Some of them are good, but the nice ones tend to be the exception and not the rule. While I have no problem trying the low-end makeup Ipsy samples, I found I could not even bring myself to sample some of the low-end skin care.
After a few months, I realized I was not even trying any of the new Ipsy items that were arriving. Occasionally, I would try the makeup items, but I rarely found them special. That meant it was cancellation time. Although I have seen some nice Ipsy bags since I canceled in August 2014, the majority of bags I’ve seen help me solidify my decision. There were other places where I felt Ipsy was not competitive to Birchbox though.
The point system at Ipsy is weak. It used to take 1000 points before you could redeem them. Unlike Birchbox where you can redeem your points for anything, because it takes real dollars off your purchase, there are only a few items you can redeem Ipsy points for. What’s worse is the selection is so small and the available stock is even more minute. As soon as they released a new perk to redeem for, the better ones were gone almost immediately. That meant after your long haul to reach 1000 points, you would redeem them for something lousy or sit on them. If you sit on them for too long, they will expire before you are able to use them. After reviewing every item in my bag for six months, sharing every box on Facebook and taking advantage of every point opportunity minus referrals, because I could not recommend the bags to anyone, I received 565 points. Based on my calculations, it would take about 10-11 months of earning points every way possible minus referrals to redeem for anything.
It does seem like the redemption items are a little more plenty with redemptions starting at 500 points. The problem is the 500 point items are beyond ridiculous. Who would want a single Buxom shadow that is designed to go into a palette! I guess if you are desperate to redeem points before they expire, you may take what you can get. If my points were about to expire, I would place the loose item in a Z Palette, I guess. As usual, the top gifts, which are 1500 points now, are out of stock. Out of stock perks are a normal sight for Ipsy subscribers. The top gift is also a 6 pan Buxom palette. Seeing that makes it a little harder for me to receive one for 500 points. That is a 100% markup.
Buying three individual pans would cost 1500 points, but you can get all six in the palette for the same. My deal senses are saying run from this offer, so again, only points that are about to expire could get me to partake in such a lousy exchange. They are also selling incredibly cute bags for 500 points. Most people got one of those bags as their Ipsy bag recently. If they did not get the one they wanted and do not mind the small bags, maybe it would tempt them. Based on the fact that they’re all in stock, my guess is most people feel the same way I do. Why would they spend 500 hard-earned points on a bag they already have! Ipsy has had point issues since the inception, so it disappoints me to see they have not really addressed anything after years of operation.
Birchbox on the other hand gives you 10 points per item you review (the same amount Ipsy gives). The difference is at 100 points, you cash them in for $10 of credit. There are no spending limitations on using it, except you cannot use it toward your current monthly subscription. You can use it toward a gift subscription, an annual subscription, or on any item your heart desires in the shop, including the incredible limited edition boxes. Since the revamp in the summer of 2014, you will always get a minimum of 5 deluxe items. If you agree to accept foils (yes, you have to select this option, because I guess some people do not want bonus foils), you can get up to 8 items. It was 7, but my most recent box had 8! The foils never replace deluxe samples and are strictly add ons. That means reviewing your box each month will get you 50-80 points ($5-$8) back on your $10 investment.
You can also bank the points (they expire in a year, so do not bank them too long). Combine the points with the never-ending codes for up to 25% off, and you can get items for nothing. I literally mean nothing. If a limited edition box retails for $50, you can use a 20% coupon, redeem $40 in points and get it for free. Some states pay sales tax to Birchbox but most do not. You can also add a two pack sampler for free with this order, because all orders over $35 get it (as long as you remember to add it to your cart).
When you’re receiving mostly unknown samples (Birchbox allows you to pick one or you can pick the guest editor box and know all of your samples in advance), the odds of being excited over all of them are slim. When you get at least half of your output back in points, it makes it easier to swallow. I never received a single thing for my Ipsy points, but I always get at least $5 back a month on my Birchbox spend. In addition to box value, I always calculate the value I should get from the box. It has never been less than my spend amount. You can see examples of what I mean in these articles, January, February, March, April, May, or June.
You also get one point for every dollar on anything your buy in the Birchbox store. When I bought IpsyMe items, I did not get anything other than a slight discount on the item. They should consider assigning points.
Onto the actual products in the subscriptions. Everyone has a different opinion on which items are better, so these comparisons are always very subjective. The reason I usually scoff is I see someone present the boxes and declare the weaker items in Ipsy the winner. Maybe, they like the items I consider weaker, but I rarely choose the Ipsy box when I see them side by side, even when they belong to other people. My Birchbox win ratio, points system excluded, has a greater majority.
March 2014 was the first month I had both subscriptions. Ipsy had a bit of a wait to get it (I’m not sure why they cannot keep up with demand, because that is a flaw in the business model to me). I shared on Facebook to get off the waiting list, but Birchbox still managed to get my first box to me a month earlier. Before we get to the comparisons I want to emphasize a few things. Number one, I reviewed all items from both boxes, so ignore the Ipsy pictures making it look like I did not. Also, only the highlighted items with the pink review box were in my bag. I may have found a program to remove the item I did not receive, but I do not want to hassle with that.
The March 2014 Ipsy bag, while only four products, was my favorite Ipsy bag of all six I received. I love palettes with a pop of color and found the Be a Bombshell Bora Bora palette very nice. All lipsticks and nail polishes are welcome here. I rarely wear either, but I collect those items a lot. Primer is something I only use when wearing BB cream or foundation, so I consider that a makeup item. Thus, it is important to note my favorite Ipsy bag was 100% makeup. I liked the bag design a lot, too, although I have never used it.
Although I really liked my March 2014 Birchbox, I actually did prefer the Ipsy bag. This is the only month you will read that statement from me. Coola sunscreens are great, so I always welcome them. The Caudalie Sorbet moisturizes incredibly well for a thin cream on dry skin. The Air Repair tastes terrible, so I cannot put it on my lips. It works great on other dry patches of skin though. The Agave oil works amazingly well. I have not used the Jergens yet, but with summer coming, I may use it soon.
The April 2014 Ipsy Bag, which was still mostly makeup lacked the magic of the March bag. This was my first cheap makeup brush and it works better than I expected. However, with nice brushes in my arsenal, I barely reach for it. Although I did not hate the lipliner, the color is not the best and the formula works nowhere near as well as my Lancome Lipliners. I never even tried this cheap eyeshadow. At some point, I may, but it has been over a year with no inspiration to use it. The Urban Decay liners are always nice, but I wish it was any color other than black which I have 2 million of. My bag’s winner was the Dr Brandt Microdermabrasion.
The April 2014 Birchbox was not much better than the April Ipsy bag. Scents are not really my thing, but I liked this one. It is not something I feel compelled to rush out and buy. Sadly, the eyeliner despite being listed as a color was black. Of course, I prefer the urban Decay from Ipsy, so it actually got the edge. Loved the lotion. Although the nail polish color was not my favorite, I love collecting polish. So how did this otherwise unimpressive box beat Urban Decay and Dr Brandt? I had to give a slight edge to this box due to the incredible Pumpkin Kind bar. I was actually turned off from trying this, but when I finally got around to it, I fell in love. That find combined with really not caring about either black eyeliner gave this box an ever so slight edge. Without the Kind Bar Discovery, Ipsy would have won this. Since the summer of 2014, food products are now bonuses over the five beauty products, so you will not see boxes with only four beauty items anymore.
The May 2014 Ipsy bag was on the decline. I have nothing against Purlisse, but I was getting those samples everywhere. The Avene was fine. It is nothing I would buy. The Pacifica shadows were uninspired. Pacifica makes great lotions and scents, but they need to take shadows back to the drawing board. The Hang Ten has not expired yet, so I hope to finally try it this summer. Nail polish is always welcome, and mine was a gorgeous red, rather than the pink pictured.
The May 2014 Birchbox introduced me to the magic of Egyptian Magic. That sample alone beats anything I found in the Ipsy bag, but as you can see from the other samples, there are great items here. You have to try the Cynthia Rowley lip stains. They’re incredible. Birchbox won by a landslide.
The June 2014 Ipsy had the lovely Ole Henriksen Protect the Truth Wipes. These things are amazing. They make my skin feel great, remove everything easily and smell incredible. Win! I traded the black eyeliner for a blue one, because I am over black. This Be a Bombshell Mascara was critically panned. I have not tried it or gifted it, so I will probably throw it away soon. If I used the NYX Butter Gloss, I cannot recall. I’ve heard great things about it though. The Marc Anthony is still unused.
The June 2014 Birchbox introduced me to two things I love, beating the one item from the Ipsy bag. Whish shave cream gives the closest shave I’ve ever had. My legs stay smooth longer, although I did not like this scent. The LAQA lipstick, mine was purple and not the pink pictured, is incredible. The color and formula are both better than I expected. I finally used that gummy vitamin recently (right before it expired). That was nothing special. I will stick to pills. Birchbox won by a double love.
The July 2014 Ipsy was lackluster. Although I do like bareMinerals items, even expensive cream shadows crease on me. I keep trying them, but I would never buy one. Samples only. The liquid tint was okay. It is not as nice as Benetint though, so I would buy Benetint before this. This Pop bronzer was better than I expected but far from my favorite. For a thin consistency and a not the best smell, the lotion was okay. More Purlisse. Need I say more on that!
The July 2014 Birchbox was my first introduction to the incredible Real Chemistry mask. I love the way this peels the dead skin away and welcome as many of these babies that come my way. The Coastal Scents shadows creased, so I have not tried them a second time yet. This shower gel was not for me either, which is not something I usually say about 100% Pure items. Compared to nothing special in the Ipsy bag, the Real Chemistry find brings Birchbox the win.
The August 2014 Ipsy actually had 2 items that excited me, so I feel like it went out with a bang. After a completely lackluster bag the previous month and many unused samples from other bags, I had already decided to cancel. I was excited to receive the Perversion mascara. Although I am not in love with it now that I’ve tried it, I like it. I have yet to try the blush, balm, or the latest black eyeliner Ipsy thought I needed. Black eyeliner appeared in 50% of my Ipsy bags, which stinks for someone who rarely wears black.
The August 2014 Birchbox had to win. It had an unfair advantage over Ipsy. On top of the fact that I already decided to cancel Ipsy, I actually got 2 Birchboxes. The one listed in my profile was actually the weaker replacement box. My original box was even better. This was also the first month I got to select a sample. Sample selection was introduced in July, but I missed it. My selection was the bronzer. If I had to pinpoint the number one reason I dropped Ipsy it was this new option at Birchbox to choose a sample. Having at least one item I could look forward to each month certainly beat repeatedly seeing the Ipsy sneak peeks and rarely getting any of the items that looked better to me.
Thinking my box was lost after no tracking updates for over 7 days, I contacted Birchbox. This is the only time that ever happened, so it was a fluke. They sent me a replacement. My original box arrived a couple of days before the replacement. It had the Amika Dry Shampoo, and I love trying new dry shampoos. The ModelCo Bronze is actually lovely on. Supergoop hand cream is ingenious. We all forget to SPF our hands. This is a nice reminder. Dr. Jart+ anything is always exiting. I love trying new masks, so this was a five for five box. The mask from the replacement box excited me. Although I love Laura Geller, cream shadows are not my thing. It was okay. Had the original box never arrived, Ipsy would have beaten the replacement box.
So, in a period where I had these boxes for six months, Birchbox won 5 of the 6 for me. At first glance, I may have given April to Ipsy. Had I done the comparison upon opening rather than after sampling, Birchbox would have won 4 of the 6. Those winnings are based solely on products, because I never use the Ipsy bags as cute as they are and I am not factoring in the money I get back from Birchbox. It was obvious that Ipsy was on the decline though, because the March bag was the best, followed by April. Although August saw improvement, my decision was already made. I remember seeing September pictures others posted and not being impressed, so it was a good time to cancel.
Birchbox also pays more attention to items in your beauty profile. Even when I do not like the items, I can usually see why they were sent. I do wish I can block all perfume items, but I can at least reduce them. With Ipsy, I cannot see any pattern where they pay attention to beauty profile at all. There is a possibility Ipsy pays more attention to reviews, but this is flawed as I am sure everyone does not review their items.
If you want to subscribe, remember to look at start-up offers and all available offers. When you’re ready to spend your rewards points, remember to add your free two piece sample pack when spending $35 from the Bonus Shop. All of my recent articles are available if you want to see newer boxes. You can also read my program review if you’re undecided. The only way I would consider re-subscribing to Ipsy is if I see their bags take a huge step up. It would not hurt if they improved their points program either. See other Birchbox Subscription articles. View my main page for the guide map to the site and deeper deal exploration.
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