I’ve happily subscribed to Birchbox since February 2014, so the July 2016 box marked my 30th month. There were also months along the way where I simultaneously carried two or three subscriptions (under different emails) with them. That means I’ve received a lot more than 30 boxes, and I’ve been happy with most of them. It is a quality subscription box that helps me discover a lot of gems. The rewards program was the best in the business until monthly review points halted on 07/11/16. Under the new rewards program, each subscriber gets 10 points each for his/her first five reviews. After that, review points are unavailable. Every product review received 10 points before, and there were a minimum of 60 products a year. This new program is closer to rewards program other subscription boxes offer.
With the change in the point system and more samples than I can ever use, I needed to decide whether I wanted to continue with Birchbox. In May, I started a Sephora Play subscription, which is also $10 a month. I really do not see the point in keeping both subscriptions now that the rewards program for each, which I will cover below, are not that different. Which box should I keep and which one should I get rid of? Before the change to the point system, Birchbox would have taken this prize hands down. Even though I’ve only received three Sephora Play boxes, I think that is enough to compare these.
It is important to note that the rewards program for shopping Birchbox (the store, not the subscription) has not changed meaning it still rewards $1 back for every $10 spent. A single point at Birchbox is worth $0.10. Under the new points program, points redeem in any value. If you have 292 points and apply them to an order, you will get a $29.20 credit to spend in the store. This credit combines with promo codes, which give free products or discounts. At 10% back, this is actually a very generous rewards program. Beauty.com gives 5%, and Ulta translates to 7.8% if you’re Platinum, earn every point 1.25 at a time, and only cash out at 2000. Sephora never gives cash back at all (outside of the Christmas gift cards, which have a minimum purchase). When combining the cash back with a nice promo code, shopping the store is a great deal. Shopping the store
Although it does not award points for the $10 monthly subscription fee, it awards a point for every dollar on gift subscriptions and annual subscriptions. This means purchasing a one year subscription will give you 110 points. Although it always did that, there was only one year where I took advantage of the points with an annual subscription. I purchased 14 gift subscriptions last year and got points for every dollar I spent. Birchbox also awards 50 points when someone signs up for the subscription using your referral link. That remains unchanged as well. Review points were the only thing changed under the new program, so those who do not submit reviews will not notice a difference in their program.
After your first five reviews, there are no more rewards for a month-to-month Birchbox subscription. Money spent on the subscription does not go toward Ace status (read about Ace status) unless you purchase a longer subscription. There is a small reward for accepting the Sephora Play box. Sephora gives ten Beauty Insider points for spending $10 on each box. The $10 also goes toward Beauty Insider status (read about Beauty Insider Status). Each box also comes with a Play Pass. If you purchase anything in store before the end of the following month and give them your Play Pass, you will get 50 extra Beauty Insider points. I equate this benefit the same way I do a coupon. It is only valuable if you redeem it, and it is generally more valuable to purchase online with a promotion. Beauty insider points are not as valuable as Birchbox points. It takes 100 Beauty Insider points to redeem a deluxe sample. At 100 Birchbox points, you have $10 to spend in the store. I’d rather have the $10.
Are the products alone in each worth the $10 a month? Sure! I calculate the box value each month and calculate my personal value to account for items I have no intention of keeping. My value has never fallen below $10 for either subscription. Those without a lot of samples could justify keeping both. Birchbox samples more items in low to mid range that are not as well-known. Sephora samples more items in mid range with an occasional high range product. These are well-known brands. Box value is similar, because Birchbox offers larger sample sizes where Sephora offers smaller ones. Now that we’ve established they’re each worth $10 and went over the rewards programs for both, or the lack thereof, it is time to compare the boxes.
May 2016 was my first month with Sephora Play, so it is the first month I am able to compare for the boxes. It included eight items: a 0.34oz Korres Wild Rose + Vitamin C Advanced Brightening Sleeping Facial, 1oz Briogeo Don’t Despair, Repair!™ Deep Conditioning Mask, a 0.04oz Atelier Cologne Orange Sanguine Cologne Absolue Pure Perfume, a 0.05oz Origins Maskimizer™ Skin-Optimizing Mask Primer, a 0.1oz foil of Origins Drink Up™ Intensive Overnight Mask, a 0.1oz foil of Origins Clear Improvement™ Active Charcoal Mask To Clear Pores, a 0.001oz tarte Tarteist™ Lip Crayon in Latergram, and a 0.05oz Bite Beauty Amuse Bouche Lipstick in Kimchi. The items were worth $36.48. This was also my personal value, because I will try everything. I love the lipstick and overnight mask. Orange Sanguine has a lovely scent. My lipliner arrived damaged, but I think it is a great product from the little I tried. View the original article for a complete review and breakdown of the value. This was a great box and wins over my Birchbox from the same month.
My May Birchbox included five items: a 0.5oz Supergoop!® Defense Refresh Setting Mist SPF 50, a 1oz Beauty Protector Protect & Detangle, a 0.05oz ModelCo Lip Lacquer in Morocco, 0.05oz Vera Bradley Vanilla Sea Salt, and a 0.5oz Real Chemistry Luminous 3-Minute Peel for Body. The items are worth $16.95. That is an unusually low box value for Birchbox, but I will try all of them meaning this was also my personal value. I love the Beauty Protector. Although I have not tried the Real Chemistry body peel yet, I love the face version. Both the setting mist and the perfume seem like things I could like/love. I hate this lip gloss. View the original article for a complete review and breakdown of the value. Considering this box already had a low value and 3 fewer items than Play, hating an item really killed its chance of winning.
My June Sephora Play Box included six items: a 0.2oz Becca Backlight Priming Filter, 0.1oz Benefit They’re Real Mascara, a 0.23oz tarte TarteGuard 30 sunscreen lotion Broad Spectrum SPF 30, a 0.5oz Bumble and bumble Don’t Blow It, a 0.1oz bareMinerals bareSkin® Sheer Sun™ Serum Bronzer, and a 0.05oz Tocca Florence. The items are worth $32.95. My personal value is $24.38, because I hate They’re Real too much to use it again. I open things in order, so I have not actually used any of these items yet. That makes it hard to compare, but I will go based on items I want to try. All of these products get amazing reviews, and I really cannot wait to try the Becca primer or tarte sunscreen. View the original article for a complete review and breakdown of the value. Birchbox wins this month, because I hate the only item I’ve tried in the past. This could change once I try the items, but I gave to go on what I know for now.
My June Birchbox included five items: a 0.03oz Benefit gimme brow volumizing fiber gel, a 0.34oz Coola® Environmental Repair Plus® Radical Recovery™ After-Sun Lotion, a 1.76oz Avène Thermal Spring Water, a 1oz Living proof.® Perfect hair Day™ (PhD) Night Cap Overnight Perfector, and a 1oz Parlor® by Jeff Chastain Moisturizing & Repairing Shampoo. The items are worth $23.41. My personal value is also $23.41, because I will try everything. I like the Coola and Avene. These are both items I am happy to use while I have samples, but I would not purchase them. The Gimme Brow is amazing, and I am glad the new version is as good as the original. View the original article for a complete review and breakdown of the value. Only because I at least like all the items I’ve tried so far and am a lot happier with the sizes, I will give the edge to Birchbox. This could change once I try the Sephora Play samples though.
My July Sephora Play Box included seven items: 0.16oz Benefit Cosmetics Dew the Hoola Soft Matte Liquid Bronzer, a 0.25oz Smashbox Iconic Photo Finish Foundation Primer, a beautyblender blotterazzi, a 0.1oz beautyblender liquid blender cleanser®, a 1oz Ouai Wave Spray, a 1oz First Aid Beauty Face Cleanser, and a 0.04oz Nest Citrine. The items are worth $40.52. My personal value is $28.04. I received the Benefit bronzer from Ulta and do not like the swatch enough to justify keeping a second sample of this. This Smashbox primer gives me a rash, so I cannot use it. While I would not buy the perfume, I like it enough to finish the sample. Although I love this cleanser, I have a lot in my stash that I want to try, so I may not get to this on time. I will try the beautyblender even though my skin is not really oily enough for blotting. View the original article for a complete review and breakdown of the value. Birchbox has more items I really want to use, so it wins this month.
My July Birchbox included seven items: Klorane Smoothing and Relaxing Patches with Soothing Cornflower, a 0.33oz foil of Living proof.® No Frizz Shampoo, a 0.33oz foil of Living proof.® No Frizz Conditioner, a 1oz Living proof.® No Frizz Nourishing Styling Cream, a 0.25oz dr. brandt® PoreDermabrasion, a 0.1oz Milk Makeup Sunshine Oil, and a 0.14oz Elizabeth Mott It’s So Big Volumizing Mascara. The items are worth $32.40. My personal value is $26.04, because I am sure I will not keep the mascara. Frizz is a huge problem for me, so I really want to try all the Living Proof items. Eye patches are something I never really buy anymore, because I have not found any that seem to do anything. Hopefully these do. I already know and love the dr. brand PoreDermabrasion. Any oils are welcome with my dry skin and hair. View the original article for a complete review and breakdown of the value. Birchbox wins this month, because I am actually looking forward to trying almost all the items and love the one I’ve already tried.
I assigned two of the three victories to Birchbox. My personal value is higher with all the Sephora boxes, but higher value does not always mean the items are as desirable. Falling in love with cheaper items also makes it easier to repurchase them, so it is not a bad thing to prefer the items with the lower value. Birchbox samples are more generous (on average), so I will also get a better chance to really sample them. It’s funny, because I just assumed Sephora would win two out of the three (the July box was an obvious dud to me) based on brand recognition and pricing. Sephora only sells mid-high range items where Birchbox only sells low to mid. A low price is not always a good deal, but I’ve found many that are. These findings make my cancellation decision a little harder.
It seems odd that I am still considering canceling Birchbox after seeing they are beating Sephora (so far), but I feel like I’ve been with Birchbox a long time and have tried a lot of items thanks to this sub. I feel like I am easily getting my money’s worth with Sephora. My concern with Sephora was they would just send me a bunch of items I’ve already tried (since I shop Sephora a lot) and redeem a lot of 100 point perks. That actually is not the case, because I’ve received 11 items across the three boxes that I’ve never received anywhere else. Only 7 of the Birchbox items are new to my collection. Although I like getting repeats of items I know and love, my main goal with subscription programs is to sample things that are new to me.
I reviewed my July Birchbox on 07/04/16 (the review opportunities usually do not go live until the 10th, but they put them up early for some people this month). That means I actually got 50 points back ($5) for my May box, 50 points back ($5) for my June Box, and 70 points back ($7) for my July box. When you see how amazing the program was, it is completely understandable that Birchbox could not maintain it, and I did not even use the points I got in June or July to declare Birchbox the winner (making the points an added bonus). Since I reviewed my July box before the program change, my August box will be my first after the change, so it is eligible for 50 points. After August, I cannot get review points any more, so I will probably cancel. If my August Sephora box loses to my August Birchbox again, I could change my mind.
If you are considering subscribing to either or both, forget the rewards program. Neither are beneficial enough to matter from this point forward. Whether I stay subscribed or not is more of an issue of how many samples I have and my desire to try new things. When you are new to either box, there is a good chance you will get new items to try. The points program at Birchbox was amazing. New members will not miss what they never knew, so I think a new member should consider subscribing without thinking of the old points program. Compare the items in the actual boxes. Look at the sizes and view the original articles for reviews and breakdowns in cost. Ask yourself, would you rather try smaller samples of well-known mid range brands (Sephora) or larger samples of up and coming low to mid range brands (Birchbox)? Then, select the one that looks more appealing to you.
There is a waitlist for Sephora Play, but Birchbox always has immediate openings. Around the middle of the month, Sephora opens its waitlist. Ipsy still offers 10 points per review, but as I mention in my Ipsy Vs Birchbox review, 10 points at Ipsy were nowhere near as valuable as of 10 points at Birchbox. Even though I was never able to redeem any of my rewards points during my six months with Ipsy, they do still offer them. If they improved redemption, getting something could actually happen! That means Ipsy has the best rewards system in the $10 box (something I never thought I would say before 07/11/16). Like Sephora, Ipsy has a wait list that is also periodically waived, but it is harder to pinpoint dates for that. The trade-off for a better rewards program at Ipsy is more low range items. They have mid range items as well, but there are usually not as many as Birchbox and definitely not as many as Sephora Play.
If you want to subscribe to Birchbox, remember to look at start-up offers and all available offers. When you’re ready to spend your rewards points (50 for the first 5 reviews, 50 for referrals, and 1 point per $1 on longer term subscription purchases), remember to add your free two piece sample pack when spending $35 from the Bonus Shop. See other Birchbox Subscription articles. Sephora does not inform a single Beauty Insider of all deal details. Certain offers are targeted and others have different purchase minimums based on the code. Remember to check New Offers and/or Recycled Offers before placing an online order for items you loved from the box. Visit my Sephora! Play Page for more information and other box reviews. See all Sephora Play! articles. View my main page for the guide map to the site and deeper deal exploration.
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I'm Kimberly. Shopping is always more fun when I've found the best deal available, so I am always on the hunt. My father instilled that in me, and I love that I carry a piece of him. Sometimes, my husband and sons (12 and 7) let me shop for them, too. They do not use as many beauty products as I do. We can all benefit from nice products, even though their routine ends with moisturizer. That is when I can convince my 12-year-old to apply it.