Subscription Decisions: Bag or Box? We explore.

Since I found them both in my mailbox this afternoon, I decided to post about both my Ipsy Glam Bag and my Birchbox today. And since they’re both $10 / month subscriptions, we’ll do some comparisons and I’ll offer my opinions.  If you’re considering a beauty subscription, maybe I can help you decide if Ipsy,  Birchbox, or both or neither are right for you.

I’ve been a subscriber to both for over 2 years, now, and I can’t see myself giving either up any time soon.  I’ve been able to try out so many products and brands that I never would have tried thanks to Ipsy and Birchbox.  Some of them I’ve learned I couldn’t live without, but mostly, it’s just fun to try new things! I could go on and on about why I love them both, so why don’t we just get into this month’s subs, eh?

Let’s begin with Ipsy Glam Bag:

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Pacifica Natural Minerals Coconut Eye Shadow Trio

Here’s what Ipsy has to say about this product (taken directly from the Ipsy website):

“WHY WE ❤ THIS BRAND: Pacifica creator, Brook Harvey Taylor, pioneered the sustainable, natural beauty space bringing quality products to the masses – without compromising quality ingredients. Everything from their skincare to nail polish is gluten-free, 100% vegan and cruelty-free.

WHY THIS PRODUCT’S FAB: This shimmering trio of ipsy-curated shades includes Crush (beige), Skinny Dip (copper) and Lovely (brown). These richly pigmented, velvety-smooth eye shadows complement each other for a subtle yet glitzy everyday eye look.”


My initial thoughts:  I think the packaging is pretty. I appreciate that each pan is separated which helps prevent the shadows from mixing, and I think it’s a nice sample size.  A full size trio is .10 oz, or 3 g and is on the Target website for $9.99.  This sample is .07 oz or 2.1 g, which would make it’s value approximately $6.99 (If you’re counting, that’s over halfway there in covering the cost of the Glam Bag!).  I really had to dig in to get these finger swatches.  The shadows feel soft, but without really getting in them, I’m not optimistic for pigmentation / color payoff.  I haven’t touched them with a brush, so I could be way off. I’d like to hope so!

Next, we have the Hanalei Lip Treatment.

Again, here’s what Ipsy says about the product:

“WHY WE ❤ THIS BRAND: Bringing you the benefits of Hawaii’s rare Kukui Nut, Hanalei creates one-of-a-kind products to heal and protect against dryness.

WHY THIS PRODUCT’S FAB: This rejuvenating Lip Treatment will make your chapped lips a thing of the past. Using Kukui Nut oil, antioxidants, agave and grapeseed oil, your lips will be smooth and moisturized in no time!”

My first impressions: it feels really nice on the lips. In fact, I think I really like it a lot.  It’s not sticky at all. It just feels super soft and moisturizing.  I detected a very, very slight sweet scent, but I really stressed my olfactory senses to find it. Now that it’s on my lips, I really can’t smell it at all. The sample size of 5 ml is one-third the full size (15 g), so quite a decent sample amount.  A full sized Hanalei Lip Treatment will set you back $25.00, making this sample worth approximately $8.33 (If you’re counting, that just covered the cost of the bag and then some.)

Eva NYC Hungry Hair

Ipsy says:

“WHY WE ❤ THIS BRAND: They take care of your hair, in style. Eva NYC’s formulas pass the test of NYC’s harsh winters and humid summers – meaning if they work there, they’ll work anywhere.

WHY THIS PRODUCT’S FAB: One Oil treatment that works three ways! This killer formula nourishes your locks with Argan Oil – that’s packed with vitamins A & E, plus omegas 3, 6 and 9. Not to mention its super strengthening effects, thanks to Keravis Protein, which is clinically proven to strengthen hair up to 3X and shields your hair from heat damage.”

My thoughts:  The sample size is fairly generous. Eva NYC offers two sizes: 1 oz and 3.38 oz, for $8 and $20 respectively.  The sample contains 0.4 oz, so nearly half an ounce, worth $3.20.  The packaging is considerate – there’s a stopper in the bottle to help keep your bag safe from the great oil spill of 2016.  I appreciate that!  It smells like a typical argan oil for hair.  It’s not a super strong, revolting scent.  And that’s about as far as my opinions go for now.  I’ll use it this week and report back.

Hikari Shimmer Bronzer in Radiate

What Ipsy says:

“WHY WE ❤ THIS BRAND: Hikari serves up quality cosmetics to enhance your favorite features without breaking the bank.

WHY THIS PRODUCT’S FAB: We love a good faux glow! Not only can you get a glowing complexion, this bronzer can be used as eye shadows or highlighter. The coral and copper pigments glide on smooth with just a hint of shimmer.”

My thoughts: First of all, this is a full size product, as far as I can tell, which makes it worth $17 (Remember that we paid $10 for this bag!). It’s in nice, sturdy packaging with no mirror. However, it’s a clear acrylic type packaging, so you can see the product, which is nice. I think the swatches tell more than I could. They are finger swatches, but I didn’t have to dig in much to get pigment.  Also, I think they’re going to blend really nicely. As soon as I saw the bronzer, my first thought was I could perhaps get an entire look with it – eyes, blush, highlight, and bronze.  I haven’t tried it yet, but I’ll probably post a photo on Instagram when I do.

And lastly! Smashbox X-Rated Mascara

What Ipsy says:

“WHY WE ❤ THIS BRAND: Created by pros for pros! Their innovative products leave you looking and feeling flawless, whether you’re on-the-go or on set.

WHY THIS PRODUCT’S FAB: Smashbox is back at it again! This triple threat brush isolates and magnifies each lash, while applying its fiber-loaded formula. The result? Sky-high and defined lashes in just one swipe. Bonus: the formula is clump, flake and smudge-proof!”

My take:  The packaging is typical of a mascara.  The sample is 1/3 the full size – 0.10 vs 0.30 fl oz. A full size X-Rated Mascara will cost you $22, making this sample worth $7.33.  I have several opened mascaras, so I’m not even going to open this one until I finish at least 2 that I already have opened.  I’m sorry I can’t give even a first impression on this one, yet.

Every month with Ipsy, Ipsters receive a makeup bag housing the products. The bags are generally fair to really nice quality.  Rarely do I not like a bag altogether.  This month, it certainly did not disappoint.  For the first time in 2 years, this bag does not zip closed.  It has a button flap, mimicking the look of an envelope.  The button seems to be nice and sturdy, and I really like this bag.  It’s very cute, and good quality material.

The tally:  The actual value of this bag (Not including the bag itself) is $42.50.  And I paid $10.  I am even happy with all of the samples this month, too!  Which means it’s truly worth that to me.  That’s a win-win!

On to Birchbox!

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Generally, Birchbox sends 4 to 5 sample products. This month, I chose the curated box and there are 6 in my box.  Of course, one is a packet, but I don’t mind that. So, let’s dig in!

Benefit Cosmetics Hoola Matte Bronzer

Birchbox tells us that:
“If you’re not using bronzer, you’re missing out. Whether you use it to give your face a little definition or sweep it all over to warm up your skin, bronzer is a year-round must. Get on board with Hoola, Benefit’s bestselling pressed bronzer. The silky powder that comes in a cute mirrored compact, and can be used all over or as a contouring shade. We love how the chestnut color glides on without any prom-style glitter and blends in easily.”

My thoughts:  The sample size is plenty sufficient at 3.0 grams since the full size is 8.0. A full size Hoola is $29, bringing the value of this sample to $10.88. Box paid for, already! I’ve seen products come in very cheap packaging when sampled, so I am happy to see the packaging for this Hoola sample is so nice. I’ve seen this for the last year and debated buying it several times, but honestly, I had no idea why!  I was not at all comfortable enough with makeup application to try to mess with applying bronzer.  However, I’ve worn this twice, now (Due to technical difficulties, it is now Sunday and I started this on Friday) and it’s already my favorite.  It’s the bottom of the two swatches above.

ModelCo Lip Lacquer – Creme Brulee

Birchbox says:
“This trio of vibrant hues is proof that good things come in threes. Each lacquer (in ModelCo’s Crème Brulee, Morocco, and Viva shades) provides rich, high-pigment color—plus major shine—in just one swipe. Another plus? The nonsticky, moisturizing formula equals totally fuss-free wear (and totally hydrated lips).”

I think the packaging is typical of a gloss. The doe foot applicator is nice, though not precise, if that’s what you’re looking for. The sample size is 1.5 ml or 0.05 fl oz. which is apparently half the full size which sells on ModelCo’s website for $24, making this sample worth $12. There’s a trio of the sample sizes on Birchbox’s website for $16, so going by that, this sample would be worth $5.33.  I’m just very confused by this, so I went to Sephora’s website for some comparisons.  My go-to lipgloss is Buxom Full On Lip Polish, but since this formula seemed so much more like the Full on Lip Cream, that’s what we’ll compare it to.  Buxom’s formula is the one I’d reach for every single time, and a full size of it is .14 fl oz, selling for $20. That’s .04 oz MORE for $4 LESS.  That said, I have had a chance to try it out. I wore it Saturday during a 5k. It felt nice, sticky, but not too sticky, with a pleasant berry scent.  It’s a nice nude glossy, high shine, low pigment color. It lasted through most of the 5k, and while after the race was over, I couldn’t see any traces of the gloss, my lips did still feel moisturized even after running in very windy conditions.  I’ll enjoy the sample that I have, but I won’t be purchasing any full sized ModelCo gloss any time in the near future.

COOLA SPF 30 Organic Makeup Setting Spray

The Birchbox Blurb:
“We’re never ones to skip a skincare step, but when we can combine them and streamline our routine, well then, all the better. Thanks to the sun protection smarties from COOLA, this weightless, matte-finish mist is changing the sunscreen game. It protects our skin with broad spectrum SPF 30 while it also sets our makeup—so contoured cheeks and perfectly executed eye shadow look just as fresh at the end of the day.”

My thoughts and experience:  The sample size is .34 fl oz and it’s in a tiny spray bottle.  A full size product is 1.7 fl oz and sells for $36 on Birchbox.  So, this tiny sample was worth $7.20 (WOW).  The middle photo above was taken on our way to run the Wildflower Run.  The last photo was right before I washed my face, so a 5k, a good long nap, and 12 hours later.  I was very pleased with the performance of the combination of this setting spray and the makeup I wore yesterday.  Pleased enough to spend $36 on it?  Nah. Probably not. Especially since the smell nearly knocked me down when I first sprayed my face.  Part of that is my fault.  I definitely should have given it a sniff before I went ham on my face with it.  It wasn’t a particularly fowl odor, it was just a very strong alcohol smell.  Thankfully, being alcohol, it didn’t linger.  Over all, I’m happy to have the opportunity to try it, and I enjoyed it, but I also really enjoy Wet N Wild setting spray, and I always wear a really good sunscreen underneath my foundation, anyway.
Davines LOVE Smoothing Shampoo and Conditioner

Birchbox claims:
Shampoo:  “As a last-minute defense against frizz, we’ve been known to sport a topknot and be done with it, but sometimes we just want to let our hair down. Luckily, this gentle shampoo is specially formulated to tame frizzed-out and tangle-prone hair. An infusion of olive extract—from Minuta olives grown in Messina, Italy—nourishes and enriches the hair with fatty acids, vitamin E, and polyphenols. That leaves our strands smooth for a style that’s more manageable, which helps get us dressed up and out the door faster.”
Conditioner:  “Nip frizzy hair in the bud (and simplify your morning routine) by using a specialized smoothing conditioner in the shower. This creamy concoction from Davines calms frizz and loosens tangles, making your whole hairstyling process a lot simpler. It’s formulated with olive extract (from Minuta olives grown on a family farm in Messina, Italy), which infuses strands with fatty acids, vitamin E, and antioxidants for a softer, smoother style. As an added plus, it imbues your strands with a high-shine look, perfect for when you don’t have time to apply product before rushing out the door”

What I think: First of all, the shampoo and conditioner full sizes are 8.45 fl oz.  The shampoo is $25, conditioner $29.  We received .40 fl oz of the conditioner, making it worth $1.37, and 2.5 fl oz of the shampoo worth $7.40.  I kinda wish they did send more to sample of the conditioner, because (don’t we all?) I always use far more conditioner than I do shampoo.  However, I did use the duo Saturday morning, and my hair did not frizz all day.  But, it claims it’s for dry, coarse hair, so I’m going to have my daughter who has thick, over processed hair, try it out.

CLEAN Blossom
Birchbox says:
“We took one whiff of this fresh fragrance and couldn’t help but wonder how the master perfumers at CLEAN managed to bottle the very essence of spring. Inspired by delicate flower petals falling from the sky and dancing on water, the scent embodies a strong, feminine woman with notes of Tunisian neroli, orange blossom, and sensual sandalwood.”
And finally, the sample is a tiny spray bottle.  It’s 0.05 fl oz of a 2.14 fl oz full size product.  The full sized bottle of perfume is $72, making this sample worth $1.68.  I always enjoy the tiny spray bottles.  And of course, I’m a sucker for a good floral scent, so I do very much enjoy this perfume.  I honestly can’t tell you how long it lasted on me.  I didn’t think to try to notice.

Birchbox always comes in… You guessed it… a box.  When I first subscribed, the boxes were just plain brown boxes.  Since January of 2015, they come with designs on them and are very colorful and pretty.  Maybe I’ll do a blog post on all of the useful things I do with my empty Birchboxes.

The tally: This Birchbox nets us $33.86 in products, making it well worth the $10 spent.

Like I said in the beginning, I can’t tell you which one I recommend for you.  I love them both equally.  Generally, I find Birchbox’s points system to be more beneficial than Ipsy’s.  You can use your Birchbox points on any product in the Birchbox store, while with Ipsy, there’s only a few products available for purchase with points at any given time.  I’m curious. Which would you choose?  Do you already subscribe?  Comment below, I want to hear from you!

Disclosure: The links in this post to Birchbox and Ipsy will take you to my referral page. If you sign up with these links, I will get points, but I will not receive monetary payment.

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Girly By Forty

It's never too late! All my life, I've been a tomboy. I put on makeup and dress clothes (something nicer than a Tshirt with my jeans) for special occasions only, so I never actually learned how to use makeup. Everyone take a moment to cringe, now. You good? Good. This blog is about my journey to becoming girly. On a deadline. The way I see it, I have approximately 26 years to catch up on, and I have 2 years to accomplish it. I'll be sharing every step of my journey with you, and reviewing products along the way. So grab a cup of coffee, get comfortable, and enjoy! I hope you learn things. Or comment and teach me things!

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