I'm not a huge fan of subscription boxes — I'm too picky about what I want to try out for the most part; and on a practical level, I already have a backlog of products to get through anyway. My relationship with them has always been short and intermittent: a box or two with one service, switching to another shortly after until I give up altogether for a few months. That being said, I've only ever tried boxes from retailers like Birchbox and Ipsy, which primarily focus on brands familiar to and well established in the U.S. market. More recently, I decided to try out some boxes that capitalize on the American obsession with Korean skin care to see what I've been missing. Given that every time I'm on the Reddit skin-care subforums they're talking about a new product I haven't heard of yet, I was sure I could actually learn something from the endeavor.
Most of these boxes operate exactly like the monthly services you're likely already familiar with: You take a brief questionnaire, and have the opportunity to pay up front for multiple boxes/months or just sign up for a month-to-month plan. The differentiation between these boxes was on price, brand packaging (if they had their own standalone site and purchasing servicer, or went through the popular CrateJoy website, if they had branded shipping or plain mailers, if they had free shipping or not), and the number of full-sized products per box. They are ranked in order of preference.
Price: $19.95 + $5.95 for shipping
Premise: A month to month service with five or six full-size products and instructions on use. Ships at the end of the month.
Review: The price point is reasonable, and it comes with an explanation card of each product in the box that takes into consideration where it should go in your (predictably long) skin-care routine. Unlike with other boxes, this card also included the retail price per product, so you can clearly see that the value of the box exceeds the price paid for it, and by how much. The box I received was breast cancer themed (how, I'm not entirely sure, given it had no breast-specific products) but some proceeds went to charity and a card on how to conduct a breast check on yourself was included. I have previous experience buying from the website and it's always been easy to use and reliable. A little over $20 a month of products I'd likely eventually buy anyway seems like a good deal to me.
Price: $39.95 every two months (shipping included)
Premise: Customized beauty box subscription service based on skin type, skin color and your focus either on pigmentation, acne, pore, anti-aging or general experimentation.
Review: It's the most expensive box on this list but sends less frequently, so you could convince yourself it's cheaper at $20 for each month — but it isn't necessarily sending you more products per month, just more expensive ones. Some brands were ones I was already familiar with and lukewarm about, but other than that, the diversity of products, the thorough explanation of use and the customization make this my second favorite. I do like this box a lot and would recommend it if you're willing to drop $40 every two months on top of your other subscription services.
Price: $37.99 (shipping included)
Premise: Eight full-size products a month.
Review: This is the second most-expensive box I purchased, but given the other box (see above) is bi-monthly, this was the priciest one overall. Is it worth the splurge? I think so. The brand is carefully thought out; there's a placard of each product in the box explaining how to use it, and there's something for every focus in here: skin-care serum, hair mask, sheet masks, a deluxe trial kit (perfect for traveling) and a regular ol' sample. There's instructions for frequency of use and a reminder of where you can find ingredient analysis, too. It included brands I already like — Laneige, for example — alongside others I'd never even heard of. Bomibox also offers a cheaper subscription service called Bomibag, which sends you samples that fit into a drawstring bag rather than full-size products in a box. That service is $19.99 with free shipping, which could be a good alternative to test the K-beauty subscription box waters.
Price: $13.95 (shipping included)
Premise: Seven or eight face masks each month in drawstring bag from Asia.
Review: Misstuttii also offers a marginally more expensive service which sends you deluxe samples or full-sized Asian beauty products for $15.50. I chose the mask subscription because it was cheaper, though now I regret it because I could use more travel-sized beauty products (I use them quite often). About half the masks in the box came from one brand, too, which was disappointing. That being said, the masks I was sent have been lovely. It's a great no-fuss, affordable box, one I'd pick over its immediate competitor Facetory, if only for the cheaper price point, given they have the same premise. This has less luxurious packaging, but it's more reusable (a pouch you can store things in or use for gifting), which I feel better about. No one needs more cardboard boxes in their ecological footprint.
Price: $15.95 + $3.95 shipping
Premise: You can either get the "lux" plan (which I tried) that includes a selection of seven masks, or try four masks for $5.95 + $2.95 shipping.
Review: The masks come in a beautifully branded package and the month was themed. The retail price of the masks totaled over the price of the box itself, which was nice, but mostly I was impressed by the selection of masks from brands I hadn't previously heard of. When I looked up the ingredients, they were all nicely formulated and the variety — moisturizing to three-step to rubberized and hydrogel — was impressive. I think it's a great introduction to the world of sheet masks at a reasonable price point.
Price: $29.87 (shipping included)
Premise: Six full-sized products, ranging from hair to face to body.
Review: It came in a rather oversize plain cardboard box with a lot of that annoying paper confetti I loathe, with no paper explanation of products featured or how to use them. It also included products I already have. The range of products was nice — body and skin care and makeup — but I don't think it's a better box than any of the other ones I tried.
Price: $25.49 (shipping included)
Premise: This is from a brand that also focuses on Korean snacks. It's actually based in Seoul, not a U.S. company shipping products in from warehouses.
Review: I bought it on the same day as everything else but as of Nov. 7, I still haven't received it, so — I can't review what I never received!
Homepage photo: Courtesy of Facetory
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