Are Beauty Subscription Boxes Actually Worth The Price?

These days, there's a subscription service for everything. From dog toys to meal kits to coffee to candy, there's nothing you can't have automatically shipped to you every week or month, and people are loving it. According to The Business Research Company, the subscription e-commerce market size is expected to hit $330.58 billion in 2024, with rapid growth expected to continue through the next several years. The ease and the flexibility of subscription services have fueled their popularity; however, even with what can feel like a never-ending supply of options, not all these subscription services are actually worth the money you might pay for them (and when you do, remember to be wary of autopaying for subscriptions) — nowhere is this more true than with beauty subscription services.

Beauty boxes typically contain an assortment of beauty products from different brands. This is beneficial both for consumers who might be new to the world of beauty supplies and want to test the waters, as well as for beauty supply experts who love the opportunity to try the latest and greatest. Beauty boxes are essentially a way for consumers to try a brand or product without having to fully commit to them. However, differences in box and product sizes, the number of products included, and even a subscriber's ability to customize the contents of their box(es) can all have important impacts on the financials of a beauty subscription service.

Deciding on a service

For starters, beauty boxes can cost anywhere from $10 to $100 so they're definitely a choose-your- own-adventure industry when it comes to cost, and just about everything else. Breaking down some of the things to consider when choosing the right box can have a lot of variables. For instance, not all beauty subscription boxes provide full-size products for a consumer to try. Many include sample or smaller-size products, which, depending on the product, can make it difficult to use a product long enough to know if it works or not. This can be especially true for skin care products that might need a longer use time to see results. Ultimately, this comes down to the kind of products you're looking for, and your personal preferences.

Another important consideration can include customization. While many services include quizzes that allow consumers to identify and select the kinds of products they are most interested in, others provide fully curated and/or themed boxes that go out to everyone sans personal customization. It's also important to focus on what kinds of products you're really looking for. Since the beauty industry encompasses everything from makeup to skin care to hair care to nail care to fragrance, deciding if there's a specific beauty realm you'd like to focus on can help you narrow down your choices. Some beauty boxes focus more selectively on things like hair care or nail care as opposed to offering a broader mix, so making sure to find one that fits your specific grooming focus can be key.

Calculating the value of a subscription

Calculating the total value of a beauty subscription service can be tricky since it can depend on the cost, but also the exact products in each box, product sizes, shipping, and even the frequency of the subscription. Ultimately, each individual box will have its own value amount compared to the cost. That being said, you can look up the products in a beauty box you receive and compare their prices against your subscription fee to calculate if what you're paying is worth what you paid. On the whole, subscription boxes are generally a good value since you typically receive products that exceed the subscription box price. However, just how much you save over the exact cost of the product(s) can vary quite a bit, especially if your subscription service focuses on small or sample-size products as opposed to full-size products.

Some beauty subscription services provide customers with an estimated value for their boxes. For instance, Allure's March 2024 Beauty Box has a listed value of $212 across seven products (four of them full-sized). The monthly box price is $25, or multi-month subscriptions can make your per-box price even less than that. According to Time, which compared the prices of beauty boxes to the value of their included products, not all price-versus-cost comparisons are quite as successful as the Allure beauty box. For instance, Birchbox (the first company to start the beauty box subscription service back in 2010) monthly boxes are $17, but the value of their sample-size-only monthly box is only around $40.