Let's say sampling beauty products isn't your full-time job—should you be denied eye-cream kismet or love at first spray just because you can't track every niche brand or really kinda hate asking for freebies at the cosmetics counter? Online subscription clubs that regularly send targeted samples to your home may be your new best friend—provided you know what all those boxes of goodies will actually cost and which sites suit your specific needs. We signed up for a whole lotta packages to help you find out.
1. FOR A LITTLE BIT OF EVERYTHING
Lisa Sugar, Founder & Editor in Chief on the hit digital platform POPSUGAR, has created a monthly box delivery service of goodies straight to your front door.
THE GOODS: This must-have monthly box of goodies contains a mix of the best of the best in fashion, beauty, home, fitness and food inspired by that specific time of year. The most recent box contained items like a fashionable scarf, coffee mug, lunch box, lip balm and more.
THE FINE PRINT: First, you pick a plan online and sign up for a subscription with your credit card (Monthly is $39.95, 3 months is $109.85 and 6 months is $214.70.) Upon choosing your plan, you will receive your first box valued at $100 or more. Open the box and enjoy!
2. For the Mani-Obsessed
Geared toward the certifiably nail-crazy, membership to this club from Seattle-based nail-and-beauty brand Julep offers you a constant stream of its high-end polishes in a variety of sophisticated and hip shades, as well as creams, scrubs, and tools, delivered as themed (and beautifully packaged) ensembles.
THE GOODS: Typically two new polishes, plus plum products like glycolic hand scrubs, crystal nail files, or hand moisturizers. The box is assembled based on the results of a style quiz, in which you click photos showing your preferences on quintessential lacquer, the most coveted celebrity hairstyle, a dream vacay, and more.
THE FINE PRINT: With My Maven subscription, you'll get $40 worth of polish & product for $24.99/month, or $19.99/month with a three-month prepaid subscription. Each monthly box is completely customizable. With a Maven Luxe subscription, you'll get $60 worth of prestige products for $39.99/month, or $34.99/month with a three-month prepaid subscription. Maven Luxe boxes are also completely customizable.
3. For the Makeup Pro
Co-founded by makeup artist and YouTube star Michelle Phan, this beauty community offers viewers detailed instructional videos (accessed online), as well as a service called Glam Bag, which sends subscribers a cute tote containing products picked out by the site's "stylists" (YouTube beauty pros).
THE GOODS: Five deluxe samples or full-size products from brands like Benefit, Josie Maran, and Urban Decay, with each stash selected at least in part according to your fave brands and the style profile you choose (there are 12, from classic to club-goer).
THE FINE PRINT: Becoming a member is free and lets you scope out things like makeup tutorials and product picks. Subscribe to receive a Glam Bag once a month for $10, or 12 times a year for $110, with free U.S. shipping. Monthly subscriptions renew automatically but can be canceled on the Web site. If you sign up for the year-long program, you're committed for the full 12 months.
4. For the High-End Beauty Junkie
If it's big in Asia or something fresh from Bulgari, it's in this site's monthly lineup of luxe products.
THE GOODS: A mix of makeup, hair, or skin-care finds from niche and major brands, in travel, deluxe (i.e., slightly bigger than travel), and full sizes. Past boxes have included tubes of Missha BB cream (popular in Korea) and the latest crushes of fashion blogger the Man Repeller. Boxes are personalized according to information you supply on your age, skin, and hair type, plus overall style (chic, sporty, etc.).
THE FINE PRINT: Sign up online for any of the four subscription plans—get deliveries monthly ($21), for three months ($60), six months ($111), or 12 months ($210), with free U.S. shipping to most states. Choose the monthly plan and your account will be automatically charged every four weeks until you unsubscribe on the Web site. If you pony up for one of the other three plans, you're committing to multiple deliveries and can cancel the renewal but won't be able to get your money back for the months in question.
5. For Girls with Natural Curls
If you've recently given up on chemical straightening in favor of embracing your own texture, you'll want to check out this site to help sort through all the styling choices and products involved with daily spiral maintenance.
THE GOODS: Five to seven travel-and full-size samples from such companies as Brown Butter Beauty, Carol's Daughter, and Ouidad, plus occasional tools and accessories like natural brushes and hair ties. Each box comes with discount coupons for full-size products, so you can stock up on that newly discovered miracle curl enhancer or moisturizing oil.
THE FINE PRINT: Sign up on the Web site to receive emails letting you know when subscriptions become available (entry can take a few months). Memberships are $20 per month (free shipping to the U.S.), and you can cancel at any time.
6. For the Frugalista
One of the best-known beauty-sampling clubs is also one of the most cost-effective. With a vast, cherry-picked roster of brands, deliveries include everything from Malin + Goetz hair care to Chantecaille makeup, and offerings vary widely according to preferences you supply in an online questionnaire.
THE GOODS: Four or five samples of varying sizes (less than an ounce to full size) from brands like Dr. Jart+, Kérastase, Kiehl's and Stila, with one lifestyle item, such as stationery or tea. Selections are tailored to your responses to questions about hair or skin type and concerns, plus your stated level of makeup proficiency. Occasional partnerships, such as past ones with Goop and Gossip Girl, also add variety.
THE FINE PRINT: Sign up online for an invitation to join the monthly subscription service (that's $10 a month and $110 for 12 months, shipping to the U.S. included). After about four weeks, you get an emailed link to place your order, and in less than a month you should receive your first box. Subscriptions renew automatically unless you pull the plug (online or by phone at 877-487-7272). If you want to stop an annual subscription, you must do so within the first month.
7. For the Skin-Care Buff
If your mood is determined by how your complexion is faring, this spin-off club of online giant Dermstore.com may be the answer to your prayers for nonoily moisturizers or firming eye creams. For days when you're able to obsess about something other than pore size, there are well-chosen hair and makeup selections too.
THE GOODS: You recieve six or more deluxe travel-size to full-size products each month. Skin-care brands include dermatologist-approved DDF, Glytone, Vichy, and natural and organic choices, plus high-end makeup and hair care with a problem-solving slant (such as Peter Thomas Roth plumping mascara and Nick Chavez body-building clay for hair).
THE FINE PRINT: You can choose from a one-time purchase of $35 or a monthly subscription for $25. Renewal is automatic, so if you want to cancel (or skip a quarter), call 866-381-4207.
8. For the Mail-Order Newbie
This club gathers hot launches from established and niche brands, plus products from up-and-coming lines—and differentiates itself with a good showing of eco-friendly options. There's a bit of everything in its turquoise box, but items tend toward the useful (Smith's Rosebud Salve, sunscreen wipes) instead of the trendy or ultraluxe.
THE GOODS: Well-balanced picks consisting of four or five deluxe or full-size samples from a blend of under-the-radar brands (Becca, Skyn Iceland, Supergoop) and green lines like Blum Naturals and Weleda. Boxes are often customized for your stated skin tone, complexion issues, hair color, and beauty "personality" (natural, adventurous, playful, and so on).
THE FINE PRINT: There's incentive to buy in bulk: Subscribe monthly for $12, or subscribe quarterly for $30 (and save $6), or spend just $99 for a yearly membership (free shipping to the U.S. and Canada). Renewal is automatic but can be canceled. If you're stopping a quarterly or yearly subscription that's already underway, you'll receive only a partial refund.