Birchbox vs Ipsy [2020 UPDATE]: Which Subscription is Best?

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In the world of beauty subscription boxes, two big names dominate the field—Birchbox and Ipsy.

Both send you around 4-5 deluxe beauty product samples per month in a curated box, all for just $10, and allow you to try out new products before you commit to buying the full size. But which beauty box is the right choice for you?

At a basic level, these two boxes are pretty similar. Both ask you to fill out a profile questionnaire on their site to determine things like your skincare needs, skin and hair color, sense of style, and product preferences.

Both subscription boxes have a type of points system, where you gain points by performing certain actions and can redeem them on their sites for different products. Both also offer some sort of shop option on the site itself where you can purchase full-sized versions of the products included in the box, among others.

Despite the many similarities, there are some distinct differences between the two beauty subscription boxes. Below you can find a breakdown of each box to determine which one is right for your personal preferences.

Bottom Line up Front: Overall, I prefer the Birchbox subscription for the skin care and hair care (beauty products) they offer. I’m pretty loyal to my few favorite brands when it comes to makeup, so Ipsy’s inclusion of many lesser-known brands was a miss for me (through no fault of its own).

Birchbox vs Ipsy – Which Should You Pick and Why?

First Take: Birchbox

Birchbox has been around since September 2010. It came to be when founders Hayley and Katia realized that it’s frustrating to shop for new beauty products without being able to try them out first. They envisioned a way that customers could test new products and then easily buy them if they liked them.

The Style Factor

Birchbox has paired the idea of the subscription box with an online shop that sells full-sized versions of the deluxe samples you receive in your box (and many others.) There are often discounts or promotions that allow you to snag these products for less than you would find at the store, and they also offer free gifts with purchase that make it worth your while to shop the Birchbox site instead of, say, Sephora.

There are hundreds of brands featured on their site and in their boxes, both high- and low-end, to offer customers a variety of products and allow subscribers to try new things (although Birchbox does tend towards higher-end products—you won’t find any drugstore brands in this box).

The Points System

Birchbox offers a points system that allows you to redeem your points for products on their site.

You can receive points by giving a Birchbox as a gift, referring friends and family, and making a purchase from their shop.

Unfortunately, they no longer allow you to gain points by reviewing items (Birchbox review points), which was a quick and easy way to gain points on a regular basis. That’s one drawback of Birchbox’s point system compared to Ipsy’s, which I explain later on.

Typical Contents

They also offer a BirchboxMan subscription service for guys that includes products such as aftershave, deodorant, and other male grooming products. This is one of only a few subscription boxes like it on the market, which is a novelty.

Note: Learn more with my BirchBoxMan review

In my experience, Birchbox products tend to lean more towards hair and skin care than makeup or cosmetics.  Mostly Birchbox sends a lot of face (foaming cleanser, etc…), eye, and hair masks, along with the occasional shampoo (including dry shampoo options) and conditioner and sometimes perfume and beauty samples.

The makeup products I’ve received tend to be either for eyes or lips – I’ve received a lot of eyeliners, eye shadow (depending on eyeshadow palletes), and liquid lipsticks and lip balm.

(Photo from My Subscription Addiction)

Pros and Cons of Birchbox


  • Each month’s products come in super cute boxes that can be reused or recycled.
  • Birchbox offers a wide variety of products, from sunscreen to self-tanners to scrubs.
  • Products tend to be from higher-end brands.
  • Gives you the option to choose one of your samples each month.
  • Expansive online store with great deals on popular brands.
  • Has a subscription box option for men.
  • Offers a points system (Birchbox points) that allows you to redeem points for full-size products.


  • I received a lot of the same samples from month to month – I’ve been sent the same shampoo and eyeliner twice. I did not encounter this problem with Ipsy.
  • Rarely, if ever, did I receive full-size items.
  • Birchbox beauty sends a lot of perfume samples, which are really hit or miss.
  • It’s tough to earn points now that they’ve removed the option to review products for them.

Next Take: Ipsy

Ipsy, founded by renowned beauty guru Michelle Phan, sends a monthly Glam Bag to their subscribers, filled with a mix of deluxe size samples and full-sized products. Their mission is to make it easy for subscribers to discover the products that are right for them.

In addition, Ipsy’s stylists put together video tutorials on how to use the products in each box, making it easy for beginners to learn new techniques.

The Style Factor

Their focus is on makeup, and subscribers receive a mix of high- and low-end brands each month. For the most part, Ipsy includes more makeup beauty products as a whole than Birchbox and usually throws in at least one full-sized product per month, ranging anywhere from nail polish to lipstick (or other lip products). They also include makeup tools from time to time, such as brushes or sponges.

Like Birchbox, Ipsy offers a type of shop for full-sized products. However, it’s set up a little differently. There are two sections: Ipsy offers and brand offers. Under Ipsy offers, there are a handful of full-size products you can purchase from the Ipsy website itself.

The selection is pretty small, especially compared to Birchbox, which makes it harder to find full-size versions of the samples you like. Under brand offers, you’re taken to a page with discount codes from the brands offered in that month’s Glam Bag.

The discount will take you to the brand’s website, so you’re not purchasing those products from Ipsy itself. These discounts are pretty generous, often ranging between 15-20% off.

How Does Ipsy Work? Their Point System

Ipsy’s points system works a little differently than Birchbox. There are more ways for you to gain points, such as by following Ipsy on social media, reviewing their products, referring friends and family, and writing a review of the Glam Bag as a whole.

However, unlike Birchbox, you cannot use these points to shop in their online store. Rather, they go towards additional items to be included in your next Glam Bag.

Ipsy also hosts several monthly subscription giveaways, either for Glam Bags themselves or for prize packages of that month’s brands. Each giveaway is valued over $100.

(Photo from My Subscription Addiction)


  • Each month’s subscription samples come in a cute makeup bag (not boxes).
  • Usually one to two full-sized products per month.
  • Focuses on makeup products, including trendy, popular products.
  • Online shop offers great discounts on recognizable brands.
  • Total value of the bag well exceeds the price you pay, especially when full-size products are included.
  • Easy to earn points through reviewing items.


  • The makeup bags are pretty small, and they pile up after a while. There’s no way to recycle them, which feels like a waste.
  • Includes some drugstore products, which don’t feel like an exciting new discovery.
  • Most of the products I received were on the lower end of the price spectrum.
  • Points cannot be put towards items in their online shop.

So How Do They Compare Head to Head?

Below is a breakdown of how the two boxes compare:


Birchbox Ipsy
  • Comes in a decorative box
  • Comes with a cute makeup bag
  • Mostly skin care products and hair care
  • Mostly makeup
  • Rare to no full-size items
  • Usually one or more full-size items per box
  • Allows you to pick one of your samples
  • Chooses all samples for you, but has a more detailed questionnaire
  • Has an option for men
  • No option for men
  • Offers a full shop on their site
  • Shop is limited to a few products
  • Offers discounts and promotions on popular brands
  • Offers generous discounts to be used on brands’ websites
  • Sometimes sends the same samples
  • No duplicate samples
  • Often sends perfume samples
  • Does not usually send perfume samples
  • Can only gain points through referrals, making a purchase from their shop, or giving Birchbox as a gift.
  • More ways to gain points, such as following on social media, reviewing products, referring friends and family, and reviewing the Glam Bag as a whole.
  • Can use points towards items in the shop.
  • Points go towards additional items in your next Glam Bag.

Final Take on Birchbox vs Ipsy

Bottom Line: Overall, I love Birchbox for the skin care products and hair products they offer. I’m pretty loyal to my few favorite brands when it comes to makeup, so Ipsy’s inclusion of many lesser-known brands was a miss for me (through no fault of its own). Be sure to check this page for the latest deals and promos.

I like that Birchbox allows you to try out mainly higher-end brands without having to buy them first, and I appreciate the variety of products they include within their chosen niches. I also like the way that Birchbox allows you to choose one of your samples each month, so you know for a fact you’re getting at least one thing you really wanted.

That said, if you’re a makeup junkie, Ipsy is a great way to experience new makeup from many different price points and possibly discover some new favorites. Ipsy’s makeup tends to be pretty high-quality, even with the inclusion of drugstore items from time to time.

Plus, Ipsy’s full-sized products increase the overall value of the subscription box, so this is great if you’re looking to get the most bang for your buck.

Both boxes offer a convenient way to experience a variety of new products for an affordable price. In the end, it really comes down to whether you prefer makeup or skin and hair care, but no matter what beauty products you like best, there’s a subscription box out there for you to love!

Other Fashion and Beauty Box Comparisons [Monthly Subscriptions]

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