Subscription Boxes

September Birchbox vs Sephora Play

Not all of us can or want to afford the $20 monthly makeup subscription boxes and that’s totally okay! But, just because you aren’t looking to shell out $20 a month for a beauty subscription box doesn’t mean that you should feel left out of the joy that subscription boxes bring to your doorstep every month!

Sephora Play is a $10 a month beauty subscription box that sends out 5-6 samples in every box, with a mixture of makeup, beauty, skincare, hair care, and a scented/perfume sample. Allure Beauty box is a $15 a month beauty subscription box that sends out 5-6 samples in every box, with a mixture of makeup, beauty, skin care, hair care, and nail care.

All of the samples that come in the Sephora Play box all come from luxury brands that you can buy inside of Sephora. All of the products you get inside of your Sephora Play box are always sample size. Allure sends out both full-sized products and sample sized products, promising to deliver over a $50 value in every box. I haven’t seen anything about Sephora promising to deliver a minimum value in every box, but I’ve always at least gotten my $10 worth in every box.

So, today we’re going to talk about which box was the better box for September: Birchbox or Sephora Play?

In today’s comparison, we’re going to look at:

  • The value of each box
  • The variety of each box
  • The types of products in each box
  • The size of the products in each box

Who do you think is going to win for the month of September?


september birchbox

How much is it? ($10 a month/ Total value of my September Birchbox: $29.92)

What I got inside of my September Birchbox:

  • Number 4 Jour d’Automne Smoothing Balm- $5.88
  • Avene Cleanance EXPERT Lotion- $3.08
  • IPKN Moist and Firm Beauty Balm (Light)- $5.16
  • Arrow BOOST Clear Enhancing Lip Balm in Blush Hour – $14 (full size)
  • Proenza Schouler Arizona Perfume- $1.86

september birchbox products


birchbox we are celebrating you

First product: Proenza Schouler Arizona Perfume

Sample value: $1.86

arizona proenza

The only subscription box that I’ve ever received perfume samples in has been Sephora Play, but for the last couple of months, I haven’t received any sort of perfume sample in my boxes. I was really excited to see that I got a perfume sample in my Birchbox, because I really love getting and trying out different scents and seeing how they react with my body chemistry.

The perfume sample that I got in my September Birchbox is a mix of cactus flower, jasmine, and orange flower. I am always on the hunt for a citrus-scented perfume, but I tend to wear a lot of musk’s because I haven’t found the perfect citrus-scented perfume yet.

The Arizona perfume came with a spritzer, so I didn’t have to worry about accidentally dumping the entire sample out on my body (I’m super accident prone). I really didn’t like the scent of this perfume, as I really don’t enjoy the scents of floral perfumes. My nose definitely picked up on the jasmine and the orange flower scent, but I didn’t like how powdery and floral this perfume was.

Don’t get me wrong, I love getting perfume samples as I love experimenting with my scent! This perfume wasn’t the perfect scent for me and that’s totally okay, as I’m really glad that I got the chance to try the perfume out!

Second product: IPKN Moist and Firm Beauty Balm (in shade light)

Sample value: $5.16


ipkn bb moist & firm
Birchbox is also the only subscription box company that I’ve ever received BB samples in. I have received foundation samples in other subscription boxes, but the shades are always too dark for my pale skin. I usually purchase shades ‘ivory’ or ‘bone’, but I always end up getting ‘buff beige’ shades in my subscription boxes.

I was a bit apprehensive about the color of this BB cream, as the term ‘light’ is a pretty basic name and isn’t really too descriptive on the depth of this color. Besides, Birchbox sent me a BB Cream last month that matched my skin last month, so no way are they going to send me another BB Cream that matches, right?


Birchbox sent me another BB Cream sample that does match my skin! On the back of my hand, this BB Cream does look too orange (but look how full coverage it is). On my neck and on my face, this is just a tinge too dark for me, but it doesn’t look orange. It’s the perfect color for my summer-tanned skin transforming into my ultra-pale fall skin.


As I’ve told you before, I have extremely oily, acne prone skin. On my skin, this did a great job of covering up my hyperpigmentation and the small breakouts I was having. However, on the large, inflamed, cystic acne that I have, it didn’t really cover up too well. This is a BB Cream and not a foundation, so it’s not going to cover up as heavily as a foundation does. Overall, I’m very happy with how close the color match is and that I’ve gotten a different BB Cream in my box!

Third product: Avène Cleanance EXPERT Lotion

Sample value: $3.08


The Avene Cleanance EXPERT Lotion is a lightweight treatment that can be used as a moisturizer that helps to mattify your skin, while also working to reduce the appearance of the redness in your skin and prevent future breakouts.

However, you can also use this lotion as a spot treatment for any breakout that you are currently having. I have extremely oily, acne prone skin and I have a major problem with cystic acne on my chin and my jawline. I also have a lot of blackheads on my nose and on the tops of my cheeks. With the hormonal, cystic acne that I have, I also do have a lot of problems with redness in my skin.

I don’t really worry about my blackheads and the redness in my skin, but I’m always looking for treatments for my hormonal cystic acne because it hurts. I’m really excited that I got this lotion in my box because I’m literally willing to try anything to get my cystic acne to be less painful. I have used this as a spot treatment on my current cystic acne breakout, but I haven’t noticed any difference in the redness of my skin or in the pain that I’m feeling on those enlarged pimples.

However, I did use this on across my nose and on the tops of my cheeks, where I have a large number of blackheads. I haven’t noticed a huge decrease in the number of blackheads that I have, but I have noticed a difference in how oily my skin is in those spots and a decrease in the texture of my skin in that area.

avene cleanance expert

I’m almost out of this lotion, especially since I’m using it on the largest parts of my face. It’s lasted me about three whole-face uses and I have enough to be able to cover about half of my face next time I use it with. I personally wouldn’t pay $26 for a full-sized version of this product, but I am happy with the small differences I’ve noticed in my skin after using this sample.

Fourth product: Arrow Boost Color Enhancing Lip Balm in Blush Hour

Sample value: $14 (full-sized)

arrow boost

This is the only full-sized product that I received in my September Birchbox, but I’m so happy that I did receive this product! While this is the only ‘makeup’ product that I got in my box, I recently just got another color changing lip balm in another subscription box and I’ve really have been wanting to try out another brand’s color enhancing lip balm!

This formula is claimed to be ‘ultra hydrating’, which is a statement that I strongly disagree with. This isn’t a lip balm that I would reach for when my lips are dry feeling, as I found this formula to be very drying on my lips.

arrow boost lip balm

Personally, I have only been reaching for this lip balm for when I’m in a rush applying my makeup and just want a quick tint on my lips. It does turn a very light pink on my lips, but the hue of the color that it will react to on your lips is based upon the pH level of your lips. A little science and a little beauty, it’s a fun combination!

Fifth product: Number 4 Jour d’Automne Smoothing Balm

Sample value: $5.88

smooth balm

A smoothing balm is a hair product that I didn’t even know that I needed in my life. In order to properly use this smoothing balm, you are supposed to put it in your damp hair. You can use this balm to fight against frizz and to protect your hair against heat damage, which I didn’t even know you could find in a smoothing balm!

I like the smell of this smoothing balm, but I haven’t noticed any big difference in the amount of frizz in my hair when I do use it. For $30, I’ve tried more impressive hair samples from Birchbox before. On the bright side, at least it isn’t a tiny sample that I can only use once! I’ll keep using it until I run out of the sample just for the fact that it claims to protect against heat, but I won’t be going out of my way to purchase this balm. Not impressed with these contents, check out our review on Birchbox vs Ipsy.

Sephora Play

sephora play

How much is it? ($10 a month/ Total value of my September Sephora Play: $46.59)

What I got in my September Sephora Play

  • Ole Henriksen Truth Serum- $10.59
  • Boscia Cactus Water Moisturizer- $12.51
  • Too Faced Hangover Replenishing Face Primer- $4.03
  • Sephora Collection LashCraft Big Volume Mascara in Black- $5.73
  • Marc Jacobs Beauty Le Marc Lip Crème Lipstick in Boy Gorgeous- $12.50
  • Philosophy Amazing Grace Ballet Rose Eau de Toilette- $1.23

One thing that I would like to mention before we get into unboxing my September Sephora Play is that every Sephora Play box you get, you have ten points added to your Sephora Beauty Insider account.

sephora points

In addition to getting points for your monthly Sephora Play subscription, Sephora also includes a card that’s attached to every booklet that contains 50 Beauty Insider Points. In order for you to get these extra 50 Beauty Insider points, you have to spend $20 at Sephora to cash those points in. In other words, if every month you wanted to go and cash in your 50 extra Beauty Insider points, you would have to go in and spend $20 at Sephora every month in order to be able to cash in these extra points.

I don’t shop at Sephora all that much, so I haven’t ever cashed in the Beauty Insider points that they give. However, another bonus that comes with the Sephora Play subscription is that you can show your Play Pass (that black and white card that also had the 50 Beauty Insider Points) to a Sephora Beauty Advisor and you’ll get a lesson on how to incorporate these products into your beauty routine.

sephora play products

As a quick side note, Sephora is now sending out all of their boxes with plastic bags, instead of canvas! This means that you can recycle your entire Sephora Play subscription instead of just half of it!

sephora bag


next gen beauty


sephora play

First product: Too Faced Hangover Replenishing Face Primer

Sample value: $4.03

too faced

I’ve already tried out and loved the Too Faced Hangover Replenishing Face Primer before I got it in my Sephora Play subscription. I honestly really love this primer, which is kind of shocking, because I’m usually pretty disappointed in most overhyped beauty products. I love using this primer for when my skin is dry, dull, or tired looking, as this primer brings so much life back into my skin, almost like the primer has magical powers!

For me personally, this wasn’t one of those primers that I had to put on only one side of my face and do a close-up inspection of my skin to notice any differences. Immediately after I put this primer on, I notice a huge difference in my skin. My skin looks so much more refreshed, hydrated, and has a little bit of a glow to it.

One thing that I want to say about this primer is that it isn’t greasy or heavy feeling at all. It’s very hydrating, but it isn’t greasy or oily feeling by any means.

While my previous experiences with Too Faced has led to more misses than it has hits, I really love how this primer instantly makes my skin look refreshed and more awake. However, I do have to say that I was surprised to see a Too Faced sample in my September Sephora Play box. I’ve never gotten any Too Faced samples in any of my Sephora play boxes, so I’m really glad that a whole lot of other people are going to be getting the chance to try out this primer.

too faced primer

Before we move on to the next sample that I got in my September Sephora Play I want to mention something- I don’t have dry skin. I have extremely oily, acne prone skin with large pores, so I’m always looking for pore-filling mattifying, and/or smoothing primers.

When you sign up for Sephora Play, you have to fill out a beauty profile, just like you do with FabFitFun, Ipsy, Birchbox, Boxycharm, and a whole lot of other beauty subscription boxes. I always make sure to mark on all of the beauty profiles that I have dry skin, so I do have to say that while I really do love this primer, I don’t feel like Sephora Play looks at the beauty profile that all subscribers fill out when signing up for this subscription.

While I’m not really mad about this primer not fitting into my beauty profile because I know it’s a primer that I already gravitate towards for when my skin is dry, I don’t really think that Sephora matches the samples that they put in our Sephora Play boxes to the beauty profiles that we fill out.

Second item: Philosophy Amazing Grace Ballet Rose Eau de Toilette

Sample value: $1.23

amazing grace ballet rose

I was really shocked to see a perfume sample in my Sephora Play, because it’s been a few months since I’ve received any sort of perfume sample in my Sephora Play boxes. While I do have to say that I’m very picky about the types of scents that I like to wear, I really love getting the perfume samples in my Sephora Play boxes because I love experimenting with different scents and seeing how these perfume samples react to my boy chemistry.

The scent of this perfume is very floral and a little powder smelling, with a blend of:

  • Top notes: Rose Absolute, Dewy Peony
  • Middle notes: Lychee, Jasmine Petal
  • Base notes: Pink Musk
  • Fragrance family: Floral

Personally, I really love wearing musk’s and citrus scented perfumes. This isn’t the best perfume sample that I’ve ever receive in my Sephora Play subscription, mainly because I really don’t like floral perfumes.

But the good thing is, is that it made me really happy to see that I got a perfume sample in my Sephora Play box! I really hope that Sephora gets back to sending out perfume samples in their Sephora Play boxes, because I do feel that with the added perfume sample you get a large value out each box.

It was also really nice to see that my perfume sample was from a popular brand, as I only recognized this brand for the bath products that they sell. I know that perfume samples (especially from luxury brands) are very pricey, but I feel like having a monthly perfume sample in each box is what truly sets Sephora Play apart from Birchbox or Ipsy.

amazing grace

amazing grace perfume


Third product: Ole Henriksen Truth Serum

Sample value: $10.59


Normally, at this part of the unboxing of my Sephora Play boxes, this is where things start to go downhill. Usually, there are two or three really nice products in my Sephora Play box, but everything else is a combination of foil packets and dry shampoo.

Thankfully, that isn’t the case with my September Sephora Play box!

Skin care is so incredibly expensive, but can cost even more if you’re buying skin care from a luxury brand; a full-sized bottle of the Truth Serum from Ole Henriksen is $72 for 1.7 ounces. Isn’t that crazy?

I’ve been using this serum for two weeks now and I haven’t really seen any changes in my skin, I do know that it can take up to 30 days of consistent use to see any changes in your skin when using a new skin care product!

The Truth Serum is supposed to help re-energize your skin with the use of Vitamin C and the use of collagen is supposed to help firm your skin. This formula does take a little while to absorb into my skin and has the same texture as a gel moisturizer. I’m so in love with the citrus scent of the serum!

Fourth product: Boscia Cactus Water Moisturizer

Sample value: $12.51



When I pulled the Boscia Cactus Water Moisturizer out of my Sephora Play, I was honestly a little surprised. Mainly I was surprised that I received two skincare samples from Sephora and both of the samples aren’t face washes or face scrubs! This is honestly such a rarity with my Sephora Play subscription boxes!

Also, I know serums are expensive, so I’m really honestly surprised that Sephora didn’t try to cheap my box out and not send me another expensive product. But, in my September Sephora Play, I ended up getting an expensive serum and an expensive moisturizer!

I also didn’t know that Boscia was a luxury brand. I thought Boscia was a brand that you could find at Walmart or Ulta, but I didn’t know it was a high-end brand.

From advertisements that I’ve seen on the Internet, I’ve always assumed that Boscia was a brand that was comparable in pricing to Aveno or another drugstore brand. I also didn’t know that they offered skin care options for your face, as I also thought that they only sold body lotions.

Boscia Cactus Water Moisturizer

Personally, I really don’t like using scented moisturizers because I always find that the perfume that they use in the formula is just too overpowering or it smells too medicinal for my liking. The Boscia Cactus Water Moisturizer doesn’t have a scent, so I can wear it and not feel like I can’t breathe because the perfume is too strong!

I also really love the texture of this moisturizer- it’s a watery gel, instead of a thick, gloopy moisturizer. It’s lightweight and perfect for daytime wear. Also, the mint green packaging is super cute!

So not only did a get some great samples in my Sephora Play box, but I also learned a few new things.

Fifth product: Marc Jacobs Le Marc Lip Crème Lipstick in Boy Gorgeous

Sample value: $12.50

marc jacobs lip creme

A few boxes ago, I received a mascara from Marc Jacobs, which really had me pumped because I’ve never really was in the mindset while I’m shopping at Sephora to justify spending $30 on a mascara. In my September Sephora Play, I got a lipstick from Marc Jacobs, which has me even more pumped than what I was feeling when I received the mascara!

I always say that I feel that there are two different tiers (and price tags) to luxury beauty- we’ve got the bottom tier that has like Too Faced, Tarte, Lorac, Benefit Cosmetics, Cover FX, MAC, and a few other brands. But above that tier, there are brands like Marc Jacobs, BURBERRY, Chanel, Christian Louboutin, Dior, and DOLCE&GABBANA that are the in that top tier of luxury makeup.

I’ve heard wonderful things about lipsticks from Marc Jacobs, but does it live up to the hype?

I also always say that Sephora Play is the better subscription you want to get if you’re more interested in creating makeup looks that fall into ‘Instagram makeup’ rather than everyday makeup. I always end up getting lipstick shades in my Sephora Play boxes that are bright, colorful and aren’t really colors that you could wear to your 9-5.

marc jacobs lipstick

I was expecting this Marc Jacobs Le Marc Lip Crème lipstick to be a shade that falls into the ‘Instagram makeup’ shade range, as I feel that Sephora only sends out lipstick shades in their Sephora Play boxes that aren’t selling very well in store and online.

However, ‘Boy Gorgeous’ is an absolutely stunning shade! This is the perfect lipstick shade for your office job, for your trip to the grocery store, for your Friday night date, for your Fall Instagram photo shoot, or for your best friend’s wedding! It’s so beautiful and is such a stunning shade for fall.

The formula is also everything that I want in a lipstick and it literally didn’t fall short of all of the hype that I heard about this lipstick. When I put on this lipstick without any primer or any lip liner, I didn’t have problems with the formula bleeding outside of my lips. I didn’t get that ‘irritated mouth’ look that I often get when I wear red lipsticks without any sort of lip liner.

Call it a magical formula if you want, but this formula literally stayed right where I put it. Don’t think that this is a kiss-proof lipstick because it isn’t. There was a lot of transfer onto my straws, my coffee cup, and on the back of my hand when I kissed it a few minutes after I applied the lipstick (I kiss the back of my hand to test out the kiss-proof-ness of the formula).

The more that I used my lips to drink from my straw and sip from my coffee cup, the less pigmentation I saw transferring over to my beverage holders. But when I looked into my bathroom mirror to see if I had any lipstick on my chin or if the formula was looking splotchy (which I was expecting, considering how much transfer there was on my straw/cup), I still had full-coverage pigmentation on my lips!

The formula is really creamy and rich feeling but wasn’t drying at all. It went on absolutely seamless and was so much fun to wear. Even if you hate Sephora Play, I would highly recommend treating yourself with this lipstick!

marc jacobs


Sixth product: Sephora Collection LashCraft Big Volume Mascara in Black

Sample value: $5.73


It’s been a little while since I’ve gotten a mascara in my Sephora play box, so I’m happy to see that I got a mascara in my September box. High-end mascaras are really expensive, so having the chance to try out a sample size version of the full-sized product before you commit to trying can really help to save you from an unnecessary splurge.

I’ve tried out the original LashCraft formula and I had the same problem with the LashCraft Big Volume Mascara that I did with the original formula. This formula takes a really long time to dry, so if you sneeze right after you apply your mascara, you’re going to have smears everywhere.

I wouldn’t recommend choosing this mascara to wear underneath of false lashes, as this formula really just takes too long to dry and moves around too much to be worth wearing underneath of your falsies.

On the other hand, if you aren’t someone who wears false lashes all that often, this isn’t a terrible formula. Take a look at the applicator and you’ll see that it has a very similar shape to the Too Faced Better than Sex mascara. The Too Faced Better than Sex mascara and the LashCraft Big Volume mascara have an hourglass-shaped applicator to give your lashes a huge volume boost.

Even though I’m really not happy with the formula of this mascara, I’m really glad that I got this mascara in my Sephora play box. I totally would have gone out of my way and spent the full $14 for the full-sized version of this mascara. After trying out this sample size, I got to see that this formula just really isn’t worth the $14. I don’t feel like it provided my lashes with any volume or any other benefits that would make me want to buy it.

lashcraft mascara

Final thoughts of the September Sephora Play box:

After adding up the estimated total value of all of the samples that I got inside of my September Sephora Play box, I’m honestly surprised to see that this was one of the cheapest boxes that I have ever received from Sephora Play. My August box had an estimated value of around $70, but the total value of my September Sephora Play box is less than $50.

I’m really not upset about the value of my September box being so much lower than my August box, because I’m so much happier with my September box than I am my August box. I actually think that this is one of the best boxes that I’ve ever received from Sephora.

The only product that I wasn’t totally in love with in my September Sephora Play was the perfume sample, but even still I’m really happy that I ever got a perfume sample in my box. The only brand that I wasn’t very familiar with in my September box was Bosica, but all of the other brands that I got in my Sephora Play box were brands that I’m very familiar with.

I got two skincare samples in my box that weren’t face masks, face scrubs, or face washes, so I’m giving Sephora points for creativity! I love trying out new moisturizers, but I’m so happy that I’m getting to try out a Cactus Water moisturizer because it’s something that I’ve always wanted to try out! Knowing skincare, I also know that serums are incredibly expensive, so I’m happy to see that Sephora included a serum in my box (and there was a decent amount of it too).

As for the makeup samples I got in my box, I received a skin prep, an eye product, and a lip product. The only thing that I have to complain about the makeup samples that I received is that while I do love the Too Faced Hangover primer, I marked on my Sephora Beauty Profile that I have extremely oily skin. I feel that by getting a primer that works extremely well with dry skin, that Sephora Play didn’t even look at my beauty profile when putting together my box.

Who won for September- Sephora Play or Birchbox?

I really feel like Sephora Play blew Birchbox out of the water for September. There wasn’t anything in my September Birchbox that really made me super excited or was something that I’ve never seen before. I felt that my Birchbox was bland and while I was excited that I got a BB Cream that matched my skin very well, I don’t really feel super pumped about my September Birchbox.

There were several products in my Sephora Play box that got me really excited, but especially the ‘Boy Gorgeous’ lipstick from Marc Jacobs. There were more products in my September Sephora Play that I have been using on a daily basis in my beauty and my makeup routine, rather than the products that I have gotten in my September Birchbox.

Between these two boxes, Birchbox didn’t really leave as a big of a smile on my face as my September Sephora Play box did! That’s why for me, Sephora Play has won this round of the battle of the subscription boxes!

If you are interested in checking out more of Sephora Play competition, see how Sephora Play measured up with Allure.

Which subscription box do you feel won for September- Sephora Play or Birchbox?

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