Deciphering The Small Print Of Beauty Subscription Boxes

Beauty boxes are where you pay either a monthly or one off fee, and get a lucky dip selection of make-up, skincare, fragrance or hair care products. Recently there has been a resurgence, due to the Internet and social media, where advertising costs have been reduced, and has also encouraged companies to participate by increasing their brand awareness. The quality of the samples/special sizes have been getting better, as companies realize this is a good way to attract new customers directly. Referring friends is as easy with click, and with bonus points and gifts makes it easy to entice friends to sign up. Companies usually offer a three, six, or an annual subscription option. Some are now offering one month rolling subscription to those who are wary, but offer bigger discounts if you sign up for longer.

The boxes contain trial sizes; in the industry they are called promotional or special sizes and have NSV or RRP (no selling value or recommended retail price), and the quoted value is based the retail value of the full sized products. Naturally this is a marketing technique, and even though it is used as a selling tactic, the actual perceived worth is not wholly accurate, as the wording states the value based on the recommended price. Some companies are now offering boxes with full sized products, and while the perceived value (savings) can appear greater, you may get products that you would never consider. Is that cost effective? Some may say it’s worth the chance of getting a pink lipstick that doesn’t suit your coloring, a hair product that you will never use, or something you may be allergic to. Bear in mind that there will be a percentage of products you won’t like or won’t suit you, and in the small print it does state that this can happen. Many people don’t mind, and give them away or swap them, or create a box of their unwanted items and regift, but having a pile of products you can’t use or don’t like isn’t good value.

You can’t tailor your products, even if you fill out the profile as the boxes will be randomly filled and sent out. Even if there is a list of products that you may receive, the key word is may, as the boxes do not guarantee any product, especially if they run out. If you are allergic to some ingredients, their advice is to check the label before trying a product. There are no returns, substitutions as you are in fact buying special sizes and samples, unless an item is damaged. Recently some companies are offering boxes where you can pick your own box with a credit system, where you are allocated an amount, and each product is given a value. Others do offer a choice, but again, in the small print if they run out of your choice they reserve the right to send an alternative. Currently I am testing one site, and the choice is so limited, I can only find two items I want to try.


  • A good way to build up a collection of beauty products.
  • You can try brands that you maybe couldn’t afford or have heard about.
  • Many products are new trends.
  • The price is fixed, which is good for beauty budgets.
  • They offer you points for reviews or to refer friends that you can exchange to buy more products.


  • There maybe products you will be allergic to.
  • You can’t choose the colors, and may end up with make-up you can’t use.
  • Items are selected randomly and you can’t choose more skincare or less fragrance items.
  • Most do not offer returns unless a product was damaged or faulty.
  • They maybe hard to cancel if you find yourself financially strapped, or don’t like the service.
  • They run out of boxes, or products for the month and have to use substitutions. Remember, this is a retail business, and they would rather sell out of products than have them holding up their cash flow. Don’t be fooled with the sold out and limited edition advertising.

Beauty Super Spy Tips

The important things to look for in a beauty box are:

  • Good customer service—if a box is missing or an item is damaged will they deal with it speedily?
  • The quality of the selections—is there a balance of skincare, make-up, and hair care products?
  • How easy is it to cancel?
  • The brands—is there a selection of new brands and established ones?
  • Shipping costs and tax—these aren’t always included in the price, do check as they can double the price of a box.

I will be road testing some subscriptions this year, but unlike some bloggers who get a PR sample box (which isn’t always a true representation of the service), the point is not only to review the products, but the actual service. A one off box maybe good, but consistency matters and is often overlooked. Look out for my reviews throughout the year, as I discover not only the quality of the boxes, but how fair and efficient the companies are too.

©2016. BeautySuperSpy.

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