As a college student, transportation isn’t always very accessible to me; I barely have the time or money to visit my favorite beauty shops like Ulta or Sephora. Instead, I’ve discovered one of the best ways to stock up and expand your makeup collection: beauty subscription services. With most subscriptions, you receive products that are worth more (in total) than the monthly fee. In my experience, it’s more cost-efficient and convenient than buying products in a store. 

The service I’m currently using is Ipsy, which is one of the least expensive services I’ve found. Ipsy offers three variations of their beauty bag: Glam Bag, Glam Bag Plus, and Glam Bag Ultimate. Before you begin, Ipsy provides a quick, 5-minute quiz that prompted me to select my skin tone and type, my eye, hair, and eyebrow color, as well as my preferred types of products and my favorite makeup brands, all so I can get the kinds of products I really want. The original Glam Bag costs $12 and you receive 5 “deluxe” sample-sized products. Their Plus program costs $25 for 5 full-sized products monthly, and their Ultimate program is $50 for 12 full-sized products. And, all their subscriptions come with free shipping. Check out their website! 

I’ve been receiving the regular Glam Bag for three monthly cycles now and though there are varying review on this service, and I’m very happy with my bags. I’ve received some items that I’ve added to my daily makeup routine, including eyeshadow brushes, eyeliner, and so many face masks (my skin is glowing, honestly). Some of the products aren’t really up my alley (velvet purple eyeshadow doesn’t fit my look), but most of what I receive fits the online profile that I had to complete at the beginning of the service. 

In brief, so far so good concerning my Ipsy bag. I haven’t received any products that don’t match my preferences, and the sample-size was much bigger than I expected. I haven’t tried the two more expensive services, but the products are pretty much the same — just in larger sizes. 

The next two services are ones I haven’t yet tried, but I’ve pulled information from their websites and online reviews. 

Birchbox is probably the most popular service and, from what I’ve read, is the best quality for the price. The website greets you with an opportunity to get $5 off their first box (if you join their email list, of course). They offer three subscription methods: monthly ($15/month), a 6-month plan ($14/month), and an annual plan ($13/month). Though they offer specialty boxes and collections you can buy separately, it seems that their main offer is the basic beauty bag, which includes 4-6 “deluxe” samples. Birchbox also prompts you to complete an online profile to indicate your beauty preferences and, based on reviews, the company is successful in accommodating those preferences. 

I also looked into Boxycharm, which was the service I had heard the least about. The first thing you see on the website is the offer to receive products that are worth over $185 for simply $21 a month, which really seems too good to be true. They also claim they are the “first and only” box that offers swatches for face products like foundation and concealer to find your shade. The other services had mentioned free gifts and special promotions with their boxes, but Boxycharm allows you to choose one of your samples every month. They offer four different subscription types which vary in time span, ranging from $19.25 to $21/month, but they all include the same quality and number of products (5 full-sized products, a free gift, and no shipping charge). Their service also includes the beauty quiz in which you can indicate your skin type and other preferences. 

Though I’ve been satisfied with my Ipsy bag, I think Boxycharm might be a better option for me, considering they offer full-sized items for a similar price. Overall, I’d recommend any of the services over paying the full price, especially if you’re on a budget! Let me know if you use any of these services, or if there’s another one I should know about!

Cover Photo: Good Housekeeping