A while back I wrote a post about subscription boxes (*ahem, this one*) and how I don’t think many of them are worth what you pay for them. Maybe it’s all the MBA classes I’ve been taking, but I’m huge on return value-whether that’s a meaningful blog post that leaves me more informed after reading it, or something I purchase making me feel like I just made a worthwhile investment.
I do think some subscription boxes are great as one-off gifts, as in you buy them for a friend or yourself and then cancel the subscription. Some boxes even left you select one month or one time as an option just to try it out, which is really nice. That being said, I think in order to keep a six-month or even annual subscription, your needs have to remain the same.
Barkbox is a great example of this and how it was one of the first boxes I tried when I adopted my puppy, now two year-old service dog. Every month Apollo would get a box of toys and treats that were carefully cultivated to a clever theme and he’d tear through them in a matter of minutes. It was really nice to not have to go out and buy very many toys during this time because the boxes came so frequently, which kept pace with his very active schedule. As time went on though, he became less interested in the toys and treats, so it didn’t make sense for us to continue our subscription when it came time to renew it.
That being said, I do think there are some boxes that I’ll keep on beyond my initial subscription purchase. Last fall I signed up for Ipsy, which is a monthly beauty subscription that includes a little clutch-sized bag and five beauty products. The items can range from skincare and makeup, to beauty tools and nail polish.
I’ll be honest, some months have definitely been more of a miss than a hit. I think that’s what you sign up for though, expecting that you’re going to get a grab bag of things that may or may not be 100% what you’d pick out yourself. I quickly realized if I wanted to be picky about what I got, I could either:
a) cancel the subscription and go to the store and buy specific items
b) use the messaging feature on the platform to request one of my five items the month before (so 20% guaranteed satisfied)
or c) I could do a) and b) and donate the products I wasn’t going to use to friends wanting to try new things or local women’s shelters. It’s a win-win for everyone!
So, long intro aside, I’m writing this review (and I’ve never done one for my Ipsy bags, just Instagram pictures every now and then), because I feel like Ipsy’s September bag really hit it out of the park for me.
Sleek, black, with a bold, raised geometric pattern across the front and back. I think I’d definitely use this bag inside a larger purse or backpack. I probably wouldn’t take it out and about because it doesn’t have a strap for my wrist, as I like to set things down and I’d forget it.
The inside has this bright blue pop of color which is nice, both aesthetically and for when you have to dig through it to find something inside.
Would definitely rate this bag 5/5. The only other one that I’ve received in the last year that compares to this one would be the Gudetama one, but that’s because it’s no yolk. If you don’t get the joke, look up who this cute little character is. *hint* he’s related to Hello Kitty, but much cuter (in my opinion).
I should preface that I used to hate getting mascara in my bags. How many eyelashes do they think I have? Well, I would be the one who actually went through my years-old stash of mascara and threw it all out, only to realize purchasing a new tube of said black gunk is upwards of $10 (the price of a whole Ipsy bag)…so it was a pleasant surprise when I found out I’d be receiving a mascara in this month’s bag. *shame on me for wishing they’d stop sending it to me…plus the smaller, travel-sized bottles are great for travel or when you’re on the go and don’t want to stuff a whole big one in your bag*
–Ciaté London Wonderwand Mascara in Black Magic– it doesn’t require lots of coats to make your lashes pop, *apparently* is smudge-proof, and the wand has an hourglass shape that applies much better than a straight-bristled brush.
My biggest concern with mascara is how it flakes throughout the day, so the jury’s still out about this one. I’ll likely do an update here or on an Instastory once I wear it long enough to see how it fares. In terms of price, a full-sized tube of this retails for $22 at Sephora, so at 3.5 ml, this sample is worth a whopping $8.
–Hanalei Papaya Enzyme Powder Cleanser-a great alternative to harsh scrubs or exfoliators that leave your skin feeling raw and uncomfortable. The texture reminded me a lot of the Tatcha Rice Enzyme Powder, but obviously at a much lower price point. This product has grapefruit seed oil and papaya enzymes, which are great for keeping your skin hydrated. If you’re at all curious about papaya and skincare, there’s a great bit about it in the Beauty Chef, which I did a review on here. For price, the company’s website sells them in packs of 14 for $20, which breaks down to about $1.42 a packet. There were five included in my Ipsy bag, so that’s worth about $7.10.
–Smashbox Cosmetics Photo Finish Radiance Primer-Smashbox is an iconic line that’s been making primers for a while. I learned about a year ago that makeup sticks a lot better to your face when you prime it first, kind of like putting a clear coat of polish before you apply color to your nails. This primer mixes regular hydration with a bit of a glowy tint, so it can double as a primer and a highlighter (great for cheekbones, under the eyebrow, inner corner of the eye, or on a cupid’s bow aka that dip in the middle of your upper lip). A full-sized version of this retails for $39 at Sephora, so the sample in the Ipsy bag is a quarter of the full size, so it’s worth about $9.75. Kinda pricey for a small tube, but hey, good deal when you’re considering we’re only at three products and already at an estimated value of $24.85.
–Dirty Little Secret (DLS) Cosmetics Lip Gloss in Nude Beach-I really liked that a full-sized item was included in my bag this month, but beyond that, the nudey/gold color is really flattering and I think it kind of smells like coconut. The Ipsy website says in the item’s description that it’s supposed to smell like kettlecorn, but I swear that’s only a scent I’ve found at the county fair (but I wouldn’t be opposed if they bottled it and sold it as a perfume, I’m just saying…). A full-sized tube retails for $14, so that’s exactly what this one is worth! (So far, I’d say this bag is definitely giving me value for what I paid for it…it does help that I’ll probably use every single item in this month’s bag).
–Neogen Dermalogy White Truffle Serum in Oil Drop-The formulation in this product is new, apparently a hybrid between serum and oil. I’m all about both for the face because they provide hydration and nutrients beyond what a skin cream or lotion can offer. The truffle ingredients added an extra pizzaz and is now becoming more used in skincare because of its skin-friendly qualities. A full-sized bottle of this retails for $35, so at .52 oz, this sample is worth about $10.77.
All in all, not taking into account any value for the bag, the items inside are worth an estimated $49.62. I’d say that’s a pretty good return value, not to mention I’m getting introduced to new brands I’ve never heard of, and everything except the lippie is sample-sized, so great for travel or when you just need a little glam on the go.
Overall I’d give the products a 4.5/5. I’d only deduct points because a black mascara is kind of blah and the Smashbox primer is kind of a small sample, but really, both are great tried and true products.
If you’d like more reviews like this on other Ipsy bags (or other subscriptions), give me a holler in the comments! I’m going to try to give more lengthy product reviews, because as a consumer myself, that’s what I look for when I buy products…because there’s nothing worse than buying something, realizing it was over-hyped, and is actually a waste of money. I’m looking at you #FabFitFun and #HelloFresh boxes. *Not actually hating on either, but both cost much more than $10, so if you’re frequently getting frustrated with boxes, it’s a little more difficult to justify donating, throwing away, or not eating lots of items because you won’t/can’t use them.
Spoonie Adventures in Books, Beauty, & Bullshit
I'm a twenty-something year old recent law and business school grad living with a chronic health condition. Follow along on my shenanigans.