No matter how old you get, there’s something exciting about receiving post. A surprise parcel is the closest feeling you can get to unwrapping gifts beneath the tree, and so when brands began to jump on the trend of sending out monthly goodie boxes, we were more than happy to participate.
A monthly box of beauty treats sounds too good to be true and, in some cases, it is. Nailing the perfect combination of classic products and new surprises is a tall order for any brand, but some pull it off better than others. The trick is to give you a few old names to put you at ease, while introducing you to enough new products that replicate that Christmas morning feeling.
For those who pride themselves on beauty knowledge, these boxes can be a fun and easy way to stay clued up on what’s new on the scene. However, they also play a practical role for the more casual consumer, keeping you stocked with must-have products with minimal effort.
How we tested
When testing, we wanted something more than that new product buzz when searching for our favourite beauty box. We were determined to find something that was all killer, no filler – ideally, every product would serve a practical function, rather than attracting dust in our bathroom cabinet.
To find this elusive perfect beauty subscription box, we tried out every product and assessed the selection process behind each one. While some come with a standard selection of products for every subscriber, others provide a more personalised service, taking into account your preferences and needs.
The best beauty subscription boxes for 2021 are:
- Best overall – Birchbox beauty box: £13.95, Birchbox.co.uk
- Best for discovering new products – Glossybox beauty box: £13.25, Glossybox.co.uk
- Best for personalised skincare – Skin+Me personalised skincare box: £19.99, Skinandme.com
- Best for big-name brands – LookFantastic beauty box: £15, Lookfantastic.com
- Best natural and organic beauty box – LoveLula beauty box: £19.95, Lovelula.com
- Best for sampling premium products – Cohorted beauty box: £39.99, Cohorted.co.uk
- Best for full or deluxe-sized products – Mintd box: £70, Mintdbox.com
- Best cruelty-free and vegan beauty box – The Pip Box: £25.99, Thepipbox.co.uk
- Best razer subscription – Estrid starter kit: £7.95, Estrid.com
Birchbox beauty box
Sleek and chic, the packaging of this box changes each month and constantly seems to outdo its predecessor. Referring back to the beauty questionnaire you complete upon registration, Birchbox provides you with five mini make-up, skincare, body and hair care products, vowing never to send the same item twice.
Even though it’s a bespoke service, there is still some element of control (for example, the November box lets you choose your preferred lipstick shade) which reduces the risk of receiving any unwanted products.
Our own selection arrived in the most Insta-friendly box we’d ever seen and featured offerings from the likes of Estée Lauder, Philip Kingsley and Vitamasques. It introduced us to the latter for the first time – the three-step facial treatment from the brand brightens dull, lockdown-fatigued skin.
Glossybox beauty box
Best: For discovering new products
As one of the OG beauty boxes, it’s unsurprising Glossybox has a stellar selection of cult favourite brands on its roster. Where it really excels, however, is introducing new, buzzy products into your beauty routine. When trying out its October box, we were most excited by Korean skincare brand AHC Beauty’s real eye cream for face. As the name suggests, this is a nourishing formula that gives your whole complexion that instant plumping effect you’d expect from an eye cream. A holy grail for anyone with tired or mature skin. The rest of our box was equally exciting – packaged like an idyllic fairytale book for the month’s “the beauty tales” theme, we were also treated to goodies from Illamasqua, The Beauty Crop and Bubble T. Sitting. On the lower end of the price spectrum, this is our winner for value for money and is definitely the best-looking of the bunch.
Skin+Me personalised skincare box
Best: For personalised skincare
Less of beauty box and more a monthly gift from your skincare fairy godmother, this packs all the power of a dermatologist at a fraction of the cost. After filling in a questionnaire and sending a few close-up photographs, a member of the team analyses your skin concerns and prescribes a personalised treatment plan. It all sounded too good to be true, but we were blown away. Our tester suffered from dark spots and hyperpigmentation and was recommended a combination of tretinoin, niacinamide and azelaic acid.
It arrives monthly in an innovative metal tube that twists to omit your daily evening dose, meaning no wasted product. We noticed a difference in our skin after just one week. Obviously, this changes from case to case, but the team is always on hand to determine how your treatment evolves and will gradually increase your dosage as your skin gets used to active ingredients. An absolute game-changer for anyone struggling to put together the perfect skincare routine.
LookFantastic beauty box
Best: For big-name brands
Beauty retailer LookFantastic is home to some of the best brands on the market, so we had high hopes for a first-rate beauty box. Trying its November edition (named “firecracker” in tribute to what should have been a month of bonfires and fireworks) we were treated to a deep purple box that housed six beauty treats, all playing to a theme of stay-at-home indulgence. Our favourite? The Naobay detox oxygen facial cream, a soothing, uber-light moisturiser free of greasiness or tackiness.
LoveLula beauty box
Best: Natural and organic beauty box
The price you often pay for all-natural products is a lack of efficacy. To help you navigate an increasingly green market, LoveLula picks out the best of the best and holds every product to the same high standard: they must use the highest possible percentage of ethically sourced organic ingredients and be free of parabens and any form of animal testing.
While everyone receives the same products, you can feel the amount of care and effort that has gone into each of these boxes. We were especially impressed by the variety, with the Laidbare hair minimising moisturiser being a highlight. Definitely not one for your head, this is applied after shaving or waxing to discourage future hair growth. We’d never tried anything like it, which is the exact kind of experience we wanted from a beauty box.
Cohorted beauty box
Best: For sampling premium products
Every beauty box subscriber runs the risk of disappointment with each month’s parcel. Thankfully Cohorted has designed a risk-free solution – its boxes are packed with at least five premium products, all hand-picked to make a worthwhile addition to your beauty routine. While selections vary month-to-month, we tested its November edition, which exclusively features products from age-defying skincare brand Verso.
We had 11 products to fawn over, but the highlight was the acne deep cleanser, which swiftly replaced our current cleanser. It might be pricier than its competitors, but November’s entry is valued at over eight times its monthly subscription cost. Also, the packaging is recyclable.
Best: For full or deluxe-sized products
Mintd offers monthly or bi-monthly subscription services, delivering four or five full-size products straight to your doorstep. As you’d expect for this price, these are all from high-end beauty brands, such as Oskia London, Malin + Goetz and Albiva. We had products from all three in our skincare-oriented box and soon fell in love with each, particularly Oskia’s liquid mask lactic acid micro peel (which ordinarily costs only a few pounds less than the entire subscription box). If you’re selective about the cosmetics you allow into your cabinet, you can also compose a beauty profile which allows Mintd to tailor products to your lifestyle. Pricey but luxurious.
The Pip Box
Best: Cruelty-free and vegan beauty box
The Pip Box is on a mission to open your eyes to the world of cruelty-free and vegan cosmetics. Each monthly box follows this criteria and provides some surprising alternatives to some of your favourite products. November’s biggest revelation is the Figs and Rouge renew and refine pore detox serum, which makes quick work of resurfacing skin and refining wide, open pores. But be quick: every box is limited edition and subscriptions have been known to sell out.
Estrid starter kit
Best: Razor subscription
If you’ve spent any time on Instagram in the past few months, odds are these pastel razors have cropped up on your feed at least once. Not only are they more photogenic than a shaving device has any right to be, but they’re the perfect alternative to blunt, painful razors. After picking your favourite shade of pastel, Estrid sends out a starter kit of a razor handle, two five-blade cartridges and a shower hook. You can then arrange for top-up boxes of extra cartridges either once a month, or however often you think necessary based on your shaving habits. As a repeat offender for reusing a blunt razor, our tester loved the convenience and found the blades to be much higher quality than often found in women’s shaving tools.
The verdict: Beauty subscription boxes
The Birchbox beauty box has been in the game for a long time and has perfected its combination of new and old, making it our favourite. Anyone struggling with their skincare will also love the Skin+Me service, while the LoveLula beauty box is for more than just the eco-conscious.
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IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.