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Ipsy vs. Birchbox

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Beauty subscription boxes make it easy to keep up with popular products and exciting new brands. These are two of the leading beauty subscription boxes, and for good reason. Ipsy and Birchbox both let you personalize your order each month. Ipsy has three subscription tier options, while Birchbox has just one plan. Birchbox features high-end brands for makeup, skincare and hair care, so you can try expensive products before spending a lot of money on them.

Ipsy’s two main subscription tiers offer either 5 deluxe sample sizes or 5 full-size products. There’s a quarterly upgrade option that includes 7-8 full-size products, too. On the other hand, Birchbox keeps things minimal with one subscription offering 5 to 6 items each month. Ipsy offers more makeup options, but Birchbox has samples from trendy beauty brands, especially skincare.

How Do They Work

Both of these subscriptions offer personalization according to your needs. With some Ipsy tiers, you can actually choose items for your box.


When you first sign up for any Ipsy subscription, you’ll need to fill out a thorough beauty quiz. In your quiz, you’ll specify the kind of products you like to use, the makeup colors you like to wear, your skin and hair color, and your biggest skin concerns. This information will help Ipsy choose the best available items for your bag each month.

For each subscription tier, there’s a set of possible products you can receive. Ipsy chooses them based on availability and also your beauty quiz answers. Each subscription comes with a themed makeup bag for the month.

Ipsy Glam Bag is the basic monthly subscription option. It includes 5 deluxe samples of makeup, skincare, hair care, fragrances, and other beauty items.

Ipsy Glam Bag Plus includes 5 full-size items each month. You get to pick 3 out of 5 items yourself, from a selection of 4-6 beauty products. Ipsy will email you when it’s time to pick your products, and you’ll have 2 days to make your selection.

Ipsy Glam Bag X is a new subscription option that supplements a monthly bag subscription. It replaces the monthly bag options in February, May, August and November. This bag contains 7-8 full-size beauty products and each one is curated by a celebrity guest. Subscribers get to choose 3 items for each bag, and Ipsy promises “exclusive access to the hottest launches before anyone else.”

Ipsy Glam Bag Ultimate doesn’t exist anymore, but it was a monthly subscription with 8 full-size items and 4 deluxe samples. Ipsy stopped offering it in December 2020. A lot of subscription services decided to adjust their services in this tumultuous year, and Ipsy’s one of them.


Each Birchbox is curated according to your beauty quiz. The quiz is short but covers a lot of information about your hair, skin, and beauty style. Most notably, you can choose certain categories for them to focus on for your box. Birchbox orders can include makeup, hair care, skincare, fragrances, and bath and body products.

Birchbox will then take a few days to put your order together and ship it. Your box will usually arrive about a week after you order it.


What’s the difference between these two subscription services? Here’s a comparison of their biggest strengths and weaknesses.



  • Customized, with choice options
  • Great value
  • Variety of products in each bag

All Ipsy subscriptions are customized to your beauty profile. With Glam Bag Plus and Glam Bag X, you can even choose 3 products for your bag. It’s really cool to have that much control over what you receive from a subscription.

Ipsy’s basic bag is worth $50, the Plus bag is worth $120 or more, and the quarterly upgrade X bag is worth $350 or more. Each bag has a retail worth that’s several times the price. Ipsy is a great way to get products at a discount.

Each bag comes with a variety of product types. You can try a new skin cleanser, mascara, and conditioner all in the same bag. Some bags even include beauty tools like makeup sponges or brushes.


  • Mostly makeup products
  • Customizations are mostly about product color variations

Ipsy carries beauty products of all kinds, but they mostly send makeup products. You can expect everything from bronzer to trendy new products like lip oils and eyeshadow glazes. If you prefer skincare products from beauty boxes, this box won’t always impress you.

Ipsy will choose products for your preferences, but often that just means choosing a color scheme that flatters your skin. The possible options are limited. Ipsy will send you a lipstick instead of a nail polish if your profile says you don’t want to receive polish. Otherwise, their products aren’t always the best for your skin type and hair type.



  • Choose categories to get in your box
  • Affordable
  • High-end brands

Birchbox has a helpful beauty quiz that determines what goes in your box each month. They ask for your makeup style, whether it’s adventurous or minimal. You can also let them know what your favorite beauty categories are, like fragrance, hair care, skincare, makeup, or bath and body. I chose skincare and hair care as my top priorities, and they only sent me items from those categories. In my opinion, Birchbox is better at customizing boxes for customers.

At $15, Birchbox is more affordable than many other subscription options. It comes out to about $3 per item, including any deluxe samples or full-size items.

Birchbox often includes samples of expensive luxury products. Their subscription boxes are a great place to try serums, clean beauty, and more. With Birchbox, you can try items for cheap before spending a lot more to get the full-size version.


  • Can’t choose specific products
  • Tiny samples sizes
  • No value guarantee

Birchbox doesn’t let you choose any of the items that appear in your box. They’ll select them based on your main concerns for skincare and hair care, or your favorite makeup style.

Birchbox sends samples from expensive, high-end brands, but that means the samples can be really tiny. Sometimes there are only a few possible uses per sample, unlike deluxe samples that often stretch a few weeks.

There’s no value guarantee for subscribers to Birchbox, unlike most boxes that promise a minimum value each month. However, if you look at the products in each Birchbox, there’s usually a value of about $40.

How Much Do They Cost

Ipsy has a budget option, but they also offer a more expensive luxury subscription. Birchbox is on the cheaper side at $15, but Ipsy’s cheapest bag is only $12.


Ipsy has bag subscriptions ranging from the basic to the luxury. The basic Glam Bag subscription costs $12 for 5 deluxe product samples. These samples are usually big enough to last several uses.

Glam Bag Plus is $25 for 5 full-size items, 3 of which you get to choose. The other two are chosen by Ipsy according to your profile.

Glam Bag X is a quarterly luxury option that costs $55 and replaces your usual monthly bag every 3 months.

Glam Bag Ultimate was a monthly subscription of 12 products each month. It was $50 for 8 full-size items and 4 samples. Ipsy ended this option in December 2020, and is replacing it with Glam Bag X, a quarterly option that focuses more on luxury items at a higher price point. I’m curious about what that will look like, and we’ll all find out in February 2021!


Birchbox costs $15 per box on a monthly basis, with free shipping. If you sign up for 6 months, you’ll pay $14 per box. An annual subscription costs $13 per box. All of these are billed on a monthly basis, instead of one large fee up front.

Birchbox also offers optional add-on items each month, and they usually come with member discounts. Add-on items ship free with your Birchbox.

What Brands Do You Get?

You can expect beauty items of all kinds from these boxes. They offer skincare, makeup, hair care and more.


Ipsy bags tend to focus more on makeup than Birchbox. Ipsy bags contain a mix of different product types, but their bags always include makeup. That’s a priority for them, and if you sign up, you should expect makeup products every month.

Subscribing to Ipsy will help you build up a decent makeup collection, no matter which subscription option you choose. Ipsy features all kinds of brands, including world-famous ones like MAC and Anastasia Beverly Hills. You can also learn about new, trendy brands through this service, like Tatcha, which specializes in Japanese skincare, or Briogeo’s natural hair care line.


Birchbox has a mix of different kinds of beauty products each month. They seem to offer a few more skincare products than makeup.

This company does a great job of introducing customers to relevant product samples, so your specific products will depend on your skin and hair type. My hair is curly and needs lots of hydration, so they send me get masks and conditioners. If you have fine hair, you might get volumizing products instead.

Birchbox has a few favorite brands to send. If you keep your subscription for a few months, you’ll probably get items from Sunday Riley, Oribe, R+Co, and Balance Me. Birchbox has a few of its own beauty lines, including ARROW, which has a focus on simple skincare and beauty, and Love of Color, a makeup line in vibrant hues.

Final Thoughts

Ipsy is a more versatile subscription service, with a budget option and an option with full-size products. The basic Ipsy Glam Bag sample box is $12 and includes only deluxe samples. Ipsy is a better deal than Birchbox when it comes to quantity: you’ll get larger products from any given Ipsy subscription. That means a better overall value, especially if you mostly want makeup from your beauty subscription.

If you want a straightforward subscription that’s heavier on high-end products and skincare, Birchbox is the better option. The customization feature matches you to products you can really use. This subscription is a great way to learn more about beauty in general, including what ingredients and brands you prefer to use on your skin and hair. Birchbox does all the curation for you, and all you have to do is try the products and see what works best.

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