With so many beauty subscription boxes out there, you might be wondering how to choose the best one for you. Look Fantastic is a United Kingdom-based beauty company, and Birchbox is based in the US. They both offer monthly beauty subscription boxes wrapped in fun packaging, perfect as a gift to yourself or a friend. These two options are both at the lower end of the price range for beauty boxes, and they’re both sample-heavy.
Birchbox has the advantage of personalization based on your unique needs, and boxes are $15 per month. Most of your 5 or 6 products will be samples, but the company does send the occasional full-size item. The Look Fantastic Beauty Box is more expensive at $19. However, they carry international brands Americans may not be as familiar with and always feature 6 products. For me, Birchbox is the winner here, unless you’re specifically looking for European products.
How Do They Work
Birchbox and Look Fantastic are both beauty boxes that send you a selection of product samples each month.
Birchbox is catered to your specific beauty needs. When you first sign up, you’ll need to fill out a beauty survey before they send your first box. The survey covers the basics about your hair, skin, and makeup needs. It gives Birchbox something to work with when they choose items for your box each month.
You can opt out of receiving a particular category, like bath and body items or hair care. There’s also a section where you can let them know if you like to wear bold makeup looks or if you prefer subtle, natural products.
After you sign up, it takes Birchbox about a week to get your box ready. Once your box ships, you can preview your samples for the month. The box summary includes a convenient product summary and customer reviews. There are a lot of helpful and insightful customer reviews, and Birchbox rewards subscribers with points for each review.
Signing up for a Look Fantastic Beauty Box is fast and easy. You’ll just need to share your billing and shipping information. Look Fantastic should ship your box within a week or so, and then you’ll have to wait a few weeks for delivery from the UK.
Each box contains 6 items. Most of those items will be samples, but almost every box includes at least one full-size item. Sometimes the full-size item will be a beauty product, and other times it’ll be an accessory like a makeup brush or headband. Each Look Fantastic box includes at least $60 worth of products, which isn’t bad for a $19 box!
The contents of your box will be a surprise, because there’s no option to preview your items before the box arrives. You can look for spoilers on their website, but those specific items may not appear in your version of the box.
Look Fantastic boxes are curated by their beauty experts, and boxes feature a combination of skincare, makeup, and hair care. Each monthly box is based loosely around a theme. Usually, themes are abstract concepts like Radiance, or Firecracker. They also have a celebratory Birthday edition, to celebrate when the company was founded.
- Customized based on your preferences
- Option to choose items
- Affordable price
- High-end items
When you first join Birchbox, you’ll need to fill out a short quiz on your beauty preferences. Here, you can let them know if your beauty style is adventurous, minimal, or traditional. You can also choose what categories you want to receive, such as skincare, makeup, bath and body, or hair care. If you don’t select a category, they won’t send you that kind of product.
After your first month, Birchbox will let you choose a sample for your next box. The company sends out an email reminder, and each month you can either choose a sample or select a curated box option. There are two curated boxes each month: a clean beauty box, and one curated by the company’s CEO, Katia.
Birchbox is one of the most affordable beauty boxes out there. Many boxes have recently raised their prices or changed things around, but Birchbox is still a reasonable $15 a month. If you sign up for 6 month or a year, you can save a few dollars on boxes, too.
Birchbox is a great way to get started with beauty, because you can learn more about high-end and trendy beauty brands by trying their samples. Brands like Sunday Riley and Balance Me might be new to you, if you’re used to buying mid-range beauty products. With these samples, you can try items before buying an expensive full product.
- Small sample sizes
- Possible repeat samples
- No guaranteed worth
My biggest complaint about Birchbox is that sometimes, the sample sizes are tiny. This is especially true for expensive brands that can only afford to provide very small sample sizes. I’d like to see more deluxe sample sizes in their boxes.
Birchbox tries to avoid giving you repeat samples, but sometimes subscribers do end up getting the same product more than once. Repeat products can be especially annoying if it’s an item you didn’t like to begin with. You can contact customer service about this issue, though, and they’ll give you Birchbox points to make up for it.
Birchbox doesn’t guarantee a certain retail value for the products in each box. The boxes tend to work to about $40 in value, but they may be worth more or less.
- International beauty brands
- Each box is worth $60+
Look Fantastic is a great option if you want to expand your beauty horizons, because they include a lot of British and European-made brands in their boxes. It’s also an opportunity to get those brands without having to pay for shipping!
Each box is guaranteed to contain at least $60 worth of beauty products, and sometimes they include much more. The December 2020 box is a standout in terms of value, at $155 total.
- International shipping can take a while
- Small sample sizes
- Inconsistent box quality and value
Even at the best of times, international shipping usually takes longer than domestic. The pandemic has affected mail service around the world, and international mail is even more affected. Sometimes, slow shipping can’t be helped, and this is definitely one of those times. It may not be the company’s fault, but you should probably steer clear of Look Fantastic if you need your subscription within a certain timeframe.
Look Fantastic usually includes a full-size product in their boxes, and the samples are from expensive, high-end brands. However, their samples might not be large enough for you to decide whether or not you like a product.
Look Fantastic boxes can vary dramatically in value from month to month. Some months you may get a great box, but others may be a letdown with fewer products. The company also does a lot of product substitutions outside of the expected box variations. It’s hard to know what to expect from a box.
How Much Do They Cost
These two boxes are at a similar price point, but Birchbox is slightly cheaper.
A basic Birchbox subscription is $15 a month with free shipping. To save a few dollars per box, you can sign up for a 6 month or annual subscription.
A 6 month subscription will cost $14 per box. Annual subscriptions are $13 per box, with monthly billing instead of one large payment upfront.
You can opt out from a $15 monthly subscription at any time, but you’re locked into the annual subscription for the entire year.
The standard Look Fantastic subscription costs $19 a month with free international shipping, but you can save money if you sign up for a longer subscription.
If you sign up for 3 months, each box will cost you $18. For a 6 month subscription, you’ll pay $17 per box. For an annual subscription, each box will cost $16. You’ll be billed on a monthly basis for all of these options, so you don’t have to worry about paying a large sum up front.
What Brands Do They Send?
Both of these boxes aim to send a variety of brands, so you can learn about new brands firsthand. There’s some overlap between the brands these two boxes feature, too.
Birchbox is specifically designed to help busy women learn about beauty in a convenient way. Their sample boxes are catered to different skin types and beauty needs. To accomplish this goal, they tend to send luxury beauty products that are popular in the beauty world right now.
They often send brands like Sunday Riley, Oribe, Balance Me, and Davines. The company also has its own beauty line, ARROW, which shows in boxes pretty regularly.
Look Fantastic carries a lot of British brands, but they’re also conveniently located to several European beauty companies. Americans can count on getting introduced to plenty of unfamiliar brands through this subscription.
They carry 3INA, Phillip Kingsley, Naobay, and plenty of others. They also carry popular beauty brands like Balance Me and Glov, which you’ll frequently find in American boxes.
Both of these boxes come in under $25, making them decent options if you don’t want to spend too much on beauty products each month.
Look Fantastic Beauty Box is the more exciting option if you’re well-versed in popular American beauty brands and are looking to expand your horizons. This box includes at least 6 products each month, and almost always includes one or more full-size items. Each box is worth $60 or more.
Birchbox is the best budget option here, at only $15 a month for 5 product samples. Boxes tend to be worth $40 or more, but there’s no guaranteed value. Their samples are well-curated according to your individual tastes, and they’re often from high-end brands. I recommend this option for anyone new to beauty products and looking to spend less money.