There was a time, like super recently, when the first week of the month was filled with anticipation. I’d text my boyfriend on my way home from work: ANY PACKAGES FOR ME TODAY?! On arrival, I’d rip open the door of our building and hungrily scan the mail area for telltale bright pink packaging or anything promisingly box-shaped. This was makeup time, bitches.
When my ipsy or Birchbox did arrive, I’d take a seat on the bed, open the package, and carefully tip out its contents. Typically, I received at least one of the following: mascara, lip product, hair product, fragrance sample, hand or body lotion, tiny nail polish, and maybe a three-color eyeshadow palette or a fancy brush. I’d eagerly pore over the products and the little information card, opening the lotions and perfumes to sample their scents. Most of the time, I liked—even really, really liked—what I got.
So why did I just cancel all of my subscriptions?
Beauty boxes are, honestly, a fantastic idea. It’s a commitment-free way to try out new products, usually in sample size, often with the option to buy full-size at a discount while gaining “points” to apply toward future purchases. Plus there’s the fun factor: it’s like getting a beautiful present (albeit one that you paid for) in the mail every month, full of fun little surprises. You can even customize most boxes to receive products specifically designed for your hair type, skin tone, favorite colors and scents, and other preferences.
I want to state one thing: I have used both ipsy and Birchbox, and have never had anything but good experiences with both of those companies. My boxes always arrived in perfect condition, as did any other products I ordered. The one time Birchbox failed to send a box, they rectified the problem quickly once I brought it to their attention. I didn’t cancel because of any dissatisfaction with the service.
But the thing is, one day I looked down at my makeup drawer and realized that I had four different face primers, each one promising “matte” “poreless” “picture-perfect” skin.
Then I went for a particular lip shade that I love, and found myself sorting through about twenty lip products in many of the same reds and pinks to find the one that I wanted.
Then I had to dig through a bunch of little eyeshadow palettes to find the shade I wanted to wear that day.
Then I had to decide which of my five black eyeliner pencils I was going to use.
And then I had to select from half a dozen “full” “luscious” “eye-popping” black mascaras.
This problem wasn’t limited to my makeup collection. The little jar on my dresser in which I keep my perfume samples was overflowing. My boyfriend had been complaining about the state of our bathroom cupboard, which was full to bursting with tiny shampoos, conditioners, curl creams, lotions and body washes. Little face creams and eye creams and moisturizing masks and face cleansers kept falling out of my half of the medicine cabinet every time I opened it.
And the thing was, I didn’t know what to do with most of it. I have, let’s say, “needy” hair and have already found the hair products that work for me (quick plug: Alaffia—not only are they great for anyone with curls, but they’re also fair trade and support a number of empowerment projects in African countries). Similarly, I love the face soap and moisturizer that I already use, and don’t want to put my skin through the ordeal of trying a million different products for a few weeks at time—the same reason that I wasn’t really using a lot of the face and eye primers currently jumbled in my makeup drawer.
I wasn’t as concerned about the rest of the makeup—eyeshadows, mascaras, eyeliners, lipsticks—doing damage to my face or hair. But the fact remained that I wasn’t really using them. Some of the shades were just a bit off for my skin tone, while others looked good but were replicating what I already owned. Sure, it was nice to have a travel-sized mascara or eyeshadow palette or body lotion to throw in a suitcase; but how many of those did I really, truly need? Some of it was still in the packaging, so clearly it wasn’t filling any holes in my collection.
On top of all this redundancy, there was the fact that I was paying for this stuff. Between ipsy and Birchbox, I was spending about $20/month on cosmetic samples, so about $240 a year. For someone with student loans and car payments and rent, it seemed dumb to spend that much money on makeup that I didn’t need and wasn’t using.
So, in the end, I canceled.
It’s actually a little bit sad, knowing that there won’t be those little pretty (again, self-funded) gifts waiting for me on the doorstep around the 6th of each month. I liked the novelty of getting new stuff, especially because, since I wasn’t actually physically handing someone my credit card each time, it kind of felt like it was coming for free.
But of course it wasn’t coming for free, and besides the faint sadness, there’s a sense of relief. I just freed up $240 dollars a year to spend on things that I actually do need and will use. No more collection of little tiny versions of stuff I already have; I can focus on spending my money more wisely, on quality vs quantity, on products that serve a specific purpose in my life.