Getting a mystery package in the mail induces a certain excitement that nothing else can bring. This also explains my love for online shopping.
I couldn’t find a picture accurately portraying my love for packages. So I made my own.
Back in February of 2012, I wrote a blog post about the Canadian beauty boxes that were available. At the time, we started seeing a lot of Birchbox posts from US bloggers. The beauty boxes offered in Canada were Loose Button’s Luxe Box, Topbox, Glymm, and Glossybox.
Typically, beauty boxes are regular subscriptions where the company will send you a box with deluxe beauty samples for a set price. Sometimes full-sized products are included. Generally, you would fill out a beauty questionnaire and the samples in your box are chosen to cater to you. You would not know what the samples are until you receive your box. Some companies will allow you to choose certain products to include in your box, or choose a limited offer box with a certain brand or theme.
During my year-long blogging hiatus, I noticed that the search for Canadian beauty boxes still brought in the most hits. I figured that I better update the post for available boxes, because I know it’s annoying to be led too astray by outdated blog posts. So let’s start with the four boxes that had existed in February 2012: Luxe Box, Topbox, Glymm, and Glossybox. Then I will go over US boxes that now reach Canada: Ipsy, Beauty Box 5, Wantable, Julep, SquareHue, and Bondi Box. Conscious box is touted to arrive soon in Canada, while Total Beauty Collections aren’t technically a subscription box.
If you were looking for Canadian Birchboxes, I’m sorry to report that Birchbox does not ship to Canada.
Loose Button’s Luxe Box has changed its marketing strategy in the past year.
Before: a monthly subscription box with 4-5 beauty samples for $12 CAD before taxes.
Now: Their new focus is for subscribers to “sample new and exciting products from high end brands every season”. The Luxe Box now contains 6-8 samples and ships every three months. There are three membership plans you can subscribe to: $26 CAD per quarter, $50 CAD semi-annually ($25 per box), or $96 per year ($24 per box). This cost includes shipping and handling, but not tax – you will be taxed according to the province you are in.
The subscription is automatically renewed unless you cancel before they charge your credit card. Any amount already paid upon cancellation is non-refundable, but you will be sent any boxes that you have paid for.
You can no longer give gift subscriptions, where you pay for a number of Luxe Boxes and have Loose Button send them to the recipient. Instead, you can purchase a gift box from their Luxe Boutique. These gift boxes each seem to have a theme, with the price varying depending on the brands included.
Loose Button does not sell the full sized products of the samples you receive, but they can refer you to where you can find the products you like.
A new feature is the ability to put your subscription on hold for a maximum of 6 months. They also offer fragrance-free boxes if you have allergies.
Loose Button doesn’t seem to have a brand list anymore, either. The only featured brands found on the website are Clinique, Oscar de la Renta, Kerastase, and CND.
My thoughts: First of all, for committing to a longer membership plan, what kind of measly discount is that? So you get a dollar off per box. I have no words.
I have never been subscribed to Loose Button even before the change because I wasn’t impressed by the price tag attached to the quality of samples I’d seen from other bloggers. But I actually received a gift box last Christmas from a good friend. I have to say that the new packaging is very luxurious. It includes a satiny drawstring bag to hold the products.
However, I didn’t love the products enough to subscribe to the quarterly boxes. I felt that the price tag was too steep, even though technically I was only charged every three months. I also didn’t feel the price was worth the marginal increase in the number of samples. The box size doesn’t allow for large full-sized products, either.
I guess frequent, lower-priced spending appeals to me more (this is the source of all my student debt troubles).
Before: a monthly subscription box with 4 samples for $10 CAD before taxes.
Now: Topbox continues to offer 4 samples per box, but it now costs $12 CAD before taxes, which vary according to province. Subscription is monthly and automatically renewed. You can cancel at any time with no cancellation fees.
Topbox does not directly sell the full-sized products of their samples. However, you will be directed to the best place to buy the products via Topbox’s brands list, with occasional discounts or promotions. My problem with this is that their directory may not actually be optimal for Canadian consumers. For example, the Benefit link goes directly to Benefit’s US website, which offers free international shipping only with a purchase of over $125 USD. It would probably be more economical just to pick it up at a local Sephora. On the other hand, a Canadian brand like Lise Watier is available at Shoppers Drug Mart, but still requires a $75 CAD purchase for free shipping. If there are brands that Canadians cannot access locally without ordering online, and/or the website does not offer free shipping at all, then this renders the whole benefit-of-trying-new-brands-and-having-easy-access-to-the-full-sized-product absolutely moot.
You can purchase boxes from the shop on the Topbox website. The price will vary depending on the brand and items included.
Topbox has also vastly increased the number of brands they include (over 12 times more since February 2012!). Whether or not that is a good thing depends on what you think of said brands.
Brands: Aveda, Balenciaga, Bella Pella, Belvada Cosmetics, Benefit, Bioderma, Biotherm, B. Kamins, Bourjois, Boxx Cosmetics, Bread & Butter, Cake, Calvin Klein Fragrance, Cargo, Caudalie, China Glaze, Chloe, Clarins, Clinique, Cover FX, Cuccio Naturale, Cuccio Colour, Darphin, Dermalogica, Deborah Lippmann, Dr. Brandt, Elizabeth Arden, Endocare, Erno Laszlo, Essie, Estee Lauder, Expression, Ferro Cosmetics, Get Creamed Body, GlamGlow, Goldwell, Jelly Pong Pong, Juice Beauty, Jurlique, Killer Queen Katy Perry, Kellett Skincare, Kerastase, KMS California, Lancome, LillyPilly, LippyGirl Lise Watier, L’Occitane, L’Oreal, Make Up For Ever, Marc Jacobs, Mark, M. Asam, MaskerAide, Matrix, Michael Todd, Miracle10 Skin Care, Misa, Miyu Teas & Beauty, Murad, Mythic Oil, Narciso Rodriguez, NuMe, Nuxe, Ojon, Orlane, Pandora’s Makeup Box, Pangea Organics, Pari Beauty, Pelle Beauty, Philsophy, Pink Wipes, Pretend Tan, Prevage, Principessa Beauty, Pure & Simple, Roberto Cavalli, Redken, Rivoli, Rodial Skincare, Sampar, Shiseido, Shu Uemura, SkinCeuticals, Stila, StriVectin, Vasanti, Velour Lashes, Vera Wang, Wella, Yaby, Yves Saint Laurent, ZY Derma HS
Looking at this brand list now, I see that a lot of the brands that had been featured in Glymm and Glossybox have all moved over to Topbox.
My thoughts: I had been subscribed to Topbox from October 2012 until February 2013. The price increase to $12 CAD took effect for the December 2012 Topbox.
I actually don’t have any unboxing pictures because I wasn’t sufficiently impressed with the samples I received. The above photo is almost identical to one of my Topboxes – I just received purple polish and fragrance instead of blue. Compared to the multiple huge full-sized products I always received in my Glossybox, I wasn’t as wowed by my Topbox subscription. I stuck around for a few months after the price increase to see if it got better. Apparently I cancelled after 3 strikes.
I had initially been drawn to the unique cylindrical packaging of Topbox and thought I could use it for storage. But it turned out to be extremely impractical. I couldn’t stack the tubes like I could with my boxes. The circumference was just big enough for me to stick my hand in, and I have pretty small hands. That meant I couldn’t fit a lot of items in there when I tried to use them to organize my things. In the end, the only use I can find for them is to re-use as gift packaging. But it’s not even pretty enough to resemble a wrapped present.
In fact, some of the samples I received had to be crammed into the tube. I received a sheet mask sample that was curled up in order to fit inside. (As an aside, I also hate individual sheet mask samples. They are extremely inexpensive individually and you can’t see skincare effects after a single use.) Because of the size and shape of the tube, it’s guaranteed that you won’t receive large full-sized products, or multiple full-sized products.
I had not given Topbox a second thought until writing this post. I will admit that the hugely expanded brand list has piqued my interest once more, but I think I’ll dig around for reviews to see if the products have really changed that much. I am
100% sure highly doubtful I’d ever get Make Up For Ever, Shiseido, Benefit, and Shu Uemura all at the same time. Four small samples for $12 CAD plus tax really isn’t my cup of tea.
Before: a monthly subscription box with 4-5 samples for $10 CAD before taxes. In May 2012 Glymm indicated it was going green – by ditching the reuseable, recyclable pink cardboard boxes and including makeup bags instead. In June 2012 they announced a price increase to $12 CAD, but I believe current subscribers were kept at $10 CAD.
Now: Glymm is no more. In fact, there was a huge uproar because in April 2013, Glymm shut down abruptly after failing to deliver two months’ worth of boxes, taking down its website and social media pages overnight. Subscribers were left with no contact information and actually most didn’t find out until much later. Any subscribers on seasonal or annual memberships never received a refund.
My thoughts: My affair with Glymm was very short-lived. I was subscribed from March 2012 and I received my last box in June 2012. I had never been impressed with the tiny samples Glymm offered (I hate sample packets!). But “going green” by using makeup bags was a ridiculous notion. Don’t get me wrong, they’re sturdy, well-made bags (and I am still using them regularly), but I couldn’t figure out how it was supposed to be more environmentally friendly. Furthermore, how could they possibly afford the bags, even with a $2 price increase?!
With how it shut down, I’m glad I dodged that bullet well in advance.
Before: a monthly subscription box with 5-6 samples for $15 CAD, tax included. In October 2012 they announced a price increase to $21 CAD.
Now: Glossybox is no more. My heart breaks every time I think about it because I loved my Glossybox. They stopped shipping boxes in May 2013 and reimbursed all subscribers who had been charged for the May box and any who had longer-term subscriptions. They also left an email for subscribers to contact to resolve their accounts. Good job, Glossybox, for taking care of your subscribers.
My thoughts: I subscribed to Glossybox in March 2012, the second month it was in operation, and stayed until I got my last box in April 2013. I was always impressed with the contents of my boxes because they were chock-full of large full-sized products. My Glossybox was always very heavy and more often than not, I would receive 6 products instead of 5. I actually didn’t have any complaints about the $6 price increase because the value of the box I received was always much, much more. I still use all of my boxes for storage – they’re nice and sturdy.
I always bring up Glossybox in conversations because that was the one subscription I would still be subscribed to today. I’m pretty sure I mentioned it more than enough times already in this post.
In hindsight, it was very risky for me to sign up for a beauty box subscription that was so new and did not yet have a dependable record (more on this with Bondi). But I’m glad that Glossybox at least ended on a note much (much, much) sweeter than Glymm.
The good news (for everyone else) is that Glossybox is available in Austria, Brazil, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Poland, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
It makes me wonder why Glossybox wasn’t sustainable in Canada.
Unfortunately, the US Glossybox doesn’t ship to Canada. Of course I checked.
Here are some US beauty boxes that have made their way across the border: Ipsy, Beauty Box 5, and Wantable.
Hey, why is there no information on the Ipsy website? The only option is to “Become a Member”. Why would I want to become a member when I don’t know what I’m becoming a member of?!
Ipsy’s Glam Bag seems to contain 5 samples, with slight deviations depending on the product size. It costs $10 USD and shipping to Canada costs $4.95 USD. After conversion, it should still be well under $20 CAD so presumably, the Glam Bag wouldn’t be subject to customs or duty.
Some points given by Canadian Beauty Blogger, Kalyn Lord:
- Monthly “hints” dropped on Facebook/Ipsy blog before shipment
- Email deals and discounts for items of the month
- Previous boxes tracked on the Ipsy website for comparison
- Canadian boxes are shipped a few days earlier than US boxes to account for travel time
- Huge variety between boxes
- Referral service for free items!
- Makeup heavy (for some, this may be a “pro!”)
- Occasional drugstore-brand items included
Brands (I took the quiz just to find out what they listed, but WHY are they not in alphabetical order?): Bare Escentuals, Benefit, Bobbi Brown, Clinique, Cover Girl, E.L.F., Urban Decay, Josie Maran, Juice Beauty, Kiehl’s, Lancome, L’Oreal, MAC, Make Up For Ever, Maybelline, TheBalm, OPI, Philosophy, Stila, NYX, Smashbox, Tarte, Living Proof, Buxom, Kreastase, Butter London, YesTo, Lorac, Too Faced, Nails Inc, Fresh, Murad, Ahava, Origins, Carol’s Daughter, Neutrogena, Essie.
My thoughts: I’m just impressed they manage to include a bag at that price. It doesn’t seem as nice as the Glymm bag, though.
Beautybox5 (BB5) is a monthly subscription with 5 samples, costing $12 USD. Sales tax is only charged on shipments to Texas. BB5 doesn’t have an additional charge for Canadian shipping. After conversion, it is also still well under $20 CAD so BB5 wouldn’t be subject to customs or duty. There is also a quarterly membership for $30 USD every 3 months ($10 USD per box) and a yearly membership for $99 USD every year ($8.25 USD per box).
The subscription is automatically renewed unless you cancel before they charge your credit card. Any amount already paid upon cancellation is non-refundable, but you will be sent any boxes that you have paid for. If you are on a quarterly or yearly subscription and you cancel before the second box is shipped, you will get a refund minus $12 USD for the first box. If you cancel after the second box is shipped, your renewal will be cancelled but you will continue to receive the boxes for the rest of the subscription that you paid for.
BB5 does not directly sell the full-sized products of their samples. However, you will be directed to the best place to buy the products via BB5’s brands list, with discounts for its partner brands. This poses the same problem as Topbox (please refer above) – it really would be more economical to try to find the items locally in stores as best as you can.
You can give gift subscriptions, where you pay for a number of boxes and have BB5 send them to the recipient. In this case, neither the gifter nor recipient will be automatically charged for a subscription renewal. The available gifts are 3 for $30 USD, 6 for $60 USD, and 12 for $99 USD. This works out to be $10 USD per box and $8.25 USD per box for the 12-month gift.
Brands: All Natural Face, Aveeno, Bask, Becca, Bombshell, BellaPierre Cosmetics, Blinc, Blum Naturals, Bodography, Body Drench, Brazen Cosmetics, The Brush Guard, Cetaphil, City Lips, Comodynes Convenient Cosmetics, Coolway, Curles, Demeter Fragrance, EllisFass, Envie de Neuf, Every Beauty, Everyday Minerals, Evie Evan, Ferro Cosmetics, Fine Featherheads, Freeman, Furlesse, Goat Haus Dairy, Global Goddess, Hollyren, H. Wood. Beauty, H2O+, It’s a 10, Jean Pierre Cosmetics, Just Being Sexy, La Fresh, Lash Card, Lavera, Make Up Geek, Margania, MaskerAide, Merlot Skin Care, Minxxette, Model Co, Montagne Jeunesse, Nastassja Skin, Nubar, NuMe, Ofra, Pencil Me, Perfumies, Priti NYC, Pur-Lisse, Rosebud Perfume Co, Secret, Shea Terra Organics, Show Stoppers, Silk Naturals, Skiin, Skyn Iceland, Spongeables, Supergoop!, Swagger Cosmetics, SwissCo, Travals, Tree Hut, Weleda
My thoughts: I appreciate the lack of an additional charge for Canadian shipping, and I like that they offer the option for a refund after the first box for their long-term subscriptions. I’m less impressed by the brand list, but for the low price, I may be willing to give BB5 a try.
Wantable is a monthly subscription box with 4-5 full-sized beauty products, costing $36 USD per month. There is an additional $5 USD charge for shipping to Canada ($9 USD to Australia). Wantable includes the sales tax, import duties, and fees when you check out. The sales tax will be dependent on the province you are shipping to.
The neat thing about Wantable is that you are not limited to beauty products. You have the option of choosing an accessory box with 3-4 items, or an intimates box with 4-5 items. There are limited edition boxes with an assortment of items that you can choose instead – you can see all the items you would receive for these boxes. The questionnaire you fill out is reportedly much more detailed than the ones you fill out for the other subscription services (e.g. you can choose formulation of eyeliner, preferred colours, opt out of lip products, etc.).
The subscription is automatically renewed unless you cancel before they charge your credit card. You can skip the month or cancel the box at any time. You also have the option of purchasing a one-time box for $40 USD. You can also give a gift box for $40 USD.
International customers have the option to return their boxes in full, but you must pay for shipping. Handling costs are non-refundable.
I can’t seem to find a brand list on the website, but they do show subscribers’ photos of their Wantable boxes directly on the website if you want to see what past boxes looked like.
My thoughts: Although I appreciate the full-sized products, the hefty $36 USD + $5 USD + tax + duty is a huge risk for products I may not like. However, for some, the ability to customize the products in your box to a greater extent and the value of having 4-5 full-sized products may be appealing. Not to mention the ability to choose accessories or intimates, or to skip the box altogether. If only they would drop the additional international fees, I would be more open to considering Wantable.
Here are some US nail polish boxes that have made their way across the border: Julep, Square Hue, and Bondi Box.
When you become a “Julep Maven”, you subscribe to a monthly box costing $19.99 USD per month. There is no additional shipping cost to Canada. All boxes shipped to the state of Washington or New Jersey will be taxed. There are also quarterly, semi-annual, and annual subscriptions.
After taking a quiz, you are categorized into one of five different styles. The styles determine what you receive in your box: two full-sized beauty products, two polishes and a full-sized beauty product, or three polishes. The polishes are not full-sized – I believe they are 0.25 oz.
What makes Julep unique is that they send you a preview email on the 20th of each month so that you see what you will be receiving in your box. Before the 24th, you can choose to receive a different style box for other polish colours, send your box to a friend as a gift, or skip the month’s box and not have to pay for it. Julep charges your account and ships the boxes on the 27th of each month.
You can cancel at any time, but only via the phone. Your subscription is automatically renewed unless you cancel before they charge your credit card. Any amount already paid upon cancellation is non-refundable, but you will be sent any boxes that you have paid for.
There is a reward program where you can earn “Jules” by referring friends to Julep. Each referral brings you 1000 Jules. You can redeem a free Maven box for 2000 Jules. If you take three boxes in a row without skipping, you receive a promotional code to use on a free nail colour.
There is an online shop on the Julep website with nail polishes, featured beauty products, and gift sets for sale. Shipping for these items is free for all Mavens.
My thoughts: The Julep bottles are very unique and the hoarder in me wants one just for my collection. But although I do love nail polish, I don’t wear it often enough to justify paying $20 per month for new polishes when I have a drawer full of polishes already. Having read a few reviews of some of the beauty products included, I have to wonder at the quality of beauty products made by a nail polish brand. The flexibility of being able to skip boxes, gift boxes, and have five different style options to choose from is really appealing. Unless a beauty product really blows my mind, I would likely prefer the three polish box if I were to subscribe.
SquareHue is a monthly subscription for three full-sized 0.5 oz nail polishes. Most reviewers say that the box costs $21 USD per month, but it seems that there is a current special price for $14.99 USD per month. It costs an additional $9 USD to ship to Canada. Orders to Canada are not taxed, but you might have to pay customs and duty if the value of the goods are over $20 CAD. So if you are interested, definitely take advantage of the $14.99 USD offer.
Although SquareHue does not allow you to view your polishes beforehand, you do have the option of suspending or pausing your account so you don’t receive any boxes. Your subscription is automatically renewed unless you cancel before they charge your credit card. Any amount already paid upon cancellation is non-refundable, but you will be sent any boxes that you have paid for.
Surprisingly, SquareHue does allow refunds – at least according to their website. If you’re not completely satisfied, you can return it for a full refund, excluding shipping charges. The full box with all polishes must be returned in its original packaging within 15 days of receipt.
The polishes have a “5-Free” formula: they do not contain formaldehyde, toluene, DBP, camphor or formaldehyde resin.
My thoughts: Look how clean-cut the bottles are!
I am very attracted to the square-shaped nail polish bottles – they would make organization so easy. I appreciate the 5-free formula of these polishes and $14.99 USD for three full-sized “healthier” polishes actually isn’t bad. I am just extremely turned off by the high shipping cost (I’m turned off by any shipping costs, actually), since it would cost about $25 CAD after shipping and conversion. However, given that the polish sizes are double that of Julep, I would definitely consider SquareHue if I weren’t so abysmally broke.
Huh. Never mind, I guess?
Bondi had been offering a new subscription nail polish service with three full-sized polishes and a beauty gift for $19.99 USD. It launched in August 2013 and these polishes are also 5-free: they do not contain formaldehyde, toluene, DBP, camphor or formaldehyde resin.
I saw this subscription service in September and contemplated signing up. I had been most excited about this nail polish subscription because you could choose the polish colours to include in your box and also had the option to skip boxes as well. Upon reflection on what happened to Glymm, I decided to wait and see what reviews others subscribers had, first.
And boy am I glad I did – Canadian blogger Kalyn Lord had a whole lot of trouble with her subscription. She only received the August 2013 box. By the end of October, she hadn’t received either of her September and October boxes. I guess Bondi gave up for November. You can still purchase Bondi polishes on their website, though.
(So glad I never had troubles with Glossybox, even though I signed up in their second month of operation. Yes, Glossybox again.)
But Bondi polishes are still so very pretty. Square bottles!
Conscious Box features natural products. It says on its website that it is gearing up for shipping to Canada. Total Beauty Collections aren’t technically beauty boxes, but rather one-time packages you can purchase as you wish.
Assuming you get the baseline monthly subscription and get the maximum number of products for each service, below is a breakdown for the price of each product. We will assume a 13% HST tax on the boxes that have it. The current conversion rate is $1 USD to $1.05 CAD.
$26 + #3.38 tax = $29.38 CAD
divided by 8 samples = $3.67 CAD per sample
$12 + $1.56 tax = $13.56 CAD
divided by 4 samples = $3.39 CAD per sample
$10 + $4.95 shipping = $14.95 USD = $15.70 CAD
divided by 5 samples = $2.99 USD per sample = $3.14 CAD per sample
(you also get the bag)
Beauty Box 5
$12 + free shipping = $12 USD = $12.60 CAD
divided by 5 samples = $2.40 USD per sample = $2.52 CAD per sample
$36 + $5 = $41 USD + tax + duty = $43.05 CAD + 13% tax + duty = $48.65 CAD + duty
divided by 5 products = $9.73 CAD per product
(you are getting full-sized products)
$19,99 + free shipping = $19.99 USD = $20.99 CAD
divided by 3 samples = $6.66 USD per sample = $7.00 CAD per sample
$14.99 special + $9 shipping = $23.99 USD = $25.19 CAD
divided by 3 products= $8.00 USD per product = $8.40 CAD per product
(you are getting full-sized 0.5 oz polishes)
$21 regular + $9 shipping = $30 USD = $31.50 CAD
divided by 3 products = $10 USD per product = $10.50 CAD per product
(you are getting full-sized 0.5 oz polishes)
That was seriously exhausting, but at least now everything is up to date. So what do you think? Have you subscribed to any beauty boxes? Will you now?
(Image sources: loosebutton.com, topbox.ca, whatwouldargenplathpay.wordpress.com, formerly glymm.com, formerly glossybox.ca, ipsy.com, mysubscriptionaddiction.com, beautybox5.com, girlmeetsbox.com, wantable.com, bowsandcurtseys.com, julep.com, beautifulgoodies.wordpress.com, squarehue.com, seeshoplove.blogspot.ca, bondinewyork.com)