Beauty by subscription

Subscriptions aren't just for magazines and bacon-of-the-month clubs.

Mail-order beauty and grooming services have cropped up, not just to deliver the slather-and-lather necessities to your door, but also to provide a curated collection of surprises.

The concept has pluses (even your favorite exfoliating scrub gets dull after a while) and minuses (you don't know what's coming, and there's no guarantee you'll love what you receive).

Here's a peek inside the boxes. Prices include shipping.

Birchbox

How it works: Launched in New York for women in 2010 and men in 2013, Birchbox sends out four to five samples in skin, hair and other nongrooming categories — even socks and tech accessories — tailored to subscribers' profiles. Full-size versions of the products sampled are sold on birchbox.com, which also has a magazine offering tips.

Sample box: Eyeko Skinny Liquid Eyeliner, Color Club Custom nail polish, Supergoop SPF 37 Advanced Anti-Aging Eye Cream, Benefit Ultra Radiance Facial Re-hydrating Mist, Klorane Dry Shampoo. 

Cost: $10 per month, or $110 for a one-year women's subscription; $20 per month, or $195 for a 1-year men's subscription.

The catch: The one-year subscription cannot be canceled or refunded. The month-to-month subscription can be canceled at any time. The website offers limited information if you aren't registered.

A perk: You earn a point for every dollar you spend on a full-size product. After you hit 100 points, you can put those points toward a future purchase. 100 points = $10.

Limited editions: Birchbox regularly does specialty boxes, including an upcoming collaboration with the USA Network show "Suits," whose Season 3 premiere is July 16.

Glossybox

How it works: Founded in Berlin a little over a year ago, Glossybox promises a minimum of five trial-size premium beauty items, a blend of household names and obscure brands. The selection is tailored to user profiles, wrapped in printed tissue paper with a silky ribbon, and sent in a glossy pink box. Full-size versions of products are also sold on glossybox.com.

Sample box: My Prime Multi-Purpose Mattifying Moisturizer, European Wax Center Slow IT Body Lotion, Epionce Intense Defense Anti-Aging + Repair Serum, Xtreme Lashes Glideliner eye pencil, ModelCo Lip Duo lipstick and ultra shine lip gloss, and Sebastian Professional Volupt Spray.

Cost: ·$21 per month; $60 for three months; $115 for six months; $220 for a year.

The catch: Not everyone receives the exact same lineup of products, so you may miss out on an eyeliner or perfume that other reviewers raved about.

A perk: Glossybox.com lets you see user reviews of boxes and individual products without registering.

Limited editions: The June "American Beauty" box features a collaboration with illustrator Dallas Shaw and includes six fragrance mini-sprays from Oscar de la Renta's Essential Luxuries collection in a satin pouch; c. Booth Honey Almond Nourishing Dry Oil Mist; a Tarte complexion-enhancing lipstick; and other unnamed items to keep you in suspense.

Vitacost Be Pretty Box

How it works: Contains one to three products, sometimes full size, some sample size, valued at up to $70. Products are culled from 40,000 SKUs and approximately 10,000 partner brands already sold on vitacost.com (whereas some other beauty boxes assemble products from outside their stable).

Sample box: Out of Africa Organic Shea Butter bar mini-soaps, Desert Essence Age Reversal Revitalizing Eye Serum, Coral Actives Complete Acne Cleanser and Serum Gel Therapy System, Juice Organics PomBerry Lip Amplifier.

Cost: $13.99 per box, including shipping, at vitacost.com/be-box. Does not require a monthly subscription, although customers can opt for automatic replenishment.

The catch: Not everyone receives the same items. The contents become available for view only after they sell out or the next box becomes available.

Perks: Each box includes a coupon for a future purchase. Reviews of boxes are visible without registering.

Other editions: Vitacost sells other "Be" boxes, including Be Fit, Be Well and Be Strong.

wdonahue@tribune.com

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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