Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Ipsy vs Sephora Play

(I wanted to call this Battle of the Boxes, except that Ipsy doesn't actually come in a box, darnit. The literalness of my mind strikes again.)

I've had an Ipsy subscription for about a year, and I've enjoyed it. Everybody knows the deal, more or less, right? Pretty much the same as Birchbox - you pay $10 a month including shipping, and you get five good-sized samples - instead of Birchbox's sixth random item you get a little makeup bag for your samples, different every month. Occasionally you may get a full-sized item. (I can remember two items offhand that were definitely full-sized - a dry shampoo and a NOPI polish.) The items you get are supposed to be tailored to you but I still can't tell you to what degree that actually happens - in a year I got exactly two nail polishes, for example. But I did get a lot of other stuff that I liked, and the stuff that I don't like I give away, and it basically seems to me to be worth the money. I did try out Birchbox one month but it didn't seem to me to be particularly better. So I'm still getting Ipsy but I'm kind of on the fence about it, partly because I see what other people get and it seems to me that other people's stuff is better than mine - a time-tested recipe for discontent, right?

Now comes Sephora's version. This is the first official month, although I heard there have been tests before now. It's still sort of in limited release - people in three cities in the northeast quadrant of the country can get it (Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Boston, maybe?) and for everybody else, you can get on a waitlist, and I don't have any sense of how fast they're working through that list. But I have bought a bunch of stuff from Sephora lately, and because of that, maybe - they didn't actually say so - I got an invitation by e-mail, so of course I had to try it. Same price, but instead of the bag you get a 6th item.

So it showed up yesterday, and here's the big unboxing.

This is the side-view of the shipping box.

It's a box in a box, of course, I guess because most people are used to the Birchbox formula. (Ipsy comes in a padded mailer, and is always just fine, but I also guess that's why you rarely get anything that's in a glass container, like perfume, or nail polish.)

So there's a little bit of padding on top of the inner box, and when you pull that out you get the inner box, which looks like this:
Which I have to admit is pretty adorable. I don't know if the design is the same for every month, or if they change - not exactly a big issue for me either way!

Here's what you see when you lift the lid:
This is a booklet, which I have to admit I haven't looked at in detail yet. It seemed to have info on each product. There's a card in the back of it that's good for 50 Insider points if you show up at the Sephora counter with it, though! I think they are supposed to be able to answer any questions you have, too. And implied in this is something that matters to me, to some degree - everybody gets the same items, evidently. Like I said, this is one of my points of dissatisfaction with Ipsy. Some months I feel like they just throw in whatever they have left, and it doesn't necessarily seem to have much to do with what your preferences are.

Back to the unboxing - the next layer is cute matching tissue:
and under that, of course, is the main event:
So we have a Nirvana White perfume sample (which works out for me because I have a small Nirvana Black bottle already - a purse-size, that is - and it occurred to me lately that I didn't even know what Nirvana White smelled like); a lip-stain from Sephora Collection, a Bumble & Bumble hair oil, a Glamglow cleanser, and on the bottom row, a Marc Jacobs eyeliner and some Ole Henrickson "Sheer Transformation" moisturizer.

Here's the eyeliner:
It's black - I don't remember the color name but I remember thinking it was a cute name, for what that's worth. (Added: it's "Blacquer.") It's supposed to stay put really well, which is a factor that's important for me with my super-sensitive eyes - if I wear stuff around my eyes, I need it to stay there and not be in my eyes, y'know?

It's all stuff that I will try, for sure. I tried the lip-stain already and I really like it - the color is Peony, I remember that one. Moisturizer and cleanser are always good, perfume samples are good, I have no gripe with the product selection.

So now we come to the battle of box vs. bag - Sephora Play on the top and Ipsy on the bottom:
I talked about the Ipsy bag to some degree in the last entry (down at the bottom) but I didn't have pictures yet. So it's red nail polish which I really like, hand and body lotion which I will use, a brush which I will probably use, the Nyx eyeshadows which I will probably try - but it's certainly nicer than what you usually get! - and the fifth thing is a shadow pencil which I already have one of in a different color. I'll probably give at least that one away. The hand lotion is Not Soap, Radio which I haven't tried before, and it smells good. So on the whole it's far better than the usual Ipsy bag - but I'm cancelling Ipsy, anyway, at least for now. (Ipsy does not make it super-easy to cancel, either, and Netflix can tell you that I am known to cancel and resubscribe to things repeatedly, so they might ought to re-think that. But at least they don't make you call, which would be the kiss of death. Anybody that makes you call to cancel, I will never deal with again.)

(Oh, and I do actually think this month's actual Ipsy bag is kind of cute - the little leatherette thing - but I now have 12 of these bags so I don't think I need any more for a while.)

Isn't it a bit ironic that Ipsy sent me Formula X polish, which is only available at Sephora? I'm inclined to think that was probably one of the leftovers from past months, before Sephora became one of their immediate competitors. (I don't know who put up the money behind Ipsy, but I suspect they just can't quite keep up with the purchasing mojo of Sephora. We'll see how this goes in the future.)

So - to sum up - Sephora Play wins for now. I'm not entirely sure that I will keep on with that in the long haul, either, partly because I feel like a lot of things that Sephora sells are kind of out of my price range. The items I've bought that are out of Ipsy bags are mostly not terribly cheap, either, but Sephora is definitely higher-priced, overall. I bought a $40 moisturizer but that's at the top end of reasonable, to me. I'm sure not buying a $75 one. (I don't know how much the Ole Henrickson one is, actually, but that's how much the Philosophy one was that I already had a sample of. For TWO OUNCES.)

A point in Ipsy's favor, now that I think about it, is that you don't always get the brands you're already used to seeing - they make you try new things, and many of them are good. Everything that I've bought because of the samples (there's three items listed here, and I've bought one more since then) were new brands to me, and I liked them.

(I just looked and the lip-stain is $14, which is not too bad. I assume we'll have a fair amount of Sephora-brand items in the mix, which helps a bit.)

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