Currently, I subscribe to two beauty boxes per month; Sephora Play! ($10) and Boxycharm’s base box ($25).

I think of beauty boxes like gambling – My limit is $35 per month. I fully understand I could get some really good products and some really crappy ones. Fortunately, my coworkers, friends, and family members enjoy the items I pass along. I love sharing so it’s a win-win.

Sephora Play! is a cheaper thrill ($10/month) I don’t mind receiving each month. It’s true – the products are often tiny and repeats from previous months. Sephora also stopped sending little coupon cards that gave you 50 points if you made a purchase that month. However, they did once send a 20% off any foundation product. I hold out hope they’ll include coupons again.

I feel Sephora Play is worth it. The samples are from well-known brands. Even a small sample can often be stretched for a month (or more!). Receiving multiple Stila eyeliners or Bite beauty minis isn’t the most exciting, but they’re practical, quality items I use a lot.

Boxycharm is a lot of fun. I pre-pay for three months at a time for $70. There are also many variations, but you can now choose one item each month. I’ve received three boxes, and, while I don’t like all five(ish) products per month, there’s at least two with high retail values that I love and use daily. I don’t plan to upgrade to the more expensive tiers.

I subscribed to Allure via Amazon for only a few months. The products felt less high quality and many had no safety seals. What prompted me to cancel were all self-tanning products and receiving cheap samples instead of the advertised high-end products.

Between my Sephora Play and reward samples, and gifts-with-purchases, here are three products that I actually bought in full-size.

Boxycharm sends larger products and I haven’t used one up yet. Update to come. 

Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm ($30) and Make-up Remover ($19.50)

While Youtubers often mention the cleansing balm as a favorite, I think I actually like the liquid remover, better. Now that I wear tubing mascara and avoid glitter eyeshadow, I don’t struggle so much with eye make-up removal anymore.

Besides removing eye makeup without rubbing or tugging, I love that this never irritates my sensitive eyes. The balm lasts a a very long time. With some luck, you can catch the products on occasional sales. I think Sephora or Ulta featured it in a holiday sale. I also bought it half-price at Macy’s.

I’ve gone through half the bottle (4.2 oz) in about three months.

Nordstroms offers free shipping and frequent gifts-with-purchases for Clinique at lower amounts (under $30). The GWPs I’ve received included good-sized samples of skin care products, great for traveling. I also like how the products are unscented – but I don’t like that the company isn’t cruelty-free.

GlamGlow Glowstarter Mega Illuminating Moisturizer in Nude Glow ($49)

I’m not going to pretend like I know if this is best in class – it’s not cheap. But, it works for me. I have dry skin and don’t find this gel-like product particularly moisturizing. However, it adds a healthy glow (no tin-man look) and mixes well with with foundations. I tried the supposed dupe L’Oreal Lumi Glotion and hated it so much I returned to this one. L’Oreal’s was even more drying than GlamGlow’s and turned my foundations into cement when I tried to mix them. The scent reminds me of orange sherbet.

The full-size has lasted me at last nine months +.

Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask ($20)

Minnesota winters are dry AF. Especially when you have drier skin like me. I’ve gone through so many lip balms hoping one would prevent peeling and cracking. This is the most effective product I’ve found so far (the old Bite Beauty lip mask worked well for me but I hear they re-formulated without lanolin). It doesn’t do that thing where it dries out my lips and makes me want to re-apply more and more often.

I can not live without this product. After many months, the tiny sample I got in my Sephora Play box is finally running out, so I just ordered a full-size. I slather it on before I go to bed and put on a thin layer as I get ready in the mornings.

Always curious to hear about people’s beauty box experiences and product recommendations.