Try before you buy: pampering by post
There are some stunning beauty products out there, but the range can be eye-watering. A monthly subscription box is a great way to try before you buy, says Livvi Alderson-Tuck, who tests a selection.
Glossybox: £10 per month, Glossybox
At £10 a month, this beauty subscription service is one of the cheapest we tested, However, the products within are anything but. All five received were full sized - ranging from a facial cleanser to an eye shadow primer and a liquid liner - from brands such as Steve Laurant, Laqa & Co and Naobay, making Glossybox the ideal choice for those wanting to discover brands you can't find in your local Boots. You can also provide your beauty profile when you subscribe, meaning the products sent are tailored to your skin type and colouring. The 'infocard' provided gives you top tips on how to use the products and also details the RRP so you can see what great value you are getting for your £10 a month (the box we sampled was worth £70). All these goodies come in a beautiful keepsake box too. Available in three, six or 12-month plans.
Cohorted: £35 per month, Cohorted
Cohorted was the most expensive beauty box we tried, at £35 per month. While pricier, Cohorted is ideal for those beauty aficionados wanting to try out the latest cult products before committing to investing. Hand packaged in stylish black boxes with ribbon, Cohorted offers five products - the majority full sized from well-known brands as well as those just arriving on the beauty scene. Among products we received were the TooFaced Melted Liquified Lipstick, the Tarte Tarteist Lipgloss and Lancome's Multi-Correcting Serum. A glossy magazine is included too. The box value often amounts to around £100. Cohorted offers a running subscription that can easily be cancelled.
Sisley Paris: £35 for 6 months or £70 for 12 months, Sisley Paris
If you are one of those people who are always emptying their bank account to try the new wonder cream, only to find out it irritates your skin, then this is a must buy. Each month five samples from its luxury skincare collections are sent to your home. This service just includes products from Sisley and each box focuses on a different theme though, such as anti-ageing, floral-based products or protection against the cold, wintry weather. Sample-sized, this is the best way to test the cleansers, serums and moisturisers to see if they suit your skin type.
Birchbox: £10 per month or £110 for 12 months, Birchbox
A great option for those who are yet to try out a beauty box subscription service, Birchbox is an affordable way to test out some of the best new products on the market. There is always at least one full sized product included, with well-known brands such as Nip & Fab, Rituals, Benefit and EcoTools making regular appearances. Birchbox also has a great website where you can read more about the brands and products included, as well as choosing between options for your next box so you can tailor it to your personal preferences. There's the option to rebuy products you have tried with discounts exclusive to Birchbox subscribers, too.
Look Fantastic: one-off box £15 or £13 per box for 12 months, Look Fantastic
This is the best box for discovering new but affordable brands and products. Each month, Look Fantastic includes six items as well as a copy of Elle Magazine. We received skincare from HydraActiv, a lip colour from MDMflow and a cleanser from Suki, among others. While it focuses more on skincare, body and bath rather than beauty, it was the only box we tried that also included a collaboration product with another brand - a festive bath bomb designed with Bubble Tea. All the products sampled are available to buy on the website, too, with a £5 discount.
Latest in Beauty: six products for £15 a month, Latest in Beauty
If complete surprises aren't your thing, Latest in Beauty is a brilliant option that gives you the best of both worlds; each month you can log on to the website to see that month's curated selection before building your own box, choosing which three, six or nine products (depending on your subscription choice) you want included in your box. So while you are still exploring new products and brands, you have control over what you receive. The range includes bath products, make-up, nail varnishes, make-up bags and many more from brands such as Burts Bees, Revlon, OPI and Simple. With a new product added every day, you know that you will be getting a first look at what is new to the beauty market. This is one of the only beauty boxes that offers free delivery. Latest in Beauty is ideal for anyone wanting to try something different, without having to buy any unwanted products.
Pink Parcel: £12.99 per box, Pink Parcel
This is specifically designed to help with your period as you create a profile selecting your preferred products and brands, and you can choose from big names such as Tampax, Lilets and Always. Every month, you will receive all the products you need to see you through your cycle, along with some treats to perk you up, from soothing teabags, indulgent chocolate and beauty products such as a Glamazon highlighter stick, Lipcote lip balm, Swiss Clinic sanitising spray and more. At less than £13 per month and with free delivery, you can almost look forward to your period rather than dread it. There is also an online support network, connecting you with women to talk about periods, beauty and everything in between.
Powder: from £40-£50, Powder
If you want to discover new products but don't want to commit to a rolling subscription, Powder beauty boxes are for you. This brand builds seasonal packages (such as the summer edition including all the products you need to get ready for your holidays; St Tropez tan, Lacoste scent and beach hair spray) that you can buy on a one-off basis. It also collaborates with other brands to create unique boxes. For example, the Nars Powder Box includes a huge range of bestsellers in sample sizes, as well as newly launched products. The price of a box depends on which one you opt for, but with amazing brands such as Sleek, Ren, Chloe, and Bare Minerals included, you are always getting great value for money. The current winter season edition includes 12 beauty products worth £145.
Look Incredible: £25 per box, Look Incredible
With five full-sized products per box, this box ensures your make-up bag is full of new bits to try that will last until the next one comes round. It is one of the pricier ones we tested, but with brands such as YSL, MAC, Bobbi Brown and Clinique on its books, you can bet your box will be filled with high-quality and luxurious products. As a relatively new brand on the market, this is a great option if you're looking for a change.
For its unbeatable value and brilliant selection of high-quality and exciting products, Glossybox comes out on top as our Best Buy. However, if you're willing to splurge, Cohorted's luxury box is hard to beat.