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Beauty box alternatives in a cost of living crisis

Updated: Jan 11

A woman opening a subscription beauty box

When money is tight, subscriptions are often top of the list for direct debit cancellations - and the beauty box is no exception. In fact, it is one of the first to go when essential household bills have to take priority.

But getting out of a subscription can be a difficult as well as frustrating experience, as many consumers have highlighted on review sites such as Trustpilot.

The UK's overall subscription market was estimated to be worth in excess of £1.3 billion following the pandemic. According to research by logistics specialists Whistl, 81% of households are signed up to at least one subscription service. However, the continuing cost of living crisis has forced more and more people to review regular outgoings.

While a monthly delivery of beauty products may seem like a welcome treat, it can also become a real financial burden.

So, what's the alternative?

Say 'no' to the beauty box

A woman worried about the cost of living crisis

Unless you've got money to burn, just don't get reeled in. No matter how tempting the initial offer, think of the bigger picture. Will you be able to comfortably absorb an ongoing payment? How likely are you to use everything you receive? Also, remember some beauty boxes:

  • Represent poor value for money

  • Contain itsy bitsy, trial-size products

  • Become 'samey', with repeat deliveries of mundane items such as makeup sponges

  • Won't always include products you will use

This type of subscription is also bad for the environment. It represents waste - not just in terms of packaging but also in terms of products that simply end up in the bin.

It's worth bearing in mind that the 'value' of a box and any listed savings may be based on the price of full sized products, not the teenie weenie ones sent out in boxes. See? Check the smallprint.

Of all the beauty boxes we have viewed this year, few represented good value for money. While more are allowing subscribers to choose which items they want to receive, the options are still limited.

One of the biggest draws of the beauty box is that it exposes consumers to new brands and new products. That's a good thing, but you don't need a subscription to discover something different.

Beauty box alternatives

Instead of subscribing to a monthly treat, why not purchase a one-off beauty box? High street retailer Next offers a good range of options - from high-end skincare to essential make-up items.

Another alternative is a mystery box. Budget beauty brand W7 has won glowing reviews for its £19.99 and £29.99 boxes.

Many premium skincare brands now offer single trial-size products away from 'travel' and 'mini' collections. A good place to look for these is Sephora UK.

Or... Why not create your own beauty box?

With branded beauty boxes starting at around £13, we put together a beauty haul with a budget of just £10.

For that, we got:

  • UCanBe's 18 shade Twilight eyeshadow palette - £4.79

  • Beauty Forever Diamond lip gloss, full size - £1.99

  • 7th Heaven Cucumber Face Mask with juiced lime and pressed jasmine - 79p

  • Face Facts Hydrating Facial Scrub with aloe vera, full size - £1.29

  • So…? Iconic body fragrance spray, 75ml - 99p

And, guess what? We still had some change!

DIY beauty box

While a DIY beauty box may not contain all-premium brands, you will end up with products you want and will use - and they will last longer than simple trial sizes.

Benefits of creating your own beauty bundle

Why not set a budget and shop around? The great thing about creating your own beauty haul is that you are in control. You decide what you get, how big each item is and, importantly, the brands. The biggest bonus is that you are not tied into a monthly payment. You can create your own beauty box every two months instead of every month or even choose to treat yourself on a quarterly basis or when your budget allows. It's up to you.

Searching for offers and new products is easy online. Use search filters to hone the results and don't be afraid to browse by price.

To sum up, if money’s tight, dump the beauty box and avoid signing up for another one. Buy a one-off from the high street, treat yourself to a mystery box or simply build your own, budget beauty bundle.

Looking for a bargain or two? Don’t forget to sign up to our newsletter for the very latest beauty deals or follow us on X (formerly Twitter).

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