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Repeats in beauty boxes - what you need to know

Want to subscribe to a monthly beauty box or tempted to buy a makeup or skincare mystery bundle? Beware. You may end up with products you’ve already got or wouldn’t use in a million years. If you want to avoid disappointment, there are some simple steps you can take to ensure your hard-earned money gets you more of what you really want.

We’ve all seen them - unboxing videos that reveal beauty blender after beauty blender. You can never have enough of them, right? Wrong. It’s probably the most boring thing you can unwrap when your mind is primed to be surprised with a new eyeshadow palette, blush or cleanser. But what about the brands that just can’t help sending out the same old cosmetics and beauty tools month after month? And, more importantly, what can you do about it?

Beauty blenders, a staple of the subscription beauty box

Before we discuss the perils of the ever-popular mystery bundle, let’s take a look at monthly beauty box subscriptions.

Repeats in beauty boxes - subscriptions

It’s supposed to be a monthly surprise. You sign up for a monthly Direct Debit and, in return, you receive brand-new beauty products, delivered to your door, once every calendar month. This type of subscription promises to introduce you to new and exciting brands as well as let you sample iconic products. 

The truth is that repeats in beauty boxes are quite common. The longer you subscribe, the more likely it is that you will get the same ‘surprise’ twice. Or three times. Or, maybe, even more.

How do I know this? Because I’ve been caught out myself and am never stumped to find an influencer who has multiple numbers of the same products. They are often mundane items, too. Like the aforementioned beauty blender!

So, what can you do to avoid ending up with stuff you just don’t want? Or products that do not match the value stated in promotional material?

Subscription beauty box and contents

Before you subscribe to a beauty box, find out if the brand offers a one-off box option. Then do a little research. Is there an online reveal of what that month’s box contains? Can you choose the items you will receive? Like what you see or the options to customise a box? Go ahead and buy, but don’t subscribe.

Can't find a one-off purchase option but still want to sign up? Go for the shortest subscription period, so you can monitor what you are getting for your money. If things start to feel a bit ‘samey’ during that period, you will know it is not worth continuing with a longer subscription.

Already tied to a longer period of Direct Debits? Fed up with repeats? Complain and cancel. Be aware that your subscription may not end immediately. For example, your request may be made just as a box is about to be dispatched or is already on its way to you. Take time to read the Terms and Conditions before signing up and before you cancel. You may be tied in for longer than you think. If you don't plan to continue a subscription once it ends, make sure your subscription doesn't automatically renew.

Told you can’t cancel?

If you have repeatedly received the same or similar products, or if the boxes don't offer the value promised, you may have a case for cancelling a subscription before it is due to expire. Check posting timelines and, if you are satisfied you are not imminently due another box, contact your bank and request that payments are stopped immediately. If more people did this, beauty brands would be less inclined to fob customers off with duplicate box contents. 

If you have trouble cancelling a box, get free legal advice from Citizens Advice or similar. Use review tools like TrustPilot to warn others of the problems you have encountered.

Some beauty boxes are better than others. In the US, for example, consumers often benefit from full-size and exclusive collab products. The Eyescream box is a prime example. In the UK, with the exception of PLouise and one or two others, it’s trial sizes all the way. Don’t be fooled by the word ‘deluxe’; it means small!

Always check that the value of your box is not based on the price of full-size products - if it contains mostly sample sizes. At the end of the day, someone is making a profit out of your monthly beauty fix. 

A woman pressing the pause button on a beauty subscription offer
Press 'Pause' and do some research before committing yourself to a monthly subscription. Ask yourself: will I use all the products I receive?

Repeats in mystery boxes

Because mystery boxes are often one-off, irregular purchases, it is harder to gauge what you might get in one. Some brands release a box a few times a year while others may pump them out on a more regular basis. While often representing fantastic value for money with huge savings, they can get repetitive. 

A mystery bundle is a good idea if you are new to a brand and want to sample full-sized products. Boxes often contain goods worth well in excess of £60 for an outlay of around £30 or less. Just be aware, you may get the same products twice - if you order more than one box. It is a chance you take, and there is nothing you can do about it.

Beauty Mystery Box from W7
The contents of a Mystery Box from W7, but there is no guarantee you will get completely different products if you buy a second box

Don’t buy a box based on online reveals. Contents can vary wildly. Just because someone received a huge palette doesn’t mean you will get one. The reality is, you could end up with stuff you are never going to use. 

Already a customer of the brand? Be prepared to receive something you already own. Contents of mystery boxes can be repeats of not just other boxes but products in advent calendars and bundles.

Bought a box last month and now there’s a new one? Feel pressured into buying because there’s ‘limited supply’? It may be worth taking a step back. I got sucked in by this sales tactic very recently - and lived to regret it. In this case, three items in the first box were repeated in the second - an eyeshadow palette, blush and highlighter. All products that I am not going to use up in just a few weeks. 

Never buy a mystery bundle hoping that it will contain a specific product. Bite the bullet, avoid the surprise element and just buy the item you want. 

Flash highlighter by Beauty Bay
Beauty Bay included this Flash highlighter in 'new' mystery boxes released in February and March. Its 9-pan Berries palette was also repeated

In a nutshell

Beauty boxes are often surrounded by a ton of hype. The mystery box, while definitely offering better value for money compared to most subscriptions, is unlikely to contain a brand’s newest products. Some brands cram their boxes with clearance lines or or include too many small items like single brushes, blenders and face masks. Very disappointing if the box contains a pre-determined number of items.

Research is key to getting more of what you want. It is also worth resisting pressure sales tactics and pausing before parting with your bank card details or hitting the PayPal button. 

Bottom line… If you love being surprised and don’t mind the odd repeat, sign up for a subscription or buy a mystery box. Hoping for specific products and definitely don’t want any repeats? Completely avoid repeats in beauty boxes by saving up and hauling what you really want at regular intervals during the year. 

Disclaimer: Seek independent legal advice if you are having trouble cancelling a subscription. Always patch-test new beauty products before using them on your face.

Beauty Bay Ultimate Mystery Box review graphic

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