I signed up for a new (to me) beauty subscription service called Choix a couple of months ago, so I thought I would post a review. This is a subscription that allows you to choose five high-end products a month, and they create small samples of them for you.
I bought my subscription kind of impulsively, but while I was briefly researching the service, I didn't find a lot of reviews from people who hadn't been given the boxes by the company. Most of the time I think reasonable people can give objective reviews of products they received for free, but in this case, when considering whether or not the service is worth the cost, I think it makes a difference if you're paying for it yourself. Up front, I will say that for me it's worth $10 a month, because I bought a discounted annual subscription for $120. But $20 a month, the regular price, would be too much (ETA: see note below on price). Nevertheless, I can see why Choix might cost more than other subscription boxes like Birchbox or Ipsy, even though the sample sizes are fairly small. Instead of getting most of the products for free from the brands and then just sticking them in a box, Choix is (I assume) buying products to sample, and then there is the equipment and packaging costs required to create the samples, as well as the labor involved.
ETA: The price has been lowered permanently to $15 a month.
I suspect most people will either think that it's ridiculous to pay money for small samples of products, many of which you could get for free at Sephora or a department store, or will think it's a brilliant idea. Either that or you will be like me and start out with the first view and eventually move closer to the second. In fact, a lot of the products you can request couldn't easily be taken home as samples from stores, like the powder products, for instance. In addition, you may live far from a mall and not have much opportunity to even swatch products on a regular basis (like me). Of course, you can only try out the actual product--you won't get a sense of the packaging from these samples. That is totally fine with me, because I prefer to avoid being seduced by a pretty tube or compact. It makes it easier to filter out the bullshit--I don't care much about my makeup being luxurious. I want it to be functional. Another part of the appeal for me, due to my bizarre interests, I suppose, is to be able to compare high-end stuff with my usual products, which tend to be drugstore or mid-end (that's not a word!). Both to avoid buying dupes, and also just because I'm curious.
The range of brands available from Choix is a bit limited now (you can see the list on their site under "Shop"). The majority are designer brands--i.e. makeup branded with the name of a fashion house or designer, but there are some others like Nars, Hourglass, Bobbi Brown, Laura Mercier, and Benefit. I hope they will eventually add more brands that I would put in the same category as Benefit, like Urban Decay, Tarte, or Too Faced.
Here's what the shipping box looks like when you first open it:
And here at the contents of my April box:
|The bits of white fuzz come from the packing material. They are impossible to remove for a pretty picture, but they don't get into the products.|
(I'll add a cut here, because this is going to be a long post. I'm going to review the subscription as a concept as well as (briefly) the individual products from my first two boxes. Lots of photos!)
Along with the samples themselves, they send disposable applicators (in the purple sleeve), I suppose because they are supposed to be creating "your personal makeup counter." Some of them are useful, like the doe-foot applicator for the lipstick, but I really didn't need a couple of q-tips, and that tiny, stiff plastic brush is utterly useless for finishing powder.
As you can see, different types of products get different treatment. The powders and lipsticks are broken up and then melted down/pressed into metal pans.
I wondered if this process might affect their consistency, but I went to Sephora after getting my first box, and the Nars blush and Hourglass powder seem the same as the full-size products.
The concealer is in a tiny doe foot tube.
And the Guerlain sample consisted of a few broken balls and a lot of debris.
I find the sample sizes to be pretty generous. They say that you will get at least one use out of them, but the lipstick, Hourglass powder, and blush will probably give me more than half a dozen applications, and the concealer and pearls contain enough for many, many more uses than that. Obviously how long they last will depend on how much product you use and how many layers you want or need to apply.
I didn't swatch the Guerlain pearls or the Hourglass powder, because my camera is not sensitive enough to pick up something that subtle on my pasty skin. I'm glad I was able to test Diffused Light, though, because I've been curious about it for a long time and almost bought it on a couple of occasions. I don't notice any remarkable effects when using it. I was hoping it would help with redness, as it claims to do, but I haven't seen any improvement there. It's an ok finishing powder, I suppose, but nothing special. Maybe, Like Nars Light Reflecting powder, the flattering effects are apparent in photos, but not in person.
I've gone back and forth on the Guerlain pearls. The first couple of times I tried them, I didn't notice anything other than a little sparkle in direct sunlight. But when I used them over the Armani foundation (described below) the coolness of the powder seemed to counteract the overly warm color of the foundation. I also didn't feel the need to do any highlighting, which I usually do after applying a full face of foundation to add some dimension back to my features. But maybe that was the foundation? More research is needed! (ETA: I took before and after photos and posted them on Instagram, so you tell me? I think the difference is about the same in person as in the photo.) I ended up transferring the balls into a larger jar, because you can't get a decent brush into that container in the photo above, which is about the diameter of a quarter. And note that the violet scent lingers on your face as you're wearing the powder, so you have to be okay with that.
You can see a comparison swatch of Nars Chantilly in this post. It's too pale and maybe too cool for me. It's very thick and pigmented, so you only need to use a tiny bit, but I found that it didn't help the weird under-eye texture problems I have (described/photographed in this post). I won't be picking this one up.
Here is a comparison of Nars Orgasm blush (left) and one of my favorite blushes, Wet N Wild Pearlescent Pink (right), which I've often seen called a dupe for Orgasm:
As you can see, they're not close at all. Orgasm is a cooler pink and gets its slight peachiness mainly from the gold shimmer. Pearlescent Pink is rosier and warmer and more pigmented. Orgasm seems to be composed entirely of pink and gold shimmer (in fact, I briefly wondered if I'd got Super Orgasm by mistake), while the Wet N Wild blush is fairly matte pink base with some gold shimmer in it. I really prefer Pearlescent Pink--the color is much more flattering on me, it's not as glittery, and it's more pigmented (without being difficult to use). Certainly not dupes, but I don't believe I'm missing out on anything with my cheap shit here.
I love the color of the Nars Audacious Lipstick in Audrey, a rosy plum. I don't love the formula, though, other than how very opaque it is. It's pretty drying and wears off in an unattractive way. Anyone know of dupes in a different formula?
Here are some comparison swatches. I didn't really have much like it. The e.l.f. $1 lipstick in Posh is close in color, but much sheerer.
|Swatches (left to right) of Nars Audacious Lipstick in Audrey, e.l.f. Essential Lipstick in Posh, Maybelline Creamy Matte Lipstick in Touch of Spice, and Revlon Matte Balm in Sultry.|
I got Benefit They're Real eyelash primer, Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation in shade 2, Burberry eyeshadow in Rosewood, Yves Saint Laurent Tint-in-Oil in Drive Me Copper (what does that mean?), and Shiseido eyebrow pencil in Ash Blond.
Here are the applicators they send this round:
There are obvious limitations to this sort of sampling. For instance, with mascara, the brush often makes it or breaks it as much as the formula. As you can see, for the Benefit lash primer, they sent a nice, spiky plastic brush, but they're not the signature death spikes you get with They're Real. For me, that's a bonus--the brush worked great and I hate the actual Benefit brush. But you're only going to get part of the picture here.
The Benefit eyelash primer works really well under my Covergirl waterproof mascara (reviewed here). It would work nicely as a medium brown mascara on its own, too. I have to admit, though, I don't really get the point of eyelash primers. How is it any different from just starting with a layer of a (different) mascara? Just because it's not black?
The Armani foundation was packaged in a clicky-pen with a silicone nib, which is my most hated type of packaging. But I guess it makes some sense here--you want to be able to get all of this small amount of liquid out. There seemed to be a lot of air in the tube, however, so there was a bunch of twisting in the middle with no product coming out and then a big gush. All the twisting is a bit tedious too. It takes a long time to get enough foundation out to cover my face.
Though it looks small, there is actually enough product there for about 2.5 uses for me. But I use the technique, which I learned from Lisa Eldridge videos, of concentrating my foundation near the center of my face where I need to most coverage and blending out from there. If you like to use a solid layer all over your face, you will probably only get one use out of a tube like this.
|Swatches of Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation in shade 2, Boots No7 Lift & Luminate Foundation in Cool Vanilla, TheBalm Time Balm Tinted Moisturizer in Lighter than Light, and Maybelline Superstay Better Skin Foundation in Porcelain.|
The Yves Saint Laurent Tint-In-Oil also came in a clicky dispenser, but with a brush tip. I have to admit I really don't get the hype about this stuff. It's a thin gloss that's almost entirely transparent. It's slightly moisturizing. I would classify it as neither tint nor oil. Something this sheer will never show up on my lips, unfortunately. Maybe I should have tried a different shade, but when I googled for swatches, this one (Drive Me Copper) seemed promising. Correction: neither tint nor oil nor copper.
|Swatches of YSL Tint-In-Oil in Drive Me Copper and Stila Lip Glaze in Kaleidoscope|
Here are some comparison swatches with similar eyeshadows I already had. The first swatch is the Burberry shadow with no primer and the rest of the swatches are over primer to show the color clearly. Although in the photo it looks like Rosewood is pretty close to Wet N Wilk Nutty (third swatch), in person it seemed most similar to the taupe from the Wet N Wild Silent Treatment trio (second to last), though Rosewood is less shimmery. I prefer Silent Treatment, which isn't as light as it looks here--I think the reflection of the shimmer is making it disappear into my skin a bit.
|Swatches, left to right: Burberry Rosewood (no primer), Burberry Rosewood (over primer), Wet N Wild single in Nutty, Maybelline Color Tattoo in Bad to the Bronze, Wet N Wild Silent Treatment trio ("eyelid" shade), and Edward Bess Storm.|
Finally, the Shiseido eyebrow pencil in Ash Blond. You can see that they cut you off a stub and add an extra cap on the end, with a brush inside, so you can hold it more easily. I should be able to sharpen this at least a couple of times, which will mean 6-10 uses, I expect.
Here is a comparison with a couple of other blonde eyebrow pencils:
|Swatches (left to right) of Shiseido Natural Eyebrown Pencil in Ash Blond, Avon Ultra Luxury Brow Liner in Blonde, and Cover Girl Eye and Brow Makers in Warm Blonde.|
In addition to makeup, Choix offers samples of some skincare, nail polish, and perfume. I'm going to try a nail polish next time, but I doubt I will ever request a perfume sample. In the makeup category, there are some things they just aren't going to be able to provide samples of, like twist up pencils (except maybe lipsticks crayons--though they don't current offer these) and . . . I thought of some other things but I forget now!
I think it's easy to compare the full eyeshadow pans with the Burberry sample (bottom) in this photo.
I'm having fun with this subscription so far. As someone who (a) is skeptical about high end cosmetics, (b) blogs, and (c) rarely gets to play with these products in a store, it's great. For $10 a month. $20 a month would be out of my budget. (NOTE: The priace has been permanently lowered to $15 a month, which is significantly better.) Choix seems to offer discounted subscriptions quite frequently, maybe monthly. Next time I hear about one, I will alert you! (Or you can get 10% off with my referral link, if you don't want to commit to a year.) I think I'm going to keep reviewing the products in my boxes each month, but the next post won't be so interminable, since you won't need all the general Choix info. If you actually got through all of this, I probably owe you a drink!
What do you think? Useful for sampling fancy shit or overpackaged and overpriced?