Keeps It Sample

It’s kind of the most ingenious marketing scheme ever.

Women are lining up to willingly pay for makeup and beauty-product samples—and if they like the product? They’ll just go out and buy some more.

Finagling mall makeup counters out of samples isn’t always the easiest (or most dignified) thing to do. But with new e-commerce website BirchBox, you get to test out what looks best on you before investing in full-size and often pricey goods.

BirchBox delivers a carefully curated box of oversize samples of everything from makeup, skincare and hair items to your door every month for just $10. You can sign up for the yearlong program or opt for the month-by-month, and you’re allowed to cancel any time you wish.

And it’s not even drugstore, bargain-brand makeup: Think premium lines, from Deborah Lippmann’s amazing nail polish, Marc Jacobs fragrance, Benefit, Kiehl’s, NARS and Cargo. It’s the good stuff—promise.

Founded by Harvard Business School grads Hayley Barna and Katia Beauchamp, BirchBox just launched in September, but they’ve already accumulated well over 2,000 subscribers and are quickly becoming online rivals to other major beauty suppliers like Sephora.

BirchBox is also a multifaceted website: If something in that hot-pink monthly package entices you, you can hop onto to order a full-size product, helping you rack up customer loyalty points that can be cashed in for more stuff in the future. The site also features original editorial content, featuring beauty tips, video tutorials and even interviews with fashion and beauty notables like designer Kim Phan of Yumi Kim.

In short: not a bad present at all for practically any gal on your gift list this year.

Most women are familiar with the long discovery process that often comes with makeup, where it often takes months or sometimes years and unnecessary amounts of money before you find the blush or eyeliner that works right for you. Sometimes that $24 Dior DiorShow mascara just doesn’t look as great as that classic $4 Maybelline Great Lash in the pink-and-lime-green tube does. Not only does BirchBox help narrow down that search-and-waste process, but, most importantly, it’s just fun to play with new products for the price of a few cups of coffee a month.


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This column appeared in print as “Keep It Sample.”


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