Battle of the Beauty Bags: ipsy vs Play by Sephora

BeautyBagOffSubscription beauty bags are all the rage. Half of the people I know are using ipsy, but being a brand-faithful beauty buyer (I love Urban Decay everything) I did some googling to find out what was really out there. As it turns out, Sephora has a subscription box they call “Play”. I immediately signed up for the waitlist and this is the first month I got my Play box. Being that I have been using ipsy for a year I was excited to compare and contrast, so here it goes…


Once you sign up for ipsy it take you about a month to get queued up, from what I can tell they rely a lot of peer to peer and work of mouth marketing to promote their products. They will email you teasers of what will be in your glam bag and give you points for more products, but only if you comment through the ap to post on your social media sites. Being in marketing, this drives me a little bit crazy because I think anything that seems like a “hard sale” or shameless promotion via social media is icky, so I usually just wait to get the “hey your bag is in the mail and here’s what’s in it” email. You can click through to a personalized link where you can view what’s coming in your pink pouch and you can rate your the products to get a more personalized bag that fits your needs/faves.

Here’s what came in my bag this month:

  • Eva NYC Get Glossed Hair Syerum (sample size)
  • Em Cosmetics Lash Gallery Dramatic Volume Mascara (full size)
  • Too Faced Hangover Replenishing Face Primer (sample size)
  • Vasanti Cosmetics Professional Eyeshadow Brush
  • Skyn ICELAND the Antidote Cooling Daily Lotion (sample size)


Once you sign up for ipsy, you take a quiz that defines your skin type, style, and what your generals are. For example, I have fair skin so unless I am getting an out there Glambag, they probably aren’t going to send me a dark brown lipstick. Typically, there are always 5 items in a bag and the subscription is $10/month including shipping.

Play by Sephora

The set up by Play for Sephora is similar to ipsy, but there is a waiting period because Play is in such a high demand and they are in their infancy of rolling Play out, I think it’s only been around since last December. So, you can sign up for the waiting list here and wait for your email inviting you to subscribe. To get my email probably took 5 months, so it’s quite a wait, but hopefully the longer they are up in running the more they can accommodate.

Once you sign up you can view past boxes, special Spotify playlists, and videos about specific products. You can also go to your local Sephora to get tutorials and how to’s, which is cool if you need application lessons. Similar to ipsy, once you get the email that your box has sent you can see what has been sent in the box. It arrives in Sephora’s trademark white and back stripes and your product comes in a bag.

Here’s what came in my Play box this month:

  • Blotterazzi Beauty Blender
  • OUAI wave spray (sample size)
  • NEST Fine Fragrances: A Ray of Citrine (sample size)
  • Smashbox Photo Finish Primer (sample size)
  • First Aide Deep Cleanser (sample size)
  • Too Faced Bronzer Haute Chocolate (sample size)


I did take the quiz that accounts for my hair, skin, and eye color, and talked about my problem areas (fine hair, dark eye circles, etc.). There are always 5 times per box, plus a fragrance sample, bonus! The subscription is $10 plus tax, including shipping.

ipsy vs Play by Sephora

ipsy Pros: 

  • I know what is coming in my bag and I can continue to personalize it based on rating my products. I also get bonus points for rating products sent to me.
  • Most products sent to me are cruelty-free/vegan/organic.
  • $10 is very affordable and I get some of the staples I need. (I haven’t had to buy mascara since I got ipsy!)
  • Introduced me to brands I wouldn’t have discovered otherwise.
  • Full sizes! I have received a lot of full sized items, whether it’s hair products or mascara!
  • Lip products are always top. The shades I have received have been exactly my style and look great.

ipsy Cons:

  • The social media marketing pressure is real. In order to get “early access” to your bag they want you to share comments for bonus points via social media. If you are cool with that, great, but I am not into exposing my network to promos that I have opted into.
  • I’ve missed out on some cool stuff. You can see what other people got in their bags and I have missed out on some really cool stuff and brands. This may be because I haven’t rated enough products, but I missed out on some Urban Decay eyeshadow (wahhhh! my fave!).
  • Monochromatic eyeshadow. All of the shadows I have received have been in the same family of color (and in some cases almost exactly alike) with the exception of this weird red eyeshadow from benefit.
  • 50/50 for nail polish. Of the nail polish I have received, I wasn’t so much keen on quite a few of them. The only ones I have really liked were this bronze and bright red. I guess I can save the purple for halloween!

Play by Sephora

Play by Sephora Pros

  • Like ipsy, Play is super affordable and you get 6 items instead of just 5!
  • Generally, many of the items are cruelty-free and higher end.
  • Hardly any “filler”. Sometimes I get items from ipsy like masks, brushes, etc. that I get pretty frequently. I think I’ve gotten 3 brushes so far—where as I got a blender from Sephora which I feel like is really on-trend right now because everyone is contouring.
  • Video and in-store tutorials help you master the products you receive.

Play by Sephora Cons

  • The wait is substantial. I had to linger on the waitlist for months and months and once they send you your invite you only have a few days to respond before you get passed over. I was trolling my inbox for what seems like forever.
  • I’m not sure they “get” me. Granted, this is my first box and I feel like everyone basically gets the same thing, but I am pale and I am not so sure that a chocolately bronzer will ever work on me–we’ll see.

All in all, I would say that, as of right now at least, I prefer Play by Sephora to ipsy, BUT they are both so affordable I think I will keep them both for awhile! What about you, which to do YOU prefer?