As you’d expect from a beauty sample hoarder and Sephora fangirl, I signed up for the Play! box as soon as it was available.
Let’s take a look at what’s inside:
My overall impression: This is a bigger box than you’d expect from Birchbox or Ipsy, with deluxe samples, good variety of color, skin, and hair care, and well-known brands. It’s also a great value for $10. So the first impact is a good one, but looking closer….
Ok so here’s a big Sephora secret: Kendo Brands. Have you heard of this? From their website:
KENDO IS AN INNOVATIVE BRAND INCUBATOR. Launched in 2008, KENDO began as a division of the SEPHORA merchandising department to create products and brands that SEPHORA knew their clients wanted, but which didn’t yet exist in the market.
So basically, Kendo was created to add more brands and products to Sephora’s catalog that Sephora had control over but weren’t Sephora Collection. It includes Bite Beauty, Elizabeth and James, Ole Henrikson, Marc Jacobs Beauty, FormulaX, and Kat Von D. All of these brands, like Sephora itself, are owned by LVMH. Meaning that Sephora, or it’s owners and controllers, have direct access to their manufacturing pipelines and control over what’s produced. And they also make a better margin off of the sale of full-size products since they manufacture them in-house and aren’t paying a wholesale price. Of the 6 products in this box, 4 of them are from Sephora owned brands. (The other two, Glam Glow and Bumble and bumble, are owned by Estée Lauder Companies.) Let’s be clear, there are products from Kendo Brands that I DO really like and purchase and use, I just think that in the effort of full disclosure, it should be known that they are basically Sephora subsidiaries.
It makes sense that Sephora would include products in their box where they’d be able to ensure the proper supply of samples, but it’s kind of disheartening to know that 2/3 of the products in the Sephora box are essentially Sephora products. That said though, the products were created specifically to fill a gap in the market (even if it is so that Sephora could sell more), so they’re typically unique and interesting.
Ok so on to the products:
Elizabeth and James Nirvana White. It’s okay. A lot of people complain about getting fragrance samples in Birchboxes (source: used to work at Birchbox, also uses the internet) but I actually like it when it’s an interesting, new, unique scent that I wouldn’t pick up on my own. This one is none of those. It’s kind of basic and boring and I feel like Sephora promotes it a lot, but I don’t know anyone who actually wears it. Meh.
Marc Jacobs Highliner in Blacquer. Snore. If you have shopped at Sephora for any length of time, you probably already have this exact sample three or four times over in various shades. I know I have black and brown and I think also blue. People who bought this box probably already have tried this, already know if they like it or not, and if so, have already purchased the full size.
Sephora Rouge Infusion in Peony. Ok this one I’m actually kind of excited about. The color looks like a great neutral pink that would suit a lot of skin tones, and I hear a lot of good things about Sephora Collection lip products but never actually try them because they aren’t that good of a value and I always manage to find something more exciting to buy. I’ll let you know how I feel about this when I try it.
Ole Henriksen Sheer Transformation Face Cream. I feel like there are more interesting products from this line I’d want to try, but since they’re sending the same box to everyone (I assume) and everyone has such different skin, they had to pick something that would work universally. The same goes for:
GlamGlow Supercleanse. GlamGlow is REALLY well known for their pricey but effective mud masks. This is not one of those. It seems like an interesting cleanser, but it has fragrance and alcohol in it so it could be irritating for some people. I also prefer cleansers that will remove makeup and it doesn’t look like this mud-to-foam formula will take care of that very well. It also looks messy.
And finally, Bumble and bumble Hairdresser’s Invisible Oil Primer. Another meh. There are a lot of really fantastic Bumble and bumble products but this one doesn’t really impress me. I just don’t think that a hair primer is a necessary step and don’t really see the benefit here. Again, it’s got to work generically for any type of hair, so there’s a constraint on what they can include, but I’m not super jazzed about it.
The whole unboxing experience is pretty good, though. The Play! book has full pages dedicated to each product with augmented reality cues, meaning you can scan the image of the product with your phone using the Sephora app and get direct links to shop and read reviews (if you, a seasoned Sephora shopper, didn’t know all about these – super boring and over-marketed – products already). It takes just slightly longer than typing in the name of the product but it’s a cool idea. The box also comes with a Play! card which lets you get 50 bonus points with an in-store visit. (50 bonus points can be redeemed for 1/2 a deluxe sample at Sephora…)
So all in all, I’m kind of disappointed. Hopefully, the next box will have more variety, more exciting products, maybe they’ll let me tailor it to my preferences. I guess we’ll see!
Did you sign up for the Sephora Play! box? What did you think?
Also do you want to know more about beauty brands, how they are all related and who owns what? I could do a pretty interesting post on how the entire beauty industry is really just a handful of players.