Skincare can be expensive, so this website lets you try before committing.

Charlene  |  Singapore
Published 2015-11-04 14:33:35

By now, we’re all familiar with how the beauty sample model works: pick out a certain number of product samples, pay for shipping (and occasionally for the samples themselves), wait a couple of days and soon enough, they arrive at your doorstep without much fuss.

And it’s clear to see why such services remain popular. New beauty products promising youthful-looking skin, longer lasting makeup and shinier hair are being launched everyday, and any beauty junkie will find it hard to resist them. Even if you’re not exactly keen on spending a good 30 minutes primping your skin on a daily basis, product samples can come in handy when you’re travelling. So it’s not surprising that a sizeable number of startups have tried to capitalise on the growing market.

One such startup is BlackBox, which launched back in 2012 as a subscription service. It seems they’ve now moved into the sample space, though, as this is what you see when you go to their website:

BlackBox's homepage
BlackBox’s homepage

Upon clicking through to their homepage, you’ll find that before you start browsing the hundreds of samples on offer, you must first decide if you want a Classic or Luxury box. (It doesn’t really matter if you choose Classic or Luxury from the outset; you’ll be able to toggle between the two even after you’ve entered either site.)

Samples in the Classic category are items you can find at most Watson’s stores and even the supermarket, and include things like toothpaste. Luxury samples, on the other hand, consist of products from bigger French brands like Nuxe. There are also Premium samples you can try out, though these can only be redeemed with points you accumulate by reviewing samples.

Here’s a look at how the service works:

Image Credit: BlackBox
Image Credit: BlackBox

One thing you’ll notice about BlackBox is the different pricing that comes with the Classic and Luxury boxes. And that’s what really got me as I browsed the site. By charging subscribers according to the kind of product samples they select, it ensures that those who are going for cheaper products don’t get shortchanged. At the same time, it allows for higher-end brands to list their products on the site for those willing to pay to test them out, rather than having them forgo the chance to be listed on these sites due to a lack of demand.

This aspect of the site is a win-win for both beauty brands and consumers — if you’re going to treat yourself to a holiday, you might as well go all out and treat your skin to some really expensive face cream too, right?

Another plus about BlackBox is that it has separate editorial sections for the Classic and Luxury sites, which consists of a curated selection of articles on topics ranging from “How to get the perfect glowy skin look” to “8 popcorn recipes for a stay-in movie night”. Not all of them are relevant to skincare and beauty products, but that’s also where its draw lies: there’s something even for those who aren’t particularly interested in sampling products.

Product samples on the Luxury site.
Product samples on the Luxury site.

Verdict: 4/5

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Overall, I do wish BlackBox offered products from a wider variety of brands, especially in the Luxury section. While they do have a respectable number of products, a lot of them tend to be from the same few brands, which doesn’t make for a satisfying browsing experience. (If I didn’t like a facial wash from a particular brand, for example, I’m not likely to try out their other products, which drastically reduces the number of options I have left.)

That said, BlackBox is something I can see myself using, if not for trying out new products, then definitely for the times when I need to get travel-sized versions of products I already use. The platform also has a leg up against its competitors in the way it offers products for men — they travel too! — which could go a long way towards helping them get a larger share of the market.

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