Does your entire shower and grooming routine consist of a bottle of 2-in-1 Head and Shoulders? We love you just the way you are, but we picked out some grooming subscription boxes in case you want to level up your look.
Effective skin care, the right hair products, and a more sophisticated fragrance can make a huge difference, not just in your appearance, but also in your confidence. However, the personal care market is such a juggernaut, it can feel overwhelming, and send customers running back to their standbys. It’s tough not to feel cynical at the amount of marketing behind these products. Who wants to spend four times as much on Irish Spring in a fancier package?
It’s true; there’s a lot of hype. Marketing is often the only difference between a grooming product and a beauty product. Apparently “grooming” was the best masculine alternative to “beauty” in focus groups, although we think men deserve better than something that sounds like a PetSmart service.
There are also legitimately high-quality products that, thanks to their active ingredients and formulation, are worth the higher price tag. While active ingredients have the same effects on male and female skin, there are certain products—beard oil, aftershave, etc.—that are generally more useful for men.
We took a look at men’s subscription boxes to see which can give you the best results, whether you’re starting from a bar of soap or looking to finesse your routine.
Best for Everyone: Birchbox Grooming
Birchbox made its name as one of the most popular women’s beauty subscription boxes and has a devoted following thanks to its high-end brands, loyalty program, and personalization. As a result, Birchbox Grooming is undoubtedly the best subscription for the personal care novice. Every month, Birchbox sends you five, deluxe-sized samples based on your “grooming profile.”
We chose Birchbox as the best for everyone because it’s ideal for anyone who wants to try new products from top brands, like Jack Black, Youth to the People, Kiehls, Brickell, Clinique for Men, or Baxter’s of California, before springing for the full-size products.
A one-year subscription can reduce the cost of each box by a couple of bucks. While a one-time payment for the whole year might seem steep, you can easily spend that same amount on three full-sized products you don’t end up using. To find the products that work best for you, you have to go through some duds.
A year’s worth of Birchbox lets you sample 60 products, which should be more than enough for you to decide which brands or types of products are worth purchasing in the full-size. As for all those deluxe-sized samples you accumulate—they’re great for your gym bag, travel, or to keep in a guest bathroom.
Best Premium Skin Care Subscription: Hims
When it comes to your skin, the best results come by prescription. Thanks to the brave new world of telemedicine, Hims allows you to skip the dermatologist’s office if you’re looking to treat mild-to-moderate acne, or just want youthful, glowing skin.
On the Hims online platform, you fill out your medical history and symptoms, and then connect for a chat with a licensed doctor. On the acne side, this can qualify you for clindamycin, a topical antibiotic, and tretinoin, known more commonly as Retin-A. Tretinoin is also the gold-standard to treat sun damage and other signs of aging, so Hims includes it in customizable-strengths in its antiaging cream.
Hims also makes over-the-counter skin care products to complement its prescription-strength stuff. This means you can combine both in your subscription box to address your specific skin care needs.
Best Premium Shaving Subscription: The Personal Barber
The Personal Barber subscription box sets you up with the finest shaving implements, and then some. Unlike most other shaving subscriptions, the Personal Barber includes other brands, ensuring you’re not stuck with mediocre, in-house shaving cream. Your first box includes a safety razor, a shaving brush, blades, and an assortment of creams and other products. Subsequent boxes include new blades, soaps, and a rotating mix of aftershave, deodorant, oils, balms, and colognes.
Wait, what’s a safety razor? Chances are your cartridge razor isn’t treating you right. Safety razors want to teach you how to love again. The biggest advantage of the older technology is it causes fewer ingrown hairs—a particular problem for men who have tightly-curled, thicker facial hair. Gillette’s parent company, Proctor & Gamble, challenged this claim when a safety razor company used it in its advertising. However, the National Advertising Division found the company had “a reasonable basis for its claim” that single-blade razors are better than multi-blades for those who suffer from razor burn.
In short, if you use a safety razor and proper shaving products, it gives you a better shave, smoother skin, and less irritation. What’s not to love?
Best Fragrance Subscription: Olfactif
One of the problems with wearing a popular fragrance is that you could remind someone of their ex, a sibling, or any number of other people who also wear it. There’s a whole world of unique, well-crafted fragrances you won’t find at the department store. A new fragrance, however, is uniquely ill-suited to be an online purchase. If you’re ready to find your signature scent, Olfactif can help.
Olfactif sends you three samples of niche, upmarket fragrances each month, along with scent guides for each, so you can discover which fragrance notes you find most appealing. The samples allow you to wear a fragrance, “15 to 20 times,” according to Olfactif, which should be enough for you to get an idea of how the fragrance wears and combines with your unique skin chemistry. A subscription also gets you 20 percent off full-size bottles of that month’s selections and 10 percent off any other full-size fragrance.
Best for Beards: The Beard Club
Beards were once merely the consequence of not shaving. Today, however, beards are an increasingly intentional choice and a carefully cultivated thing of pride. If you’re the proud owner of a beard, it’s not enough to simply let it grow. You must wash it, trim it, brush it, oil it, and even shape it with pomades and waxes. The Beard Club subscription box includes products that cover all of your beardly duties. And you get to pick what goes in your box, so there are no superfluous products.
The subscription default is monthly, but you can adjust your account to receive boxes less frequently. Depending on your beard maintenance requirements, you might have a hard time using all the products in a month. A word to the wise: skip the beard growth “accelerators” they sell as vitamin sprays and oils. None of the ingredients have been shown to increase the amount or length of hair—that’s up to genetics.