Beauty subscription boxes have become all the rage, but for the most part, I've avoided purchasing them for myself. A small part of this is because I've watched YouTubers and bloggers open some pretty mediocre boxes containing nonsense like hair ties and granola bars, but more importantly, I am too picky and narrow in my makeup tastes to enjoy most of what comes in them. Hair products? I have wild woman hair, end of story. Powder blushes? I haven't worn them in at least two years. Eyeshadow? I have one palette and a dozen or so singles left in my collection, that's it. Really, it just never seemed worth the $10-20 a month.
Then companies started producing perfume sample boxes, and I was totally hooked. I knew these subscriptions would provide perfume and perfume only, so there'd be no disappointment on my end. Even better, there were subscription services that focused on niche perfume lines, which are my personal preference. Enter Scent Trunk and Olfactif, possibly the two biggest fragrance subscription services on the market.
Bear in mind that I tested these subscription boxes in fall of 2015, so services may have changed. Scent Trunk currently has one of those annoying set-ups where you can't see a price breakdown or get a feel for the service unless you register for an account, so I had to reset my account to get in, but I did not sign up for a new subscription. Hence, some of what I experienced may be different from the set-ups Olfactif and Scent Trunk currently use. I will try to make it clear where things have definitely changed over the past few months.
HOW IT WORKS: You create an account and answer questions about your taste in fragrances, like "What kinds of notes do you like?" and "What are some of your favorite perfumes?" You receive three hand-picked fragrance samples, tailored to your tastes. Each vial is 2mL. While the boxes appear to have changed a bit, I'm assuming the contents are still similar: you receive your three vials, plus cards describing each scent, some testing strips, and a card that provides background on each fragrance. All of this is put in a little pouch, packed in a small cardboard box, and shipped out safely in a bubble mailer. When I subscribed, Scent Trunk offered a masculine, feminine, or unisex box option and I chose the unisex; it looks like they may have slimmed down to the masculine and feminine options.
COST: There are varying subscription options: $18 a month, cancel any time via the website, $96 for 6 months, or $180 for the year. The sixth month and yearly subscriptions will save you a few dollars on your boxes. This is a massive improvement from when I used the service--at that time, they only had the $18-a-month subscription, and you had to email them a "cut-off date" to stop your subscription. This actually made me a little uncomfortable, so I'm glad they have added a "cancel now" button.
SHIPPING: Scent Trunk currently ships to Canada and the US. Shipping is included in the cost of your subscription.
PROMOS AND REWARDS: Referring new customers to Scent Trunk will net you points, which you can use towards discounts on a full bottle. The company also runs "half off your first box" promo codes from time to time.
PRODUCT VARIETY AND QUALITY: Scent Trunk's vials are beautifully packaged, and my first box definitely seemed tailor-made to my tastes: there were two scents I'd already tried, one of which I knew I loved. My second box, however, didn't fit me very well because it was full of powdery or herbaceous florals. Regardless, some of the notes listed on Fragrantica.com matched up to my preferred notes, so I think this was just a fluke of the system. They have a decent, but not massive, variety of fragrances from different houses, ranging from affordable indies (like Olympic Orchids) to costly niche darlings (like Amouage). The vials have sticker labels and the atomizers work well.
WEBSITE: The Scent Trunk website has greatly improved since I tested out the service--back then, it was almost impossible to navigate. They have since made the website much more user-friendly, with clear links to the different section, a well-organized account page, and a streamlined design. I'm still irritated, though, that you have to sign up to really see how the service works. I'll also note that many Scent Trunk users requested that they add an "I've already tried this scent" option so you don't receive something you know you hate, but that doesn't appear to have been worked in yet.
CUSTOMER SERVICE: Customer service with Scent Trunk is very personal, quick, and friendly; I have always received immediate and pleasant responses from their staff. However, sometimes the service is a little too personal and borderline creepy. When I first signed up to check out the website (because, again, you can't see how anything works or what it costs until you create an account), I received an email asking why I didn't complete my registration (aka pay up), plus a half-off my first box code. While I understand this sales tactic, I'm not a fan of it; I feel like it pushes customers to subscribe.
OTHER NOTES: 1.5% of Scent Trunk's monthly sales are donated to the Brain and Behaviour Research Foundation.
HOW IT WORKS: You choose your subscription (making an account is optional unless you choose a monthly box), then check out. You can choose either a unisex subscription, which is what I chose, or a subscription tailored to more traditionally masculine scents. Every month, Olfactif comes up with a theme, then sends you three fragrance vials based on that theme. Vials are 2.25mL unless a fragrance is very expensive; then the amount drops to 1.75mL. Past themes have included "Falling," "What's in a Name?", and "Layered." The vials are packaged in a sleek box with a pull-out tab and a card describing the scents; this is shipped in a cardboard box.
COST: There are varying subscription options: $18 a month, cancel any time via the website, $51 for 3 months, $96 for 6 months, or $180 for the year. The three month, sixth month, and yearly subscriptions will save you a few dollars on your boxes. I signed up for the 3 month subscription; when it ran out, I was not required to cancel my subscription, they just stopped sending boxes.
SHIPPING: At this time, Olfactif only ships within the United States. Shipping is included in the cost of your subscription.
PROMOS AND REWARDS: Each month, you receive an $18 off coupon that can be used on a full bottle of any of the fragrances in your box. Subscribing to the newsletter will net you 15% off your first sample order. Olfactif does not run many other promotions, but once in a great while, they will offer free shipping or an additional coupon.
PRODUCT VARIETY AND QUALITY: Olfactif's packaging feels and looks luxe, with professionally printed vials, quality atomizers, and a nice, clear card listing each fragrance. I was lucky enough to enjoy all three themes I received (Tauerville, Falling, and Layered), though of course, some of the scents were bigger hits than others. Olfactif has a large range of houses, though for most of the houses, they only stock a few scents. I will also note that, when I was a subscriber, they allowed you to purchase previous theme boxes for $20 each; it looks like that is no longer an option, which is a major shame.
WEBSITE: The Olfactif website is clean, professional, and easy to use. It is incredibly easy to find each part of the website, no matter what page you're on. Examining the available scents and your subscription options can be done without creating an account.
CUSTOMER SERVICE: Olfactif's customer service was polite and professional. They respond to customer issues: when several subscribers mentioned that one of the scents in the Falling box was giving them a rash, Olfactif sent out an email noting that this fragrance contained an oil some people would be sensitive to and suggesting that subscribers use caution during testing.
OTHER NOTES: Olfactif provides a link so you can gift a subscription.
When I first subscribed to these services, Olfactif was the clear winner. It had more luxe scents, a nicer website, and more varied and easy-to-use subscriptions. But the fact that they've taken a few steps back, combined with Scent Trunk's progress, have put the two neck-and-neck for me. In the end, I have to say which service you choose will be based on what you want from a fragrance subscription box.
Choose Scent Trunk if:
- You want your likes and dislikes taken in to consideration so you can receive more personalized scents.
- Customer service is of the utmost importance to you.
- You prefer to accumulate points/rewards that you can use on any product.
- You live in Canada.
- You want to be surprised by what you receive.
- You prefer more luxe scents.
- You dislike having to cancel subscription services and want something that will automatically end.
- You want to be able to preview the service easily before you purchase.
As it stands, I give both of my experiences with these companies a 4 out of 5.
Sign up for Scent Trunk at ScentTrunk.com.
Sign up for Olfactif at Olfactif.com.