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Birchbox Founders Katia and Hayley Answer Your FAQs: Special Ops

We’re always talking about the staffers in the Birchbox office, but the ones who you interact with everyday are the ladies of our hard-working Ops team. These fabulous femmes handle all of your customer service woes. We wanted to give you a chance to get to know them even better—so here’s a peek at who’s on the other side of the phone.


Through our chats via email, the phone, and social media, we’ve been receiving a number of frequently asked questions from all of you—and we thought, who better to answer these queries than the people who know best? That’s why we asked our co-founders Katia and Hayley to help address your concerns. Read on for the answers from the women who started it all.

What comes in a Birchbox?

Surprise and delight! And, of course, samples: Our women’s subscription includes four to five beauty samples across categories as well as “extras” that can be beauty-related or more lifestyle-focused (accessories, food, paper goods). The beauty samples are from prestige brands—some that are well known and others that are newly launched or small and niche. The lifestyle extras never take the place of a beauty product.

Can I opt out of certain categories?

Birchboxes always contain samples from a mix of different categories (skincare, haircare, fragrance, lifestyle, etc.). When it comes to specific products within these categories, we do our best to match to your individual needs—like your style and skin type—based on your profile. There is no option to opt out of a given category, but Birchbox is a discovery service, and experimentation is part of the fun!

That said, we listen to our customers, and we know there is a segment that’s looking for a little more control over what they receive each month. That is one of the reasons we launched the Pick Two Sample Pack (more below). We will be regularly updating the profile over the course of the year and do have plans to allow for customers to help us understand the categories they prefer.

Why do you send things like food?

We include lifestyle extras in Birchboxes because while beauty is important, it is just one of many aspects of a happy life. Given our focus on helping our customers discover the newest and best products, we feel this mission is best accomplished by sometimes including a non-beauty item in a box. Our hunch has been confirmed: The first time we included a lifestyle item, it became that month’s best seller! Lifestyle extras continue to be a very popular part of our service, receiving very positive feedback from customers and selling like hotcakes. Here are a few favorites:

How do my profile and reviews affect what I get in my box?

The most important determinants of what goes in your box are your profile, the box theme, and what products you’ve received in the past.

In terms of the profile, there are some objective things that we follow as closely as possible to send you, for example, the right tint for your skin tone, the right moisturizer for your skin type, and the right shampoo for your hair. Other product assignments are more subjective, and based more on factors like age and style. We have a whole team of PhD whizzes who are dedicated to making sure we get those subjective aspects as correct as possible. See here for some fun Birchbox math.

What is the dollar value of the samples in a Birchbox?

We strongly feel that the value that Birchbox provides lies in the full breadth of our service and not in the dollar value of the samples. If there is one thing we’ve learned after all these months, it’s that one woman’s gold can easily be another woman’s dirt. Beauty is a very subjective topic, where opinions and feelings carry strong weight. And that’s exactly why Birchbox is a valuable service. The value comes from the ability to try something new, the fun of realizing you love something that you never would have picked for yourself, and the comfort of knowing that all the products have been vetted by Birchbox. We ensure you’re getting your money’s worth by guaranteeing a certain number of samples from high-caliber brands and not by adding up the dollar value. (You’d be surprised how much a tiny tube of eye cream can skew that analysis, and how the sample of a more affordable product can make someone jump for joy).  

But if you’re a dollars and cents kind of girl, make sure you are participating in our points program! 

Can’t we just pick our samples?

Now where’s the fun in that? Honestly, the value of Birchbox is in the discovery…the anticipation, not knowing what you’re going to get, the surprise when you find out, and the thrill of learning that yes, you never would’ve tried it yourself, but you do look good in olive green liquid liner. Basically, Birchbox is best enjoyed with an open mind. Buuuuut, we know sometimes you want to try something very specific and we don’t want to hold you back from that. We launched our “Pick Two” program in last fall to allow you to do just that. Every month we offer new pairs of samples that you can get for free with a full-size order of $25+, or that you can purchase for $10. Pick Two is perfect for those of you on search-and-destroy sample missions who are looking for a little more control. 

We hope that we’ve answered your questions and improved your Birchbox experience!

Hayley and Katia

As always, we’re here to talk and help—reach out to us at or tweet @BirchboxOps!

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