Special thanks to Geologie for teaming up with us on this to offer Primer readers 50% off their trial! Click here and use code PRIMER50.
There is such a thing as too many choices. It’s called decision paralysis, and it’s what happens when you’re faced with 18 different kinds of clear, 24-hour antiperspirant/deodorant in the personal care aisle. Your brain just can’t make a decision.
Enter: the subscription box. Starting in the early 2000s, curation service startups began offering overwhelmed, indecisive consumers a selection of items personalized to their tastes in a friendly, simplified fashion–and then followed through with an attractively designed and packaged monthly box conveniently shipped directly to their doors. No more dithering in the deodorant aisle!
At the height of the subscription box boom, there were nearly 4,000 companies competing for a slice of the $2.6 billion industry [Fast Company]. Consumers could sign up for monthly shipments of everything from clothes to crafting supplies to fancy snacks. And most major retailers (e.g., Amazon, Target, and Wal-Mart) hopped on board.
They were fun and different, but many subscription services had a finite shelf life, just like other popular trends (hard seltzer, “live laugh love”, and just about any social media challenge you can think of). Too often, customers ended up with clothing that wasn’t their style or stuff they didn’t really need.
But some companies thought outside the monthly box to provide a service beyond the delight of a regular delivery. The services that actually provide value to the consumer have outlasted the ones that relied on the novelty factor, because the teams behind them understand that it’s not just about receiving an exciting assortment of goodies, but how those goodies improve your life the rest of the month.
At Primer, we’ve got a pretty good sense of the things that guys struggle with or can’t fit into their daily routine.
Those fall into a few categories:
- Putting things off that need to be done periodically (replacing a toothbrush or razor/razor cartridges)
- Learning a new skill (like cooking or choosing wines)
- Choosing the “right” grooming product for their skin type/hair type/scent preferences or frustrations
- Constantly pushing and overlooking the fun but supremely important (date activities, get-togethers with friends, even new toys for pets)
The brands that have survived the subscription service Hunger Games don’t just sell you stuff–they automate sending you solutions.
Here are our top picks in the most popular monthly box categories:
Geologie: Actual Personalized Skincare
Most guys know that they should do more than just swipe a bar of soap over their face, but once you factor in all the variables (Dry, oily, or “combination” skin? Redness? Wrinkles? Acne?) it’s hard to tell which products to use, and when. Geologie’s diagnostic questionnaire analyzes your skin type and main concerns to provide personalized product recommendations based on one of nearly 40 different biochemical profiles, taking all the guesswork out of choosing a daily regimen.
Your results are targeted down to the individual ingredient, meaning if you have sensitive skin your selected products won’t irritate your mug. That said, there’s one skincare item that everyone needs: sunscreen. Yes, even if it’s cloudy out. Yes, even if you tan before you burn.
But this isn’t just sunscreen, it’s skincare. Geologie’s mineral-based SPF30 sunscreen is ultra-light and invisible, so it fits into your daily routine. You won’t look or feel like you’re headed to the beach when you’re getting ready in the morning, and you won’t sweat it off at the gym, but you will be protected from UVA and UVB rays.
Play your cards right, and you might not even need that wrinkle-fighting cream until much later in life.
Use code PRIMER50 for 50% off your trial:
Cooking/Making Healthy Food Choices
If you’re like the rest of us, you know you should eat healthier food and eat out less. The problem? You buy a bunch of groceries and all the meals you attempt are just – not – good. Meal boxes are the perfect solution since you will learn the skills of making food taste great at home while also being shipped pre-portioned groceries.
I’ve been doing both Blue Apron and Hello Fresh for over a year now, and beyond learning some new impressive signature dishes like Italian Sausage Risotto, I’ve also started to understand things like lemon juice makes flavors brighter which have influenced all the cooking I do, even outside of the boxes.
The meal delivery category is still fairly saturated, but Hello Fresh and Blue Apron have each been around for about a decade, which is basically forever in startup years. Both companies offer a wide selection of recipes that you can customize to your taste preferences and dietary restrictions, so you’re guaranteed a dinner that you’ll like while still learning new culinary skills and techniques. You’ll also get to try different ingredients in small amounts, so that you don’t discover that you hate capers after buying a jumbo jar.
Both are great, but I give Hello Fresh the slightest edge since they separate the ingredients for each meal, whereas Blue Apron's come in one bag.
Ensuring Ratty Underwear Gets Cycled Out
Boxers. Briefs. Boxer briefs. Most of us wear something on our lower halves, and most of us could stand to replace at least a few holey, worn-out pairs. Companies like Stance and MeUndies make it easy to schedule delivery of a new pair once a month so you always have fresh drawers in your drawer. (You can always skip a shipment and preview/edit what’s arriving each month.) Best of all, with MeUndies you save up to 30% per order by subscribing, meaning your holey skivvies are slowly – but surely – getting pushed out automatically and you’re saving money while doing it.
Finding a New Cologne You Love
Fragrance is something incredibly personal, so it’s understandable that selecting the right scent can be intimidating. With a single spritz, you can come off as sophisticated, adventurous, laid-back, or any one of thousands of other adjectives. All without saying a single word. And scent is one sense that is incredibly difficult to convey without, you know, actually smelling the thing in person.
Scentbird helps you narrow down your preferences with a quick quiz, then you can choose from both indie and designer brands–you’ll receive 8mL samples to try so that you don’t end up with full-size bottles of colognes that don’t work for you littering your dresser.
Automating Your Dental Routine
Our teeth are single-handedly one of the most important things humans have to maintain on our bodies, yet our routines and tools barely get any money or attention devoted to them. What’s just as bad as not brushing/flossing enough? Brushing with an old toothbrush with bristles shooting off at a 45 degree angle. Switch to a sleek electric bluetooth-connected toothbrush from Quip and subscribe to new brush heads shipped automatically every 3 months for just $5.
Quip’s slim, streamlined electric toothbrush design is paired with an app that tracks your technique and helps you build better brushing habits. Add toothpaste, pre-marked dental floss, and mouthwash in a fun refillable container, and you’ll feel minty fresh all month long.
Learning to Appreciate Wine from Scratch
Most people want to be more knowledgeable about wine, but the barrier to entry seems pretty high. It’s also another area where decision paralysis comes into play in a major way. There are an overwhelming number of wine types: Fruity or bold? Sweet or dry? Austrian or Spanish? And how much do you want to spend per bottle?
Two of the top monthly wine clubs, Bright Cellars and Winc, go beyond trying to match (and expand) your palate to actually teaching you about wine’s various attributes, so you can truly begin distinguishing and identifying what you like and what you don’t.
Monthly Upgrades for Your Family’s Most Loyal Member
Man’s best friend doesn’t ask for much…but that doesn’t mean your pet doesn’t *deserve* a new toy or treat every so often. Brands like Rescue Box, Bark Box, and Box Dog offer customized goodies for your four-legged friend so they can get in on the fun. (Cats are included, too, but we’re sure you know that they may enjoy the shipping box more than the contents.)
Guarantee Date Night is a Recurring Event on the Calendar
In any long-term relationship, the time between actual “let’s do something fun and romantic” dates gets longer and longer. The National Marriage Project cites studies that indicate husbands and wives who shared couple time at least once per week were 3.5 times more likely to report being “very happy” in their marriages. Yet it often becomes one of those burdens we know we need to do more of but don’t prioritize scheduling or planning.
Here’s the antidote to another dinner and a movie: The Adventure Challenge. Paired with a book of creative date ideas (each one a mystery until you scratch it off together), the Adventure Box is guaranteed to stimulate conversation and get you out of your rut in a fun and engaging way.
Subscribe to Self-discovery
While many of the boxes we’ve featured are designed to assist you in some way or help you learn something, Bespoke Post helps you learn…about yourself. Like other boxes, it starts with a quiz, but the options are varied. It’s less about convenience, more about exploration. One month you might receive a handsome kit for trying cigars – the next, a set of delicious blood orange cocktail shrubs or a gift-worthy DIY hot sauce kit. You can always preview your box and swap or skip the items, and at only $45 per box, it’s like a fun, affordable date for yourself.