How the Heck Do I Buy Makeup?!

I’m testing out my birchbox stuff that arrived yesterday, and new some perfume oils, so there’s nothing to write up yet!  That means a lack of pretty pictures.  After this (these posts will be up next week!):

Okay, so I can talk about makeup application, and colors, and textures, and palettes, and brushes, and all of that good stuff until I’m blue in the face (or my fingers fall off) but a good question to tackle right at the beginning is HOW DO I BUY THE STUFF?

I’m going to break this down for you in a few different ways, and unfortunately, due to my limited international experience lately, it will only apply to American shoppers.  I know a lot of people aren’t comfortable with makeup and find the entire purchasing process overwhelming, so they’ve been using the same mascara from 2 years ago, and I can’t blame them (except seriously, throw that crap away, it’s crawling with bacteria).  There are so many options, so many brands, and depending on where you go, a lot of bright lights, loud music, and pushy sales people.  So here’s the process I’ve developed over the years.

1. DO YOUR RESEARCHYou want a new mascara?  Go find the best reviewed mascaras and see what sounds good to you.  You want a new moisturizer?  Get thee to a good online resource for recommendations.  I have two favorite websites for research.

Makeupalley (just sign up for a free account) is the place to go for millions of reviews by consumers about all kinds of skin, hair, nails, and cosmetics products.  These reviews tend to be brutally honest.  You can find the top reviewed products as well as the best value products by category.  You can sort results and reviews by the age of the reviewer and their skin type, hair color, and eye color.  I really like to sort by age because my needs aren’t usually the same as those of a 19 year old or those of a 60 year old.  You can sort reviews by most recent and most helpful.  It is a massive database and I love it.  I’ve been using it since 2004.

Beautypedia is run by Paula Begoun’s company (in the 1980s and 1990s she wrote several editions of the book “Don’t Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me” which was a great product review resource before the internet came around).  Word is that now she’s more into product development on her own skincare and makeup line (Paula’s Choice) and a team of employees do reviews.  Their reviews tend to be based more on scientific information and ingredient research.  I personally find this to be great for things like moisturizers and treatments, but not so useful for eyeshadows or lipsticks.  I tend to cross reference whatever Beautypedia says about science with whatever Makeupalley users actually think of a product before I buy it.

Once you’ve selected a product you think would be good, the Sephora and Ulta websites also have user-generated reviews.  Search for the products and start reading.  They tend to have reviews on newer products before Makeupalley and WAY before Beautypedia since they do so much research.

2.  PICK YOUR RETAILER.  The patient among us can just do an online order from Sephora or Ulta or or even brand websites, wait a few days for shipping, and then try out new products in the comfort of their own home.  Check around for special offers you can get when you buy online purchases and not in stores.  Sephora will let you pick from a bunch of samples, and they have codes for other free sample/trial/travel sizes as well.  Google is your friend.

I am not normally that patient.

High-End:  Sephora and Nordstrom (if there’s one near you, any other fancy department store should be similar) have a higher-end selection of brands, give out generous samples if you’re unsure of a product (and if you’re nice), and are intimidating as hell to a newbie- particularly Sephora with their loud music and slightly disorienting displays and lots and lots of lights and mirrors.  Department stores also tend to have brand representatives in the store who will steer you towards their own product lines.  That’s fine if you’re exploring but sometimes you don’t feel comfortable doing your research on your phone right there with them talking to you about their own miracle product.  These two places also have excellent return policies if you decide you hate something or have a reaction to it.

Mid Tier:  Ulta and Kohls have some mid- to higher- end brands, and Ulta also has the brands you’d find in a drugstore or mass market retailer.  Ulta is great for shopping both ends of the price spectrum at once and it is a quieter store with fewer employees to bug you.  The flip side to that is that if you NEED help it is sometimes hard to find someone.  Kohls has a lot of interesting brands you don’t find anywhere else.

Drugstore:  Walgreens, CVS, and Target are all good for drugstore brands of makeup (and hopefully dupes of what you’d get at Sephora!).  You will always find Cover Girl, Maybelline, Revlon, L’Oreal, Almay, Physician’s Formula and sometimes Rimmel, Wet & Wild, and Milani at these places.  Very few store personnel are really going to be much help at discount chain stores, but there’s a decent selection, the stores are convenient, and they do a lot of sales and Buy One Get One specials on certain brands.  Make sure to check the aisles at the front of the store (or in Target’s case, on the end caps in the cosmetics section) for displays of new products and sales.  Personally I almost always shop Walgreens because they have an excellent return policy.

Walmart or Target is where I buy the basics that I use repeatedly.  I wouldn’t want to stand in line at Walmart to do a return, but their products can be found for less money than drugstores charge, by as much as a third.

3.  OMG I HATE IT!  Well, if you have really done your research, you should have something you like and you’re all set.  But if you hate something- either the quality is terrible or the color is bad, see if you can take it back.  No cosmetics company wants you stuck with something you hate and giving it bad reviews.  I have returned foundation that was the wrong shade, nail polish that didn’t cover well, and numerous products that have given me a rash.  Drugstore brands don’t have testers so it’s hard to know if what you got was correct, while high-end stores will give samples and have testers in their stores in hopes that you don’t wind up returning a very expensive product that they can’t do anything with but throw out.

So that’s it.  My best ways of getting new products into my collection.  I start with Makeupalley, move to Beautypedia, and don’t forget that blogs, much like the one you’re reading, and YouTube videos are full of great products too (keep an eye on some sponsored posts though- some of them are real reviews while others are just glorified advertisements).  Google whatever you’re looking for and someone has had SOMETHING to say about it, I promise.


Next week we’re delving into perfume!  EEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!


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