FAQ: Review & Rating System
This post is designed to help readers understand more about how I review products, what characteristics I’m looking for in products, what criterion I use for different aspects of a product, and the like. My goal is to qualify my review process in such a way that helps readers understand why a product receives a certain score. Ultimately, I hope that this FAQ reduces any confusion and gives everyone a better understanding of the rating system and how best to use it.
Read the FAQ on how I review and what the rating system means to me…
I always test out products I review. I’m not reviewing a product I haven’t seen in person, with my own eyes, and touched with my own fingers (or applicator–whatever!). When it comes to most makeup, the trial period isn’t particularly extensive (if an eyeliner fades in an hour, wearing it for a week isn’t changing that!), but the review is about that trial, my results, what I liked/disliked, where a product could use improvement, whether it’s worth the price tag, and if it lives up to its claims.
For skincare, I test most products for two to three weeks at a minimum, but depending on the type of product, I often test products for as long as six weeks. Skincare really depends on what I’m reviewing it for (e.g. anti-acne, anti-aging, etc. require longer testing periods, but if it’s just a facial scrub, a few weeks of testing is usually enough). I usually indicate the testing period length when I do skincare reviews.
Bottom Line: Products are photographed and swatched/used/tested as appropriate.
The Rating System
The rating system is not a substitute for the written review or photos/swatches included with the review. It is meant to be a quick summary, but it should be considered in context.
Product – 60% weight
The Product score is a measure of a product’s effectiveness, efficacy, and how it performs. In my eyes, this is an extremely important factor, which I have always weighted higher than the other factors I review on (value, ease of use, and packaging). At the end of the day, I want to know if a product did what it was supposed to do–I don’t care if it was a steal or I felt like I got robbed or if it comes in a paper bag–it’s all about how well it works. I often look at a product’s claims to determine how well it meets them.
Value – 20% weight
Value is a measure of whether the product is priced in line with expectations and whether you’re getting enough for your money. I do not think it reasonable or even remotely helpful to compare a $25 lipstick with a $2 lipstick. If that’s how you look at value, then few products will have value. Even a L’Oreal lipstick is pricey compared to a $1 Wet ‘n Wild lipstick! I think it’s silly to compare Chanel to Wet ‘n Wild to determine value.
Value, to me, is a combination of how the product’s price stacks up against similar products from direct competitors and if you’re getting enough for that money. For instance, I compare value across brands like Chanel, Dior, and Guerlain, but I don’t compare any of these higher end brands to mass retail brands like CoverGirl, L’Oreal, and Maybelline. So I ask myself these questions: 1) how much product do I get for my money? (I use price per ounce, usually!); 2) how does it compare to direct competitors/similar products from the brand?; and 3) how many usages will I get out of it? Value is something to look at, particularly if you’re on a budget, but a product should, ultimately, not be so docked down that it receives a low rating purely because it’s expensive.
Ease of Use – 10% weight
Most products are fairly simple and easy enough to use, so this is an area where a lot of products can get some “gimme” points, essentially. However, sometimes I do come across products that are confusing in their directions (like a mask – it might not tell you whether to rinse it off or not) or are impractical (e.g. lip palettes). It’s something I look for in a product, but it has a very small impact on the overall score.
Packaging – 10% weight
The way a product is packaged can often grab your attention, so we know brands pay attention to packaging, and I think it’s important to keep it in mind as part of a review. I love fun packaging, but packaging doesn’t make or break a product (well, not usually–there’s always an exception), so this is just a minor characteristic to judge a product on. I often look at the practicality of packaging, whether it keeps things sanitary, how it functions, and the like.
The overall score is given on the American grading system of A, B, C, D, F, with both pluses and minuses to reflect degrees of scores. I feel this system conveys a clear message of how good or bad a product is. If you think about it, there are three ways to say B: 8/10, 80%, and B-, but they do all mean the same thing. I award a maximum of 30 points for product, 10 points for value, 5 points for ease of use, and 5 points for packaging. There is a maximum of 50 points to help determine the overall score. This overall score may be influenced by my overall feel (such as perhaps I’d like to give more like 3.5 points out of 5 for packaging, and the like) and experience with the product itself and how it stacks up, so I may round up (e.g. point values are 79%, I may round to a 80% or a B-).
So here is a break down of what each letter means:
- A: This is a product that is excellent overall. A+ is the highest grade a product can achieve, thus it is a rare, but coveted, score. A- reflects an excellent product with a minor flaw (be it value, ease of use, packaging). If I give a product A- or above, it’s something I’d consider purchasing again in the future and will likely use repeatedly in the future.
- B: This reflects a good product overall. A solid product that I’d recommend to others and wouldn’t mind using, but I may not repurchase in the future because I feel like there’s something better out there. It’s good, but not good enough that I want to stop the search for more. B+ represents a product that’s just at the cusp of good and great. B- represents a product that’s a cusp of good and average.
- C: This reflects an average product overall. This is a product that performs decently, but it’s not something I’d recommend to others overall. Like the other grades, a plus indicates slightly better than average but not quite good, and a minus indicates a slightly less than average product.
- D: This reflects a below average product overall. I do not recommend products with this low of a score. These are products that often perform well below expectations and fail to meet the claims it makes. To earn such a low score, the product itself must be less than effective.
- F: This reflects a failure of a product overall. I’ve never given this grade out, though I have come close. This is a product that doesn’t work and isn’t worth your time. It’s probably not even worth the time it takes to read the review about it.