The only product that I can recall is Chanel Jade Le Vernis, which was many, many years ago, and I’m not really upset about it now but it was definitely “the one that got away” for awhile. These days, I think there are so many products coming out at all times that it’s easy enough to move on (plus, so many dupes).
I find first impressions that apply products as they were intended, like a new eyeshadow palette that is swatched and applied to eyes, useful to get an idea of how it works, how it applies, how it blends, and so on. I do like to see most of the shades in action, or else the information is only good for the shades used and may be a small portion of a palette (depending on how large it is). For things like complexion products, say a foundation, first impressions are only useful if they at least include a day of wear, but I find those types of products do not translate as well to first impressions as too often I’ve found a foundation looks great one day and terrible a week later and vice versa. I tend to find more use out of first impressions when they are positioned as that – initial impressions, so statements like “this is the best ever” aren’t thrown around either, more “here’s how this worked this time around, seems promising, etc.”
For skincare/hair care, they often guide me to what might work better for my particular concern/skin or hair type, but I tend to look at the brand at a higher level to see what they’re selling and how they sell it more than a few reviews. For makeup, I tend to buy ahead of reviews, and if I’m buying to review in color cosmetics, I try to avoid reading/viewing too many reviews before I try it myself.
It depends on the swatches; if they are the type of swatches that seem to be done to fit an aesthetic (or to just look “good”) then I put little trust in them in terms of telling me anything meaningful about pigmentation, finish, application, blendability, and even texture. Whether they’re done with fingertips or brushes, over primer or on bare skin, so long as they look “real” and are trying to show the product as-is vs. make it look “good,” then it often tells me about pigmentation, adhesion to the skin, blendability, and powderiness (if present).
I don’t think that swatches always tell the full story, but I’ve swatched enough to know that I can tell a lot by swatching that usually confirmed by applying it to the intended area. There are some types of formulas that work better “in practice” than just swatched, and then these days, some of the more silicone-heavy formulas look better swatched than they perform in practice. I use them as a baseline–they can be a guide, but I wouldn’t assume that what I see swatched is what I’d get in practice. I think they’re particularly good for getting an idea of color and finish, how they might sit on skin, and things like that.
I determine if I’m keeping it, and a lot of that is based on the brand, whether it’s permanent/limited edition, and getting to the point whether performance was good (if it was a terrible LE launch, I rarely keep these days!). My system is mostly set-up by brand, then by formula/type, so at this point, I just maintain that system!
I’m fortunate enough to have a makeup room, which is a larger open space with a lot of walls, two doorways (to get to the guest room, you pass through my makeup room), and a walk-in closet. I have three larger dressers with 16 drawers each, and these hold most of my makeup. I have a vanity that I sit down to do my makeup, which contains two drawers. I have larger open shelves that contain bins of products to review (but aren’t immediately being reviewed – a lot of skin care, foundation, etc. goes here). I do have makeup that I’m “more likely” to review soon in the mail room/gym space, which is closer to the front door. The photography space also has some makeup in it (I’ve largely moved it out of this area, though).