What are your tips and tricks on purchasing beauty products online that you’ll love?

One of the keys is to cut through the marketing hype, whether what’s been creating on social media or whatever spiel the brand has along the product on the website. I like to read reviews wherever I can find them, and I look for longer reviews; I like to read a mixture of lower-rated reviews (like 2 or 3 out of 5, as I find those are often more useful than 1-star reviews on average) and higher-rated reviews to see what people seem to be saying.

— Christine
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19 Comments

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Understanding and reminding yourself that nothing is truly unique, and learning to be honest with yourself re: what kind of a need would the product fulfil (noting that retail therapy is a valid need too), and trying to use that as the basis for my decisions. Reminding myself that unused makeup is a sad thing to have lying around and passing up on impulses to buy so-so products just because it caught my eye for a moment 🙂

I usually first look at my skin type matches (combo or oily both fit), and see if they complain about the product being short lasting. And then I look through 2/3 stars reviews (same as you, Christine!) because I have a running conspiracy theory that Sephora deletes a bunch of 1 star reviews and 2 or 3 star reviews, while negative, are less likely to be deleted.

I don’t look at marketing at all. All I look at are swatches and reviews. I don’t really care what they claim to do, as long as they deliver the results I wanted.

Sephora and Ulta are definitely not the worst in term of reviews… I mean some brands have on their website only 4 and 5 star reviews. At least on Sephora and Ulta some negative reviews go through.

I recently was very disappointed with the MJ bronzer which applied quite patchy on my skin, so I left a one and a half star review on their website and they changed the star rating to five but kept the review the same. I contacted them thinking it was an error and never got a response. If you read many of the actual reviews on MJB website they don’t seem to match the number of star awarded at all. Boooo, cause I really like this brands products.

Ditto everything you said Christine! I also try to look at swatches across multiple reviewers, to be sure I’m getting a good sense of the actual product color. I also correct for personal preferences when reading negative comments–for example, someone might ding a face/lip/eye product for not being full coverage or for being too sheer, but I generally prefer subtle over stronger colors. So sometimes what someone else dislikes about a product wouldn’t bother me at all (and vice versa!).

I first start with an ingredient/formula review, by looking at the ingredient list and at beautypedia.com . I don’t use make-up / skincare products with flagrance, alcohol and other irritants, and I also know what ingredients that even if they are `safe` in general, just don’t work for me. This it’s quite personal, but I usually agree with the reviewers on beautypedia (but some might experience products differently).

For color swatches and foundation/concealer matching I rely on temptalia.com . That given said, in time I have learned that eyeshadows and blushes look differently on my skin than on Christine, but I did started to know how that `different` would be. I can say that I successfully used the foundation matrix several times for matching foundations / concealers without testing the product ever before purchasing; again, I have learned in time how to `read` into the data and how to interpret the matches (e.g. for a fuller coverage foundation I go a shade lighter, drugstore foundations always oxidize on me so I again tend to choose one shade lighter, etc.).

I try to watch as many youtube video using the products, focusing on tutorials and favorites, not first impressions (which in my opinion are not the best content). I try to read also many reviews online, not just look at the score; I try to read the longer reviews and take a look at reviews from different ratings; longer reviews are the best, since I get the context on why that person actually loves or likes that product, how she/he uses it, etc.

Totally agree. For people not familiar with the Paula sites, Beautypedia is now separate from the Paula site. It has starred reviews for products, an expert review, and consumer reviews, at times. It touches on what Ana Maria mentioned. For more detailed info on a specific ingredient, you need to go to the Paula site, click expert advice, and select ingredients dictionary. There you will find more specific info on why/why not about virtually any ingredient. You can do similar searches on a Cosdna, a Korean site, which lists more Asian product than Paula. EWG, environmental working group, informs you of hazard to your skin for many ingredients and chemical compounds. There usually is an environmental impact statement as well. If s.t. Is banned in the EU or Aus, but not in the US, EWG will state it.

Swatches and reviews! Since beauty bloggers usually include their MAC skin tone shade somewhere in their blog, it’s a good google search keyword. I’ll google “NC20 [product name]” and usually come up with a ton of images. Then I’ll click on a few and read the accompanying blog entries. I also sometimes add “reddit” to the search string to get reviews from r/makeupaddiction. This doesn’t usually result in in-depth reviews, but some “this lipstick is so beautiful on my skintone!” or “I wanted to like that eyeshadow but it ended up being so patchy” comments can help me figure out whether or not I’m into it.

I’m also an “NC20 [product name]” googler 😆
Most beauty influencers/reviewers don’t usually state their shade, you either know it, either need to search a little; sometimes they don’t even name the shade they are trying in a review.
I really appreciate saaamage, since she actually puts her shade in tons of different foundations in her video descriptions; we’re no twinsies, but it’s more helpful for me (I’m usually yellow toned like her, and going 1-2 shades lighter works) since I can cross check between different brands and formulas.

Número uno; I actively avoid making any impulse buy of an online exclusive product. Just not worth the risk. I’ll wait to see *accurate* swatches, preferably done live if on YouTube. And I always try to wait until I’ve had a chance to read your review of it and see your swatches before I make that sort of sight unseen purchase!

Don’t trust promo pictures: Look for reviewers’ pictures and swatches online. Check Temptalia, of course. 🙂 Instagram is a great place to find indie brand swatches and looks, so you can get a better idea of true color, finish, opacity, etc. Buy from a store with a good return policy when shopping from more mainstream brands.

Try to find a trusted blogger(s)/vlogger(s) who also have similar skin tones and/or skin types, and/or aesthetics to your own, to get an idea of what might work for you.

Feel more safe with formulas that have already proven themselves You-friendly. Brands seldom reformulate, without hoopla. What Christine said about consumer reviews. Watch a tuber with a skintone (and taste, maybe) similar to yours. As to photo representations, remember the P word: photoshop. They all did it, do it, and always will, until a more deceptive technology takes its place. If a shade looks the same on three different skintones, they are shining you on. Esp for skincare, read the ingredients, and familiarize yourself with what agrees/disagrees with you. Use Cosdna, EWG, etc to check for safety. Check for the product on any sites that may be having some form of discount. Do not succumb to FOMO. If you don’t get that product, you can find a dupe here…unless you are desperate for the packaging. Remember the current sales climate. Certain brands are likely to progress to sale status quickly, and you could have resisted for that short length of time, for the up to 50% you may save.

Having read through the comments and Christine’s, of course, I don’t have much new to add. I do find that my particular computer screen skews colours quite dramatically and so I have learned how to interpret the colours based on what I know my computer screen does to them. I read a lot of reviews but I do temper my level of trust in the review with my own skin tone, shade preferences and performance preferences. Like pretty much everyone here, I prefer to read the mid-score reviews. They just seem to more accurately capture the good and the bad.
I don’t buy foundation on-line unless it is a repurchase. I know what works for me and what doesn’t in terms of shades and depth of shade as I am very fair skinned so for other products I feel comfortable getting the right shade once I account for my weird computer screen.
I tend to buy powder products and skin care on-line mostly. I feel like once I know the texture of the powder product and how other’s rate it I can make a pretty good estimation of how I will like it. I also feel comfortable buying lipstick most of the time if the formula is one that I like. When buying a new lipstick brand or one that is described as having a different texture, dry down, etc. I will purchase one shade that I know I will love and then if I find it to be good then I will order other shades.
I think that I am a lot more comfortable ordering on-line than some people would be since I live quite a distance from any brick and mortar store where I could just “run over” and check it out. Necessity has forced me to learn how to find products that I like when ordering on-line.

good point about computer screens. i also spend time sorting through images, but it’s difficult to know what’s really accurate based on lighting and editing.

I tend to look a few reviews to get a feel of how the product works, its pros and cons. I prefer it when reviewers show swatches in different lights and talk about the pigmentation and longevity. For example, when CT bought out a neutral palette 18 months ago, that I was interested in, so many of the British reviewers said the same thing: powdery, dry and disappointing. These were honest reviews.
I rely on Christine’s rating system and dupe list to do the same thing here.

Maybe not the best advice, but I’ve tried to limit my online purchases as much as possible. Even when I’ve done some research beforehand, I end up disappointed with like half of my online purchases.

I’d rather just shop in store for everything

I check ingredients for things I react to first before investing time into reading reviews. I look for reviews that compare and contrast to products I have already tried. I’m slowly getting accustomed to what sort of textures or colors I prefer that may be different from what particuar bloggers prefer. I really like photo comparisons of which the Dupe List is the best! Sephora community is really generous in posting side-by-side swatches. It’s still hard to find good side-by-side swatches of lightest foundation and concealer shades after oxidation.

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