What could brands do to make shopping online easier for you?

1.) Clear information; this means price, quantity, availability (limited edition, permanent, etc.), ingredient list, what it’s supposed to do (is it sheer? is it luminous? is it hydrating?). 2.) Decent photos–I get it, brands and retailers will always do themselves a favor and make products look a lil’ better but keep a toe in reality. 3.) Stop censoring/deleting/otherwise limiting the usefulness of consumer reviews.

— Christine


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Beth Avatar

A standard frame of reference would be very helpful. For instance, I am NC15. If I am looking for a new foundation, it would be nice if brands would have a chart with the shade that most closely corresponds to NC15. I realize that this would, in a way, be promoting MAC. But MAC’s system of color identification is so well known by so many that it would be easy to accept it as a universal way of choosing shades. In fact, I haven’t actually purchased MAC foundation in a really long time. But when I do go to choose something new, I frequently go through reviews looking for someone who says they are NC15 and which shade works for them.

Nancy T Avatar

Excellent idea, Beth! Oftentimes, I do have that go through my mind as a passing thought when considering buying a different brand of foundation. But then because I cannot figure out what shade to order, I just give up. My current MAC shade is in the Pro Longwear Waterproof formula NC41. This typically works for me all summer long…but not this year. I picked up more color than usual by using the pool. Yep, I do wear a waterproof, heavy duty spf30 sunscreen. Yet, I may be NC42 or beyond right now. Not that this will even matter at this time, as I now have some very unexpected, far more important things to tend to financially. But it WILL matter next summer! A conversion chart, ie; MAC vs Lancome, would be most helpful!

Beth Avatar

That’s exactly my point! You say that you are NC42 and I have an exact idea of your skin tone just like when I say NC15 you can know exactly my skin tone. I think it would be a much more effective way of communicating (including on brand websites) than fair, light, medium, deep etc.

Ana Maria Avatar

This is an outstanding discussion but unfortunately I don’t think will happen, and even if it does, might not be as universal as needed.
Clothes sizes are standardized, but we all know how huge difference is in retail on sizing. I fit at the same time the XS from a brand and the M from another.

I have seen lately many retailers adding features on the website to select a shade based on shades of most popular foundation… I tried it for fun, and almost never matches what I matched myself to. ?

Shelly Avatar

I agree with Ana Maria.

Also: even in MAC foundations there’s variation in shades between formulas.

Years ago I read a blog post by a makeup artist that included swatches of almost all the MAC foundations available at the time with the NC/NW nomenclature, and she grouped all the NC15s together and onward down to the deepest NC and NW shades. The darker shades were generally consistent between formulas; the lighter shades (15 to 35, IIRC) had a lot more variation. For example, if you (Beth) are in NC15 in Studio Fix Fluid (I presume that’s the foundation you’re matched to), NC15 in the old Pro Longwear Foundation ran darker and you would need to lighten it; on the other hand, NC15 in PLW Waterproof runs lighter than SFF so you may be closer to NC20 in PLWW.

(This is why I always ask someone to specify which MAC foundation they’re NC/NW whatever in if they’re asking for a comparable shade in a different foundation.)

Lesley Avatar

I would like to see more straightforward descriptions of ingredients and what the brand expects the product to do. Phrases like a “‘just run through a meadow’ glow” are useless. If the brand is selling skin care, there should be clean directions about how to use the product. And if I discover that a brand censors its reviews, I won’t shop there. Often I see a negative review from someone with a different skin type or age group and I will disregard it but it is still useful information.

Kitty Avatar

Ingredients! Critical info missing from many brands.

And make the ingredient list tailored to that product. Numerous brands are lazy and have too many ingredients listed as “may contain” (aka “+-“). I’m allergic to a certain dye and brands like Tom Ford, Chanel and many others always include this allergen in their “may contain” category, meaning the entire brands are eliminated from my consideration.

Cameron Avatar

If I could only have one of these improvements, it would be this one. I’d just like them to put something like this clearly on the page:

Contains: Fragrance (artificial and natural are both fragrance, so this would include both)
Contains: Carmine
Contains: Plastic glitter

Lea Avatar

While I get this complaint, there is a reason some items are listed this way. A specific product may not use or contain a particular ingredient, but if it’s used in the same factory or in the same machines for another product there could be cross contamination that needs a warning. It’s similar to potential cross-contamination in food products made at a facility using nuts; they have to disclose the potential.

Kitty Avatar

Lea, I agree and get it, except that my allergy is pretty rare (especially for women). Most companies are totally unaware that there are even any issues with this ingredient.

Selena Juarez Avatar

I agree with you so much. I just recently saw how Good Molecules are now doing their ingredient list and it’s amazing. Wish more brands would take after them.

Anja Avatar

Proper swatches on different skintypes. All ingredients listed. Clear description of shade & undertone for foundation

One click add to wishlist feature from search results. Options to filter across types of products / brands / shades

International shipping with end price transparent on the website and a shipping option that is tracked (ie not US Postal Service). I do realize that smaller brands may be a bit overwhelmed handling customs etc, but I wish to have more options like beautylish (or more brands on beautylish). Customs and handling fees can be very unpredictable depending on how companies declare value of the goods. If it’s left to the consumer it’s always a risk that I’m not willing to take.

Nancy T Avatar

Everything you said, plus: please brands, make sites more user friendly for the consumer who only uses a mobile device! MAC has one of the worst to access via my phone. Ulta isn’t much better. Macy’s and Nordstrom sites are like going on tedious treasure hunts when trying to access and accomplish a purchase from my phone!

Another pet peeve, they need to post allergy warnings for certain very common allergens. Whether it be gluten in a lipstick for a Celiac sufferer, sodium saccharine for someone with a sulfa allergy, specific dyes for those who have allergies to those. Brands need to upfront and transparent about these ingredients in their products by going above and beyond just providing an ingredient list (usually in very small type), a warning would be so very appreciated by those of us that really need that!

Ana Maria Avatar

* Clean website design, easy to load even on small device and slow internet connection. I know flashy things catch the eye, but I’m there to put a product in a cart, not to wait for megabytes of video, music and flashy things to load.

*Make websites clean and organized. Searching a product and checking out shouldn’t take ages, hundreds of clicks, validating seven times you got the right product and quantity. Notify me of deals, but don’t show 20 annoying pop-ups.

* Add more professional pictures, multiple looks, swatches, various skin tones. User pictures are nice, but if a blog like Temptalia, which is one person, can have great swatches, there’s no excuse for a big brand. They can hire 3 models to do proper pictures for their products.

* Stop with the nonsense of only 5 star reviews. Allow critical bad reviews; there’s no such thing as an universal good product, people have different needs. Be better at showing for who the product is targeted, on educating users how to use it (videos, instruction tutorials).

Ana Maria Avatar

Also, stop with claiming everything works for everyone. A foundation can’t work for oily, combination and dry skin. A conditioner can’t work for curly, fine and normal hair.
Add relevant description, detail more on who is the product is addressed to.

Z Avatar


I like a well-streamlined site that shows me shipping prices without requiring a log in, but the most important thing is an ingredients list. I have an allergy to an extremely common ingredient and don’t want to waste anyone’s time and money (especially my own) purchasing something without full information.

I was *just* browsing an australian site and it looks like they just pick a few ingredients to display without disclosing the whole thing. *click* I’m out. Hope you didn’t want my money that badly.

Dr.Ellen Farkas Avatar

Clear swatches on all skin tones that have a zoom feature, so shades can be easily viewed . And real swatches , not the fake kind that look like they were stamped on! Return shipping labels would be nice too. Many brands do offer free returns , especially for foundation and concealers. But they don’t advertise it. You have to call customer service and wait for a return label to be emailed to you. Back in March and April, all brands were having big sales, and trying a new foundation can cheer one up during quarantine. But customer service representatives were few and far between, and I sat on hold with Armani for over half an hour once, and when the label didn’t arrive two weeks later, I had to do it again . If they just enclosed labels in the package, they could cut down on customer service
reps and put them to use logging in returns ?. Hope you are all safe and well.

Jen Avatar

Yes to everything already mentioned! Also, I would love if more brands included actual color descriptions. Tell me that lipstick is a moderately cool toned mauve with gold sparkle, not just that it’s called First Kiss (or whatever). Those descriptors will often make or break a purchase because while I’m not always that great at identifying whether a color has certain shades or undertones in a swatch, I do know what’s more likely to look good on me. So if I’m on the fence, I’m more likely to skip or delay the purchase if I’m uncertain whether it’s a color I’m actually going to like and wear.

Actually that’s how I first found Temptalia. I was looking for exactly that kind of objective color descriptions and images so thank you, Christine!

Kira Avatar

There needs to be a seamless connection between online and in-person now, speaking from a recent bad experience…

I just went to a Sephora to buy sunscreen, and the cashier put the wrong item in my bag but charged me for the more expensive item I wanted (at the counter, I asked that she take out the sheer Drunk Elephant sunscreen since I didn’t meet the discount threshold anyway). They gave me the wrong item, but I figured I wouldn’t ask for a refund or replacement, I just reached out to customer service online to get a $2 refund. An agent emailed me back saying said I had to call or go back to the physical store and work it out with them. I would expect customer service to do this legwork for me, or relay the message. In exchange for years of goodwill with Sephora and the hundreds I spend there, I got this response over $2+ that they stole from me lol. Anyway, this experience was unacceptable to me, and I will just buy directly from the brands now.

Shelly Avatar

All of what you said, especially ingredients lists and accurate swatch photos.

I’d also like to see more brands and stores offer foundation samples for a small price. For those of us who cannot go swatch in person (which is impossible right now anyway) the ability to get samples would be huge in helping find a shade match, IMO.

Missy Avatar

Oh wow I agree with everyone’s suggestions these are so important. I’d like to add – more details in general but especially with shade descriptions. Because pictures often don’t represent the actual colors IRL I want to know if a shade is a ‘warm beige with a pink undertone’. Colourpop is good at doing this although their pictures are terrible and you can’t zoom in on the mobile site. Most mobile sites are so bad they’re unusable, why can’t they figure out most of us shop on our phones??? I’ve given up on so many purchases because of a bad mobile site (maybe that’s better for me though lol)

CatG Avatar

Wow, everything said here I totally agree with!
The one thing that REALLY annoys me when shopping online (and luckily not many sites still do this) is when you add something to the cart, and then you have to specifically press some sort of button or link to continue shopping to add to your pre-existing cart or otherwise your cart will be emptied as if you’re starting over once you’re on a new page. I just love websites where you can choose to expand and look at your cart from a side tab without leaving the page you are already on.

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