What do you like about sample sizes? What don't you like?

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Sample Sizes

For color cosmetics, I like mini sizes that are still, functionally, plenty of product for regular use–like a mini highighter. I’m not a huge fan of anything that’s only one or two uses, though. I also expect that the quality is the same between a sample size and full-size!

— Christine


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Ana Maria Avatar

One of the main reasons I like sample sized makeup is that I can try a new product without a big upfront investment. And sometimes I just need to play around with a product for a few days and weeks for a final assessment, swatching something in store (in the good old days) is not enough.

Sample sizes of favorite products are great for travel (which hopefully we’ll do more in the future).

Sample sizes for me also make sense for products I don’t use up before replacing or don’t use too often. I replace my mascara every three months, and sincerely a sample size is just enough to get me through. I also like sample sizes for eyeliner (also replaced quite often) and eye primer (even if I use it everyday, eye primer need just a tiny amount and can last ages).

What I don’t like is when sample sizes are so small or bad designed that they are impractical to use. Like a tiny lipstick so thin it breaks when you apply it. Or a powder pan one can barely swipe a brush in. Or a liner or pencil so short you can’t even grab properly.

I also don’t like how wasteful samples are. Yes, you don’t waste a full product if you don’t like it. But cosmetic packaging is already tricky to recycle. Maybe some of the bigger bottles can be recycled, but the samples contain too small parts to be feasible for recycling and most likely could cause issues for the recycling machines (I know small plastics are sometimes a hazzard).

I also don’t like when the sample size is too expensive per ounce, compared to the full sized. I understand that bigger sizes are more efficient production and packaging wise, so there’s an add-on cost to a sample; I don’t expect half the size to be half the price, but anything with more than 10-20% extra price per ounce for a sample is too high.

Jen Avatar

I like it when I get a real chance to try something out. Especially when I’m on the fence about a product, it can tip me toward purchasing it. I also like things like mascara or perfume samples to keep in the makeup bag in my purse, or for when I travel. On the other hand, I don’t get this idea of a one use sample of skin care or a color cosmetic sample so small it’s difficult to use. At least with color it might be fiddly but I can usually apply it, although once I got a bronzer sample the size of a nickel. How was I supposed to put that on the brush? But with skincare there is no way I’m going to see any kind of results in a day or two. Maybe for a face wash or similar it would be alright but not a serum or even a basic moisturizer. The other thing about samples is that they tend to multiply like crazy. Unless it’s something I specifically want I’ve stopped requesting them in my orders – not that they’ve stopped sending them!

Frozendiva Avatar

Skincare – I like the sample sizes for travel. The moisturizers you get with GWP come in handy, again, for travel or if I need to attend an after work event and I can use a touch up with X product, like All About Eyes. Some lines have holiday gift sets that contain minis, and those come in handy. Even if it is just an overnight trip, it means I don’t have to lug the full size product around. Gets heavy.

Fragrances – the minis are great to take to work for a touch up or in case I forget to wear a fragrance. It’s tough though, in that some workplaces, scent is not welcome or any fragrance has to be light. Also great for travel in that I can take a small size of my favourite one or two scents. I also like the minis or smaller sizes in terms of testing a scent. I’m not about to spend $300 on a Tom Ford fragrance. Spending the $80 allows me to test it out with commitment.

Cosmetics – I like the mini mascaras. Weather conditions and transit make it necessary for a touch-up at work. The minis are great. Don’t mind some mini lipglosses and lipsticks. I used to keep a small makeup bag in my desk drawer – a mini eyeshadow palette, GWP blush, manicure scissors, mini eyeliner, etc. – just in case.

The cons? Some of the prices for the minis can really add up. The 10 ml fragrances and rollerballs are much more expensive than the full size product and you do pay for the convenience. Trial or not, or whether you do use it as a purse size product. The smaller lipsticks can break, but that is the risk you take when you may never use up the product. Some of the samples do not have much product and you really can’t tell if they work for you when you only get one or two uses. Some department stores do sometimes give you a 10 day supply of foundation and you get a better sense if it works for you and if it is the right shade. Mainly, like regular sized products, there is a lot of hit and miss.

Lesley Avatar

A sample with one use is useless but for many products, two or three uses is enough for me to judge if a product is worth buying. I can tell after one use of shampoo, conditioner or facial cleanser if they will work for me. I also can tell after one use of foundation or concealer whether it’s a fail (sinking into pores and lines, too shiny, not the right coverage level) although I would need a few more days for a good wear test. For any other cosmetic, it should be at least enough for 10 to 14 uses. For skin care with actives, I would want at least 30 days worth. I don’t mind paying for samples or using reward points for them.

Marla Veis Avatar

I have only bought sample sizes in the Pat Mcgrath trio lipsticks and lip glosses. I wanted to try her lipstick because l had heard so many good things about them and they are fantastic so l have gone on to purchase more minis for the ability to try many colors at once and then l went on to purchase full sizes and other products. I don’t live near a store where l could see the products so l used your blog to decide what to buy..

Genevieve Avatar

What I like about sample sizes: In skincare, if there is enough product for a week or two, it can give you an idea of how the product will work on you without committing to a full size.

What I don’t like: Often the lipstick shades are not for me and they can be fiddly to use. There is a lot of wastage, in terms of packaging, with mini sizes too. And sometimes they are not that much cheaper either.

DVa Avatar

They are great in theory, but the packaging waste can be crazy.
I don’t like (for the most part) minis of cosmetics, meaning I wouldn’t buy because they get “lost” in my drawer, in my lipstick holder, in my makeup bag… I try them once or twice and forget about them.
For creams and lotions and hair products, If there is is enough for 3+ consistent uses I might buy it if I like it.

Larraine Avatar

I like mini lipsticks but here in EU is very few sold online.
Skincare I buy the travel size sets with mini products.
Skincare samples would like use 10-14 days product.
More mini highlighters and blushers because full sizes never use up and products gets old.
Mini dime size e/s for a magnetic palette that different brands minis go into 1 palette.
Sets of mini perfumes floral, chypre etc in a 15 ml size with normal prices using a simple glass bottle.

Jenny Avatar

The main drawback of sample sizes is in the cost-per-gram compared with full sizes, and that’s why I avoided them for years. However, with hindsight, the way I see it now is: it doesn’t matter how much more cost-effective it is to buy the full size – if I hate it, I’ve still spent all that money. If I hate the sample size, I’ve still scratched the itch but parted with a lot less coin. If I buy the less economical sample size but love it, then I’ve still parted with less money. And if the product is that damn good, I’ll use it up and buy the better-value full size. If the novelty/honeymoon period wears off before I finish the sample size, even better. Win-win.

Z Avatar

Love: enough for multiple uses FOR REAL. not “multiple uses if you use a pinhead amount”. The actual formula of the fullsize product.
Hate: Single use items, crappy packaging that busts immediately, or a different formula to the fullsize – how that last one benefits the company I have no idea….

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