What lessons have you learned about shopping online for beauty products?

1.) Rarely trust brand-provided swatches (they almost always under-perform and often look tonally different. 2.) I’m terrible at returning products in a reasonable length of time. 3.) Online live chats can be useful for questions about the product (like the size or an ingredient).

— Christine
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In all honesty, the only thing I’ve learned is that it’s simply not for me. I like seeing things for myself. If a brand doesn’t make that possible for me, they can kiss my business good-bye (I just said as much in a MAC survey I was asked to complete).

This year I learned that just because a brand has been doing the same Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale for years it doesn’t mean it will stay that way. I use Dermadoctor’s Calm, Cool & Corrected on a regular basis and since it’s overpriced (IMHO, $85 a jar for something you use regularly can get quite expensive), I never pay full price for it. Prior to this year the largest discount I could get during the year was when Ulta offered 20% off or the few occasional times it was available on Hautelook. For years, the Dermadoctor website’s Cyber Monday discount was 30% off and I could buy 3-4 jars that would last me awhile. This year, they are only giving 20%. Very lame that they can’t throw loyal users a bone anymore and give 30%. I even passed on Ulta’s 25% they had on Cyber Fundays because I thought the 30% off was coming! I’ll know better next year. . .

Read multiple reviews from people you trust first. I don’t trust brand swatches, either, so I definitely look online for swatches from several sources (not everyone swatches the same way). Factor shipping charges into your savings — sometimes it’s cheaper to get the discount and pay shipping from one vender over another. If you don’t know your foundation or concealer shade from a particular brand, don’t try to guess. Look online for affiliate codes or coupons.

Always read the ingredients list. I can’t use products with denatured alcohol in them, yet some brands love to throw this into their skincare/foundation lines. If a brand won’t put out an ingredients list, it’s not for me.

So much! Lol!
1.) What you said about brand’s online swatches, Christine, I echo that!
2.) It’s far too easy to fall down the spending rabbit hole and go a little crazy when all one needs to do is hit buttons instead of having to wait on line for a cashier and have to pull out ones CC or $’s.
3.) Therefore, it is imperative for me to look up REAL swatches, reviews and go in informed about what I’m purchasing, and go in with a list that I STICK to!
4.) Don’t buy something just because it’s half price or some such that you wouldn’t want at full price! I’ve done that, and many of those get ignored after a few uses. Not smart on my part!

1. As a Canadian – US deals can be enticing but that $18+ duty though!
2. As a Canadian, not every brand will to ship to your US PO Box (sniff, Hourglass)
3. Never buy makeup off ebay or Amazon. Period. (Often Aliexpress knockoffs)

I hear you! Not every brand/store will ship to Canada, period. And even then… the shipping alone can be ridiculous, like over $20.00 for a very lightweight, $10.00 item (e.g. one, small concealer, packed in a bubble envelope)! Add taxes/duty on top of that and it quickly becomes cost prohibitive.

In a perfect world I would live close enough to department stores, makeup stores and other resources so that on-line purchases wouldn’t be necessary but I live in a very small town in Montana. The population is less than 500 people. I am 3 hours away from Missoula, Kalispell and Spokane, WA. Even if I travel to Missoula or Kalispell, there are Ulta’s but they don’t carry anything near the full product lines and the Sephora’s are JC Penney’s. Don’t get me wrong, I am thankful for them but they don’t carry all the products either. In Spokane there is a Nordstrom’s so I can look at MAC, Chanel, Nars, Dior and Lancome but no prestige brands. The closest place for me to see prestige brands is Seattle, WA or Vancouver, BC. It just isn’t practical to travel there to see and swatch products. I have to rely on on-line shopping.
I completely agree that relying on swatches from the website is really not good. Sometimes the description, if there is one, is better than the actual swatch. I do a lot of research, I have learned what works and what doesn’t and I have found on-line sources that have similar skin tones and skin types as myself and try to look at their reviews. I rarely return things, even if they don’t work because it is often more trouble than it is worth to have to repackage and go to the post office in the dead of winter. Consequently, I have made purchases that are mistakes but I try to find someone who can use the product or I will really try to make it work. If not it goes in the donate bin. I use to give to my daughter who would take them to college and let her friends have at the products but she isn’t at college anymore.
I think in my case it just comes down to accepting that I might make a few errors in determining what products are going to work for me but overall, I have learned and find that the more I do buy on-line, the better I am getting at it.

I have learnt a few lessons from ordering beauty products online:
1. As Christine has stated, the colours/shades can be very different to what they look like in real life.
2. Not all online retailers pack their goods as well as others
3. International shipping rates are prohibitive (as well as exchange dollar rates)

I really do prefer to see the product for myself, although I have ordered sight unseen on many occasions.
If it is reviewed by Christine and given a great rating, the product suits my colour preferences, then I will get it. An example of this is the Anastasia Sultry palette. I purchased it from Beatylish and it is perfect.

Try to look at as many people’s swatches and reviews as possible, because skin tone, lighting, personal preference, and more all affect people’s opinions and photos. Wait at least a day or two to think about it (usually at least a few weeks for me!) to see if it’s an impulse or a real desire.

1) Only shop with retailers with excellent return policies
2) never trust online swatches, even blog swatches can be off in color due to variance in computer monitors
3) never trust reviews on retailer/manufacturer sites

The only brands I have repeatedly ordered from are Colourpop and WetnWild. Colourpop I feel as if im taking a chance on colors as before they showed to Sephora/Ulta I had no idea how the shades would actually turn out but once received never been disappointed in fact just ordered a couple of eyeshadow palettes for my daughter and niece (and myself although I was supposed to be on a great makeup ‘diet’ yeah right?! Lol!), with WetnWild I usually order from them things I have already seen at stores to complete a collection so I’m much better aware. No problems either with both I can say but I definitely prefer to see and swatch in person.

I agree, with your points, Christine. I make sure to read and watch as many reviews (especially the negative ones), as possible. I try to stay skeptical wrpt glowing/enthusiastic reviews. I make the effort to find and see as many swatches, as possible, and that usually gives me a pretty good idea of the colors (like 90% of the time, color products meet my expectations). I also like to use Sephora’s foundation shade finder feature – I used it several times and the results are very close to my true match, so that gives me a good starting point, narrowing the selection. And yeah, what’s with the samples??? I also find that they tend to be different in color and quality from the actual product. Not so much for lipsticks/shadows/blushes, but foundations, concealers and skin care products quality was off every – single – time.

Ditto on the swatches. Double and triple check my checkout information (so as not to have to call them or immediately e-mail them with a correction, say for shipping). Know the laws of your country or state (concerning deals, shipping, customs duties, refunds, etc.) as it can help you receive better service in a pinch.

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