Sunday, January 13, 2013

What Not To Buy : Shopping Tips

Many people view purchasing makeup differently. Some want the best value, or most product for the money. While others, want to know which high end brands are worth the splurge.  While there is no set formula to decide what is worth purchasing, I have figured out a few key tips over the years that may help.

Here are my shopping tips:
  1. Read Reviews- Even if you are shopping in Sephora, before you drop some major coin, pull up the Sephora app on your smart phone, and read some reviews. Even if a product is highly rated, read some bad reviews, to get all view points before making your own decision.
  2.  Test In Store- If possible, swatch the product on the back of your hand in store before making a major purchase such as an expensive eyeshadow palette. Foundations, should be matched to your skin color in store or at a counter. 
  3. Stick With Brands You Trust-I use a lot of different brands. I love variety and am always willing to try new things. However, there are some brands that are tried and true for me. There are also certain brands that do certain things really well. For example; Too Faced is known for their bronzers. If you want a good bronzer, it is a safe bet that their brand has something you'll like.
  4. Ask A Friend or A Stranger- If I am shopping at the grocery store, and a woman is wearing a lip gloss that I think looks amazing, you better believe I am going to ask her what brand it is and where she got it. There is no better way to be informed, than to ask around. You can also find people online, or in everyday life who seem to like the same types of products as you, and go to them for advice. 
  5. Know Your Needs- A lot of people get hung up on thinking something is really good because everyone else says it is. However, you have to know what you like. If you don't like sheer foundations, then your best friend's light tinted moisturizer that she keeps raving about isn't going to be for you. 
Here are some real life examples of mistakes I actually made, and how they could have been avoided: 

On The Left: Brushes I really wish I didn't buy
On The Right: Brushes I like!

The two sets pictured on the left are actually both from the same brand (Crown Brushes). They are both supposed to be professional synthetic sets. However they are worlds apart. The one on the left is pretty much unusable, while the set on the right works just fine.

I purchased both of these online, but I got caught up on the name brand. Everyone always raves about Crown Brushes, so I decided to try a set. While I like the set on the right, they are certainly not the best in my collection. What I didn't think about were my personal needs. First of all, most of the people I know who like Crown Brushes use their animal hair sets. I only use synthetic brushes. I should have taken that into consideration before purchasing these sets.

On The Left: A Foundation I hate
On The Right: A Foundation I love

I should have tested the Kat Von D foundation in the store. Instead, I purchased it online. Had I tested it before hand, I would have realized, the coloring does not match my skin. It's far too pink.  I also would have realized that the packaging does not work for my makeup set up. There is no real cap to the foundation, so this wouldn't work when I need to travel. I also don't like foundations this thick. On the other hand, the Illamasqua foundation on the right, is moisturizing, feels amazing on my skin, matches my skin color and photographs beautifully.

On The Left: Glosses Not Worth the Money
On The Right: Great Buys

The Nars gloss pictured here is a mini gloss from the Larger Than Life Lip Gloss Coffret. I purchased it because of the Andy Warhol soup can holder it came in and I just had to have it the second it came out. Had I read the reviews, I would have seen the problems with the actual product. The applicator is a tiny brush, that is so small it's nearly impossible to paint your lips with it. Someone else pointed out this fact in a review on had I simply taken the time to read it. The Urban Decay gloss pictured on the left is fine in terms of the product itself.  However, I have had problems with the packaging of this product before. I've had several tubes arrive to me with the hole melted closed. I've also had the cap break on a few of them. I'm sorry but at $19 a pop, I expect more.  The E.L.F. gloss on the right, which only cost $3 has a better brush applicator, and a similar effect to the Nars version. Similarly, if you prefer your gloss in a tube, The Body Shop glosses are equally as moisturizing, and I've never had a problem with their packaging.

On The Left: A Lipstick I Loathe
On The Right: A Lipstick I Love

Oddly, I purchased the Urban Decay lipstick on the left because of the packaging. It's this same packaging that led me to hate it! While I still think the packaging looks cool, it's simply not functional. The little sword on the bottom makes it impossible to set the lipstick on a table top, which is frustrating given my makeup station set up.  Whenever you are spending a little bit more money on a high end lipstick, I recommend opting for a more pigmented one.  The reason being, sheer lipsticks are easy to duplicate and there are cheaper options available.  A more pigment lipstick (such as the Tarte one on the right) has more uses, you can apply it with your finger and wear it as a stain, sheer it out with lip balm or gloss, or wear it full on for a bold lip.  It's much easier to lighten a lipstick, than to darken one that lacks pigment.

On The Left: Mascaras that Make Me Mad
On The Right: Mascaras I'm Mad About

For a long time, I just thought I hated drugstore mascaras. Every single one I tried sucked. First of all, there aren't a lot of cruelty-free drugstore mascara brands available (I can name maybe 5).  E.L.F. has some great things for sure, but the brand is pretty hit or miss.  When I tried the E.L.F. mascara, my lashes literally stuck together, making it look like I had 5 eyelashes. When I tried to comb them through with a lash comb, the mascara had hardened so quickly, that I couldn't do anything other than take it off. This is a case where I should have stuck with a brand I know. Physicians Formula is one of the first makeup brands I ever used. As far as drugstore makeup goes, I'm not saying this brand does everything well, but for me personally I've had more hits than misses. These two mascaras from Physicians Formula just blow me away. They hold their own against higher end brands.

Sometimes, we do everything we can, and still get stuck with a bad product. We can't predict everything so knowing a store's return policy can also be a big help. Remember, what works for me, might not work for you so that's why of all the tips listed above, tip number 5 is probably the most important. Know exactly what you need the product to do before buying it. I hope this post was helpful. Please let me know if you'd like to see more like it. If you think you like some of the same brands I do, you can always ask my advice on Twitter @MakeupMatters1


  1. great, great post! i'm always looking for more info on drugstore brands that are cruelty free to save a little money. thanks for saving me the pain of ELF mascara!

  2. LOVE this post. I can totally relate to buying products just for the packing. I'd like to see more like this with tips, VERY helpful.

  3. I love this post!! Please do a Part II of the following you love/loathe: nail polish, eyeliner, concealer, eyebrow pencil or gel, lip balm tint?? I love to read what you have to say!

  4. Thanks for reading Flora! What a great suggestion! I will do that post for sure!


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