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7 Tips to Never Waste Money Buying the Wrong Beauty Product Online Again

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Main image – Tanyadanilevich/Stocksy

You’ll be familiar with the scene. You wade through hundreds of online reviews to find that elusive “perfect” new moisturiser, click buy, excitedly await your new arrival before trying it and… disappointment.

While online beauty shopping has brought us hundreds of new brands and the latest launches within button-pressing distance, it does have the disadvantage of the occasional purchase that seems the perfect fit but just doesn’t work when it comes to your skin.

Even as a beauty editor of 17 years, I still find myself buying the odd concealer/mask/serum online that ends up consigned to my drawer of barely-used products that don’t work for me.

But, after much trial and error, I’ve found a few ways of keeping that number to a minimum.  Allow me to introduce you to all the ways I use to keep the majority of my online beauty purchases positive ones.


Image – Ohlamourstudio/Stocksy


1. Know your skin

It helps to know your skin type before buying anything either online or in-store. You will have a better idea of the shades and formulas that will suit you best, saving time and confusion.


2. Know your undertones

Similarly, when it comes to makeup purchases it’s important to know your undertones (the hue underneath your actual skin colour).  Whether you have warm, neutral or cool undertones, this simple (yet, often overlooked) tip can have a surprisingly big impact on the outcome of your makeup purchase.

Take concealer, for example.  You might be able to spot the right shade from among the many options on a brand’s site, but choose a shade that pulls “warm” when you’re a “cool”, and the result will likely be an overly yellow finish that probably won’t look all that natural.

On the other hand, once you know your undertones, you’ll be able to look for cues in the product description that point to whether it’s geared towards warm, neutral or cool tones.


3. Use online tools

When it comes to picking your actual shade of base products though, this is where online tools can help.  Many sites, like Il Makiage, use online tools to help you find your perfect shade.  Or if you already know your shade with another brand, try searching to find the equivalent in your new chosen product.  

Some brands even offer a money back guarantee if their tool doesn’t pick the perfect shade for you.  Take advantage of their offer to make sure you end up with the actual right shade for you (not one that will just end up in the bin).


4. Use testers

If you have the chance to try a product in store before buying online though, don’t be afraid to use the testers; they are there for testing! Don’t be afraid to dab them onto the back of your hand and use your fingers to blend them in so you can feel their texture or see for yourself what the shade is really like. 


5. Stock up on empty makeup pots

Some of us just aren’t fans of testing a foundation in a badly lit department store with people watching as they go by. So take some empty tester pots and a Sharpie to the shop with you and ask the assistant to dispense whatever they would have tested on your face into the pot instead.

Mark with the Sharpie which shade is in which pot and then try them in the comfort of your own home later, in your own lighting. You will feel less rushed and less obligated to purchase something you may regret later.


6. Look out for ingredients

When it comes to skincare, finding the products that work for your exact skin type and concerns is pretty important. And just as it’s important to know what you usually love using, it’s also helpful to remember what you (and your skin) don’t particularly like too.

Keep a list of the ingredients your skin historically hasn’t reacted well to, you didn’t enjoy applying or that didn’t flatter you. This will avoid disappointment later on and it’ll save time and money too.


7. Buy a travel size

Finally, if you’re still unsure about how a product will fare and you want to test it out over time, buy the travel size first. This way, you still get to test it out properly over the course of a few weeks and if you like it, you can upgrade to the regular size once the small one has run out. If you don’t like it, then you haven’t wasted your money on a full sized one.


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Beauty Editor

The former Beauty Editor of Glamour UK, Philippa has been a beauty and lifestyle journalist for over 16 years, picking up countless tips and tricks from makeup artists, hair stylists, dermatologists and celebrities. In that time she’s written for names like Cosmopolitan, The Sunday Times Style, The Telegraph, Grazia, Refinery 29 and Byrdie. Philippa lives in the UK with her husband, two children and their hyperactive cockapoo, Paddy.

Expertise: Makeup, hair care
Education: Oxford Brookes University

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