See if you can relate: You’ve been through three different foundations in the past few months but none of them seemed like “the one.” Your new bronzer was a little too orange. And that eyeshadow? Let’s just say there was a lot more color payoff when you swatched it in the store. How do you cut down on the trial runs and get the right products the first time? How do you stop wasting money on the products that don’t work? How do you make makeup shopping easy?
Check the Return Policy
It’s a hassle to return something you don’t love and it can even be embarrassing if you need to do it several times in a row (and that may encourage you to stash expensive products in a drawer to be forgotten about instead), but at least it’s usually an option.
Most stores—even drugstores—are fine with reasonable returns. It’s always good to check the return policy before buying new makeup, though.
Ask for Samples
Skip the returns or wondering if that product you thought you might like but didn’t buy was your beauty version of “the one that got away” with generous samples.
If you shop at Sephora or a counter in the mall, you’ll most likely be able to get a sample that will last you several days. You only have to go back if you like it and want to buy the full size. This is a win-win for everyone. It’s convenient for you and saves the companies money since they don’t have to toss the returned items in the trash.
Try in the Store, the Way You’ll Use It
That doesn’t mean you need to put unsanitary cream shadow on your eyelids (please don’t!). However, you can layer the products on the back of your hand the way you’ll layer them on your face. You may even be able to borrow brushes to get the full effect.
Applying shadow straight to your hand with your fingertip won’t give you a good idea of how it will perform on your lids when applied with a brush. Put down a layer of the shadow base you’ll be using. Apply the shadow on top of that with a brush, if possible. Wear it around a little to see how it lasts.
Curious about a lipstick/liner combo? Draw a ring on the back of your hand with the liner. Apply lipstick inside of that. This isn’t a perfect comparison because the skin on your hand is different from the skin on your lips, but you’ll see right away if a liner or lipstick will feather easily.
Don’t Make a Snap Judgment
Much like you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, you shouldn’t judge a product based on its initial performance in the store. If it’s obviously oh-so-wrong, that’s one thing, but check what you think is a good color for you in daylight before making a commitment. Even if it’s something you can’t try on your face (like gloss or eyeliner), you can still get an idea of how the finish looks outdoors and how long it sticks around on your skin.
Think of Makeup Like Part of Your Wardrobe
Think about new makeup items the way you think about new clothes. If you’re not buying a whole new outfit, you’ll need to consider whether you have things to pair certain pieces with. If you only have shirts with patterns, you’ll probably do best to skip the patterned pants unless you’re willing to buy a shirt, too.
Similarly, if you normally put a lot of effort into your eye makeup and make that your focal point, a new lipstick in a frost or metallic finish (or even a bold, bright shade) might not be the best choice to replace your everyday lipstick. If you usually focus the color on your lips and cheeks, a smoky shadow palette probably can’t take the place of a neutral one.
And, just like with clothes, consider your undertones. If you love sunny yellow dresses but can’t pull them off without looking sick, you know the struggle. The same idea applies to makeup. Don’t try to force it if the stunning shade you’ve fallen in love with looks a little “off” on you. It’ll end up in a drawer or you’ll be making another trip to the store to return it.
Shopping carefully will save you money and return trips to the store. Try not to rush your decisions.