Learn from Smart Women

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My first job after moving to Chicago for college was as a beauty adviser.  At first, I wasn't set on this job, but it's something I kept doing all throughout my time as an undergrad as an extra source of income.  Since then I've worked at a couple of different popular cosmetic retailers and in that time, I’ve learned the nitty gritty about beauty sales.


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1) Testers Are Gross

When you're paying more for a product, one of the things you're paying for is the ability to try it out first.  It was a rare day when I didn't leave with swatches on my hand from showing clients colors.  However, these testers can be dangerous.  Those beautiful lipsticks and eyeshadow palettes are available for everyone to use.  The FDA recommends not even sharing eye cosmetics with your family or close friends.  One of my managers used an eyeshadow palette from our own store and got a nasty case of pinkeye.

So what can you do?  Ask for help.  If you want to try something on your face, ask for an associate to sanitize the product and find you an individual applicator.  Also, be wary of creams and skincare products.  If something looks bad or old, don't be afraid to ask someone to make a new tester for you.

2) Skincare Is Everything

Even with pore-filling primers and lifting foundations, it's all about what's underneath.  If you're not taking care of your skin, it will show, and there's no makeup that can cover it up. If your beauty adviser asks, 'what skin care do you use,' take a hint, but don’t take offence.  He or she mostly likely wants to fix the problem that your foundation can’t.

3) Return Policies

Most stores have great return policies.  I've seen stores take back anything from lipsticks to at-home wax kits.  Generally, if the product is not more than 3/4 used, you won't have a problem taking it back.  Take a look at your receipt.  You still may be able to take back that blush that looked cute on the back of your hand, but made your face similar to that of a clown’s.

You would also be surprised how many people lie about using things, even mascaras and liquid lipsticks.  It’s super easy to tell, but a less experienced cashier/employee may put it back on the shelf without second thought.  Just tell the truth.  Also next time, take a look around the inside rim of a product next time you take it out of the box.  If there's pigment anywhere outside, it's probably been used before.

4) Discount Stores

I'm not hating on a good deal, but watch out for stores that sell luxury goods at a lower price.  Cosmetic items can be tampered with, watered down, or even expired, and that may be why it's so cheap.  Hair products are especially prone to this — I've seen "Chi" wrappers peel off to reveal a drugstore hairspray underneath.  Sometimes discount products are authentic, but use your judgement.

5) There Is No 'Best' Product

There are only best sellers.  Everyone has a favorite mascara, foundation, etc. and if you ask any employee, especially in a big store, they will each tell you theirs… or the one you're most likely to like based on sales. We’re all different so a mascara or moisturizer just might work better for some people.

In conclusion, next time you’re in your favorite beauty store:  consider some of these things and you’ll look like a pro.


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