buy skin care

How to Buy Skincare: Part I

Shopping for skincare is not always as easy as it sounds. If you have ever come home with much more or completely different products than those you intended to buy, you know that this is true. The following is the first part of our guide to buying skincare that will hopefully enable you to save time and money.

Make the Most of Online Shopping – and Physical Shops

Physical shops have lost more and more terrain to online shopping over the last decade and that trend is only increasing. However, in spite of the obvious drawbacks of physical shops such as higher prizes and annoying staff (see below), they do still have an advantage when it comes to products with a here-and-now effect such as makeup that you can try on the spot. Another benefit of physical shops is the possibility of samples (see below), but certain places can be tight-fisted. However, some online shops also include samples in their shipments.

buy skincare

Drugstore – courtesy of Pixabay

Online shopping is often cheaper and great for things you either already know or which require a longer period of trial (most hair- and skincare) before you can see the effect of them. Another benefit is that you can check out what other people think of the respective product by reading reviews etc. However, when it comes to skincare and other products which need several weeks to show their true effect, don’t listen too much to what one or two Youtubers say in their videos. Their skin type and needs can be completely different from yours – even if they have the same age, ethnical descent, hair type etc. as you. It is also possible that they have been sponsored with products from a particular brand and thus are more likely to say nice things.

Instead, check out pages like or Amazon where you can often find ratings of a particular product from hundreds of people. It is still not fool proof, but if half of the reviews are negative because the product caused breakouts and hives, you might want to go and look for something else. Keep in mind that people often go through the trouble of writing a review if they are either super satisfied or super unsatisfied, and there thus might be some middle ground too.

Don’t Listen to (Stupid) Sales Staff

Sales staff can be wonderful people who know their stuff and have a great eye for what will suit exactly you. Unfortunately, they rarely are. Instead sales persons are more often than not overly aggressive in their sales approach (“You really have to…”; “You can’t live without…”; “You really shouldn’t…”), ignorant (“This product will erase wrinkles and/or cellulite etc.) and sometimes down-right rude (“Your extensive wrinkles/droopy eyelids/lacklustre hair really needs….”).

Sales Staff Lie

Postcard (published 1.2.2015) on the online forum from somebody with a guilty conscience!

This kind of sales personnel deserves neither your money nor your time, so (don’t) excuse yourself and leave the shop if necessary. If you on the other hand, run into one of those rare gems who actually help you for half an hour finding exactly that shade of lipstick, highlighter or blush, do buy the product then and there with her or him – even if you know that you can get it cheaper online. Good service should be rewarded.

Buy what You Need and Nothing Else

Whether you have run into the nicest or worst sales person ever, the most immediate danger of shopping in a physical shop is that of buying much more or something completely different than what you actually need. That is not only due to overzealous sales staff, but rather the fact that stores in general are arranged to present their products in a tantalizing and confusing manner where you will forget all reason and lust after all the beautiful stylish packaging and the promises they radiate of sex appeal, glamour and youth. Try to be really strict with yourself and make a shopping list which you stick to religiously. If you are easily tempted, leave your credit card at home and go shopping with only the amount of cash you anticipate using on the needed products.

With online shopping, you have a more limited view of (un)related products and are thus probably less tempted (which is indeed why yours truly prefer it), but for some the intangibility of online payment can make it seem as though you are buying for free and thus make you spend more. Know yourself and choose the shopping platform which you can handle better.

Prize doesn’t Matter

Expensive products are not necessarily better than cheap ones in terms of quality. High-end products will often have a more luxurious packaging and bigger advertising budgets behind them, but that is pretty much what you are certain to get for the difference in prize. Expensive and cheap products can be equally well-formulated and equally horrible; the same goes for the prize range in between.

Packaging does Matter: The Curse of The Glass Jar

An obvious notion in the beauty industry is that appearance matters more than (inner) quality. Nowhere is this more counterproductive than when it comes to packaging in jars. Many (especially high-end) skincare lines produce great creams, packed with antioxidants and other treats for your skin, but all the effort is quickly wasted when the creams are poured into jars rather than tubes or airtight containers with pumps.


Moisturizer – courtesy of contributor sunshinecity on flickr.

Even if you use a spoon instead of your fingers (which is extra unhygienic), the product in a jar will still be exposed to fresh air on a daily basis and all the good stuff will deteriorate faster. Most skincare products are best packed in airtight containers with a pump, but packaging in a tube is also suitable. Look for packaging where the inside product has as little a contact surface with air as possible.

Another factor is opacity. Try to avoid products which come in a completely clear/transparent container, whether it is glass or plastic, as many skincare ingredients are light-sensitive (for example retinol).

Ask for Samples

If you are in a physical shop, always ask for samples – especially if you are about to buy skincare products there. The samples are anyway not for sale, so the shop is not losing anything by letting you try on another product – namely if you are already buying one or more products from them. You can always ask for a particular product to try, but otherwise you can also casually ask if they have any samples from a particular brand, for oily skin or something like that. Some drug stores and perfumeries also have tiny empty jars, in which they can pour a sample of a certain product.

Check for Returns

Whether you buy skincare online or in a physical shop, you might like to return products so be aware of the conditions (sealed, opened/unopened, receipt, return period etc.) for this. If you can’t return a product you don’t like, get rid of it by giving it to somebody else or use it for a purpose where it won’t do any damage, such as using a bad facial moisturizer for your feet or a too harsh facial cleanser as body wash. If you have gotten a nearly toxic product, throw it in the bin (or take it to a compound for chemical waste!). In short: Get rid of the products you don’t like or use. They take up space and energy.

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