Makeup Shopping Tips

August 16, 2017



..dedicated to all of my make-up junkies and minimalists

I buy make-up more than anything else. Well, except coffee. Lately I started receiving a lot of requests to share my make-up shopping tips, so in this post I am going to tell you exactly how to become a smart and selective make-up shopper, by spending less and choosing your products wisely. Hope you enjoy!



Knowing yourself - is a key to any successful make-up shopping.  Split everything into two major categories: (a) that's the vibe; (b) that's not my vibe. There should be no grey areas.

Great idea here would be to analyze your stash: divide products into "most used", "less used", "never used" and try to think of any patterns. Example: do you buy lots of liquid lipsticks, but never use them, because they are too drying? Make a mental note "these don't work for me" and stop. Apply this technique to every make-up category.

Make-up is not one size fits all. We all have different face shapes, skin types/tones and concerns - as soon as you learn how to differentiate between products that truly enhance your beauty and those you can live without - you will become one happy bunny, who knows her/his onions. Or carrots.



The best time for buying things is when you are feeling calm and zen. Truth is, there will be enough "irritators" anyway: some angry customers screaming for attention, few annoying sales assistants jumping at you with unsolicited advice and (my favourite) that one woman, who won't let you come close to a make-up stand, because she thinks it's her royal time and prerogative to swatch everything first (you, peasant, wait your turn). If you've ever been to Sephora during the weekend - you know what I am saying.

When other customers swarm around like crazy, grabbing and touching everything, you have to be calm. You're here to show them all how it's done. When you are composed, you also make better/rational buying decisions.


Shopping list is a necessity. Yes, it sounds boring and "very 20th century" to some, but I am a huge believer in lists. Not because I am the most organized person on Earth. Quite the opposite - just like many of you, I also get distracted by a dazzling gleam of new arrivals and before I know it, I leave the store with a lot of very unnecessary items in my basket. Having a list is what truly helps me to focus on things I came for/ not what sales people "made me think" I came for. By the way, I have an entire article about sales assistants here, in case you need help dealing with them.



Make-up buyers, for the most part, are either junkies or minimalists. So we either come for new exciting products every other week or go make-up shopping only to restock on things.

In both cases, it is crucial to know what you need versus what you want. In order to achieve your ultimate goal, you also have to know what is currently in your possession. Have a good look at your stash: what products are you running out of? What are the things you haven't touched in ages? What needs to be thrown away? What is missing?


Buy less, but choose well. Plus, hit that pan y'all! It's so satisfying.


Never buy anything (even if that is a limited edition), unless you've watched and read a ton of reviews. I kid you not, I spend days reading stuff online from literally everyone including real customers or bloggers (doesn't matter big or small, as long as they're authentic) in order for me to understand all the pros and cons. I almost bought ABH Subculture a few weeks ago when it just launched (I thought colours were amazing) and I am so glad that I have waited for reviews before getting it. Click here, if you don't know what the fuss is about.

Also, wait for the hype to go away. Just a year ago everyone was going crazy about Cover FX Enhancer Drops, but where are they now? I don't see anyone (on YouTube or Instagram) use them. Like ever. Same with ABH Glow Kits, Sigma Brushes, Urban Decay Naked Concealer (ok, this one was replaced by Tarte Shape Tape, but still..), all the cutesy Too Faced palettes, limited edition holiday goodness etc. You get the drill. On the other hand, we still hear people talk about Naked palettes, Hoola bronzer, Hangover primer and ABH brow products - which means, those are HG for a reason (even after all these years).



Truth be told - brands keep on launching a lot of similar products all the time. So even if you want that new NARS lip liner - open your make-up bag first, see if you have a dupe from another brand and if you do - pass on it. At least for now. Same goes for eyeshadow palettes; chances are you already own these same colours individually or have dupes in other palettes. This is how I saved a lot of cash when I stopped myself from buying Tarte In Bloom, ABH Modern Renaissance and most of Urban Decay Nakeds. I just had same colours in other palettes.

A great platform to discover all swatches and dupes is Christine is hands down THE best beauty reviewer/blogger I know. Her "compare the two" tool is absolutely wicked. Especially when I shop online and can't swatch things myself. More often than not, I realize that I already have that same blush colour or transition shade eyeshadow and there is no need to have two, because one will eventually substitute the other; in other words - why pay for the same thing twice?



Now, how many times you bought a foundation shade that didn't match you? I have! A lot. As a matter of fact, one time when I was looking for something to match my tan, I was sold (wasn't a mistake you guys) shade 8.5 instead of 3 in MAC's Matchmaster SPF 15 (not even sure what was that SA thinking). And I, believe me you, wore that 8.5 all over my face for a few days, before getting comments like "girl, what's up with your face?".  

From now on, I choose everything myself. And so can you. Once you have that one shade that works perfectly for you, bring it to the store every single time you need a new foundation. Say, you want to try a new brand: swatch two colours next to each other and pick one that is identical/ very close to your perfect shade. I do the same thing with my concealers; I always have my favorite one with me for comparison reasons. Also pay attention to undertones (yellow, neutral, pink or peach?) and finishes (dewy, matte, satin, natural?).

And - if you decide to do a neck swatch - check it when you are outside, not inside. Most stores have deceptive lighting situation going on, so it's better to rely on the sun instead.



Since we just talked about foundations - always get a sample first. Normally, stores already have their little disposable containers for samples, so there is no need to be shy about it. But it's even better to actually get your own (Muji have a ton) and bring them with you (in case the store is out of their own).

Although most products can be tested in store (lipsticks, shadows, blushes etc.) - foundation is one tricky bitch. There is a number of things that can go wrong: it can oxidize, irritate your skin, dry you out, make you look greasy, clog your pores, stick to dry patches yada yada yada. If you are in the States, then it should not be an issue, because there is a great return policy; however, we in Dubai can't return/exchange products at Sephora or any other make-up store. In case your country is the same, use a sample and make sure to test it for at least three days before committing to the full size.



Always double check everything you bought before leaving. And do it right at the cashier desk. Don't think about all those people behind you; if anything, they should be doing the same thing. As I have said already, in Dubai we can't return/ exchange ANYTHING. Even if that is an old smelly lipstick in a new box, cracked powder or just a good old dud. Once you step outside, yalla bye! I had to learn the hard way: I bought a Tarte shadow that someone deflowered (or used it as a tester), Tom Ford lipstick that was expired (perhaps someone opened it and it was slowly dying there until I bought it), MAC lipstick that was broken right at the base* (they must have dropped it) etc.   

From now on, I always ask cashiers if it is okay for me to open everything I just bought right in front of them and truth is, they don't mind it, because they know it's better to be safe than sorry.

*With any lipstick, I recommend twisting it all the way up to see whether it is broken at the base or not. Also, if you see some scratches on the sides (possibly from the twisting up and down action), don't buy it. Chances are it will keep on "scratching" itself until it breaks. And - give any lipstick you are about to buy a really good whiff. Smells like wax? Pass!



If you plan on buying make-up online, but still are unsure whether you want to spend 100 dollars or not, let these products sit in your basket for three days. I do this every time when I have doubts. If by third day you already forget about that basket and you don't feel like splurging anymore - move on. However, if you can't stop thinking about it, chances are you really want these products and if a little shopping makes your day - go ahead and click that "place an order" button.



Weekends? Public holidays? Not a good idea: too much noise, too many people. Since you need your time to choose products wisely, it is better to shop for make-up in the morning, when stores are not as crowded and SA are not as tired. I often go to my favourite spots right when they open and am never disappointed. If you work in the morning, try to visit make-up stores as early as possible on Saturday/Sunday. And if you can, go alone or with a best friend. There is no need to drag your spouse, kids and parents to Sephora. Let them eat some ice cream outside, while you enjoy your shopping.



Most make-up stores have loyalty programs/membership cards. Take advantage of them. Even if you don't shop often, saving a few bucks here and there is not such a bad idea. There are a lot of perks anyway: free deluxe samples, seasonal sales, coupons etc. I love my American Sephora card, because I do save a lot of cash during the sales period. Plus they have some interesting promotions going on, so it is worth becoming a member if you like the store. Extra tip: share your card with friends and family, this way they help you collect a few extra points, which you can later exchange for high-end deluxe samples or kits.

Final Thoughts


Dear make-up junkies: having a wicked collection is awesome, but if you get to the point where you don't use most of what you own or spend way too much money on identical products - perhaps it is time to slow down a little. Re-investigate your stash, do some decluttering, donate what you can and prioritize more. Don't fall for the hype so easily and remember, make-up expires and before you know it - you've spent thousands of dollars on bitter lipsticks and smelly powders.

Dear minimalists: I really admire you for making every cent work, but don't forget about having a little fun now and again. Try new formulas, buy more colours, experiment with your make-up look a little! Don't get stuck in your ways and remember that you can be very creative even with a modest set of products. Don't be scared of new ideas; it's so worth it!

Dear Make-up Pros: you know yourself, know what you want and are aware of everything you own; you have researched everything you are about to buy; you got that foundation tube in your bag right next to a few little containers and I am very proud of you. You rock!

Dear Bloggers: I know, we are a special breed. Don't run after every glossy launch. Create a limited yearly blog-budget and only spend it on products, which you know you want to review for work purposes. Don't buy too many things as an excuse to "review" them later. Honest deception is not the best strategy here.







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