Tuesday, February 2, 2010

For Better or Worse, or What Can I Get For $300?

Dear male readers: I apologize in advance for this post. Please enjoy the rest of your day and come back later when I will resume gender neutral topics!

This week, my lovely friend shine wrote about her experience at Sephora- going in for one thing and walking out with $300 worth of crap (it's not uncommon)! We are programmed to believe that expensive is better and the sales person is right. Fortunately, that is simply not the case! I spent several years as a make up artist for many of the top cosmetic companies. This combined with my eagerness to make everyone feel beautiful and my love of playing "dress-up" with make-up has led me to mock slumber parties and make over events at friend's houses. I love teaching new technique's and imparting any wisdom I may have. Here's a little insider insight:

* Expensive=better: Sometimes this is true, but more often than not the difference between department store and drug store products is slim to none. So, what are you paying for? Well, long story short, the name. Chanel is far more prestigious than Neutrogena. Dior sounds nicer than Maybelline. These are status symbols and we are all guilty of buying into it- Just ask me about my limited edition Chanel nail polish (PS- it chips faster than the speed of light!) but I love it and wear it often. In some cases, you are paying for ingredients unavailable to other companies, patent's held by the company, as well as the research that goes into these products.

FACT: L'oreal owns Lancôme, Kiehl's, Biotherm, Garnier, Maybelline, The Body Shop; EstéeLauder owns Clinique, Prescriptives, MAC, Bobbi Brown, Origins; to name a few. These companies develop new colours, fragrances, and technology and deliver it to their high-end name brand counters. In a year or two, it trickles down to their convenience brands. In the end, much of what you're getting at the drug store was first in the department store- Same product.

* I need a designer cleanser/eye cream/moisturizer, eye liner, etc: Uh huh, and I need a million dollars. Here's a quick break down- Cleansers are cleansers are cleansers. There is no reason to pay more than a few bucks to wash your face unless you have a skin issue. Sure, I love Laura Mercier's Purifying Oil Light ($40), but does it clean better than my Neutrogena Redness Soothing Cleanser (about $5)? No. When it comes to washing your face, simply look for a product that is "soap-free" (look for lauryl/lauryth sulfate and avoid). I also love Basis cleansers; about $2 at Ulta and Target. Cleansers should last 4-5 months (1 pump or about the size of a nickle) Moisturizers are usually where I spend more money. Anything that sits on my face should be awesome. I also have somewhat sensitive skin so I have to be careful about what goes on it. I have loved Clinique's whole line of moisturizers even before I worked for them. They are one of the leaders in skin technology and are a great price in the designer marker (many are under $45). My favorite, as a woman approaching 30, is Superdefense SPF 25 ($42.50). If you're in your 30's, try Youth Surge SPF 15 ($48.50). More mature? Try Repairwear SPF 15 ($48.50). However, sometimes I just can't spend that much on the day I run out. Great drug store brands include Neutrogena and Olay (their Regenerist is awesome). A 1.7 oz moisturizer should last you 3-4 months (use an amount about the size of a lima bean or 1 pump worth). Where I am not a big fan of spending crazy amounts of money is in make-up. Think about it- mascara needs to be replaced every 3-6 weeks. Eyes are a breeding ground for bacteria and I am not kidding around when I say you need to replace it so quickly. Imagine rubbing your eyes with bacteria and goop. Not pretty! So, if I have to buy an average of 10 mascara's a year why would I spend $18-35 a go? I wouldn't. Sure, it's nice to splurge when you have a big or important event coming up (Diorshow-$24- is the top department store mascara; though I prefer Chanel Inimitable- $30- for bold lashes). No, I use Cover Girl Lash Blast (often on sale!) and get the same great results. I also save at least $100 a year and can afford to replace my mascara as often as I need to. Go me and go my eyes!!
* "But the girl at the counter/store told me I needed it!" This goes hand in hand with, "She made me feel bad". Ladies, why do we allow ourselves to feel badly at the expense of a sales persons paycheck? They want to sell you more so they make more, that's business. A good sales person will not even make you aware they're up selling to you. A bad sales person insults you or makes you feel bad about yourself. Why are you paying them for the privilege to insult you? QUIT IT! If you feel uncomfortable or that they are making you feel poorly about yourself, walk away. Find another sales person. Don't reward their ill behavior. The best way to find a sales person is to pause and look around the store (in a department store this is regardless of the counter you want to shop at. Many stores encourage their artists to stay with the same customer through out your shopping experience, so find one you like. Who looks nice? Who has nice skin, great make-up?
[side note: Don't necessarily look for someone with the style of make up you like. Look for who appears best put together or best overall. You may not like a bold look, but perhaps that's how they were feeling that day. Warning sign- If they describe their dramatic look as "natural". Thank them for their time and run away; they're not the one for you.]

* The salesperson knows what they're talking about: Oh god, how I wish that were true but it isn't always the case. Every company is different in their training procedures. I have been lucky to work for companies that provide training several times a year in product and technology; though even that doesn't help the worst student. So, ask questions! A good make-up artist should know the key ingredients in their skincare products and explain how they work/why it's good for you. They should sound confident when explaining techniques and products. If they don't, don't buy anything. Do some more research. When you find someone who makes you feel great and look great, keep going to see them. Ask for their card, when they normally work. You will make their day (and I can tell you from experience, you will usually get better/more samples and gifts). We love to treat our best clients! In a department store, ask for the business/counter manager or if there is a regional artist there that day (counters like Laura Mercier, Chanel, Trish McEvoy, Bobbi Brown often have artists and trainers in store that work for the company not the store). In Sephora, ask for a Specialist or if a make-up artist from that brand is in (these artists go to additional training to become certified Sephora Make-Up Specialists). Really, just use your best judgement. If you are unhappy, say so (politely) and ask for them to fix it. We want you to leave happy so you'll come back to us and tell all your friends. We don't want you to go out to the parking lot and cry. If you've set your budget but they're pushing other products, ask them to write them down for you or put them on your client card. If it's a gift line (most lines do this now, but the big ones are Clinique, Estee Lauder, Lancome), save these larger purchases or splurges for when you get something additional in return.

So in closing this first foray into cosmetic misadventures, the key is to be prepared! Do some research. Have a clear goal in mind (whether it be price or major concern). Don't get talked into something you don't need- stick to the list (unless it's inexpensive, then it's okay to splurge a little!)! Don't be afraid to say "no, thank you". I hope this helps a little... Any questions, just ask!!


  1. Umm thanks so much for this. I can't tell you how many times I've bought something for the name, or not bought something because of lack there of. Not that I'm name crazy, but when it comes to your face, you just want the best.

  2. If you don't submit that to some fashion mags, I will! Great advice from the one that knows. You told me about retinol and now I swear by it for adult acne treatment and just plain good skin. Thanx, sis!

  3. I know!! I'm thinkin about making this a semi-regular post. What's new, what you need to know. Strip away the bollocks and get down to brass tactics... Sorry, I've always wanted to say that

  4. Here here! Great insight and advice. As someone who has also been in this industry for years (more on the medical/med spa side), I totally agree with this advice and love how you've laid it out here. I love it when patients come in to our cosmetics suite and know what product they want (cleanser, moisturizer, SPF, etc.), and simply need me to present to them their options in terms of ingredients, price, efficacy, etc. The final decision should always be that of a confident, informed consumer. If you're not that consumer...grab a friend who will help you out and make sure you don't get duped into financing a bag full of pricey "stuff."

  5. I've unlurked to thank you for this post. I am a little helpless when it comes to cosmetic know-how and your tips were extremely helpful. I vote for this becoming a regular feature on your lovely blog!