If you have to buy it, get the best deal!
If you are someone who buys what you want and never worries about cost, this article is not for you. There is actually not a lot of content on this blog for you, unless you like detailed reviews. Those who do not mind returning products and try all the products they purchase before the return period lapses will want to skip to the second half of the article. I will use a line to help guide you there. A lot of people with sensitive skin are weary to try new products. Unless you have products you already love, you exploring with a little research can help you find ones worthy of repurchasing. My skin is sensitive, but I still love trying new things. As a deal shopper who loves kits, GWP, and subscription boxes, that is probably a given.
Whenever possible, get a sample of an item you want to try before purchasing it. Getting samples of skincare products is the number one way I discover things. This is different from paying outright for the sample size product. Some companies sell sample or travel sizes. The price per ounce on the sample size is almost always a lot greater than the price per ounce on the full size. That is not always the case, and I urge those looking to get the best deal to run the numbers. There are times when the sample has a cheaper price per ounce, an obvious lower buy-in, is travel friendly, and more. It is not always ideal, but there are times when it is the only way to try an item you really want to get. How do you find a way to sample the product for less than a more expensive price per ounce on a sample size?
You can always ask the manufacturer of the product or a retailer that sells the product for a free sample. This does occasionally work, but it will not always be a pre-packaged, sanitary sample. Walking into a Sephora and asking to sample a moisturizer is not something I would recommend. Employees will give you a scoop from a tester that almost everyone has already dug their hands into. On the very off-chance they have a packaged sample or open a brand new product to make the sample, the sanitary issues are almost nonexistent. As long as you remember to wash your hands before eating or touching mucous membranes, you could put some of the tester on your hand to see how it feels and if your skin reacts to it.
The best way to get samples is through subscription boxes, kits, and gifts with purchase. Only the kit lets you get targeted samples. If you see a kit that has an item you really want in it, calculate the value of the items in the kit you really want to try. If the value exceeds the cost of the kit, it is generally a good purchase. Extra points if the kit is not much more than purchasing the product separately. That is especially helpful for items that do not sell a sample size. While it is harder to know what is coming with some subscription boxes, more subscriptions that ever have flexibility. Some release full spoilers while the box is still being sold. Others allow you to select items so you know what is coming in advance. There are some that are notorious for sampling specific products you want to try. By subscribing, there is a good chance you will get items you really want in no time at all. You can always cancel if subscriptions keep sending items that do not interest you.
Gifts with purchase are my favorite way to get samples. Some would argue they’re not technically free, and I agree 100%. They are more free than kits or subscription boxes where you are literally paying for samples though. It is also a lot better than buying a sample size directly from the manufacturer or authorized retailer. On that note, buying from a reseller is not only more expensive (in most cases), but you never really know what you’re getting. You could end up with: fake, expired, used, or free product. The idea of paying someone for something they received for free or as a GWP just seems wrong to me, but the other three are without a doubt wrong. Yes, you have to purchase something else to get a GWP, but the items in the gift are free. As long as you really want the item you purchase to get the GWP, it is a good deal.
While you have no control over whether the item you want to sample will be in a random GWP, you are more likely to find an item you want to sample if you stay on top of the GWP offerings. Subscribe to emails for the retailers and brands that carry the sample you really to try. When you get an email notifying you of a GWP that includes your sample and you have other things you already know and love or are willing to by without sampling first, scoop it up.
Because I have a lot of subscriptions, get a lot of gifts with purchase, and buy a lot of kits, I have more samples than I can use. How do I sort through the samples I receive to decide which ones I will try and which ones I will pass on? That is a multi-step process. If there is something I’ve really wanted for any reason, I try that one first. After going through all the ones I really want to try, I look through what is leftover. Gems can hide in samples that never occurred to us. This is my favorite advice to people looking for something new. Shop your sample stash. We all have friends and family who would love to take samples we do not want off our hands. Before we pass the items along, we should read reviews to see which ones we should keep. The advice below applies to those shopping their stash just as much as it applies to those making a new purchase.
Of course, I still purchase items I’ve never tried before. There are times when getting a sample just can’t happen, and I know how frustrating that is. I am still hoping for a sample of Skinceuticals CE Ferulic and am just not willing to pay the full price to try it. Only resellers with likely fake, expired, or used product seem to have smaller portions available. No thanks. For more reasonably priced items, I am willing to try buy them after a little research.
Reading customer reviews for established products is the most effective way to get an idea of whether the product will work for you. It is especially helpful when a product has many reviews. I like to filter the section when it is large and only read some 1 and 5 star reviews. With rare exception, three star reviews do not typically contain a lot of information. When was the last time you felt compelled to write a detailed review on a meh product? Those who love or hate a product so much that they have to put it into words usually give us the best information. The more details a review has the greater chance it is a legitimate review. A 5 star review that says, “this is the best product ever” with no other information is either fake or the person is just boring. If you love a product enough to give it a 5 (something I like to reserve for FabuFinds), the review should easily express why. Really read what the person is saying. Is the person saying the product is five stars, because it keeps them dewy all day on a primer that advertises a matte finish? That is not a good thing if you want the product to do what it says.
Likewise, a 1 star review saying “this is the worst product ever” with no other information is either fake, the person is boring, or their more detailed review got rejected. That’s right. A lot of retailers do not publish 1 star reviews. Thus, never assume a product with all positive reviews had users with no negative experiences. It is just possible that the negative review got filtered out for not “meeting the review guidelines.” While some really don’t meet the guidelines, others get purged unfairly. For the reviews that make it through the filtering process, read what they are saying. Is the person giving the product one star because it made her oily skin greasy but it is a moisturizer for dry skin? There is no one size fits all product and you generally know what you’re searching for in a product. What someone else hates about a product could be something you love and vice vera.
If there are not enough reviews on the site you are purchasing it from, you can always check the reviews in other places. Direct brands tend to have the most reviews for products, but I also think direct brands filter out more negative reviews.
Another place I love to read skincare reviews at is Beautypedia, because the people behind the reviews know a lot about skincare, ingredients, packaging, and overall quality. While I get my research from many places (and suggest you do as well), a lot of research goes into product reviews on Beautypedia. It is a great source of ingredients lists. There are times when they publish the ingredients on products where the manufacturer itself does not. I always head straight to this site when I have an allergic reaction. I’d like to have a better grasp on specific ingredients I am allergic to so I can avoid all products with those ingredients.
Beautypedia was born from Paula Begoun, the founder of Paula’s Choice. As the visitor to her site increased, Paula added experts to her team to help her review products. Paula’s Choice, the brand, was actually founded 16 years after Beautypedia, because Paula realized she could create products with the knowledge she gained extensively reviewing products. Though Beautypedia is directly correlated to the Paula’s Choice brand, reviews get based on scientific research, not personal preference. That means Paula’s Choice products are not given more favorable reviews while other brands are given less favorable reviews to get a competitive edge. Most Paula’s Choice products have high ratings, but the products get formulated with the same research they get reviewed with. Of course, the products end up with better reviews.
You could always avoid Paula’s Choice reviews to reduce the chance the bias. Whether it is with the Paula’s Choice brand or any other brand, there are hits and misses. While I like research based reviews, I think the reviews from consumers are slightly more valuable. Research tells Beautypedia that all jars are bad and Egyptian Magic got docked for being in a jar. If you’ve ever tried Egyptian Magic, you’d know that there is almost no other way you could store it than a jar. You’d also know that the jar does not sacrifice the quality at all. Yet, there it is on Beautypedia with a 2-star review. The 4-star review from the community (yes they give the expert and community rating) proves that science is not the perfect method for all reviews. It shows that science and personal experience combined help paint a better picture of a product’s potential.
For new products, we usually just have to gamble and purchase the product without a lot of reviews. Of course, you could always wait until plenty of reviews filter in. Sure, you will not try it before everyone else. If it is absolute junk, you are not the first to throw your money away either. There are plenty of times when I buy brand new things without reading reviews so I understand hype is a big deal when considering what to purchase.