InTruBeauty: Secrets From the Makeup Counter

Friday, January 13, 2012

Secrets From the Makeup Counter

Here's a little sneak peek into the makeup counter world! These are things we know from experience shopping at the counters forever, and a few that Justina knows from her short stint at a popular makeup counter! Leave us a comment if you have something to add!

Dirt and Grime

You're not the first person to see a pretty color and apply straight from the tube at the counter! Let your sales person clean and disinfect the tube for you before you use it. It is worth your time and will save you from someone else's cold sore germs.  

Yes, the brushes are cleaned every night (usually) but between customers, there's no time to clean brushes. They try to use a disinfectant spray between each time, but it doesn't always happen. In other words, you're sharing everyone's dirt and oil and half-sweated-off makeup.

Perfume Secret

Estee Lauder perfume has the highest concentration of parfum compared to other major scents. You will get your money's worth and not need to reapply as often.

Scents smell different once you spray them on. Don't get pressured to buy on the spot if you love a fragrance. Spray it on then walk around for a while.  

TJ Maxx and other discount stores sell many of the same fragrances that you will find in your mall, but for much cheaper. And no, the products are not old, and it's not a liquidator. It's just a much better deal!

Get Your Money Back

You can get your money back on anything if you are not satisfied. If your skin has a reaction, if it was the wrong color, or if you just don't like it. Most counters are very good about returns and exchanges. Make sure you keep your receipt until you're sure you love something. If they give you grief, just ask for a manager.

Even if you don't have your receipt and bought a product back a long time ago, if you decide you need a different formulation, ask to do an exchange. A Clinique employee was out of All About Eyes (my favorite eye cream) and told me All About Eyes Rich was exactly the same (they're not). I exchanged it a year later when I realized my expensive jar of eye cream was just sitting there. It was no problem and they were happy to help me out!

Be Friendly

Being a good customer and being nice can get you a long way. Better service and more samples! Yes, every makeup counter has an arsenal of samples that they can give out. If they act like they don't have any, they're lying. At the very least, every counter has the ability to give out foundation samples.

They Have You With Foundation

What's the one item you are the pickiest about putting on your face? Chances are it's foundation. Finding a high quality foundation that works with your skin type and is the correct shade is really difficult Makeup counters know that, and the number one most important thing they want to sell you is foundation. If you buy your foundation there, you're more likely to buy other makeup there. If they have you at foundation, you'll be getting a replacement bottle every few months, and they have a customer for life.

Every makeup counter has the ability to give out a 7 day sample of foundation, and they have specific little vessels at the counter JUST for that purpose. Even if they're out, they can borrow from another counter. Ask for 1-2 shades from each foundation line that may be applicable to your skin type

Once you find a foundation you like, go back every once in a while to the counter and get a sample bottle. It's perfect for weekends away from home. It's all I packed for my trip!

The Play On Your Insecurities

If given a compliment, you'll buy anything!

They Have Sales Goals

If you are buying a lipstick, she'll try to sell you a lipliner and a lipgloss to go along with it. It's called upselling. You don't really need it. 

This goes hand in hand with the foundation thing. Makeup salespeople are required to "hustle" during their downtime. If they have nobody at their counter, they are supposed to take these cards with their makeup brand written on them, and say they're doing a promotion where they are giving a FREE foundation sample!! Woohoo!!!! Girls hear FREE and go wild. It's not a big deal or special. You can get this every day!

The women working at the counter get paid commission. If you sit and take up 45 minutes of her time getting a new look, unless you HATE it, it's rude not to buy something. It's the equivalent of not tipping your waitress. However, it's just as acceptable to have her write down everything on one of her beauty sheets, so you can take it home and think about it. Just make sure to drop her name when you come back to purchase! 

This is really a bummer, but recently there was a new rule that passed at a major department store that you can't "ring for another person." Here's what I mean. In the past, if I were to go and try makeup from Susie and decide I liked it, I could come by when Susie was in the bathroom and tell BobbyJo to ring up the sale, giving Susie credit. Now, if Susie goes to the bathroom, too bad. BobbyJo has to ring it under her name and take commission. The reason why they do that? Cosmetics counter employees usually make 3% commission off their line, and 1% off other lines or fragrance sales. So the cosmetics counters really want to pad their pocket with this one. Would they rather pay Susie 3% or BobbyJo 1%?

They Play Mind Games

Have you ever noticed some of the makeup brands' uniforms? Clinique outfits their employees in white lab coats. They're sending the message that the people they have working for them must be doctors, dermatologists, or estheticians. FALSE! It's the makeup brand playing with your head.

They Don't Use Their Own Line

Do you think your salesperson uses all the products from their line? Unless they are getting some free product from their line, chances are they dabble from all the lines. There is rarely ever product loyalty at the cosmetics counter. When I worked at a counter, I would have a pimple crop up, and walk across the aisle to get some pimple cream, then get the cover up from my line, then touch up my eyeshadow from another!

Think about it- could someone making a retail level wage afford to buy the $80 moisturizer they're selling? Possibly, if they're the counter manager and getting a salary. If they're the average employee- probably not. When you work for a makeup line, you get a certain dollar amount of free product every few months, as well as at any training, which normally happens 2-3 times a year. But even with a $200 allowance to buy all the makeup and skincare you wanted, you still can't buy the whole product line!

The Discount

Most employees of department stores get between 15-20% off cosmetics. That number varies all the time, and usually decreases. When I worked at Macy's years ago they were amazing to their employees. We got 20% off cosmetics, and every month there were drawings for employees to get free full sized perfume samples or huge product samples. Within a matter of time of me working there, the discount decreased to 15% and they stopped giving samples to employees or rewarding them for great sales with free products!

They Work For the Store AND Counter

People who work for the makeup counters work for the store AND the counter. They're separate. They have their goals for the counter and a boss through the makeup company, PLUS they have a bunch of goals for the department store and for their boss. That's why you might buy Lancome from the Clinique lady. At the end of the day, the store just wants to earn money from all the counters. The sales people have trainings and conventions completely unrelated to their department store, but still required by their counter.

The Credit Card

Makeup counters in department stores don't generally EVER have sales. I've never seen an exception to this besides Clinique marking down a palette this year by $5 after Christmas. Their biggest chance at selling you products you can't afford is signing you up for a credit card. You can usually get 10% or more off on your first purchase, which is more than you'll ever save again. What they don't do is tell you that if you don't pay off the balance right away, it can be up to a 25% monthly interest charge.  

You Don't Need It

When the makeup salesperson does makeup on you, she'll probably use all the bells and whistles. When you go to buy the look, you don't need the lip primer, lip liner, lipstick, and lipgloss.  

Many makeup lines sell dupes of other lines. Go figure, many of them are owned by the same companies! If you find a gold shade you like at one counter, swatch it! Then march over to all the other counters and swatch theirs! See if you can find your perfect shade at the perfect price!

You Want The Lifer

Try to cozy up to the person who has been working at the counter the longest. They will be most knowledgeable about the product line and they will likely know the best looks to use on your makeover!

Ask questions! I've learned a lot of what I know from the people who have worked there forever, who love to show off their product knowledge! I'm like a sponge when they tell me all the tips.

Yours in Beauty (and Cosmetics Secrets),


  1. This was such a fun post to read! Thanks for sharing! It definitely puts things into perspective <3

  2. Awesome post. I didn't know a lot of this. I'm actually way too intimidated to approach fancy make-up counters but there were some really good tips here. Thanks Justina!



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...