Navigating the Cosmetics Counter
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Navigating the Cosmetics Counter

10 ways to make the most of your store visit.

Counter Tips

The department-store cosmetics floor can be an overwhelming place, with its countless potions and products, and sometimes-pushy salespeople. To help make your makeup shopping experience a good one, try these 10 ideas for navigating the counters:

1. Know what you're shopping for. Just looking? Need to replace your favorite lipstick? Craving an entire new skincare routine? Knowing what you're there for helps you communicate to sales associates (and avoid being coerced into buying or trying something you don't want or need).

2. Take the pressure off. The pressure to buy, that is. It's perfectly fine to look but not won't ruin the sales associate's day by saying you're just looking!

3. Watch the calendar. Weekends are the busiest days for cosmetics counters. If you have a lot of questions for the sales associate or know you'll need a lot of help in choosing products, visit the counter on a weeknight, well before the store closes.

4. Ask for samples. Most cosmetics lines will give you a sample of a product you'd like to test before you buy (many have tiny vials and jars behind the counter specifically for sampling). Just don't go overboard; for example, asking for a sample of every product in their line would be too much.

5. Sign up for mailing or phone lists. Ask the associate at your favorite counter to add your name to their mailing or phone lists. You'll often get advance notice about in-store events, new products, and sales.

More Counter Tips

6. Book a makeover. Most lines offer them free of charge, and they're a great way to try on colors and learn application techniques. It's best to make an appointment in advance, although if a counter is not busy, you may be able to get a makeover on the spot.

7. Ask questions. Sales associates are usually makeup artists or skincare specialists trained by the line they represent. They should know their products inside and out, from ingredients to application techniques, and be able to answer any questions you have about the products.

8. Don't be afraid to return. It may come as a surprise, but most counters and department stores will accept returns on cosmetics and skincare items if you are unhappy with a product. But use common sense: You're not likely to get your money back if you bring in an empty lipstick tube and claim you didn't like the color.

9. Befriend a sales associate. One of the best ways to get great service at a cosmetics counter is to develop a relationship with a sales associate. Ask for help from an associate whose style and look you like.

10. Mix and match lines. Contrary to what advertisers would like you to think, there's no specific benefit to using an entire skincare or makeup line from one company. Feel free to use a cleanser, moisturizer, and foundation from different lines!