PRO Tips When Buying Makeup

 In Basic Aesthetics

Confess: Are you one of those who get overwhelmed when they shop for makeup and the mere sight of the racks of lipstick give you anxiety? OR are you over-giddy type buying makeup that you never ever use because they don’t look the same outside the makeup store? Either way, here’s some tips that have worked so well for me when it comes to Operation: Makeup Shopping.

BEFORE Buying:

  1. Do your research. The internet is your friend. A quick Google search can lead you to in-depth reviews about the product you want to buy. It also gives perspective on how the product looks/performs on other people with similar coloring/concerns as you. If you have makeup junkie friends, hit them up and see what they think about your planned purchase.
  2. Inventorize your makeup stash. You have to open your drawers and really hit yourself with the hard question: “Which ones do you REAAAALLY use?” Answering this basic question will save you from burning money on makeup that you will never use. If you see that you already have 10 red lipsticks, please make a mental note that you don’t need another one that will just occupy space.
  3. Set a budget. Especially when you plan to buy a handful of makeup, you have to be clear which products you’ll splurge on and which ones you’ll save on. Ideally, splurge on makeup bases like primer, foundation, concealer and powders because perfected skin translates to a beautiful makeup look. Also, look out for deals coming out of Beauty Rewards Program. You’ll have more bang for your buck when you time your purchases during these deals.
Illustration by Julia Minamata of

What to BRING:

  1. An honest BFF. Sales associates will always be biased. You do not want your decision to be swayed by them. Not only will it be more fun to have a friend tag along, you will get unadulterated feedback like “Woman, you look like a high-class escort with that lipstick!” I also would recommend turning your shopping spree into makeup over sessions!
  2. Stay sanitary. Bring alcohol, makeup wipes and brushes. I always spray alcohol on makeup before I use them. Makeup wipes come in handy both on my face and my arm when I get too carried away swatching colors. It also makes me sleep better at night knowing that I used my own CLEAN brushes when I test out products. Do not trust that the makeup products are clean: Those on-display for a long time have accumulated dust and those frequently tested had other people’s DNA sitting on them. I hope I scared you enough.
  3. Be a beauty girl scout. Girl scouts ALWAYS have these: (a) contact lens case or any small container, (b) mirror and (c) a portable camera (i.e. your phone would do). I’ll explain later why you need these, but for now let’s move on…

At the Beauty COUNTER:

  1. Start early and start clean. Come by the makeup counter as soon as it opens (usually 10am), especially when you’re buying makeup base (primer, foundation, concealer, powder). This allows you test how the product performs all-day. You can do a check on the 3 or 4 hour mark (depends on your average time that makeup starts melting off), as well as end of day assessment. When you go to counters early, you also have the sales associate’s full attention. This is important: Don’t even bother putting on makeup at home; go at the makeup counter fresh-faced and makeup-free.
  2. Test product within usage conditions. If you’re planning to buy your everyday foundation, you should be wearing your skincare underneath (because you always apply skincare daily, right?! Right?!) If you’re on the look-out for a makeup base when you have troubled skin (hello, PMS!), then it’s best to time your purchase when your skin is acting up. If you’re looking for a long-lasting color (blush/eye shadows/lipsticks), then plan to test it on YOUR real-life situations. We all have different definitions of what a long-day is. That’s why when some people claim a product to be their holy grail, don’t take it as the Bible. Only your judgment matters.
  3. Half-Half Rule. Let the beauty associate teach you the best way to apply their product, but only half-way. You have to be able to replicate it on the other half. A product is only as good as how correctly your apply it. Common rant of women is coming home to use the product, only to be frustrated that the product seems to perform differently. Makeup nowadays have a lot of technology behind it and sometimes requires some special handling (i.e must be buffed on the skin versus painted, etc). A word of caution: if it takes too much effort to make a product work, then consider passing up on it.
  4. Request samples. A lot of high-end brands willingly offer you product samples of products they want you to try. Take advantage! Remember I mentioned to bring a contact lens case or any small container? If you’re interested to try a product, dispense a fair amount to your to-go container. No shame here! You should never feel pressured to instantly buy the full-size without any assurance of compatibility with your needs.
  5. Swatching is not trying. While it’s perfectly alright to swatch colors on your arm/hand because it gives you broader range of shades to choose from, always base you purchase decisions on products you actually tried on your face. Unless you plan to use your lipstick on your forearm, then swipe that lipstick on your pouty puckers please!

Decisions, Decisions:

  1. Never buy on the same day. You need to subject the makeup to 3 tests: (a) Natural Light test: If your makeup is the wrong tone and shade, it will stick out like a sore thumb in the most honest lighting: sunlight. You have to step out of the mall, whip out your compact mirror and check any tone/shade anomaly. (b) Flashback test: If you are looking for a photogenic face base (i.e. compatible to high definition photography), set your camera’s flash on and take a shameless selfie. If your face flashes back with a white cast, that foundation is a no-go. (c) Allergy test: The worst allergies creep up within an hour of application: your skin gets itchy and red. Most of the time, you discover you’ve developed a break out upon removing it the end of the day. If you gave in to the purchase right away, you’d end up with a product that will just accumulate dirt on top of your dressing room drawers.
  2. Play with the product. Assuming that you brought home a fair amount of the product that you tested in-store, you can test the product on other real-life scenarios, making your purchase more justified (ESP if it comes with a hefty price tag). If you’re testing an everyday foundation: test it with and without primer underneath, test how long it stays on your face without needing a touch up, test how it applies using different application techniques (brush, sponge, fingers). If you’re finding that you’re are not 100% satisfied, play with the product – maybe you should use less of it OR maybe you need to use a different powder to set it with.
  3. Product showdown. How does that product compare with similar products in your current collection? Did you want to try other products in the same category (i.e. with the same claims)? If you’re a collector and you’re just fueling your hoarding tendencies, then nobody’s stopping you to drop the ball already and buy a new ‘baby’. But if you’re looking for a #holygrail product and a real investment, then there’s value to think things thru even more.

Truth be told, I’m not the most practical person. But I woke up one day, took a look at the amount of makeup I amassed and realized what a waste to not use more than half of them. Makeup is the closest to what I can call a ‘vice’ and since then, I promised to indulge wisely every single time. I hope you keep these tips handy on your next beauty shopping spree! ☺