How to visit a beauty counter (and not buy 17 products you don't need)

Image: Don’t be afraid of the beauty counter assistant, she’s here to help you. Via Thinkstock.

Does the thought of walking into the cosmetics floor of your local department store terrify you? Do you only head to the beauty counter when you know exactly want to buy? And even then you don’t plan on enjoying it?

Maybe you’ve had a terrifying experience that’s turned you off for life, and now you’re confined to a life of buying cosmetics online. Well friends, that is no way to live.

We know the downsides of dodging the cosmetic labyrinth: the assistant with the hardcore up-selling technique, the overzealous perfume spritzer and the sinking feeling that comes with going home with what you're almost certain is the wrong foundation shade, but with a couple of pro tips you can DO THIS.

1. Wear your big girl pants.

I know that beauty counters can be intimidating. Heck, I used to be a beauty counter girl (ok, I lasted all of three months) and even I get bamboozled in the dazzling bright lights and prettily perfumed world of cosmetic-land. But remember, it’s just makeup – everyone can be good at it with practice.

If it’s new makeup or skincare you want, go with a list or idea of things you'd like to try. Set yourself a budget so that you don’t end up overspending. Unless, you love being up-sold to? Then by all means… GO CRAZY.

2. It’s a beauty counter girl’s job to say hello, don’t hate on her.

Beauty counter staff have KPIs; and saying "Hi" to you is one of them. So is asking if they can help you. If you’re just browsing, know exactly what you want, or don’t want to be bothered DO let them know that you’ve got this, and they won’t pester you again. Unsurprisingly, beauty brands don’t want to lose customers, so if the staff know you don’t need their assistance they will leave you to browse.


 3. Don’t be too scared to ask for samples.

If you’ve tried a product but it’s a little pricey and you don’t want to commit to a full bottle, ask for a sample. All the bigger brands (in department stores) carry samples, they do - trust me, they do. And as long as you’re not there every week asking for freebies the counter staff will happily oblige.

In particular, keep your eyes peeled for these cult beauty products:

4. Yes, you CAN return it.

There are a few unspoken hard and fast rules when it comes to returning products:

-Don’t expect a refund on a half-empty bottle of foundation or lip pencil you’ve used until almost an inch from the end.

-Do try to hang onto the receipt if you think the colour might be wrong or you may have a reaction to the product.

-Do return it if you have a reaction. You may need to use a product three or four times before you potentially have a problem – counter staff know this.

5. They are professionally trained, steal ALL their secrets.

Beauty brands invest money into training what are essentially their brand ambassadors. They know all the latest techniques and tricks – if you want to know how to do a smokey eye or perfect the elusive cat eyeliner - ask them!

 What do you love or loathe about going to the beauty counter?

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