Monday, September 22, 2008

ShopSmart's guide to buying cosmetics on-line

with the addition of clickable links and my own takes:

Best Overall Selection:
Shipping Free if you spend $49 or more.
Return policy 30 days on unopened products or, for certain items, if you don’t like the color. Returns cost $4.99 unless a product is damaged or incorrect or the color is wrong.
Best selection? As if! This is like an Ulta store--Smashbox, Lorac, Urban Decay--with no sampling. Plus the model on the site is wearing the worst makeup I've ever seen. Honestly, my 11 year old daughter could do better. And she tends to color in her eyebrows with blue eye crayon.

Great for Hard-to-Find Products:
Shipping Free on orders of $100 or more; otherwise $5.95.
Return policy 14 days on most items. No returns on opened or used products.
The products all the cool kids like--Tocca candles, Kai and Child fragrances, Paul and Joe makeup, goose down powder puffs from France. You like it? You can get it here. Me? Meh.

Great for Trendy Brands:
Shipping Free on orders over $75; otherwise $5.95 to $8.95.
Return policy 30 days. You pay for return shipping unless the product was damaged. All returns are for exchange or store credit only. There are no refunds or returns on color cosmetics.
It's like Bravco, but on line instead of on Oak Street--a few niche makeup lines, but lots of hair, skincare, and nails. Probably the best nail products assortment I've seen on line.

Best Prices:
Shipping Free on orders of $35 or more; $4.95 on orders of less than $35.
Return policy 30 days. Products must be unused and unopened, unless they are defective. You have to call or e-mail before returning products; you will also have to pay the costs of return shipping.
This is a random selection of what looks like discounted, sometimes discontinued products. Worth a look if you're looking for a bargain or for something hard to find.

Great Return Policy:
Shipping $5.95 plus 93 cents per pound. Return policy 30 days. You can return most products for any reason, even after they’re opened.
NB: This place has a fantastic selection of perfumes, and the Chanel ones, at least, come in every known form, from EDT to pure perfume to scented bath powder, shower gel, deodorant--from the looks of it, you could wash and wax your car with Allure or Chanel #5. And they have Helena Rubenstein skincare and makeup!

Great Drugstore Makeup Section:
Shipping Free on your first nonprescription order of $25 or more; free on orders of $49 or more after that.
Return policy 30 days. Returns are free if a product is damaged, defective, or incorrect. Returns are free on certain products if you don’t like the color. Otherwise, products must be unopened and unused.
NB: And of course, this is really Amazon, with all that implies: fast reliable shipping, good prices, reviews from your fellow shoppers, gift certificates and rebates, and no sales tax.

Great for Freebies:
Shipping Free on orders over $50; otherwise $5.95. Return policy 60 days. Free return shipping. Store credit after 60 days.
N.B. Always check for coupon codes before ordering from Sephora; they usually have several. And join their frequent buyer's club, while you're at it. You'll get a birthday present!

Great for Organic Products:
Shipping Free on orders over $49; otherwise $5.95.
Return policy 60 days.
Meh. I don't do organic. If I wanted to smell like hemp, I'd smoke pot.

Best Shipping Deal:
Shipping Free.
Return policy 30 days. Product must be at least 75 percent full. You have to pay return shipping fees, and no returns are allowed of an opened product if you received a sample of it with your order.
N.B. Did my Chicago readers know that this boutique skin-care store is local? There's a store not far from me at 680 Lake Shore Drive. It's a tiny shoebox of a place with tons of fabulous, hard-to-find skincare. I don't do internet ordering from them, though ... and I do pay sales tax.

Best Online Version of a Walk-In Store:
Shipping Many items qualify for free shipping of purchases of $50 or more; otherwise $5.49 for 10 pounds or less.
Return policy 30 days.
N.B. is also worth checking out, especially if you're interested in the frequent buyer ExtraCare card program. This is so complicated that I still haven't figured it out myself, but smart people swear by it, so I keep trying.

Sad Site: This site didn’t have a wide selection of products. You have to buy $99 worth of stuff to get free shipping; otherwise you could end up paying $7.95 or more for UPS ground. Cosmetics (and many other products) were not returnable, and there’s no toll-free customer-service number.

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