How to shop for beauty products online

If you’re like me and love shopping online, but aren’t sure where and how to go about purchasing makeup and beauty products online, then this guide is for you.

You may have avoided online shopping in the past because you were unsure of how the products would look on your skin or if the colours were true to depiction. These are all valid concerns, but the great thing about the Internet is that you may actually be getting a better deal online than in stores. Here’s what to watch out for.

Step 1: Browse

The first thing is to check out the products different websites have to offer, and see if they match what you need/want. For instance, if you know you want to buy eyeliner pencil, but aren’t sure of the brand, type and colour, the best bet would be a multi-brand online retailer. This is by far the most popular type of website – see the bottom of the article for suggestions.

The second type is the single-brand retailer, which, as its name suggests, only sells one brand. Most established cosmetic brands have their own website and offer online shopping. See the bottom of the article for a few of my faves. This is suitable for people who are specifically looking for a brand but are unsure of what products they want, and for those who have established brand loyalty.

Both types of websites feature customer reviews, bestsellers and ratings, but I prefer the multi-brand format better as it showcases various brands and products can sometimes be cheaper than the company website, particularly if they have flash sales or discount codes.

Once you’ve found a product on one of these sites, it’s time to jump to Step 2 – scrutinising the product.

Step 2: Scrutinise

It’s important to read the product description and look at the product’s images from all angles, since you can’t be there in person to inspect it. Zoom into the image (if possible) and read the reviews on that page. Products with no reviews aren’t necessarily ‘bad’ products, but it’s good to get a sense of how others are finding it.

Sometimes, you may find your product in a different colour in the sales section, so if you don’t mind trying out a new shade for a much cheaper price, this may be the way to go.

Step 3: Double-Checking

This is the most important step, particularly if the product has no reviews available. You should always, always see what the blogosphere is saying about it in order to get a true picture of the product’s effectiveness.

E.g. if you’re after Urban Decay’s 24-7 Glide On Eyeliner in Perversion, enter this phrase into Google Images (hint: if you don’t get anything, type ‘swatch’ at the end). This will come up with pictures of bloggers trying on the eyeliner and comparing it with other similar colours.

Google will also tell you if it’s been featured on any blogs or beauty forums and it’s a good idea to read the reviews on these sites. Bear in mind that everyone has different skin tone and texture, so it’s a good idea to search for bloggers or commenters that have the same complexion as you do.

Forums such as beautyheaven, Vogue Forums and makeupalley are my top three recommendations. Blogs such as Cafe Makeup, Bella Sugar, Beauty Broadcast, Temptalia, Into the Gloss, Lisa Eldridge, Makeup and Beauty Blog and Beauty Banter are some of my favourite picks. They are extremely on-trend and are updated nearly every day, as well as feature detailed reviews that are written quite well (unlike some sites that have the worst grammar I’ve ever seen).

Another way to double-check a product is to go in-store, such as Myer, David Jones or Priceline. This is, of course, if the brand you want is available in Australia. If not, you may have to content yourself with online reviews, which in my opinion are pretty accurate.

Step 3: Making the purchase

Before you click the ‘confirm purchase’ button, you need to check out the shipping fees to avoid a nasty shock. The standard shipping fee domestically should be around $10-$20, depending on the weight of your parcel and the destination. Look for sites that offer free shipping over a certain amount.

International sites are trickier, especially if you’re shopping in a foreign currency. Websites such as BeautyBay and ASOS convert prices into AUD, which is extremely handy (and also why I like shopping with them)! If not, you may have to do your own conversions. Some items may have extra charges, so be sure to read everything on the payment screen before you purchase.

Some other tips:

  • Do a Google search for discount codes, which can be applied at checkout
  • If you’re in no hurry to get your product, select the cheapest shipping option (standard or economy)
  • Unless you want to, avoid checking boxes to add a gift box and so on, which can cost you unnecessarily

Recommended sites

  • Crush Cosmetics – This Australian site sells cheaper, hard-to-find cult brands from the UK and US such as NYX, Milani, Sleek and Wet n’ Wild. Shipping is fast and customer service is excellent, and the prices are pretty cheap.
  • Nordstrom – The US department store ships internationally (but at a pretty price) and you can find various high-end brands such as YSL, Smashbox, Guerlain and MAC that are cheaper than Australian prices.
  • Beauty Bay – This UK site is competitively priced and currently offers free shipping worldwide, and often has special discounts on their facebook page. Brands are on the high-end and include Urban Decay (not available locally), OPI, Stila and RMK.
  • Sephora –No international shipping but still good for browsing and staying on top of the latest trends and collections. You can get a parcel forwarding service to buy products from for you, but they’re usually pricey.
  • Urban Decay – Again, no international shipping but some of their contests/facebook giveaways are open to international customers.
  • ASOS – More than just clothes, ASOS also retails beauty brands such as Too Faced, Benefit, Jemma Kidd, Illamasqua, Korres and Tweezerman (also free shipping!)
  • Strawberry net – This Hong Kong based site is like a discount outlet for brands such as MAC, Bobbi Brown, Chanel, but usually sell out-of-season or overstock items, some without packaging.

If you know any other good websites or tips, I’d love to hear them – comment below or PM me!


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