Sunday, 26 June 2011

The Rise of Online Beauty Shopping

I'm going to sound really old now but I remember the time when the only option was to buy in store, or order by catalogue. This is where magazines played such an important part for me as an avid consumer because not living in London, I didn't have access to a lot of shops and makeup counters. I relied on my monthly fix of glossies to showcase the latest releases (before I realised what a key part advertising played in this, I was young and naive!).

Now how the world of beauty retail has changed. Online shopping means if you have the Internet, you can access nearly every brand around. What's more, you can read comprehensive reviews and see numerous swatches of individual products on blogs before even thinking about handing over your credit card.

Magazines - where I used to find the latest beauty news as a teen, now I rely on British Beauty Blogger!
I know I am not alone in my fear of the counter assistant when I enter the beauty hall and my experience has been they are either stalking you, or there is no one to be found on the shop floor. Online shopping takes away that problem completely. I like to think that if I lived in a big city, I would be great friends with the staff of all my favourite brands and look forward to going in for makeovers and product demonstrations (yes I am jealous of those of you in new York who tell these kinds of tales), but where I live that is never going to happen.
Over the last ten years, it was evident when perusing my dressing table that it was dominated by products that had a counter near me, mainly Chanel. However, in the last few years, since more and more brands have established an online presence, my makeup bag has a far more diverse range of products in it. In the past year alone, having discovered blogs, I have probably tried more than 20 different brands, more than I had used in the last decade. This is all a result of online advances.

Although it has not been healthy for my bank balance, I am delighted by the freedom of choice I now have when it comes to my makeup and skincare. Even when buying off QVC a few years ago, I began to feel irritated that and finally a little stupid that I endlessly bought the same brands time and time again, the brands they chose to show me. Now, one of my favourite ways to while away time I should be spending revising, is to fill and refill various shopping baskets, knowing there is no pressure on me to buy anything at all.

Possibly my favourite beauty counter of all, Le Metier de Beaute, sadly no longer with us in the UK. Could online shopping be partly to blame?
Obviously the main downside of shopping online is you don't get to try the product out first, seeing it in person. However, I have usually felt too awkward to properly test something beforehand and my strategy was to go armed with a list of exactly what I wanted so I knew how much it would cost. I hate having to ask the individual price of items or getting a huge and embarrassing shock when the total is read out at the check out (and I start praying my card won't be rejected), another thing I don't have to worry about online.

Luckily, beauty blogs have solved the problem of not being able to see products in person for me. I follow so many people that have similar tastes and colouring to myself and I trust their reviews implicitly. So much so, that I will even by foundation and concealer unseen. I have had better results shopping this way than I have when I've supposedly been foundation matched in store.

Online retailers seem to have caught on to this, with Zuneta being the trailblazer. They realise that women like to hear from other women with their guest blog feature and reviews, as well as allowing you to create your own profile with hair colour, skin type etc, where they will choose the colours and products best suited to you. These kind of extras make a huge difference in deciding where I will spend my disposable income and although I would be sad to see the demise of the traditional beauty counter, I hope that the threat of online retail forces them to up their game, which can only be a good thing for us, the consumer.

My favourite places to shop online:
  1. - I might as well start with what I consider to be the creme de la creme of online beauty websites. It amazes me that this time last year I had no idea it existed! I have a fantasy shopping list about a mile long from Zuneta as they manage to cherry pick the latest and the best products from around the world. If they sell it, I am almost guaranteed to want it. Being the exclusive UK stockists of blogger favourites Edward Bess and Rouge Bunny Rouge is almost reason enough to shop there, but their wonderful customer service, fantastic packaging and super fast shipping shouldn't be overlooked. Perhaps my favourite thing about Zuneta are the videos they produce showing how to achieve certain looks and use different products, invaluable. To me, Zuneta is the net-a-porter of the beauty world.
  2. and By Terry. The recent addition of the Ndulge Loyalty scheme has been a great move.
  3. - Pricey shipping but the only place I have found online that I can purchase Armani Cosmetics and Suqqu brushes. Sadly I am lucky if I get up to the actual department store once a year, so instead I make do with their website. Although it has recent;y been redone, it has gone down in my estimation since Le Metier de Beaute is no longer stocked there or anywhere in the UK.
  4. - Perhaps a bit of an odd choice but I have bought some fabulous things from eBay. You do have to buy with caution as there are a lot of fakes around and I am strongly against beauty bloggers selling PR samples on eBay, but if you want a limited edition product that has sold out or just want to try some samples, it can come in very handy. For example, I have wanted to try some Jo Malone fragrances for ages, but they aren't stocked anywhere near me. Unwilling to buy a full size bottle without testing first, I spent £5 and bought a selection of testers on eBay. I liked them so much I now have three full size bottles of Jo Malone perfume that I bought from the Jo Malone website sat on my dressing table.
  5. - It took me a while to realise that ASOS sold beauty as well as fashion but once I did, the orders have been fast and furious. The main draw is their free shipping. Usually I see quite a few products I want online, but I am put of by postage so ignore them until I have a large amount to spend. For better or worse, ASOS allows me to fritter! Where I can, I buy all my Nars products from ASOS, especially when there are voucher codes floating around.
  6. - I hate to think how much money I spent during the 18 months when I was completely housebound by illness with QVC, too much. However, I learnt a lot too, and although postage is high, if you buy kits the value can be excellent and you can't beat being able to try skincare and makeup at home for a month and still being able to return it if you don't like it. The main lesson I learnt from QVC? I have no will power, so in order not to spend, I have to not watch. Beware how hypnotic their selling technique is!
Some of my best online beauty buys

Finally here are my best buys from my online shopping adventures:
  • Zuneta - Rouge Bunny Rouge Eyeshadow in Solstice Halcyon
  • Space NK - By Terry Rouge Terrybly Lipstick in Cherry Cherry
  • Selfridges - Tom Ford Lipstick in Pure Pink and Cherry Lush
  • eBay - Le Metier de Beaute Devotion Eye Kaleidoscope
  • ASOS - Nars Eyeshadow Duo in Dogon
  • QVC - My Clarisonic, Ultrasun sun care and Margaret Dabbs Foot Lotion
Has Internet access dramatically changed your shopping habits? Do you prefer shopping online or in store? Are there any great beauty websites that I'm missing out on? I'd love to know what you think.

I know this post is quite long enough, but as a quick aside, I got my law exam results yesterday through the post (for the first time ever I'd forgotten the date they were actually released online) and was delighted. So a big thank you for all your good luck wishes back in May and for bearing with me while posting has been sporadic at best. I have two more exams left in early October but being a glutton for punishment, have just signed up for four more law courses starting in November!


  1. Hi

    Your unloved stack of glossies looks similar to mine. I used to sub to every single beauty read and now I'm letting most of my subs go. I will keep Allure, Instyle and Lucky but I have no use for the rest. I rely on blogs now for the latest and greatest news in the beauty world. Funny, I now *save* my mags for weekends when we are away and I have no internet or things to do.
    I think the internet has made beauty shopping easier but I do miss the days of getting dressed up and heading down to Beverly Hills to go hit Neimans, Saks and the Beverly Center.

    Ahhh, those were the days!

    xx lovely post

  2. PS - biggest congrats on your exams and loads of vibes for Oct!

  3. Huge congrats to you for the results, I'm really happy for you! You can now breathe much easier :)

    I have also loved online shopping for the past few years - there are so many more brands available that way, many great offers and the whole "process" is just lots of fun. I also don't buy magazines anymore, I rely on blogs and reviews on forums/MUA. Oh and btw you can get Suqqu brushes at Dollyleo as well although I don't have any experience with this online shop (yet) :) x

  4. I feel quite I'll when I think how much money I've spent on high end beauty since Internet shopping took off. My desire for most of the things I buy is caused by the blogs written by women that I identify with in some way (LondonMakeupGirl, Lisa Eldridge, yourself).

    I've had a great time, and discovered some great products, but probably made as many mistakes as I good decisions. I'm guilty of ordering loads of really overpriced designer/organic stuff (i'm invariably disappointed with the quality) from Zalando because of the free shipping and ease of navigation. It's become too easy.

    Having gone from a single Dior concealer (bright orange) that went with me everywhere In the early 90's when magazines were my only source of information I've now got a huge storage box full of unused YSL, Rouge Bunny Rouge, Makeupforever and ButterLondon. I need to learn to look without pressing 'checkout'!

    I have to add that I agree that buying foundation on the Internet has been a godsend, I've been able to choose my own shade from accurate descriptions instead of being matched every time to something three shades too dark with no realistic option of disagreeing with the sales assistant or asking to see other shades or match myself.

  5. Congrats on passing - woohoo! As a mom of a toddler it is not always easy to get to the mall and once there not always easy to browse and really shop at a beauty counter. Thank goodness for fellow beauty bloggers and the internet is all I have to say!

  6. Nice post. To tell the truth I've never bought magazines to find out the beauty news, I just loved looking at the photos mostly.
    As for the on-line shopping, it can be so dangerous lol

  7. Congrats on your fab results! Woohooo!!

    Love the post. I completely relate to all this, and I agree that I'm probably better at buying online now than I am at a counter! Foundation is still a bit tricky, but as you say, if you know someone who has similar colouring, it's not really a problem at all :)