How To: Being Smart About Buying Makeup

I have a pretty ridiculous makeup collection for someone who is new to the beauty blogging business. And to be honest, I bought most of that makeup before I ever conceived of this blog. I just love makeup, so much so that I use it as a form of motivation and reward for my work. As a research professor at a university, publishing is a huge part of my job. But with the stress of daily life, it can be hard to carve out time to write and really make any headway on my projects. This is where makeup comes in: I’ll reward myself with a high-end purchase for finishing an article or book chapter, or I’ll allow myself time to watch a couple of YouTube videos after working for a set amount of time. The only problem with this plan, of course, is that it is so easy to be influenced by what other people say is new, wonderful, rush-out-and-buy-it good. It is not uncommon to lose yourself in the process. So while my recent buying habits may not make me an authority in this area, there are a few principles I live by, and these not only guide my purchases but also indicate the types of posts you can expect from this blog.

  1. Pay attention to your makeup habits. This is the most important rule when buying makeup. Before you ever go to the store or make a purchase, be introspective. Think about the types of products you already own, the types of products you’ve been wanting to try, the types of products you love from the drugstore and the types you are more willing to buy high end. Also, think about what you expect from a product. For eyeshadow palettes in particular, I want them to be able to create a complete look. I am unlikely to pull another palette or even single shadows into the mix, so I know I should probably steer away from palettes that would require me to do that. This may be different for you, however. Before you set out to make a purchase, think about how you’ll use the product and if it makes sense for you to buy it. I often think about a typical month for me: How often do I do more than basic everyday makeup? How often do I play with color or new products? How often do I go out and need a more evening or occasion look? It can be easy to justify a purchase by telling myself that I can wear it for a night out, but when my husband and I haven’t gone on a fancy date night (more than dinner and a movie) and my evening events are still work-related and require professional dress, then glitter, neons, or dramatic smoky eye makeup are probably not worth it for me. They’ll just sit in my drawer and I’ll feel guilty.
  2. Don’t buy a bunch of products just because they’re inexpensive or on a BOGO sale. This is a common piece of advice, but we are so motivated by sales! I was in my grocery store yesterday and was thrilled to see Milani’s Baked Blush in Luminoso–it’s never in stock anywhere! And Milani products were Buy 2, get $2 off. I spent five minutes searching through the display trying to find another product to fit the sale when it hit me: I only wanted the Luminoso, and to get a dollar off that product I’d have to spend around $8 on something I was having to talk myself into buying. That’s ridiculous! But even though I consider myself a smart and informed consumer, I was being persuaded by that sale sign.
  3. Be honest with yourself about your current skill level, and where you want to be in the next six months. This one might seem a little odd, but it actually has prevented me from making quite a few purchases, or helped me time them better. Some makeup products can just be intimidating. Liquid eyeliner is one of those products for me. And I feel like I haven’t got a clue how to do my brows. Bright, glittery, or super-pigmented eyeshadows are another category of products that are currently outside my skill level. This does not mean that they’ll be outside my skill set forever, though. I just have to decide if that’s a skill I want to work on, and how I’ll go about accomplishing that goal. Which leads me to my next rule …
  4. Try new things, but tread lightly. What I mean by this: If you want to try a new type of product, don’t necessarily go out and buy the high end version because everyone says it’s amazing. Get a good drugstore version–check Pinterest, YouTube, and blogs for dupe ideas and choose one you’re excited about. For me, this was liquid highlighter. I love a good powder highlighter, but I hadn’t tried liquid or stick versions. I kept hearing about Becca liquid highlighters, but everyone said that you needed to apply all your cream or liquid products before powder. This just didn’t sound like something I’d do–I don’t know why, but I’m pretty set in my foundation-concealer-powder, then bronzer-blush-highlight routine. But to find out if I’d use it, I bought two NYX Born to Glow Liquid Illuminators. They’re beautiful shades, but guess what happened? I always remembered them … after I’d finished applying powder. And as advised, they did not blend well on top of powder, so they just looked patchy and blotchy. I will keep trying to remember to use them–in the right order–but I am so glad I didn’t spend triple the amount on a high-end product. I’d feel so much worse about not using it.
  5. Know your skin type, climate, activity level, etc., and then do your research. I often find myself getting caught up in the hype about particular products. I get so excited that a new foundation can provide full coverage without looking cakey, or that a mascara can curl even the most stubborn of lashes. But if I stop and take a minute, I realize that my skin does not need full coverage and that I prefer some of my imperfections, namely my sun spots, to peek through. (I need less bronzer this way.) And I always curl my lashes and have never had issues with a mascara not holding a curl, which I guess means I don’t have stubborn lashes. So no matter how cool these products are, I may not be their target audience. I know instead that I want a medium coverage foundation that can withstand heat, as I live in a warm climate that is typically dry but often humid in the late summer and early fall. I know that something that is transfer-proof is helpful, since my preschooler tends to grab my face a lot. And I know that, despite my best efforts, I need foundations that won’t settle into fine lines. Because I have them, and the more animated I am (an occupational hazard for a college prof), the more my foundation often creases. All that to say, I have figured out what I am looking for. Does this mean I’ll never try a product that falls outside these parameters? Of course not. But it does mean I won’t buy something just because it receives a lot of hype.
  6. Don’t buy something just because you love the pretty colors or because you don’t own anything like it. I have to remind myself of this so often. Every time I see a new eyeshadow palette release on Instagram (can you tell I have a weakness for eyeshadow?) I get so excited, but I have to remind myself that these colors are going to go on my face. Would I really wear electric green and blue on my eyes? Maybe, but it’s an important question to ask. The same goes for neutral palettes with pops of color–every brand from drugstore to high end seems to have at least three of these. Do you really need to buy a whole palette for one or two colors? Probably not. You may choose to buy the palette for other reasons, and that’s fine–maybe you like the formula of the shadows better than ones you currently own. When I finally get around to purchasing the Too Faced Chocolate Bar palettes it will not be because I don’t own brown shadows, but because I love the formula and the scent. But again, ask yourself these questions before you buy.
  7. Be okay with what you reach for, and don’t be ruled by “shoulds.” I own a lot of high end eyeshadow palettes, due to my motivation-reward work system I mentioned above. But here’s the thing: I always reach for my drugstore palettes. I can’t remember the last time I reached for my Tarte Showstopper palette, for example, even though I absolutely love it. But if I’m truly honest with myself, I have to say that I just love drugstore and affordable makeup. There is something about the excitement of finding a great product at an affordable price that brings me such joy and satisfaction. I often feel like I “should” own more high end products because I love makeup and write a beauty blog. Shouldn’t I show my status as a makeup aficionado by talking about Urban Decay and Too Faced and Lorac? To put it simply: No. That’s just not me, at least not right now. I refuse to give up what I love for a “should.”
  8. Remember that seasons change, and there is a time for everything. By this I mean literal seasons, yes, but also changes in your habits and preferences. In terms of literal seasons, I was recently shopping theBalm’s 50% off flash sale, and I noticed their Balm Voyage 2 palette. The colors were absolutely stunning–summery, shimmery, and bright. But then I thought about the fact that we were heading into fall. If I bought this palette now it would likely sit in my collection for 6 months, by which time I would forget that I owned it and would probably have bought at least two other similar items anyway. Now, sometimes companies do retire products from their lines, so if you’re worried that might be the case, then sign up for their emails. If the products is going out of stick, you’ll be notified, and can buy it then, in season or not. Otherwise, keep a wishlist on you phone or computer, and return to that product when it fits your needs.
  9. As far as more metaphorical “seasons,” remember that your tastes, preferences, habits, and skills will change, and the type of self-examination I’m talking about in this post will help you keep up with them. No one wants to get in a rut. My whole journey into the world of makeup began because I caught myself falling into a routine without ever questioning if it was bringing me joy. Allow yourself to try new things–just remember that you don’t have to try ALL the new things. One of my favorite ways to promote change and growth (yes, even in makeup) is to try a subscription service like Ipsy, Birchbox, etc. Choose one that caters to your preferences–Ipsy tends to do more makeup and feature indie brands, while Birchbox leans toward high-end skincare. Some brands cater the boxes to your preferences, while others like Play! by Sephora send basically the same box to all subscribers. Choose what fits you, and then tell yourself you have to try every product by the time the next box arrives. You’ll learn so many new things about yourself, increase your makeup skills, and just have the joy of a package arriving at our doorstep full of pretty things–who doesn’t love that?
  10. Finally, think about what you love about makeup, what brings you joy, what products speak to you. This trumps every other rule in this list, but it is also dependent on practicing introspection and being a smart consumer. Once you get used to listening to yourself, it will be so much easier to go with your gut on a purchase. Because in the end, we love makeup because it is a fun, creative form of self-expression, and there should be joy and spontaneity there. For me at least, being smart about my purchases makes it so much easier for me to spot the palette, lipstick, whatever that I just have to have. I hope this post has helped you think about your habits, and I’d love to hear if there are any rules that you live by when it comes to buying makeup!

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