Buying skin care used to be about touching, feeling and smelling a product -- and perhaps dodging the pushy sales person at the cosmetics counter. As savvy skin care buyers turn to the web for more information about their products, however, they're bringing their business with them. Indeed, online sales of cosmetics and personal care are booming. And with major retail partners like Target getting in on the e-commerce game, it's a trend that may become the norm for an increasing number of shoppers.
Not sure you're ready to forgo the in-store experience? Here are six reasons to re-consider and the tips you need to get the most out of your online regimen.
1) Superior Selection. When it comes to skin care, Canadian retail options can be limited. Online retailers such as Dermstore.ca and Skinstore.com not only stock a wider selection of brands than you'll find in-store, but also feature many that are only available through skin care professionals in Canada.
TIP: Don't be a victim to variety. Cobbling a skin care regimen out of countless brands can be a risky approach when trying a product for the first time. Limit new additions to one or two brands at a time to avoid possible reactions and ensure you're getting the results you desire. You can also look for sites like Vapour Beauty that offer samples, so you don't need to splurge on a product that's not right for you.
2) Online Reviews. Word of mouth drives skin care and cosmetics purchases. But what works for your best friend or magazine editor might not work for your skin. Shopping online provides access to a wider range of reviews and often with a surprising level of detail. Sephora.ca's online store not only allows individuals to share product feedback, but allows visitors to rate reviewer helpfulness -- so you don't have to scroll through pages to find the most relevant information.
TIP: Be weary of biased feedback. Don't rely on a brand's website or even reviews on the site from which you are purchasing alone. A quick trip to the beauty blogosphere is your best bet for validating manufacturer claims and experiences posted to a site.
3) Ingredient IQ. Unless you know exactly what you're looking for, reading ingredient labels on store shelves can be confusing. Whether you're avoiding parabens, animal bi-products, allergens or simply want to understand a product's active ingredients -- shopping online allows you to quickly cross check before you check out.
TIP: If you're concerned about the ingredients in your skin care, the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Database provides a directory of ingredients with an easily scanned rating system for risk. As a rule of thumb, ingredients are listed in order of their concentration- so take care to weight how much of a risk something poses versus its potential reward.
4) Bare all. Let's be honest -- the motivation behind beauty purchases is often anything but beautiful. Whether its acne (still, at this age!), unwanted facial hair, premature signs of aging or you simply prefer not to expose your insecurities to the fresh faced sales girl in the cosmetics aisle -- shopping online allows you to browse products, feedback and even ask questions without feeling self-conscious. (And from your couch...In your sweatpants...)
TIP: Chronic skin issues (like acne or melasma) might require specialist intervention. If you aren't seeing results in your regimen after three or so months, consider a visit to a dermatologist or other skin care professionals rather than throwing more money at different cosmetic solutions.
5) Less pressure, better price. That sales woman I keep mentioning? She was not invented to help you with your skin, but to sell you product. Lots of it. At really high prices. Online shopping not only unburdens you from the pressure of personal selling tactics, but it gives you the space and time to consider how much you really want to spend on your skin care. If your shopping cart totals more than this week's pay cheque, you may want to sleep on it and re-evaluate your purchase in the morning.
TIP: Unlike most department stores, online retailers abound with special pricing. Dermstore.ca offers a "deal of the day" that highlights limited-time specials on high-end brands and well.ca features sale and clearance items daily. Ordering from outside of Canada? Be sure to factor shipping and customs into your purchase to avoid surprises upon delivery.
6) International Exposure. BB Creams and facial oils are just two examples of product categories that launched abroad long before picking up steam in North America. Shopping online not only provides access to the latest products from around the world, but also allows you to buy from brands that pioneered these developments (Rodial and Delarom, for instance) as opposed to the mass-brands that most often launch first generation North American versions.
TIP: "But where do I find these international brands?" you may be asking. European and British editions of beauty magazines like Elle, Glamour and Vogue are great resources when scouring skin care trends. Parlez-vous Francais? The French edition of Elle has an online boutique so you can save on your search time.
Do you buy your skin care online? What are some of your favourite sites and what influences your decision?