Jackie make up e beauty. Colour match and read the small print: a guide to buying makeup online, Fashion, The Guardian

According to a 2017 survey, 37% of shoppers buy cosmetics online rather than in a shop. Photograph: Paper Boat Creative/Getty Images Makeup & beauty.

T hose of us who have chanced purchasing a foundation from the Avon catalogue only to discover, when it arrives, that it makes us look like a jaundiced Oompa Loompa, will know the perils of buying makeup without trying it out first.

While 60% of shoppers regularly head to the internet to buy books, music, movies and video games, according to the PricewaterhouseCoopers 2017 Total Retail Survey, a relatively modest 37% now purchase health products and cosmetics online rather than in-store. Now, with the online fashion powerhouse Asos announcing the launch later this month of its first colour makeup range, featuring an array of alluring products and shades for less than £10, that picture looks set to change.

But when it comes to cosmetics, how can we safely make the move from the counter to the keyboard?

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Shop around

“The rise of respected beauty sites such as Beauty Bay means people aren’t just shopping for products but for ideas,” says Gina Kane, makeup artist to celebrities including Victoria Beckham and Sienna Miller. “If you go to a branded counter in a department store, you are never going to get the same range of unbiased information.” But how to discover something new without getting stuck with a product that doesn’t suit you? “There are sites where you can fill in information about yourself and what you usually buy, and over time they will send you testers for products they think you might like,” she explains.

Try before you buy

When it comes to foundation – and to a lesser degree, lipstick – Kane advises sampling the product first. “It is so personal, depending on the oil content and pH balance of your skin,” she says. “I could give the same product to 10 people with ostensibly the same skin-type, and within half an hour it will look different on everybody. For that reason, the testers you can buy on eBay are a really good idea.”

Colour match

“Getting the colour right is so important, and it is very difficult to see the true colour of a product on a computer screen, as it will never be exactly the same,” says Kane. “Sites such as Match My Makeup will match up your current shade of foundation to another brand, and will also give comparisons on quality of products and share dupes.”

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Read the small print

Burberry makeup artist Jessica Clark recommends checking a brand’s customer service tools: “Some retailers [such as Feel Unique ] will send sample products if you cover the cost of postage. Otherwise check the returns policy first, many will take the item back or exchange it for a better shade.”

And keep reading

A number of companies, Clark adds, use professional makeup artists to answer questions from customers. “If you upload a picture and describe the finish you want, they’ll give you their expert opinion.” Some online retailers, including Maybelline, Smashbox and Sephora, use technology that allows you to “try on” new shades, virtually. “But personally I think these are still unsophisticated and more a bit of fun than anything useful,” she says.

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