It’s hard out there for a girl on a budget. That’s especially true if you have a serious beauty habit, since some droolworthy beauty buys (looking at you, $200 face lotion) can cost crazy-high prices for very small amounts of actual product. But not all hope (or money) is lost! Even a bona fide beauty addict can find ways to score a great discount on beauty products. You might already be familiar with the smart ways to save on drugstore beauty and amazing rewards programs from brands like MAC. But in breaking news for your wallet, there’s even more you can do to save cash money. Start by following these tips.
You’d might as well put that weird shade of blush that never worked for you to good use. Use it as leverage to get yourself something new. There’s an entire Reddit community devoted to swapping beauty products. The guidelines are stringent, so you won’t end up shipping your blush and getting nada in return. Or try Swapidu, which is kind of like eBay—but with beauty products, not money.
Sign Up for Newsletters
We promise we’re not trying to spam you. Even if your inbox is already clogged, signing up for newsletters can sometimes score you a discount as high as 15 percent at Dermstore, Bare Escentuals, Bobbi Brown, and Estée Lauder. Get the discount and then unsubscribe if you really can’t take the frequent updates. Easy. The one exception is CVS: Enroll in the Extra Care program and reap weekly coupons for up to 30 percent off. It’s worth the emails.
Try Out Beauty Flash Sales
If you’re good at sticking to your budget (which in and of itself is a true talent) there’s a good chance you’re already familiar with—if not a regular user of—flash-sale sites like Gilt and Zulily. The latest one is a doozy, though. Vainité offers sales curated by cool girls and entrepreneurs alike—think DJ Harley Viera-Newton and Beautycounter founder Gregg Renfrew. Many of the products are discounted 20 percent, if not more.
Buy a Dupe
So you fell in love with a Tom Ford lipstick. We get it. We’ve been there. But if you just can’t drop another $50 on Wild Ginger, it’s easy to find a close shade for a better price by hunting for dupes. Temptalia has a search-engine for dupes, including one for foundation (just plug in your brand, product, and shade, and behold), while the app SuperDuper scours the shelves for affordable nail polish dupes.
Go for Good GWPs
This is going to hurt, but you need to know: Some gifts with purchase are really just a rip-off. If you have to pay extra to get it, it’s probably not worth it. But if you only need to buy a reasonable amount in actual products (say, $40 worth) to get a freebie, it’s totally worth it—especially if you need to restock on bronzer anyway. Some sites like Dermstore, Sephora, and Beauty.com all have pages dedicated to GWPs. There’s no pain (but all gain) in skimming them for good offers before you hit “check out.”
Shop for Discontinued Items
Many discount beauty sites are a hotbed for fakes. While eBay is awesome if you’re buying a used sewing machine, many of the suspiciously cheap beauty products there (and on other less regulated sites) are probably too good to be true. But discontinued products are a different story. BuyMeBeauty is dedicated to discontinued items, which come at a serious bargain. For example: Kiehl’s Water Based Lotion SPF 25, which cost $31 in the mid-2000s, is just $18 on the site. Certain brands too offer discontinued or limited-edition products right on their websites. Josie Maran has its Good Buys page, while Tarte puts tons of its must-have products on the Sale page.
Save Your Sprees for Big Sales
At this point, Nordstrom’s Annual Sale (happening in July) is like a holiday. SpaceNK too has a big sale every so often called its Explorer’s Promotion, where for all items (excluding sale items), you receive $20 off every $100 you spend—essentially a 20 percent discount, because it takes us three minutes to click $100 worth of beauty products into our virtual shopping bags. Mark your iCal, because the next one is happening from April 20 through May 1.
Be Strategic About Samples
Pro-tip: The department store counter is your friend. Companies usually have a generous policy about giving out samples to try at home—and speaking from personal experience, this is especially helpful if you have an obsession with a certain, fairly pricey foundation that starts “Armani” and ends with “Luminous Silk Foundation.” Also, Target has a Beauty Concierge in many of its stores now—a.k.a. someone dedicated to helping you out with your beauty questions. This Beauty Concierge is loaded up with samples, so you can try whatever you want at home and come back for the full-size version (…or more samples) if you love it. If you’re shopping online, SpaceNK encourages its customers to try samples. You can call the store’s customer service line, where, after a quick convo about your needs and what you’re looking for, the customer service team will mail out samples tailored to you.
Poke Around for Discount Codes
Not too many beauty retailers will splash the word “SALE!!!” in all-caps on their websites; it’s a little counterintuitive. But with a bit of digging, you can usually find special promo codes for travel-size products or, once in a blue moon, even full-size. Sephora offers them on a weekly basis, while both Bluemercury and Clarins have entire pages dedicated to special deals.