I know this is a party pooper topic that no-one really wants to talk about, but it really is important. I know from experience how easy it is to get yourself swept away. It’s so easy to reach for your wallet to spend spend spend when you see rave reviews, first looks, unboxings and the like from bloggers or users just gushing about their new Holy Grails. This is mangified, especially in the case of Asian Beauty products when you’re ordering from abroad, and are factoring wait times. It starts small, you’re just buying sample sets you tell yourself, and who doesn’t need sheet masks? Then, before you know it, you’ve spent $60 and you only meant to buy $25 worth of products.
You need to be honest with yourself when asking the question, ‘what can I afford?‘ and then shop to that. For me, the reality is, I’m a freelancer, I don’t have a lot of steady income. I really can’t afford to just drop £20 every time a blogger I admire declares a product to be a a miracle. So, before you let yourself get whipped up into a frenzy bulk buying a product you’ve never tested here are some tips I have that I used to reign in my spending! These tips aren’t just about saving money, they are about being a responsible and sensible shopper.
Write down your skincare goals. What do you want to change or improve about your skin? Having these written down will help you be more discerning when you’re shopping. If your skincare goal is hydration then you should focus on products that will help to increase your hydration. It is really easy to get swept away by a new wonder product that promises all sorts of things. While it may actually do them, if your skin concerns aren’t in line with the promises, then why buy it?
Do your research. Now you know what your goals are, what are ingredients or products that are proven to be effective? Need to boost your hydration, then you’ll be interested in humectants like glycerine and hyaluronic acid and maybe an occlusive to seal it all in. Interested in getting rid of acne scars (PIH – Post Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation)? Well, chemical exfoliation, vitamin c and vitamin a are ingredients that you’ll be very interested in. Be wary of manufacture claims! They will stretch the truth as far as they can.
- Find reviews that are positive and negative. Be wary of blog posts that only talk about the good sides, no matter how amazing something is there will always be a downside somewhere. There is no perfect product. Even if it is something as minor as, “The packaging is glass and can get slippery”, is great because to me it shows they are looking at it critically.
- Find reviews that have similar skin types/concerns! If you have oily skin and you’re only reading reviews by people with dry skin and you’re wondering why the products don’t work for you, you might want to switch reviewers. It’s also important to know what climate the blogger is dealing with. If they live somewhere warm and you live somewhere mostly cold then their product demands may be different from yours.
Think of products in categories. You should also know the intended purpose of each product before you buy it. That way you won’t have a bunch of half empty products that all do the same thing expiring before you can finish them. That doesn’t mean you can’t repurpose things, it just means that when you buy something you have a rough idea of where it will fit in your routine, even if it doesn’t end up filling that role.
Comparison shop! Learn which retailers are key for each type of product. RRS is often the cheapest for Mizon, TesterKorea has the best range of samples, Wishtrend & Jolse have really good descriptions and product lists. Also check their eBay pages, if you don’t mind waiting then chose free shipping. Often it’s cheaper as it’s the suppppper basic shipping method. Also, do you need EMS? Really? If you’re in the UK, I’d strongly advise against it unless you’re willing to accept extra charges.
Keep track of your triggers. I talked about figuring out your triggers and my triggers here. This is important, a product may be really effective for your skincare goals but it may have an ingredient that causes a reaction. Read the ingredient lists! Why spend money when you won’t be able to use it?
Give yourself limits. This is the tough part, setting limits and then sticking to them. You alone know your budget and what works for you. I can’t tell you what to set them as, but here are mine!
- Samples & Testers First. Before committing to a full size product, I need to test out the samples or use a tester in store. This stops me from impulse buying a ton of products that I’m not sure will work for me especially as returning them is often not a possibility. I also don’t buy samples of products that I can’t afford to buy the full size of, this stops me from lusting after something out of my price range. The only time I break this rule is if the samples are more than the full product, or the full product costs as much as samples would ($3~). My limit is enough samples to last for two weeks to a month, any more than that is sample hoarding and sample hoarding is still hoarding.
- £10 Product Limit. I have a multistep routine, I can’t spend more than £10 on a single step. This actually helps me be more patient when it comes to buying things in sales. I know it is cheaper to buy samples in bulk instead of the full size product, but I tend to not do this because a lot of samples don’t have dates on them, this makes me a little anxious.
- $40 Order Limit. This is partly because of customs, but also because I don’t want to buy too many things in one go. I tend to buy one full size product and a few samples/masks in each order.
- Plan Every Purchase. That way every checkout online or in person has a reason to it. I’m not spending to make myself feel good, I’m spending for a purpose.
- No bulk buy. No rebuy till empty. I do this because my skin is finicky, what it loves in March is not always what it will love in June. So I don’t bulk buy products no matter how tempting because I might find I don’t need it!
- No Jars. I have nothing against jars, I don’t think they’re unsanitary, I just prefer products in a pump or a tube. I know I can decant, but I’d rather not! So no jars!
Take selfies. Every month, take a selfie of yourself fresh faced with no product on to assess how things are going. Sometimes it is really hard to gauge improvement when you look at the changes slowly every day.
Don’t be too critical! That means don’t look at yourself using the X4 magnification mirror and pick at all your ‘faults’. Take a step back, look at your skin using a regular mirror and smile! Sometimes we’re over critical of ourselves and see impurities where there are none. The people in magazines don’t actually look like that.
Talk to your doctor. If you’re lost, completely at the end of your rope, don’t just buy more things, talk to your doctor.
There was a period of my skincare journey where I would just buy things whenever I felt like it, I would spend money in small increments telling myself that I was getting ‘good deals’, most of the time I was just spending money just because. Most of those products ended up being thrown away or if I was lucky (not opening and keeping the receipt) returned. In the UK our returns policy is pretty strict, unless it isn’t working then you can’t return it.
Rather than being restrictive, I’ve found shopping with these limits to be stress-free compared to blind buying. Having a checklist to work against makes any skincare purchase I make a lot less guilt free. Knowing I’ve done my research, checked to my triggers, tested samples and stuck to my limits makes every purchase feel good instead of a panicked, ‘should I have bought that?’
So! Tell me! Do you have your own spending buffers and limits? Do you track how much you spend or put limits on yourself? I’d love to see your lists!