Savvy shopping guide: Buying skincare
Written: July 2006
I love to shop. Yes, I know most of us like it, but I'm nothing short of obsessed.
Addicted to the thrill of the purchase and breathless at the prospect of a new discovery, I look forward to shopping the way most people count down the days to a holiday. And I do it far more often.
One of my favourite places to indulge my addiction is on the beauty floor of a gleaming department store. I'll happily trawl labyrinthine aisles for hours, slathering here, dabbing there and spritzing absolutely everywhere in search of beauty booty. And when I'm feeling flat, nothing perks me up faster than a new skincare buy. It's my therapy.
But having a willing addiction doesn't mean I'm a sucker. I take my time, do the research and focus on counters that can help me find a product that really suits my complexion. Here are some of my favourite department store beauty counters and why they make shopping for skincare such a simple pleasure…
The first thing I noticed on my inaugural visit to a Clinique counter was that all the staff had great skin. And that's always a good sign. But my favourite thing about shopping at Clinique is that it makes serious skincare simple, even if you've never used their products before. You can always expect a Clinique consultant to know how your skin functions, what causes skin concerns and how to treat problems. They can analyse your skin on the spot (based on how it looks, feels and reacts to the elements), identify your skin type and help you custom-make a routine that will give you the best results. Plus, because Clinique does make-up too, you can find out how to best synergise care and camouflage. There are samples of many of the essentials (cleansers, clarifiers and moisturisers) to try before you take the plunge and, in some stores, you can book in to have a skin treatment and your make-up done (there's a $20 booking fee but it’s redeemable against a purchase). Some stores do workshops too, where groups of customers can learn how to use products from an expert.
Great buy: Clarifying Lotion, $35/ $50
Where: Myer and David Jones stores nationally
My local Biotherm counter is less of a beauty bar than an Aladdin's Cave – it's huge and there are creams, serums, lotions and potions of every description everywhere. But, even for the uninitiated, it's far from intimidating. The staff know their stuff and can really help you get to grips with the product ingredients and how they might work for your skin. I love the nifty electronic device that Biotherm consultants use to read the levels of hydration in different areas of your face – it really takes the guesswork out of striking the right moisture balance (I'm never as oily as I think I am!). And I adore that you can test-drive samples before you buy. My closest Biotherm offers my kind of retail therapy too: a range of pampering facials that can be redeemed against product purchases. Ask if yours does too.
Great buy: Source Therapie Skin Perfecting Serum, $89
Where: Major Myer stores
When I really want to spoil myself, I pop into La Prairie. You've got to hand it to the Swiss; they know what they're doing with chocolate, and they're great at skincare. On my last visit to a La Prairie counter at David Jones, the consultant spent ages talking with me about my skin, what I would (and, importantly, would not) benefit from and explaining the differences between all the ranges. She really encouraged me to take home more information along with samples of the products that she'd recommended and, when she didn't have the specific samples on hand, she ordered them in for me. And I didn't feel pressured to buy a single thing, which is super important when you're talking La Prairie prices! In fact, you don't have to have deep pockets at all to indulge in the Rolls Royce of skincare products – selected David Jones stores around Australia host La Prairie's The Art of Beauty salons, where you can indulge in deluxe products administered by expert hands. Like any other salon, you pay for the treatment (it's not redeemable against product), but it's a fabulous way to experience some prestige pampering while you're out shopping.
Great buy: Cellular Time Release Moisturizer Intensive, $220
Star Treatment: The 30-minute Business Express Facial, $60
Where: David Jones, Elizabeth St, Sydney
The Art of Beauty salons are available in selected David Jones stores.
This gorgeous line of products hasn't been available in department stores all that long, and it's so nice to have such fragrant luxury on tap that I can never walk past a Decleor counter. And I never regret stopping. Just trying a new Decleor cream on the back of my hand makes me feel good, and because the staff are rigorously trained in the products, the ingredients and how they benefit the skin, I usually come away knowing more about natural oils and extracts than I did before. Spend a few minutes having a consultation with Decleor and you'll see how taking care of your skin can be more of a pleasure than you ever thought. I'm on the list to find out about facial opportunities too – all you have to do is register your name at the counter and they'll give you a call when treatment 'events' are running.
Great buy: Hydra Floral Intensive Hydrating Mask, $90
Where: Selected Myer and David Jones stores in Melbourne and Sydney
Extra at-the-counter tips:
• Ask questions. Don't feel bamboozled by beauty-speak and mystifying ingredient lists, the consultants on counters are trained to know their products inside out, so ask away.
• Ask for samples. You wouldn't buy a new pair of shoes without trying them on first, so trial skincare products and see if they 'fit' before you invest.
• Get touchy-feely. Try products on the backs of your hands, smell them and ask the beauty consultant about application order and techniques.
• Enquire about 'events'. A brand may not have in-store offers or treatments available all the time, but they might have intermittent specials and be happy to notify you when they're coming up.
• Have a plan. If you've not got time to browse, do your research before you hit the shops; it'll help you make a beeline for the brands and products that interest you most. The beautyheaven product database is always a good place to start.