Best when: You’re a beauty addict who wants a one-stop shop for staples as well as new products that you might have not even heard of. (Eyelash conditioner, anyone?)
National chains, like Sephora, Ulta, C.O. Bigelow, and Space NK, showcase thousands of lotions, potions, makeup lines, and tools in enticing, easy-to-access displays. Their goal? Getting you to make impulse buys. Your gain? The opportunity for major sampling. Bonus: Some have in-store salons.
Sample away. Indulge in Sephora’s 3 Free Samples policy. With every purchase, you’re entitled to (you guessed it) three freebies. This happens automatically online, but it’s true in the stores as well. All you have to do is ask.
Scan the checkout counter for travel-size products. Specialty stores are the best place to get travel-size versions of high-end products at equally diminutive prices—an economical option if you crave a lot of variety.
If you don’t like it, return it. Let’s face it—no matter how big the bargain, you aren’t saving anything if a product sits in your drawer unused. Letting you try before you buy is one way that specialty stores help you avoid mistake purchases, but they tend to have generous return policies, too. At Sephora and Ulta, bring even opened products back within 60 days with a receipt for full credit.
Swing by the salon. Specialty stores may offer beauty treatments for less than they cost at the local salon. In Ulta salons, for example, you’ll find hair-color services starting at $55 and buy-one, get-one-free facials.