10 Tips For Your Trip to the Cosmetics Counter

  • SumoMe

Okay, so it’s like this:  I MIGHT be a cosmetics junkie.  Signs:  1) my makeup drawer might look like a refugee camp for wayward products and 2) I may have more products in my giveaway pile than most people have in their entire rotation.  Fine, I am a hoarder of fine cosmetics and skin care products.   Don’t judge!

I tell you this to help you understand why someone like me, who tries to avoid events that require being in the vicinity of a shit ton of other people – especially crazy women – never misses the annual Nordstrom Cosmetics Trend Show.

Trend Show starts a few hours before the store opens, with women swarming outside waiting for the doors to open.  Once they open, these women push and shove to get in the door and haul ass upstairs to get a seat in the front row for the fashion show.  (Personally I’ll have none of it, showing up at the last possible minute and taking a seat with my friends in the back row.)  I have a love-hate relationship with Trend Show.

After the fashion show, this same horde of women moves downstairs to the cosmetics department, where all of the prestige lines have their national artists ready to show off the cosmetic trends of the season.  Inevitably, there are some first-timers making asses of themselves, complaining that all the appointments are booked up.  (These appointments were booked weeks ago lady, so just walk away!  The sales girl you are berating can do nothing for you.)

I always invite a group of girls to attend Trend Show with me.  Everyone is usually pretty excited to go…and then there was this year.  This year, I invited a newish friend, someone I thought might be a fun addition to the mix.  She is not really much of a makeup wearer, so I thought it might be fun to see her all decked out.

I tell you with a heavy heart, she turned me down.  It turns out, there is a reason she doesn’t wear much makeup.  She tells me that she has never had her makeup done by anyone and has, dare I say, never been to the makeup counter.  Qué? Comó?  Say what?  I tell you, I am still having difficulty processing this information.

When I asked her why, she tells me she has always been afraid and too intimidated to do it.  Holy shit, this is a perfect project for me…it is my personal duty to get this girl to the makeup counter.  Clearly not during Trend Show, an event that can unnerve even a seasoned pro.  No, I am going to have to find a quiet weekday to ensure she has a good experience.

So it got me to thinking, are there seriously people out there that are missing out on the makeup counter experience because they are intimidated and afraid.  I did a rather unscientific poll of some friends and acquaintances, and as it turns out, my friend is not alone in her fear.  I decided to put together a tip sheet for those looking to overcome their makeup counter phobia.

I believe I am uniquely qualified to put such a list together because in addition to spending what my husband considers to be an obscene amount of time at the Nordstrom cosmetic counter, I spent a year in college working at a Clinique counter.  So without further adieu, I unveil to you Jennifer Coy’s tips for cosmetic counter patronage.

1) Go to a tier-one store.  Makeup is the same price no matter which store you set your eyes upon.  High-end stores tend to pay more and attract the better cosmetic talent.  I myself am a Nordstrom girl – and no, they do not pay me a dime to say this shit.  (Although I’m certainly up for them doing so!)

2) If at all possible, try to go on a weekday.  Cosmetics departments are freaking zoos on the weekend.  And if you’re unlucky enough to casually venture into the makeup realm on a weekend where there is an event, such as Trend Show, you are screwed.  Just walk away.  Bottom line:  You will get the best attention from the least-frazzled makeup artists on a weekday or weeknight.

3) Try to work with one of the stores’ “makeup artists”.  If you know you are interested in a specific makeup line, working with one of the reps from that line is preferred.  However, if you are not quite sure what you are looking for, some stores have makeup artists that are trained on all of the lines the store has to offer.  (This is usually my preference because I don’t like to be limited to a specific line.)

4) Know what specific products you are looking for and/or have an idea of what type of budget you are working with.  Frequenting the cosmetics counter is not what I would call a cheap hobby, especially if you panic and buy everything you are shown.  Set a mental limit before getting to the counter, or focus on the hand full of items that you need.

5) Get a drawing of your look.  Cosmetics lines usually have a black and white face chart for the makeup artist to document the steps to create your look.  They will typically smudge the colors on the page to give you a visual of what they are talking about.  If I really love what they have done, I might take a picture with my phone to ensure I don’t forget anything.

6) Make sure you get a list of everything the artist used.  This way, you don’t have to buy everything at one time.  You can always come back and pick up pieces as you run out of what you already have (or better yet, let your fingers do the work and shop online now that you know exactly what you want/need).  It will also prevent you from the frustration of deciding that you want something and/or not remembering the name of the product or the color.

7) Check yourself out in different lights before you buy.  I am not sure what kind of crazy-ass lighting they use in these stores, but I have bought many a product thinking I look amazing, only to find I look like a complete clown in natural lighting.  Don’t be fooled.  Ask for a hand mirror and walk outside if you are not sure.

9) Don’t be afraid to say no.  Makeup artists want you to be happy with your look.  If a makeup artist asks you if you like something, don’t be afraid to speak up if you would prefer something different.  Again, everyone in this scenario wants you to be happy with the end result.  You are not going to hurt anyone’s feelings by voicing your likes and dislikes.

10) No sale is final.  Buying cosmetics is a very low-risk proposition.  If you get something home and decide you hate it, take it back.  Again, the point is for you to be happy.  If a color does not work out, if something breaks out your skin, take it back.  Most stores will be more than happy to return or exchange your purchase.  In doubt about a product…ask for a sample before you buy.

If you are reading this list and are still feeling apprehensive, enlist a friend to join you.  There is always safety in numbers.  If all else fails and you happen to find yourself at the Houston Galleria Nordstrom on a Saturday or Sunday, send me a tweet.  You have about a 90% chance of catching me there (seriously!).

Share your stories, the good and, of course, the more entertaining bad.  Any interesting tales from the makeup counter?



Check out my next post to see what I bought……….

You might also like……..

Fat or Crazy: My Experience With Lexapro

Friend or Stranger, Who Gives Better Advice



  1. I’m jealous of your makeup stash! I like makeup but am intimidated by the makeup counters. I thought the people running them were makeup loving car salesmen and I would be pressured to buy, buy, buy. These tips are super helpful – great post!

    • Jennifer Coy says:

      I really do have an embarrassing collection! Don’t be intimidated by the makeup counter. Every once in a while you may run into someone that gives the cosmetics department a bad name, but for the most part, the sales people are very nice. Once I find someone that I like, I tend to stick with them. You know you have a good relationship when your person tries to talk you out of buying things that they know you don’t need, or already have.

  2. Another tip for the clueless (like me): ask a friend to help you shop! Ideally someone with skills and knowledge that make her your makeup role model. She’s impartial and your friend, so you can trust her recommendations on what products she’s tried and can’t live without vs. what’s not worth it.

    My friend kept saying she would love to do my eye makeup, and she always looks great, so of course I took her up on it. She took me through all the makeup and brushes she used, and then we made a date to rendezvous at the mall to help me pick out my own stuff. That made the makeup counter less intimidating, and she helped answer my questions about the products.

    • Jennifer Coy says:

      I am so gad to hear you went with your friend! I love getting word of mouth recommendations from a trusted source. Always your best bet!

    • Marilyn Fire says:

      What a good idea to go with a friend who knows makeup. I hope to see the results at Thanksgiving.

  3. Marilyn Fire says:

    Good ideas. I am always afraid not to buy something. Be sure to keep me on your “get rid of”
    list since we are pretty much the same coloring and I love your makeup ( and hair care products).


  1. […] few weeks before my recent trip to Nordstrom Trend Show, I received a call from Margie, the fabulous makeup artist I work with at Nordstrom.  She told me […]

  2. […] enjoys discussing life, relationships, and the overall human experience.  She cover topics from tips for shopping the cosmetic counter to who offers the best advice, all with a dash of smart humor.  Head on over and check her […]

Speak Your Mind