For beauty buffs, scoring a good deal on makeup is like winning the lottery. Saving just a few dollars on that highlighter palette you've been eyeing can feel like a victory. According to shopping and trends expert Sara Skirboll (along with research done by the leading hub of coupon collections website, RetailMeNot), people are still buying—even from home.
"Beauty shopping is becoming a more frequent purchase, with over 60 percent of women saying they buy beauty products at least once a month and around 30 percent claiming to purchase more than once a month," says Skirboll. Perhaps this is in part due to the power of makeup on mental health, confidence, and overall well-being. Or it could be self-care feels more important than ever. No matter the reason, one thing's for sure: Online makeup shopping is on the rise and there's no end in sight. So, we decided it's time to make our shopping sessions more efficient (and easier on our wallets).
Below, we've rounded up eight of the best online shopping hacks to get you in the saving mindset the next time you browse the "What's New" section of your favorite e-tailer. Keep scrolling for more.
Meet the Expert
Sara Skirboll is the resident shopping and trends expert at RetailMeNot. She has over a decade of experience working within the retail, fashion and beauty arenas on shopping and spending habits, trends, and statistics.
Use a Cash-Back Website
According to research, our spending habits indicate that we spend over $200,000 on beauty products a year. "People are, on average, spending roughly $42 each time they shop," says Skirboll. "Those that fall in the Generation Z category (those ages 18 to 24) spend more than any other demographic with an average spend of $70 per beauty haul." All these stats make using a cash-back site a no-brainer. You actually get a percentage of your money back after online shopping.
Take Rakuten for example. It's a site that offers cash back on most online purchases relating to hotels, electronics, and even clothing and makeup. While you likely won't see anything higher than two or three percent cash back on off-peak months, sites like Sephora and Ulta often give up to 10 percent cash back during high seasons (think the days leading up to Christmas, Memorial Day, and Labor Day). Every three months you'll get what's called a Big Fat Check (aka all of your money that would have been left on the table) to deposit right back into your bank account. Best part? There's literally no catch—trust us, we've vetted it.
Sign Up for Loyalty Programs
"Signing up for loyalty programs are a big must when it comes to shopping online for beauty," says Skirboll. "You'll unlock different benefits (like free samples or free shipping) once you hit each tier—it's a win-win either way." Sephora's Beauty Insider Program lets you earn points on every purchase, with dollar to point ratios rising according to your status. Once you earn a certain number of points, you can redeem them for deluxe-size samples. And, the higher your status, the better the perks (better rewards, free shipping, early access to products, and more).
Ulta's Ultimate Rewards Program is similar to Sephora's Beauty Insider Program in that each purchase will land you points, but you can also cash in points for dollars off a purchase (for instance, 750 points will get you $30 off). The program also earns you two times the amount of points during your birthday month and a $25 gift card you can use toward a beauty service.
To save on drugstore beauty products, consider joining CVS's ExtraCare Beauty Club Program, which comes with free samples, access to deals and new arrivals, and, most impressively, three dollars in ExtraBuck Rewards for every $30 spent.
Try Travel-Size Products
Curious about a certain product but unsure if it'll bode well with your skin type? Skirboll says to opt for travel-size products before committing to a new brand. "That way you won't have to worry about spending more money on a product you're not quite sure about buying," she says. And while many retailers offer a fair return policy when it comes to gently used product, purchasing a travel-size version of a product before committing to a full size minimizes waste. To take it one step further, you can always ask for samples of product at places like Sephora and Ulta to test at home before purchasing anything at all.
Set Up Sale Alerts
Imagine this: You've added half a dozen products to your online shopping cart, but when it comes to actually placing the order, you get cold feet with a quick glance at your subtotal. Enter Shoptagr, an app that notifies you when the product you've been lusting after goes on sale (or comes back in stock). Within the app you can create lists to keep track of categories you're most interested in, which can come in handy as your wish list grows. (PSA: Shoptagr is great for things like shoes and clothing—if you find something you're in love with but it's out of stock, you can choose your size and color choice, add it to your Shoptagr account, and you'll be notified the second it comes back in stock.)
Save Shopping for High-Sale Events
Looking to stock up on concealer or mascara? Save your shopping for high-sale events like Ulta's 21 Days of Beauty or Sephora's VIB sale, two of the most anticipated beauty sales of the year. The former offers serious markdowns on a variety of products everyday for three weeks (the full calendar of discounted products is usually released a few days before the event). The Sephora VIB sale, on the other hand, involves a 10 to 20 percent discount (depending on your VIB status) on your entire purchase, landing you more products and brands to choose from among your sea of options. Plus, there's no limit to how many times you can use the coupon for the duration of the sale. The event usually happens twice a year—during the springtime and holiday season, so mark your calendars accordingly.
Clear Cookies to Avoid Markups
By now we know that clearing your browser's cookies to avoid airline markups is a travel hack to hold in your back pocket—and the same hack rings true when shopping for makeup online. Deleting cookies not only prevents companies from tracking you and marking up items you've shown a history of clicking on, but it can also eliminate the low stock marketing ploy that creates a need for urgency—you know, that "only one left in stock" liner that suddenly makes you want the item more.
Take Advantage of Recycling Programs
When it comes to beauty purchases, sustainability is proving its significance. "Consumers are becoming more conscious of what they're buying, as 81 percent of women shared it is important that their beauty products are both clean and sustainable," says Skirboll. This goes hand-in-hand with taking advantage of the recycling programs many brands offer. For example, MAC's Back-to-MAC program allows you to trade in six empty products in exchange for a free lipstick. Similarly, Kiehl's offers a "recycle and be rewarded" program where each empty container brought in to their store earns you a stamp, and 10 stamps gets you a free travel-size product.
Keep an Eye Out for Flash Sales
Flash sales are increasingly popular, especially within the makeup market. And it's no wonder—HauteLook, a members-only website that offers 50 to 75 percent off retail prices, is constantly featuring industry-favorite brands like Laura Mercier, NARS, Nyx Cosmetics, Too Faced, and more. The only caveat? It's a flash sale, so events come and go daily, and some items go out of stock quicker than they made their appearance.