Giving you the freedom to peruse products in your own time, 24 hours a day, every day of the week, there's a reason more and more beauty outlets are popping open their virtual doors.
Good-looking, easy to navigate and with honest reviews to help you scoop up or steer clear of what you're considering slapping on your face, body and hair, these product portals are playing a lead role in the stats that suggest we'll be spending £56.7 billion on the web by 2019. The Avon magazine of the moment, here's why we're jumping on the online beauty bandwagon...
1. It's oh so convenient
We might want to saunter around beauty halls looking, trying and testing the latest launches but realistically...? With full-time jobs and a social calendar at crisis point? If you can buy your beauty booty on your computer, phone or iPad, it makes life a whole lot simpler. Plus it means you don't have to elbow your way through the crowds in hideous strip-lit aisles. Win number one.
2. There's no hard sell
Some savvy shoppers log on armed with a list of demands, others are happy to put in the legwork and sites like getthegloss.com, feelunique.com and beautybay.com are ready and waiting to offer a range of authentic advice. From industry experts to real-life testers, you can forget commission-hungry counter girls, this is all about unbiased opinions.
"Reviews are essential because they give people context when buying online", says Alexia Inge, co-founder of Cultbeauty.co.uk. "We allow both good and bad reviews on the site, alongside our expert panel, to help people understand that we're serious about telling the truth."
Thisisbeautymart.com, follow a similar ethos but rather than a panel of experts, it's ex-Vogue Beauty Director, Anna-Marie Solowij who writes everything on the site. "She's spent 25 years talking to women about beauty so her voice is a well accepted and understood one," explains co-founder, friend and colleague, Millie Kendall. "It's this interaction with the experts that we're working hard on - doing it in realtime is the way forward." #watchthisspace Google hangouts here we come!
3. They're full of helpful how to's
Whether they're written or filmed, how to's and tutorials are the best ways to make the products as transparent as possible. There's no room for wool pulling on the web! From how to apply your products to the low-down on new brands or what order to use your skincare essentials in (who hasn't struggled with that common chicken and egg/serum and moisturiser conundrum of which comes first), educating users in a private manner but a public space, creates that one on one experience you just don't get from picking a product off the shelf.
4. You get ample samples
We've all used Boots as a make up topper upper station en route to a hot date/night out/early morning work meeting and where would we be without a free tester perfume in our bag? It's something the online world of beauty is trying hard to compete with via detailed product descriptions and well thought out freebies.
Sampling services like mylittlebox.co.uk, glossybox.co.uk. theperfumesociety.org and birchbox.co.uk are big news and all 'bookmarked' in our beauty toolbar. Delivering a selection of treats straight to your door they're a dab hand at introducing us to ranges and products we might never have stumbled upon before. And if you do like the products that they've posted out or you happen to find your dream cream that really does get rid of crinkles and wrinkles, you're going to keep logging on for more. We're shining examples!
*FYI: Don't miss the free samples at checkout stage on most beauty sites – it means you get even more for your money.
5. They're the best places to discover worldwide wonder products
Once upon a time you had to visit tiny French pharmacies to get your mitts on gems like Bioderma and Homeoplasmine but these online beauty emporiums do the groundwork for you so you can try that acne-curing Korean exclusive almost as quickly as the locals.
"We wanted to introduce the idea of beauty curation and make it much more customer-centric," says Alexia. "The fact that every product on the site is cherry picked by experts for its stand alone brilliance helps and we get very few returns because of the serious time and effort we put into picking the products in the first place." Now that's what we call service.
6. And finally...you really can buy make up via the web
OK so it's not as easy as swiping it on the back of your hand to see if a lipstick suits you - and everything from your browser to your computer screen can alter the tone and saturation of a swatch – but there are things you can do to combat these beauty obstacles.
For a start, read the product descriptions...fully. Sounds obvious but it's here you're likely to find out if a red lipstick has more orange or blue undertones in it or if a brown eyeshadow is warm or cool. You can then make an informed decision on what suits you best.
Next, search for the product in Google images and scrutinise the swatches that come up until you find one pictured against a skintone similar to your own.
Finally, use search engines as a comparison site. "Type in something like 'colour matches for Jouer Luminizing Tint in Gold' and generally, someone on the web somewhere will be talking about how there's another product that's a complete match for it," says Alexia.
One last tip-off? Go for what you know. "Mascara, eyeliner and replenishing your favourite foundation is a good place to start," says Millie. "And it will help build up your confidence for buying make-up online."
Now what are you waiting for...go shop! And if you're not sure what to type in your toolbar, use our current top 10 mouse-clickers to kick off with...
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