Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Struggling with a Makeup-Buying Freeze

I'd like to be able to check in a couple of months later and report my great success with the makeup buying freeze that I announced in November, but unfortunately I've failed rather spectacularly. .

As I suspected, the many many caveats I put in place for myself turned into sneaky loopholes that got easier and easier to abuse.

For instance: sure, I had a concealer, but did I have an illuminating concealer? No -- and that's basically an entirely different product, after all.

And while I may have had hair spray, gel, mousse and leave-in conditioner, I certainly didn't have a heat protector (for the hair I never heat-style), or a shine serum.

The biggest culprit of all, however, was skin care. Cleansers, exfoliators, serums, night creams, day creams, masks, hand lotions, body lotions, toners... there is at least one different product for each and every square foot of skin on your head and body. And hundreds of dedicated marketing teams who have convinced you that you need each and every one.

But the reality is that I'm not a fool -- I know I didn't need any of these things and buying them didn't really give me all that much pleasure. Yet somehow the physical act of shopping -- or the habit of buying -- was so deeply ingrained into my daily schedule that it was hard to avoid justifying the odd purchase here or there.
For anyone trying to go no-buy, there are some things I would recommend to avoid falling into the trap I found myself in.

First, and probably most obvious, is just avoid the cosmetics section altogether. If you're like me, "new" products are always attractive, and there's that hint or promise that this will somehow be different than any other ______ you've tried before.

One thing I've noticed when it comes to the advertisement of lower-end or drugstore products, is that they always seem to pride themselves on having 300 new products every year. New eyeshadows, blushes, foundations, etc. And yet even a year later, so many of these new products are already being removed from the shelves due to bad customer responses and reviews. Yet they rely on the promise of newness to make the initial sales even if they can't maintain them once the products have been tried and discarded.

Higher-end makeup instead speaks to loyalty. They sell the products you've always loved, with formulas you've always trusted, from brands that even your grandmother used. There's no doubt that both methods of advertising are manipulative and potentially misleading, but the fact remains that a manufacturer priding itself on loyalty and quality is probably a better bet than a brand that always wants you to try the brand-new product that no one has managed to use or review yet. And hey -- the prices are so low, you won't be all that disappointed if it doesn't work.

One of the biggest makeup disappointments I had in 2012 was the Revlon Colorstay Whipped Creme foundation. It was awful -- and I mean awful. It made my skin look like orange stucco no matter how I tried to apply it. And yet everyone was raving about it right as it first came out. But now, a few months later, it sits at a disappointing 3 rating on makeupalley with tons of reviews like mine, wondering why it got such great reviews when it really wasn't all that good.

I don't think it's because makeup gurus were paid off, I think it's the same old "Emperor's New Clothes" story that we've heard a million times. And that's not to say that certain HG products that everyone loves can't be disappointing as well. For every three reviews saying Dior's Diorshow mascara is the greatest they've ever tried, there's a fourth person questioning its fame.

Ultimately, the truth is that when every ad is promising you a great *new* product, there's no incentive to stick with what you have. And when what you have is consistently disappointing, it makes sense that you want to believe in the claims of this newer, "better" product. I wouldn't go so far as to call it a great conspiracy, but I do think it's deliberate marketing to encourage people to buy buy buy and not really reflect on the efficacy of the last five products they bought from the same company. I love Revlon, for instance, and so many of their products are amazing, but I can also be honest with myself about something like the Whipped foundation that had so many amazing reviews that didn't match up with my experience at all.

This is all a very long way of saying that no-buy wound up being a lot harder than I thought it would be. But choosing five products every week to really use and review has been a good way of properly evaluating what should stay and what should go in my makeup bag -- and gives me that "new product" feeling that I enjoyed from buying makeup, since so many of the things in my collection are barely-used.

If you're struggling with a low- or no-buy, tell me about your experience and how you get around the urge to shop.

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