TIME-SENSITIVE New Observer Column!

sephora saleGuys, I don’t use all-caps lightly, okay? But you need to check out my latest Observer column before midnight tonight. That’s when one of the most insanely beneficial beauty bonuses from Sephora expires. Do not miss out on this! (In addition to the products listed in my column, you can also use my recommended beauty products page as a cheat sheet for what to buy.)

My Sephora Sample Shopping Hack(s)

PhotoI feel like most beauty obsessives know to do this, but a lot of my friends are more normal and don’t fixate on this stuff like I do. This one’s for you, civilians!

One of the ways I get to try a lot of products without spending a ton of money is by sampling the crap out of everything that looks interesting. I have no qualms about asking for samples in-store. In the US, shops like Sephora, SpaceNK, and Kiehl’s are generally generous with samples. I don’t take it to an extreme, though. I ask for maximum three samples per trip, unless I really hit it off with an associate and he/she wants me to try a bunch of stuff. (Pictured: One day’s haul sometime in 2015.)

One of the ways I get more samples is through Sephora’s website. (I almost never buy in-store at Sephora.) Here’s how I get the most out of them.

  1. Get a Sephora loyalty card if you don’t already have one. Those points add up, and you get free products for your birthday. Buy from Sephora wherever possible. It’s worth it.
  2. With every online order of $25 or more, Sephora gives you three free samples. PLUS they have codes for bonus products with every $25+ purchase. BOOKMARK THIS PAGE.
  3. I split my orders into separate ones that are as close to $25 each as possible, to maximize my samples and bonuses, as you get three free samples and one deluxe sample (with promo code) with every purchase.
  4. I also buy skincare frequently from the Travel Size section of Sephora’s site. You can get very modestly priced products from high-end lines in smaller volumes, so instead of paying $63 for a giant cleanser you might not like, you can pay $14 and use it for a month to see how it suits you.
  5. I highly recommend installing the Honey extension for Chrome, which will show you all coupon/promo codes available for every e-commerce site you visit, and even try them all automatically for you if you want.

This is how I end up with a huge stash of samples to try whenever I feel like a change, or when I am on the road. I will never use these all up, but I can’t stop accruing them. If you know me in real life, ask for some samples from me!

Fresh Soy Face Cleanser

fresh soy cleanserSince I started out by featuring a budget product I love, I don’t feel too guilty about turning now to an extremely luxurious product I love. It’s my current obsession, making every morning extra pleasurable this summer.

I got sample packets of Fresh Soy Face Cleanser ages ago from Sephora, but only got around to using them on a trip to Toronto last month. I was floored, mostly by the refreshing cucumber scent. (I have no idea why they highlight the soy in the name of this product. It’s an insignificant amount, and the calming cucumber scent and mild formulation are the stand-out features for me.) So I was excited to see that the Sephora VIB Rouge free birthday gift for 2016 included a sample tube of this fragrant beauty. I found myself hoarding it, eager not to run out. (Since they seem to have a ton of samples of this on hand, swing by and use my Sephora sample shopping hacks if you’re close to a store.)

When I got a generous Sephora gift card from my parents for my birthday, I knew exactly what to use it on. This is in keeping with my rule never to use gift cards for practical things, only special treats. And yet another cleanser is a special treat for me, especially a costly one. I feel I can never have too many cleansers, yet am also conscious of how ridiculous it is to own upwards of 20 of them. But I had to have Fresh Soy Face Cleanser, and it’s worth every penny for the delight it adds to my morning skincare routine. If I’m feeling indulgent, I’ll also use it at night, after removing my makeup with something less luxe. It’s super-gentle, like an hour of meditation in a bottle. Two thumbs up.