How to Score Free Samples of Pricey Makeup

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Perhaps you dream of buying luxury cosmetics but lack the luxury budget to realize your wish. Now imagine filling a makeup bag with high-end beauty products for free. This, friends, is no dream. Snatching up samples is the smartest and cheapest way to try, or treat yourself to, the better brands.

For absolutely no money down, you can pack in essential, everyday cosmetics, including foundation, facial creams, exfoliators, and toner. Some products are easier to collect than others, though. Mascara, eye shadow, blush, and other items that are hard to package in sample sizes generally are applied directly at makeup counters or during promotional events rather than handed out for use at home.

Fun and free it may be to embark on a sampling spree, but building a beauty routine around samples alone can be a challenge. Not surprisingly, free giveaways are considerably smaller than their retail counterparts. And while they may last a few days or weeks (depending on the product and how you use it), you'll need a steady source of replacements. A small container of concealer, for example, is enough for several applications, while you might get a month out of a dark-spot treatment sample.

In-Store Events.

Attending an in-store event is the most efficient strategy for scoring free beauty products. Department stores such as Nordstrom and Belk, and cosmetics retailers such as Sephora, regularly hold beauty classes and host events to promote new products. Salespeople and makeup artists tend to be more liberal on these occasions and give away decent-sized packages of just about any product you choose. It's also not unusual for high-end beauty brands, such as Tom Ford, Chanel, and La Mer, to let customers take home several samples of their products and fragrances.

During a recent Kiehl's sampling event at a Belk store in Raleigh, N.C., beauty advisors distributed samples of the brand's new Precision Lifting & Pore-Tightening Concentrate and Clearly Corrective Dark Spot Solution. The latter, dispensed in a 1/4-ounce bottle, requires just a couple of dabs morning and night; a full 1-ounce bottle retails for $49.50, which means a seemingly miniscule sample-size bottle is worth roughly $12.50. Kiehl's guarantees results after 28 days, so this sample gives you a good jump on the process.

Online Giveaways.

There are ample beauty giveaways online, but Allure magazine operates one of the most worthwhile programs. Each month, Allure awards beauty products, including those bearing luxury labels such as Chanel, Laura Mercier, and Strivectin, to online readers (usually, the first 500) who sign up within a specified time period. Affordable brands, such as Revlon and Jergens, and beauty tools, such as Revlon Gold Series Lighted Tweezers, also wind up in the giveaway mix. For the month of March, Allure is distributing a full-size Soap & Glory lip gloss, which retails for $24. The publication bestows full-size products as well as trial sizes, making this a relatively sure route to acquiring high-end beauty products for free.

Target discontinued its free beauty box giveaway a couple of years ago but still regularly lists free trials at Sample Spot. Target carries few luxury brands, but you can expect to see some high-quality labels, such a Burt's Bees, Laneige, and Pixi. Samples go quickly and some require a short survey to determine eligibility. With some trial products, Target might seek your feedback.

Specialized Cosmetics Retailers.

Luckily for samples scroungers, there is a Sephora in most major U.S. cities. This is one retailer that is always prepared to give ample-sized samples of most of its inventory, both in-house and name brands like Fresh and Origins. Face creams, peels, masks, eye gels, and most other facial products are packaged in 5-gram containers (the equivalent of about 1 teaspoon). For products requiring weekly treatments, such as the microdermabrasion peel, 5 grams should keep you going for three or four weeks.

During one recent visit, again in Raleigh, sales associates offered samples of Murad Post-Acne Spot Lightening Gel and Murad Blackhead and Pore Clearing Duo, which retail for $60 and $49.50, respectively. Another time, a sales associate eagerly handed over a sample of DermaDoctor Physical Chemistry facial microdermabrasion peel, which fetches $75 at checkout.

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