Special Feature

Top 6 Beauty Counter Secrets

Weekends are my absolute favourite days of the week because that is the day where I get to do my beauty rounding at KLCC. I know I’m suppose to move around malls for beauty rounding but I’m totally hooked to the newly renovated Isetan over at KLCC. I also find all the BA there are much more friendlier and polite. That is why I keep going back to Isetan KLCC. Oh and the ladies parking there is the best. Last time if I go KLCC around 2pm, all the parkings are full. Ever since the ladies parking section existed, I can go KLCC anytime as there will always be parking for me 🙂

Now, beauty counters horror story. We’ve all been there, done that. I started dipping my toes into beauty through sampling. Took the sample home, tried it on, wow-ed by the result and return for a purchase. But the reality is most BA at these beauty counter usually gives us a very hard time. Up until a few years back beauty counters at departmental store are deemed as “premium” or luxury or even expensive brands. Now everyone can afford it. Having to be one of the person who deal with beauty counters from time to time, let me share with you my Top 6 Beauty Counter Secrets that your friendly BA won’t tell you.

Disclaimer: This is just my personal experience. It does not mean ALL brands and counters are the same.

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Secret #1: Makeover Is Just An Excuse To Get You To Purchase

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I’m lucky that I absolutely HATE makeover. So whenever a BA said they will give me a makeover or buy something to get a free makeover and free photo, I’ll be happy to say no to them.

Giving out makeover could be a free service from the outside but do you know that eventhough it’s free, these properly trained artist are expecting you to at least make a purchase thereafter? I have been to a no strings attached makeover but after my face is done, the artist will then get their BA to speak to you. I was in a hurry and I told the artist there’s no need but she insisted. Isn’t that weird since I don’t intend to purchase and I did mention that I was in a hurry? The BA will then sell me each and every products that was used on my face earlier. Getting in was easy, getting out is tough. So the next time you walk pass a promotion event area offering free makeover, try to turn it down if you really don’t intend to buy anything.

There is also another reason why I reject makeover. It’s my Secret #2 🙂


Secret #2: Product Display & Makeup Brushes Are Full With Germs

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If this never cross your mind then you can now feel bad about the breakout you get from the makeover.

From my observation over the counter, every makeup artist own a set of brush of their own. They are responsible to keep their brushes clean and tidy and what I know is some brand that I visited do clean the brushes immediately after each use. If so why do you still get breakout from makeover you ask? It’s either the brushes are not clean thoroughly or it could mean those makeup display are germ-infested.

I bet you are guilty on this too – dipping and running your finger tip over an eyeshadow from the display. Every day there will be countless of people doing the same. This will not create any problem if everyone just swatch it on the back of their hand. But the reality is makeover over the counter is also using the same makeup display. So the next time you want to apply that beautiful MAC lipstick directly on your lips, think again 😉


Secret #3: Harmful Ingredients Tell-all

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We all have been verbal about having paraben in our beauty products. Unless you are buying all natural and organic products, almost everything contain paraben. Personally, asking the BA about ingredient is the one thing I never do. Not by choice but I never remember to do so! How often you encounter a BA being honest and tell you all about the ingredients in a product? None. They will only tell you the KEY ingredients such as honey, hyaluronic acid, shea butter and so on. What about other active ingredients? Nope. They won’t tell you that the product also contain methylparaben, butylparaben, propylparaben etc otherwise you will walk away from the counter.


Secret #4: Compliments Is Just A Sales Talk

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There are a few times I encounter a temporary replacement BA over at my favourite brand and counter telling me how bad my skin is. I appreciate that kind of honesty because they are not in the best state but pointing your fingers again and again, tugging my skin around and shout it out loudly is just too much. I immediately make a complain to the Counter Manager, not once but every single time whenever she’s there at the counter.

There are also times where I get complimented for having a good skin. You think how nice someone complimented right? Wrong! So wrong especially when I have breakouts and stuff. I always always challenge the compliments I get. For example telling me I have beautiful skin while I have acne marks here and there is just too fake. When I challenge the BA, she will quickly twist and said because my skin is smooth. You see, these BAs are trained to have a sugar coated mouth. Who doesn’t like compliments right? I often see woman open up about what they are looking for instead of telling the BA she’s just looking around because of the compliments she get. The chances of closing a sales is higher now.


Secret #5: Saying NO To Drugstore Users

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This is an extension to Secret #4 above.

Everytime I’m browsing at beauty counters, conversations with the BA is flowing smooth and then she ask me this –  “what brand are you currently using?” I am often very honest about the brands that I’m using but I am so tired of the same question over and over again. It’s like these brands are in a conspiracy or something. The real truth behind this golden question is to judge how much you spend on beauty products and your buying power. Counter brand means you are willing to splurge, drugstore brand means you don’t spend much on beauty products. Try saying you’re using SK-II. I bet some will go gaga. But if you say you are using Bio-Essence for example, there could be two possibilities from the answer. (1) They will treat you cold thereafter or (2) they will try to sell you their products as in an effort to convert you to their customer base.

So the next time a BA from beauty counter ask you what brand you are currently using, you should at least by now know that this is not a curiosity or small talk, this is a trick question to judge your buying power.


Secret #6: That One Sachet Of Sample

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Beauty counters BA who had attended to me before knew I will only buy a particular skin care product after trying out sample. These BAs are generally more generous with me. Instead of giving me just sachets they will proceed to give me a deluxe size product. Some gave miniature size too.

When I started out with redeeming samples from newspaper cutting or Facebook redemption, I was often given just a sachet. Nothing more than that. Let me just tell you these BA know exactly what is it going on. They know we just want to get a sample with no intention to buy. A pack of sample is meant for you to feel the texture, smell the cream to see if it suits you and feel it on the skin. It does not intend to let you see any instant result. Which is why they only give you one sachet. I know how beauty counter works and how they are obligate to explain to you about the product and how to use so usually I will be patience and listen. I will show my interest eventhough I’ve already done my research online beforehand. Nowadays I am often given deluxe sample or a few sachets if they don’t have deluxe sample for that particular product. Like I said earlier, one sachet doesn’t let you see instant result so they gave me a few.

My advise is to ignore all the sampling if you are not into that particular brand or product at all. Samples redeemed are often chuck away in a corner because let’s face the fact, most people just hate to tear up a sachet to use.


Phew. It’s not easy for me to put into words on what I’ve been through before and how I feel. I hope no one is offended by this as this is just my past personal experience. As I said earlier, more and more people are able to spend at beauty counters at departmental store nowadays. Getting samples and consultation is no longer deem as free loader but an opportunity to increase the customer base. I do notice that BA nowadays are more friendlier and more open about giving out samples to try before purchase. Kiehl’s for example believe in sampling philosophy and they have a great sampling exercise “Try Before You Buy”.

Hope you enjoyed reading this post and gain some knowledge on how to deal and talk to Beauty Advisors over the counter. Do share in the comment section if you experience anything other than my Top 6 Beauty Counter Secrets.


Note: All images are for illustration purposes only ya 😛


Comments (16)

  • This is so interesting that you revealed these ‘secret’…and I agree with Secret 5! Haha…make me smile while reading this because I always encounter this question, makes me wants to prepare one fixed product list in my head which I don’t like…I do drugstore shopping most of the time, who knows drugstore buyer will be able to afford beauty counters one maybe?

    Now I am more open up myself to walk into beauty counters, but inside me I still have the budget kind of girl lol. This is just a beginning for me thou and am still learning…I just secretly wish one day I can afford them all ohoho~

    • Or you can say out one of the most expensive brand! But make sure you know what products they have la because the extension to that question is “oh what did you use from XXX”.

      There’s no harm doing drugstore shopping. Also there’s no rush to splurge all your savings at beauty counters. Start slowly 😉

      • Haha…the problem with me I can’t lie it will written all over my face hahaha…just feel funny thou I couldn’t agree with you more…thanks Fiona! ^^

        • Oh it’s an art which I am good with now hahahahaha.

  • I totally agree with you. I had quite a lot of bad experience when it comes to buying products at the beauty counters in departmental stores. They are so demanding and pushy, and simply put on on products on me without asking. -_- Now I always go to the the brand’s own store if I want to splurge because they treat wayyyyy nicer. Thanks for the secrets! 🙂

    • Yea and I was once being pushed from one product to another. Its like sunblock to makeup base to foundation, all the way to lip gloss. Whoa. And her face changes after I reject every single product. I hate makeover that after it ended the makeup artist will get the BA to attend me. There was once the makeup artist told me the BA will need to see which product I would want to purchase. So direct.

      Hope you like the secrets 😉

  • Thanks for this very interesting and well-written post. I laugh at a few of the “Secrets” because I have also experienced them over the years. The great thing about following beauty blogs is that readers are much more informed these days when they approach a departmental store counter and it is not easy for a BA/SA to fool the customer. But I do agree with you that BA/SA are also more friendlier these days in giving out consultation and samples because customers are no longer viewed as free loaders but instead looked upon as potential customers 🙂

    • I’m glad you like it Victoria 😀 . I bet all of us experience at least a few throughout the years hehe. I agree with you on following beauty blogs. I remember last time I posted a sample redemption on Facebook and I was given deluxe while other readers redeemed sachet. Some even ask back the counter why other people get deluxe and they only get sachet lol. Readers are smarter now, even show blog page to the counter 😛

      Nowadays the problem is lesser. Most brands are more open towards sampling. Not all redeem for fun. I for one redeem because I’m really interested 🙂

  • This is a great, hard-hitting post with lots of good advice for beauty shoppers.
    The No Makeover thing I completely agree with you on. I am a bit obsessed with not using Testers on anywhere but my wrist. And will completely scrub the swatches off with cleanser but I have seen many women go gung-ho on their lips and eyes. Ick! Not for me.

    As for counter brands, I always know what I want before I get to the counter so it’s my call. I think BAs sense if you are assertive and well-informed or not and can use your confusion against you. I have stopped asking BAs what’s good for me. I tell them what I need and want because I always do my product/ brand research before I get there so they can’t push me around. Granted, this may not get me great service/ samples either but at least I’m not buying something because I’ve been pushed into it.

    Thanks for this post, Fiona.

    • Thanks Jude. I’m glad you like this post 😀

      Consumer nowadays are more smarter thanks to the internet. I don’t go for makeover also because I couldn’t see how that’s going to relate to the skin care promotion going on. Oh you know what, sometimes I would ask the BA what would she recommend for me just for the fun of it. I want to see how far can they go and how knowledgable they are.

      Today me and my friend went to redeem a sleeping mask sample. I still have two more voucher so why not since we are there. The BA is quite friendly. Explaining to us about the product and I will just listen although I have and still using the product hehe. She did not ask us to purchase anything then my friend was enquiring about eye cream, she gave us her honest recommendation and even gave my friend the matching premium line skin care sample kit to accompany her eye cream. I would never expect a trial set with the purchase of eye cream!

  • I find Secret 4 to be funny. You used your own picture! Holding a mic at the same time!

    Great tips. I stop asking for samples. Not like I will use it anyway 🙁

    • It’s the perfect picture to accompany that section 😛
      Good girl! Let others who needed the samples redeem it 🙂

  • I like all your ‘secret’! Thanks for your tips! I personally also went through some of them. I don’t do make over as well cause I am as paranoid as you. Imagine all the germs on the make up products! I’ll just run away.

    Since now most of the product have parabens, will you avoid it if you found that the product have parabens?
    Usually I will only ask about the function or range of the products insted. It’s just like you’re at a fruit stall and you ask if that apple is sweet or not. Will the seller tell you ‘no, it is not sweet’? of course not. So I won’t ask these stupid question.

    I am not into complement as well. I know myself the best so when someone give complement that is not so true, I’ll just pretend I didn’t heard that from the BA.

    I like Kiehl’s BA because when I purchase products from them, they will give quiet a generous amount of sample for me to try, without need to ask from them. and most of the sample they give is those who is suitable for my skinscare type instead of simply give sample to me.

    • Glad that you like it! 😀

      I won’t particularly avoid product that contain paraben, unless I go all natural which is not going to happen because that means I’m limiting my resources. Some paraben is needed in the product to make it work. How to avoid eh 🙂

      I agree on the compliment part. BA will always find a way to compliment us. I kinda know their trick so it’s quite hard to earn my money LOL

      Kiehl’s not bad eh? They have loads of sample although most of it is in sachet. I like that their samples is based on skin type and skin need, not simply throw any sample in the bag 🙂

  • What an interesting article! LOVE it! They always say it’s all free but the main reason is always something relates to the marketing strategy haha

    • Thanks Sammy. I’m glad you love it 🙂 . Nah, nothing is free. It’s all a sales marketing strategy 😛


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