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What Happens At The Cosmetic Counter- Your Questions Answered

I am a cosmetic chemist and a beauty consultant who have worked in retail at the counter- note, I no longer said “behind the counter” as you are supposed to be IN FRONT of the counter recruiting clients by showing them what’s new at all times. I love being at the counter as you get the first hand knowledge of what consumers want and the best market intelligence in addition to generous gratis and discounts.

Below is a summary of the frequently asked questions from consumers as well as my tips in working with the beauty consultants at the counter. Hope it’s enlightening for you :-).

  • How much do you charge for a make-over?  Make-overs are a form of service hoping you will like the artistry of the make-up artist and selection of  beauty products. There is no fee but in compensation of the time the makeup artist spent on you, it is appreciated that you purchase at least three items for his/her service.  No, you do not have to tip but three  items purchase is highly appreciated since all sales people have a goal to make for the day. What I recommend is get a foundation (as you want to look perfectly matched), a mascara (as you may not want to use the mascara at the counter) and a lipstick (women always short of one lipstick).
  • Can I return the product? In general, with a receipt or proof of purchase, you can return products in 6 months even used. However, it’s not encouraged as it affects your credibility (believe me, if you are a frequent returner, they KNOW) and you may not receive the best service. What I recommend is return products ONLY if you have a reaction to the product and do not abuse the system.
  • Do you have samples? The samples are allotted by the cosmetic companies. Depending the time you go, typically samples are gone after holidays. However, if you are nice to the beauty consultants and do make some purchase, they will contact you when there are new product launches and samples for you to try. A blunt asking of give me some samples will almost always get a “No, we are out”. How you make the beauty consultant FEEL is as important as how she/he makes you feel. If you are nice, you may get extra samples!!
  • Are the products chemical-free? There is no such thing as chemical-free. Everything is a chemical. Nature does not equate safe. What you want to know is are the products allergy-tested? are they clinically-tested?  I worked for a prestige cosmetic brand. Not a single customer has ever asked me- is it paraben-free? Is it talc-free? What I have seen is – “Oh, it smells so good, it must be good!!”  Sure, the price tag also suggests it should be good.  I often wonder if we take the exiting name-brand products and relaunch as a small business, how the beauty editors will react to it? Most of the top brands are still full of petrolatum, mineral oil, talc, alcohol and parabens. It apparently DID NOT affect the sales once you are a KNOWN brand. However, if you are a young brand using the same products to break the market, good luck, as beauty editors and bloggers will tear you apart. That’s the power of branding- once you have the brand image, especially if you are an inspirational brand, you practically have the license to market whatever you want. Loyal customers do not read ingredient list if they love the brand.
  • Who are the ones selling you cosmetics? Do not assume the girls and guys at the counters are trained. Most of the brands do not start training until they are 3-6 months into the job due to the brand’s educational calendar. It is not possible to train all new hires immediately. In a less busy department stores, there are many on-call sales associate. They can help to make the transaction and have some knowledge of the products but may not be trained. Use your judgement for the experience of the beauty consultant you are dealing with. No, they are not required to have a cosmetologist or esthetician  license to work at the counter if you wonder.
  • Pre-Sell: Major cosmetic companies now like to Pre-Sell for the Gift With Purchase (GWP). This is good for the corporation as they can have better inventory control. To consumers, it is more of a hassle as you can not pick up the goods right away when you buy today if you want your gift. You must wait until the actual GWP day to pick up unless you request for shipping (some shipping fee may be necessary). You have to make another trip to the store and potentially shop some more! This is the most consumer un-friendly approach but it actually prolongs the promotion period from a typical of 2 weeks to a month when you calculating in the pre-sell. I guess the strategy works.
  • What sells at the cosmetic counter? Fragrance!  Despite how slow a business day maybe, the fragrance counter is always surrounding with people who want to smell good, including men & women. You can make a purchase decision on skin care or color cosmetics on the website based on product description but you have to experience how the fragrance wear on you personally. Fragrance counters are always full of different value sets and gift with purchase. During holidays, it is typical for a fragrance counter to make at least $60,000 A DAY. This is also why there are so many fragrance models eager to spritz at you when you get close to the counter. People may not pay for $90 face cream but for  $90 fragrance, they whip out their credit card pretty fast.

Working in beauty is a lot of fun. Being a beauty consultant is the front line of communication for the beauty companies. I had the honor and fun working for several name brands at many different levels. I live and breath in beauty. If you have more questions about beauty, feel free to comment and reach out.

Until next time, Ginger

Novel Cosmetic Technologies for 2013 and Beyond

All cosmetic product developers and marketers constantly ask: What’ new? The interesting thing is when a new technology is presented, marketers often scratch their head- it’s cool, but how do I position it, how do I sell it?  Then, it is the product developers job to help linking the consumer use benefits to the product so the new technology indeed adds value to the daily beauty routine, not just a novelty.  It is no different than using your smart phone to text, email, face-booking, tweeting and taking photos/videos besides its primary intended use- to call!

Below is a list of some new technologies available and if you are interested to find out the details to use these for your brand, let’s talk!

1) DreamHair Powder Technology: This is a novel hair powder with natural colorants from clay. It does not absorb moisture overtime and will not bleed. It attaches to hair, not to the skin so there’s no mess. The material is made in USA with seven different shades. It gives very natural hair coverage for bald spots. It also adds a natural fill to your eye brows in addition to lengthening and volumizing your lashes.

2) Raspberry Ketone Glucoside: This ingredient has received buzzes in the world of dieting thanks to Dr. Oz. In beauty, this material actually is 3 x better than Arbutin and also works as an anti-inflammatory and moisturization agent. For brands focusing in skin whiting, this is a new kid on the block! Best yet, it is China approved!

3) Powder to Cream Technology:  This is a patented delivery technology where you can incorporate any actives you like for claims. It is a powder but upon application, it turns into a cream. It is superb in skin, color, hair, fragrance application. The most awesome prototype I have seen is actually a lip powder where it’s like the Jello Powder which turns buttery upon application.

4) Clear Stick Technology: Yes, there are clear sticks on the market but there are not too many clear systems that can withstand heat/sweating issues. This clear stick can also be used for inner core two phase system to deliver dual skin benefits or in color, can be used for ombre look in lip/face application.

5) Natural Shine Technology: In science, refractive index is a measure of shine. Recent advances and discoveries actually found natural ingredients have higher refractive index higher than silicone. This opens up a new dimension for hair and body care for the glow that’s natural and healthy.

6) Steam Cream Technology: This is an emulsifiers free emulsion made with a shot of steam and proprietary process to make it stable so the active ingredients are intact in the system without any potential degradation. Just like there are baked color cosmetics, the Steam Skin care products are coming to play.

7) Texture Mapping: All marketers know product “texture” is the key to grab consumers attention. How the product look and feel dictate on whether you will get the consumers “addicted” to use daily, sometimes twice daily. In the past, cosmetic chemists try to reverse engineer a benchmark by using the same set of ingredient lists but with the new advances in sensory science, it is now possible to achieve similar texture with a different technology for some differentiation.  This also allows some creativity for chemists to perhaps enhance the already best-selling product texture.

Working in beauty is full of excitement because there are so many cool things to play. Often times marketers are troubled by “finding the hole” on the calendar when they find a new technology. The truth is for risk-takers, the first to market ones are often the ones who succeed as people remember that you are the pioneer in technological advances.

Ginger King is a cosmetic chemist and a consultant in product development and marketing. Ginger has developed over 1000+ products during her close to 20 years of industry experience. For further information, you can contact her at ginger@gracekingdombeauty.com