Add to basket: how to choose makeup online

how to buy makeup online
Cassie Steer,-Beauty Editor

Can't try before you buy? A makeup artist shares her tips for online beauty shopping

Part of the joy of choosing makeup is that it’s such a tactile, sensory, exploratory experience. We head to the beauty halls to ‘play’ with it in a bid to bring out our experimental side and when it comes to finding ‘the one’ we often have to kiss a lot of lipsticks before we get there. But what happens when cyberspace becomes your makeup counter? We’ve enlisted the help of top makeup artist Ciona Johnson-King to help navigate the virtual beauty world and ensure that when you click ‘add to basket’ you and your new foundation/mascara/lipstick/eyeshadow really do click in real life.

Laying the foundations

Finding your perfect base is the beauty equivalent of finding the right jeans; it’s the holy grail. So how on earth do you bypass the streaky, the slippy and the downright cakey when you can’t physically ‘try before you buy’? First, establish what finish you want. Do you prefer a perfectly uniform matte canvas or are you after a more glowy real-skin effect? Next, think about what your skin actually needs. If it’s on the dry side, it may pay to stay away from full-coverage, long-wear formulas which tend to work better for oily skin types and instead go for something that has added skincare benefits such as a BB cream.

Then there’s the business of finding that all-important shade. Knowing whether your undertone is warm, cool or neutral is helpful as it’s often possible to tell from the foundation name whether it will suit you (blue veins on your wrists tend to indicate a cool undertone while greenish veins point to a warmer undertone). According to Johnson-King, the way to find your absolute perfect match is to invest in a foundation wardrobe: ‘Mixing products is a huge part of being a makeup artist. It’s especially useful when transitioning between seasons as no one’s complexion tends to stay the exact same colour all year round. In other words, make sure you have darker and lighter tones of foundation and concealer (they can also be used for shading and shaping the face).’

Dabbling with colour doesn’t necessarily mean you have to get messy. Johnson-King advises making use of websites and apps where you can play with makeup shades: ‘ helps you find foundation matches similar to your own using data from over 10 million foundation users worldwide.’ 

To help get you started, we’ve noted a few of our favourites:

Colour connoisseur

‘User-friendly sites like the John Lewis & Partners one make it so much easier to “play” with makeup from the comfort of your own home,’ says Johnson-King. ‘Most make-up brands tend to offer colour swatches which I expand to fill the screen before placing my skin next to it for an accurate comparison. I often do an internet search of a particular colour too since it’s rare to find a product that hasn’t been magically colour swatched along the arm of a dedicated make-up fan. These perfectly striped arms allow you to compare the tones of different eyeshadows and lip products on actual skin.’

And if your newly purchased palette fills you with fear IRL? ‘Pretty much any product can be made more wearable when used as a wash where you apply just a thin veil of colour. By the same token, most products can be used to create something more intense – it’s all about mixing colours together and playing with different tones and depths.’

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