Shopping for the best in beauty? Bargains abound online

Little black books may conjure salacious thoughts for some, but my little black book of beauty is only designed to turn on the sparkle.

Price shopping

No proper list of the best beauty shopping destinations would be complete without factoring in price. So I compared prices, including tax and shipping, plus factored in perks at some of the most highly regarded beauty websites, including Sephora, Ulta, newbie BeautyBar and more.

I found pricing on well-known brands to be fairly consistent across all sites, perhaps a sign that the product manufacturers have firm price controls in place for retailers. On a popular, well-known product, Lorac Lip Gloss, Sephora, Ulta, Nordstrom, BeautyBar and Lorac.com itself all offered the same price.

All the sites, save Lorac.com, offered free samples with my purchase. Nordstrom offered to ship my product for free while BeautyBar.com and Ulta charge about $5 for shipping compared to $5.95 at Sephora. The big beauty sites also offered free shipping with minimum qualifying purchases but BeautyBar.com had the skimpiest supply of the product, naming several shades of gloss out of stock.

Best for drugstore beauty products

Shopping for drugstore beauty products may be best done in the flesh, but if that's not a fit for your schedule, or you fear you won't stick to a beauty budget in person, Drugstore.com offers the best selection of drugstore beauty products at the best prices. Plus, you can always upgrade your makeup bag at its sister site, Beauty.com which carries all manner of beauty brands.

Best for luxury beauty products

In the market for Beyond Love Eau de Parm ($235), Chantecaille's Ultra Sun Protection SPF50 Primer ($88) or Sisley's $775 Supremÿa at Night anti-aging serum? When high-end fashion e-tailer Net-a-porter.com added beauty products this year, clearly the edit was bound to be far from ordinary. Affordable? Hardly, but for those on the hunt for hard-to-find, luxury beauty brands Net-a-porter.com is ready-to-indulge.

Best for body care

Apothica.com carries a wide variety of brands not sold at some of the big beauty sites. The site has an expansive collection of bath and body products (plus makeup, skin care, candles, etc.) and also boasts a great shop-by-ingredient feature, which allows consumers to find items by key ingredient, such as Sea Salt, Vitamin A, Shea Butter and many more.

Best for discontinued beauty products

Heartbroken over the loss of a favorite beauty product? Not to worry, discontinued beauty products can be reinvented if you're willing to do some work. Threecustom.com will re-create your favorite product for lips, cheeks, eyes or face from just a dime-sized sample of your cherished product.

Estee Lauder brands including MAC, Clinique, Smashbox and others offer a "Gone But Not Forgotten" program to help track down your favorite discontinued Lauder items. Once located they'll allow you to purchase as many as six of the product.

And then, of course, there's always the option of finding something new. After all, for every one beauty product that is discontinued, a hundred new lust-worthy products are launched. One is bound to appeal.

— Carolyn Brundage is the founder of TampaBay.PrettyCity.com, a guide to the best in local beauty. Need beauty advice? Tweet Up with Carolyn at @tampabaypretty.

Shopping for the best in beauty? Bargains abound online 07/17/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 17, 2013 11:08pm]

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