1) GERMS ARE EVERYWHERE
While most makeup counter artists and salespeople clean the makeup brushes (a common breeding ground for bacteria) after they use them from one customer to the next, you can never really trust any brush that isn't yours, says one former Estee Lauder artist.
2) YOU CAN GET A REFUND ON ALMOST ANYTHING
While the return policies differ, most big department stores like Nordstrom and Macy's are notorious for giving full refunds or store credit back for products that have been used -- and used more than once. You can test a makeup product several times before you decide whether it's right for you.
3) THEY PLAY ON YOUR INSECURITIES
Do you feel special when a salesperson says you are pretty or goes on about how great your skin is? Well, for the most part, they are complimenting everyone.
4) THEY MAKE THINGS UP
"Cosmetic training in a department store or beauty supply focuses mostly on sales and not about product knowledge, which is unfortunate," says one former counter makeup artist.
5) THEY PRETEND TO BE SOMETHING THEY'RE NOT
Walking through a department store you'll realize that sometimes the salespeople look more like doctors than makeup artists. This is a planned scheme to convince you they are "experts," says a former counter worker. "The lab coats and charts are a marketing tool. They give the illusion that the sales force are aestheticism research scientists and keep their area clean," she says. "If we were [experts], we would not be working at the counter. Experts on beauty are actually providing services in salons and developing new skin care technology in a lab," she jokes.
6) THE FREE MAKEOVER IS NOT FREE
Makeup artists at counters work on commission. So although you're not obligated to buy anything, it is expected. "Technically it's free, but we invest our time hoping you will become our next big customer. It's like tipping -- if you don't tip your waiter, no one is going to come after you yelling and waving their fist, but you would leave feeling guilty. It's just not courteous to get a free makeover when you have no intention of buying," says a former counter makeup artist.
7) THEY JUDGE YOU BASED ON THE PRODUCTS YOU USE
Often when you chat with a beauty counter salesperson about makeup or your skin care, they will ask you what products you are currently using. This serves two purposes: They can judge how much money you might spend with them and then they can assess how much time to spend on you.
8) THEY KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR SAMPLE GRIFTERS
You can and should be asking your beauty counter salespeople to try samples of products before you buy them, but do know that they are taking note of how much you are "sampling" and how much you are actually buying.
9) THEY KEEP THEIR MOUTHS SHUT
There are certain things brands won't want to tell you about the product if you don't know to ask about it, says one beauty counter veteran. If an ingredient in a product you are interested in "has scared the public," like for example the media scare over parabens, the salesperson won't mention the present ingredient when selling it to you, she warns.
10) THEY TALK ABOUT YOU BEHIND YOUR BACK
Think once you leave the department store you are forgotten about? Think again. "If we get a particularly weird customer we may laugh about it for weeks," says one former makeup artist. "I used to have my family in stitches at dinner telling them the customer stories of the day. There are weird people out there!" she says and that was the "only fun we could have sometimes."