Originally created 12/17/00

Buying beauty online



We eat our bagels in the car, check our stocks on the treadmill and make business calls while grocery shopping. We live in a world of go, go, go, but sometimes we deserve to take it easy, slow down and indulge in a little self-pampering.

Cue the Internet. The scene: You lounging at home snuggled up with your favorite down comforter, a pint of Ben & Jerry's Chubby Hubby and your laptop computer. "The Practice" is on the tube, the kids are in bed and you're online browsing through virtual aisles of bubbly bath gels, fresh fragrances and luscious lip glosses.

Buying beauty products at home has never been easier. The Avon catalog of the past has gone high-tech with online services that are easy to navigate, offer the usual suspects and provide products you won't find at your local beauty counter or drugstore.

It's easy to write about, you say. But what about the computer novices among us, who have never ordered online, you want to know. What if we pick a bad color or need it now or we don't know exactly what we're looking for, you ask.

Relax. Remember this is about you saving time for you. We would never want to steer you wrong, so we did a little ordering ourselves. We picked beauty sites that offer multiple brands, though there are several product-specific sites out there (Clinique, Mac, Estee Lauder), as well.

Our mission: to purchase five beauty items - a nail polish, a lip gloss, perfume, soap and a special gift item - from five of the leading beauty Web sites. We kept track of the delivery time, the promises made, the packaging and the return policies.

The overall view? Swift, easy, time-saving and fun. Yes, fun. We like buying playful, chic products at the click of a mouse (we chose products that would be great gift ideas, too). And now, we are dreading taping the boxes back up for return.

www.drugstore.com

The low-down: The site carries a large array of drugstore beauty products, as well as drugstore staples such as toilet paper, batteries, film and perscription drugs. Customer ratings are available for some products, as well as ingredients, descriptions and warnings.

What we ordered:

Nail polish: Finger Fumes scented clear top coat in Cake Batter (.5 fl. oz. on sale for $4.39).

Lip gloss: Revlon Colorstay LipSHINE in Galaxy (on sale for $7.19).

Perfume: Ralph Lauren Romance eau de parfum (1.7 oz for $45).

Soap: State of Mind Home Spa tub teas (on sale for $3.69).

Gift item: Burt's Bees head to toe starter 10-piece kit, including minty lip balm, travel-size hand salve, avocado hair treatment, apricot baby oil, clay face mask, creams for face, feet and cuticles and two soaps ($9.99).

Total: $70.26

Delivery time shipping costs: Standard shipping on sales $0-$249.99 is $3.95. Overall delivery time is listed at four to seven days. Ours arrived in four business days.

Packaging: The well-packed, small box was filled with air cushions. The nail polish was packaged in bubble wrap.

Freebies: None

Return policy: You e-mail customercare(at)drugstore.com, saying why you want to return the item. A specialist will reply and send shipping instructions for returning the items.

www.sephora.com

The lowdown: Thousands of products, commentary from an online magazine and an editor's picks column are available on this site. Color swatches are shown with the products, though it's a bit difficult to tell how true to form they are. Electronic gift certificates are available, as well as free gift wrapping.

What we ordered:

Nail polish: Sephora Collection Nail Polish in Red no. 147 (3 ml. for $3.50).

Lip gloss: Gianne Versace Wet Cream Lip Gloss V2007, a purple color, was sold out. We opted for a browner tone V2003 ($19).

Perfume: Geisha Ihara (Rose / Sandalwood). The description sold us: "Ihara helps to combat stress, clear your thoughts, and release your inhibitions" ($55).

Soap: Bathology Monkey Coin Purse in soap, an all-vegetable glycerin soap with a non-toxic vinyl toy inside ($16).

Gift item: Lucky Chic Classic Box: gift-to-go beauty collection, including suds up lavendar shower gel, spritz up lavender hydrating spray, lucky lotion lavender body lotion, lotsa bubbles lavender bubble bath, gel eye maske and a nylon mesh sponge ($30).

Total: $123.50

Delivery Time / shipping Costs: Shipping is free on orders over $40. Delivery estimate was up to 12 days. Ours arrived in eight business days.

Packaging: Every Sephora order comes boxed in a silver box with a blue ribbon. Ours was surrounded by packing peanuts and shredded paper.

Freebies: A coupon for a makeover at any Sephora counter.

Return policy: Free returns for any reason. Prepaid return label is enclosed with order.

www.ibeauty.com

The lowdown: The site was easy to navigate, but there were problems with the checkout. We ended up having to use the (eek!) phone to place the order.

Nail polish: Tony & Tina millennium keys no-spill polish that "fits upright between fingers allowing you to hold and paint at the same time." We picked Sociable High gloss, a light mauve ($15).

Lip gloss: The first four we chose were out of stock. Then we found Too Faced Bauble Gloss Rings in Yo-Yo: a blue ring filled with plum glitter ($12).

Perfume: Nearly all the perfumes we chose were out of stock. We finally hit with White Diamonds by Elizabeth Taylor perfume ($95).

Soap: Three items we wanted were out of stock. We settled on blisslabs Serious Seaweed Cellulite Soap ($11).

Gift item: Philosophy, the Rainbow Collection bubble bath for adults. ($45).

Total: $178

Delivery time / shipping costs: Free delivery on orders over $40. Standard shipping to take four to 12 days. Ours arrived in six business days.

Packaging: The order came packed in peanuts. The bubble bath leaked slightly.

Freebies: A goldtone bracelet watch "with two interchangable bezels for casual and formal occasions" was to be included with the perfume purchase. It wasn't. A customer service representative responded quickly to an e-mail inquiry and said it would be shipped immediately.

Return policy: You may retun any merchandise within 30 days of the invoice. You pay for shipping.

www.beauty.com

The lowdown: We love this site. It took virtually no time to fill up our virtual shopping cart. At once you can pick up items it might take you three stores and nine beauty counters to find.

What we odered:

Nail polish: Delux Beauty in Pollyanna, a mauvy color ($14.95).

Lip gloss: Shu Uemura lip gloss in Disco Smoke ($20).

Perfume: Candie's perfume purse spray ($45).

Soap: So we can't afford the $350 carpet bag - we can still buy into the luxury of Burberry with soap ($14). "Sparkle, calm, sensuality and simplicity in a fragrance of harmony and charm."

Gift item: A holiday store with pre-selected gifts to make your shopping even easier. We searched the "Under $40" category and found Jaqua Girls Top-To-Toe Spa Party Kit ($37.50).

Total: $131.45

Delivery time / shipping costs: Standard delivery time is four to 10 days, but ours arrived fast - in three business days. Shipping was $3.95.

Packaging: Box was filled with tissue paper, purple shredded paper and bubble wrap.

Freebies: A small limited editon mirror handcrafted by accessories designer Meryl Waitz is free with a $35 purchase while supplies last.

Return policy: Free returns on all orders.