How to: Find the best beauty sample sales

Sample sale websites have been multiplying over the past five years (worse than a pair of randy rabbits). Back when I was compiling sample sale listing for DailyCandy in 2005, these sales were strictly bricks-and-mortar affairs. Not so anymore. Nor are they just for the fashion obsessed. Beauty is quickly becoming a sample sale staple. Here's our quick and dirty guide to what's out there and where to find the best cut-rate, top-shelf beauty booty.

Why would you do the online beauty sample sale thing? Convenience and price, mostly. It's delivered right to your door and you can, if you're patient enough, get all your beauty for a deep discount. Plus, it's a great way to trial new brands without the initial capital layout as the discount is usually 50% off (but can range from 20% to 75%). So who hosts these sales? Read on to find out...


The Fairest | High profile and unheard of beauty brands for the beaut-curious

  • Brands | Air Repair, Morris Organics, Global Goddess, Skin Nutrition, Anastasia
  • Membership | Free to sign up
  • Good | The blog, up to 75% off
  • Meh | Some really obscure, maybe not-to-great brands mixed in with coveted brands like Anastasia, Alison Raffaele and FusionBeauty

The Skinny | Just launched beauty sales with niche, cult brands for the indiviudalist

  • Current Brands | Organic Apoteke, International Orange 
  • Membership | Free to sign up (for now, and I'm hoping, always because paid subscription services online, esp. when your competitors are free, DO NOT WORK!)
  • Good | All products have category tags (e.g. acne, green, aging)
  • Meh | Can't see past sales, only current one  

Rue La La | Mainstream, luxury fashion, homewares and beauty for good, safe gift giving

  • Current Brands | Burn, Exhale, Canyon Ranch
  • Membership | Invitation-only, free to sign up
  • Good | Has a mobile site, buy experiences and products
  • Meh | Can't see past sales | Slick sample sale site with design-led brands like Malin & Goetz for style gurus

  • Current Brands | Jemma Kidd Makeup School, Mario Badescu, Luminess Air
  • Membership | Free to sign up
  • Good | They do GOOD fashion and lifestyle brands (Alexander McQueen, Twenty8Twelve, 3.1 Philip Lim, Alessi...) and have an iPhone app
  • Meh | Something about gray, black and yellow doesn't work

Billion Dollar Babes | Online outpost of wildly successful bricks-and-mortar sample sales

  • Current Brands | Belli
  • Membership | Free to sign up
  • Good | Great fashion brands, awesome events, will text you with events and offers
  • Meh | Don't care about baby brands but, then again, I don't have kids

Haute Look | Fashion, homewares, beauty 

  • Current Brands | Juicy Beauty, Go Smile
  • Membership | Free to join and no waiting list
  • Good | Single-cart checkout
  • Meh | Fashion and homeware brands are mediocre

Swirl We don't know if they'll do beauty, but this soon-to-launch sample sale site is from the queen of sample sale listings, DailyCandy 

Beauty VIP | The exclusive discount club for beauty connossieurs (says the site) for those daft enough who want to pay for discounted beauty. It's not a sample sale site, per say, but they do operate on a membership basis where you get discounts/offers for said membership so fits the same model.

  • Brands | All sorts at discounts of 20% to 25% off
  • Membership | It's 30 quid a year (that's about $50) but open to all willing to pay
  • Good | There are many brands
  • Meh | Is 20% off enough for me to care? No. Does anyone care about 1,500 brands? No. Would I pay for the privilege of a small discount when I can simply Google 'free promo codes' online, or get it at a sample sale site for an even deeper discount? No. Do I think promoting this site entails adding up all the hypothetical (and therefore, not real) savings one could have if they actually bought a lot of products they don't need at just a small discount? Yes. It feels cheap, and not in a good 'oooh, I found a giant bottle of Kiehl's Creme de Corp at 50% off, I must stockpile!' sort of way. Sorry, but it does... like a coupon insert in a newspaper, requiring even more effort than an afternoon and a pair of scissors to get any sort of worthwhile return on investment. Certainly not VIP treatment in my book... my least favourite of the lot.


  • Sign up to all the newsletters. They announce current and upcoming sales. It's the easiest way to stay up-to-date with sale offerings.
  • Buy now or regret it forever. All sales have limited stock. Buy it, or someone else will
  • Not all sites are created equal. Some have single-basket checkout, some have free shipping... find out which have the set of criteria you like the best and use them. You'll just be angry otherwise, no matter how much you saved.
  • You can always try something in a store before you buy it online. If you see a site has a sale coming up that you're interested in, you can always swing into a beauty hall on your lunch to dabble if you're on the fence about whether to buy.