Beauty Babies: The Pleasures of Petite

Published on September 19, 2013 by   ·   1 Comment

Cool your jets, the title of this post does NOT refer to some strange reality show a la Toddlers and Tiaras where infants are tarted up with cosmetics and sequined onesies and paraded around to be judged and ranked by bitter former wannabe child stars (though I’m sure TLC is hard at work on just such a concept as we speak).  No, this post is about celebrating the petite.  Remember when your mother told you that “Good things come in small packages?”  Well, she was right – especially when those things are free!

0 Avon SamplesWhen I was a kid, hearing the word sample usually meant that we’d hit the jackpot at the grocery store and would get to stuff our faces with free goodies we probably wouldn’t buy after our miniature bite.  I also remember that my grandmother would get visited every once in a while by the local Avon lady who would usually leave behind some tiny navy blue tubes with colorful lipsticks or tiny vials of perfume.  I used to love playing with the samples, especially the perfumes.  The little vials were versatile: one day they would be a magic potion I had cooked up, another day a deadly chemical that I had to find and stop some supervillain from using to poison the water supply.  I played alone a lot as a kid, which required a very vivid imagination.

The small scent vials are still around, but as I’ve ventured out into the current beauty world, I’ve found that companies have taken samples to the next level.  One of Sephora’s big draws for budget conscious beauty mavens is that you can sample just about any product in the store.  Generally they suggest 3 samples per visit (and this is the limit of what you can pick up on the website) but they will sometimes bend that rule; when I was preparing for my 10-product face primer review (if you missed it, you can read it HERE) I left the store with no less than 6 samples of different primers (granted, when you spend as much as I tend to on a single Sephora stop, they aren’t likely to fight you over a couple of extra squirts of free product).

0 Sephora LoyaltySephora also uses samples and deluxe size samples as a key component of their Beauty Insider/VIB loyalty program.  As you spend money in stores or at, you accumulate points.  When you reach certain levels, you can cash those points in for rewards.  At their highest level, VIB Rouge, they have limited access to some pretty unbelievable rewards (a recent newsletter detailed single redemption awards at 5000 and 10,000 points that included trips for you and a friend – and sometimes several friends – to a luxury beauty destination for amazing swag like a free designer haircut or a one-on-one meeting with Josie Moran!), but generally you can cash in 100 or 500 points to get deluxe samples size products.  The 100 point rewards are generally a single product: the mini Lady Gaga Fame perfume bottle pictured below is an example of a 100-point reward.  Accumulate 500 points and you can cash it in for specially created collections that feature several products, like the Laura Mercier face collection pictured in the gallery at the bottom and in the newsfeed image for this post.  Sephora also gives away these sample and trial size products as special promotions – you can get them with a small purchase, usually $25-35.  And, as you move up in the loyalty program from Beauty Insider to VIB to VIB Rouge, they tend to throw in extra samples of give you extra little perks.  The mini Bite Lipstick pictured below is part of the “welcome package” when you achieve VIB Rouge status (and THAT is a story for another post!), though the full-size version is available in stores.


(Lady Gaga Fame perfume reward size shown next to the regular 1.7 ounce bottle for perspective.  Reward size is .23 ounce)


(Left to Right: Makeup Forever deluxe sample lipstick in “N45,” regular size Milani lipstick in “05 – Red Label,” and special edition Bite mini-lipstick created for VIB Rouge members)

Ulta also offers samples on their website, though the options are a little different.  From, you are given a list of about a dozen products and allowed to choose any 3 (no duplicates, unfortunately!).  At Ulta, you get to pick a sample package related to a type of product (makeup, hair care, or fragrance) and they put together 3 samples for you.  On the up side, it does save you the frustration of having the sample you picked and were expecting be out of stock and substituted with something else, and there is a nice surprise element to opening up your samples and not knowing what’s going to be inside, but it also prevents you from picking samples from different “genres.”  I mean, what if you want one of each type of product?

This ability to sample products is a great aspect of the contemporary beauty biz.  First, it allows me to see a product before I spend my money on it.  Beauty products can get really pricey, so it’s nice to know if you like something before you swipe your card (though Sephora does have a pretty generous return policy as well).  Second, it’s great for beauty companies and for Sephora because it increases sales.  If you get something for free and love it, you’re probably going to buy it in the future.  And for Sephora, if you offer a good incentive for placing an order, you can get people to place an order they might not have been planning on or were maybe thinking about saving until later.  I’m not ashamed to say that on more than one occasion, I’ve placed an order for a product because the “gift with purchase” promotion was really what I was after!  It’s always for products I was going to buy anyway (lately, it’s been more colors of OCC’s Lip Tar – I just can’t stop playing with this!) but if I can get the product plus a 9-piece sampler of deluxe size products or a 1 oz. sample of See By Chloe body lotion, then I’m in!  I realize this probably makes me an addict.  Just don’t make eye contact, and we’ll move on from this awkward moment.  Finally, it’s also great for me because I get to pamper myself a little at a time with products I’m never going to buy anyway.  I’m happy with my discount store skin creams, but if I can get a sample and try out a $100 cream, even for only a day or two, then I’m so there.  And with hair care products, I can’t justify spending more than about $5 on a bottle of shampoo or conditioner; my hair is rarely longer than 2 inches, except my wigs which are made of plastic and aren’t going to benefit from botanicals and organics and all the other frou-frou bullshit they put in hair products these days.  But give me a sample of a $40 shampoo and I’ll wash that man right outta my hair like a mothafucka!

As a big girl, I’m all about the idea that bigger is better – especially in the bedroom!  But just this once, I’m giving a shout out to the small in stature, the perfectly petite: the beauty sample.  You make our world a more beautiful place – even if only for a day!

Now Go Forth And Get Painted!

(Here is a small gallery of some of the sample/deluxe sample/trial size products I have received from Sephora and


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