If you’re in the market for a new product and only want to spend your hard-earned coin(t) on “the best,” here are some websites that I consider the best of websites that only talk about “the best of” certain product categories in makeup!
Reviews make the world go round. Well, not really, but the makeup world seems to at least revolve around them. As both a lover and avid consumer of makeup and marketing student, I’m obsessed with reviews – not only do I admittedly spend a decent chunk of my day during my free time watching YouTube videos, which are basically just reviews “in motion,” but I’ve also dedicated a good portion of my academic life to researching the effects of reviews on purchasing behavior in the cosmetics industry… so, yeah. I really like reviews.
Aside from me being an avid fan of reviews because I may be slightly crazy, reviews are a great way to gauge whether or not a product “works.” If you want to get technical, this is discussed in-depth in Everett M. Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovations, which is a book named after the theory that explains how, why, and the rates at which new ideas spread, as well as examines the process and factors that lead people to either “adopt” or “reject” the new idea or innovation. One of the characteristics that could influence the decision is “trialability,” and that’s where reviews come in – generally speaking, the ability to try an innovation leads to faster adoption, and reviews can act as a “vicarious trial,” which means that a consumer reading a review for a mascara may forego the need to “test” the mascara themselves before buying the full version because the review they read acts as a trial by proxy. Since I wrote my thesis on this, I could go on for days about reviews and how they pertain to this theory, but I’m going to spare you all the pain and just get on with this post!
Now that I’ve gone off on my obligatory tangent, let’s take it back now y’all: I’m sure you’ve all seen the articles sometimes in the annoying “slideshow” format on websites such as Elle, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, or the article on the “The 9 Best Lipsticks, According to Makeup Experts” on StyleCaster featured above touting the “best” makeup products in any given category, but if we’re being honest, I’ve never really found any of those helpful. I’m never sure what the website’s criteria are for picking it in the first place and the product is usually accompanied by a short review that’s vague and generic, making it equally as unhelpful for me.
So we’ve pretty much established that reviews are impactful, but when they’re helping you decide whether or not you should spend your money, I think it’s worth being a little cautious – fake reviews are an ongoing issue!
When I look for reviews, I tend to focus on four main things: 1.) Whether the reviewer is compensated or not for the review; 2.) Whether or not the purchase was verified; 3.) Whether or not the reviewer specifies how long they’ve been using the product; and 4.) Whether or not the reviewer provides personal details on their skin types, complexion, etc. if it’s relevant to the product being reviewed.
I’m a skeptic, so I tend to believe that if somebody is compensated for the review by the company, they’ll probably embellish a little bit more and “oversell” the product. I also tend to trust verified reviews more because it means the product was ACTUALLY purchased and if the reviewer gives details on when they bought the product so I can see how long they’ve been using it for, I’m more inclined to trust their opinion on the product. This also allows me to filter out the reviews where it’s clear they’ve only been using the product for a short period of time because I also tend to find these a bit unhelpful – it’s personally important for me to see if a product continues to work over a sustained period, especially for products like facewash because the last thing I want is to buy is something that works great for two weeks only to start breaking me out like crazy during the third week.
Although it’s important to remember that things such as reactions or whether or not the product “works” can happen on a person-by-person basis as everybody reacts differently, this is also why I look for reviews where the reviewer talks about his or her skin concerns – I’m much more inclined to purchase the highly-rated facewash from a reviewer who says he/she has sensitive oily/combo skin because that’s the skin type I have, which increases the chances of my “success” with the product.
If you’re in the market for a new product and only want to spend your hard-earned coin(t) on “the best,” here are some websites that I consider the best of websites that only talk about “the best of” certain product categories:
Wirecutter was founded in 2011 and was acquired more recently in 2016 by The New York Times Company with recommendations being made “through vigorous reporting, interviewing, and testing by teams of veteran journalists, scientists, and researchers.” I personally really like this website because they’re transparent about the testing process and give details about how long the research took and how many products were tested – for example, in this mascara review, the reviewers put in “30 hours of research while considering more than 50 mascaras, personally testing 29, and giving 13 to a panel for a trial run” with the panel containing five people.
The review itself is also extremely detailed, straight down from how the bristles impact the mascara’s performance to the consideration of how difficult it might be to remove. I also like how Wirecutter provides a “runner-up” to their top choice, as well as a “best budget pick” overall and other best budget picks based on various needs, such as “lengthening and separating” or “versatile looks” in this specific example. Not only does this review team try out the mascaras for themselves, but they consult and refer to other sources that are referenced at the end of the review!
The caveat is that these reviews might not always be up-to-date as this mascara one was only last updated in 2015 so it doesn’t include any newer product releases after then, but I still think it’s a great site for weighing in on some products.
If you’ve read my summer skincare post or my dry shampoo hacks post, you’ll know that I’ve spoken about Reviews.com before on my blog. This website is similar to Wirecutter in that it’s very “professional” and consists of a team of people testing a product. I’ve chosen another mascara review to use as an example here – just as with Wirecutter, the review is very transparent in that it dedicates a whole section to discuss how the best mascaras were found, as well as the “standards” for the finalists. In this case, the reviewers didn’t try any mascaras containing fragrance as it’s a common irritant and skipped waterproof mascara, which personally made me a little sad because I exclusively wear waterproof mascara, but I digress.
What’s really cool about this site is that it not only provides the review (duh), but it also provides a deeper look into the “inner workings” of products – this particular review talks about how mascaras contain three basic ingredients (pigments, waxes, and oil) and how each contributes to how the mascara performs. It talks about the products so in-depth that it even cites a “key player” as being “the wiper,” or the “tapered plastic ring that forms the mouth of the mascara tube” because it’s the final gatekeeper, determining how much mascara makes it out of the bottle and onto the brush,” which is essential to application – an aspect of mascara that I didn’t even think of before!
Along with detailing the personal testing of the products, I like how the article references various other sources on the internet because it builds credibility and allows a more “accurate” review. Additionally, it provides the “best for” in various categories, such as lengthening, volumizing, drugstore picks, and their runner-ups, again like Wirecutter.
If you’re not into reading all that, the review also provides a nifty little summary table at the end so you can quickly see what product is the best in a certain category. Another plus is that this site is updated pretty periodically and this mascara review was just updated in February 2018.
This is a little bit different from the first two websites because there are no “teams” of testers, but rather a list of best sellers based on reviews submitted by Amazon users, so this is where you kind of have to put on your judging robes and decide for yourself whether or not you trust the reviews.
In this case, you have to “drill down” to the category you want – for example, I went back to looking up the best-selling mascaras, which I found by going through Any Department>Beauty & Personal Care>Makeup>Eyes>Mascara, so it’s a little bit of a scavenger hunt, but honey, I got there!
The good thing about this format is that you can see how many stars the product has, the price, and how many reviews it has easily, and Amazon is also great because some products can have hundreds or thousands of reviews. When reviews are user-submitted, I tend to look for products that have at least 100 reviews because I assume the overall star rating becomes more “accurate” when more people are submitting their opinions.
At a glance this is great (especially if you have Prime) because Amazon has made it very easy to just see and shop – the page is straightforward and there are no frills. The downside is that there are no tables (*sadface*) breaking things down by various category of desired results (such as the popular best in volumizing or lengthening in the previous mascara reviews) and it’s up to YOU to filter through all the reviews and extract the information you deem relevant. Such power may be intoxicating to you, but as Uncle Ben once said, “with great power comes great responsibility.”
Slant is really interesting because it’s “written by a community helping you be informed” and kind of operates like Yahoo answers in that the reviews are based on a question, such as “What are the best under eye concealers?” This website seems a little bit geared more towards technology and gaming at the moment, so I found that this format was a little bit limiting in the beauty space, but I thought it was still worth mentioning because of the way the options are presented.
While Slant is a little bit like websites such as MakeupAlley in that it provides reviews submitted by users, I thought the presentation of the options submitted was unique – I like how it shows how many options were considered, the price of each option, and when each submission was last updated in tabular form (if you haven’t guessed by now, I’m a sucker for a good table).
One drawback of this particular review is that all of the options are submitted and assessed by one user, so you’re not getting that much variety in terms of opinions. Still, I do think there’s great potential in this website as long as more users in the beauty community weigh in – I can especially see the potential in the review of “What are the best open-source games?” which has 60 options considered and 850 recommendations.
Tl;dr (because I like to RAMBLE)
If you’re pressed for time and don’t really want to filter out a concatenation of individual reviews on your own, I would suggest checking out websites where they have a “review team” such as Wirecutter or Reviews.com to do all the work for you – they’re super detailed in their reviews and take a pretty professional approach to examining all aspects of a product. They even nicely provide a clear-cut list for you of all the products they deem the “best of” in categories that take personal preference and individual needs into consideration, as well as runner-ups and more budget-friendly picks.
If you want to take matters into your own hands and go through reviews yourself, Amazon Best Sellers is another good option. Although some products have thousands of reviews, such as this L’Oreal Paris Voluminous Original Mascara, you can kind of “customize” your search – for example, if you scroll all the way down to the “Read reviews that mention” section, you can click on the “volume” section to filter reviews that include this keyword if volume is something you really care about. The good thing about Amazon is that it tells you whether or not the review is a “verified purchase,” but this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a real review – remember that fake reviews exist so you need to be the judge of which reviews you do and don’t trust! If you don’t trust yourself to do this, I would emphasize that this is where the “review team” approach above becomes more convenient as you can pretty much guarantee that their reviews are real.
Finally, although not really prevalent in the makeup realm, Slant is an interesting option that has a lot of potential IMO. It’s kind of like a hybrid between sites like MakeupAlley that are built off user-submitted reviews and the “review team” sites already mentioned. While this might not be super relevant now, I think this could be an option to look out for – as long as more users become more aware of this site and start to submit their reviews, it could be very useful in the future!
THANKS FOR STICKING WITH ME! Have you used any of these websites before? What are your favorite places to seek out reviews?
- StyleCaster // The 9 Best Lipsticks According to Makeup Experts
- Wirecutter // The Best Mascara
- Reviews.com // The Best Mascara of 2018
- Amazon Best Sellers // Best Mascara
- Slant // What are the best under eye concealers? // What are the best open-source games?
*Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with or compensated by any of the brands mentioned (I wish!). As always, all thoughts & opinions are my own (unless stated otherwise)!