Cosmetics Department as Sandbox

I love cosmetics departments, absolutely love them. From the buzz of electricity around the latest and greatest product, to the makeup artists attitudes, to the smells (most of them anyway), to the mirrors and bright lights, I love them. I even love the product pushers and chuckle when they approach me these days (unlike years ago), because I have come to understand that “No” is a complete sentence. If they suck me in, it will only be on my terms. I think the main reason I love these arenas though, is that on my most recent visit to one I realized I am no longer the “what do you think and do you like it” woman I used to be.


My approach to cosmetics departments is positive today, because I fully understand them. Having worked as a Business Manager for one of the largest “beauty brands” in the world, I know the schpeel. I am privy to the quotas, sales goals and all the psychological nuances used to achieve them, so I know that it is all a game; a game won simply by not letting on that you are playing. Because of this, I get a real kick out of the opponents working to convince me that it isn’t one, especially those who in doing so, are utterly transparent.

Even though I know the tricks of the trade and may not fully “buy in” these days, I must admit that I still feel eager and hopeful every time my skin care sale is rung up. There is just something about what calls out to me from the jars of lotions and creams, img_2037

It’s the the promise of … well, just the promise. When I dabble in them before buying, (always using Q-tips of course to take out my dollop, unlike some people) I feel my long lost child coming out in me.

Back when I was a little girl, the feel of Playdoh and paper mache was too icky for me, but now as I warm skin care products between my palms and fingers before putting them on my face, I am more than OK with the squishy feeling in my hands. I realize this is my sandbox. It is where I play. It took me a long time to get here, to this place of truly letting my hair down, of sharing things and leaving them nicely for others to use and even of saying “No” confidently to bullies. So, now that I know how, I like to play often.

I love the gifts with purchase and deluxe samples from some of the higher end makeup counters. They are like the goody bags from long ago birthday parties. The beautiful boxes and the promises they hold within them, delight me in the same way wrapped presents from friends did when I was a kid. I feel giddy as my eyes pop open wider with a smidge of liner and bronze shimmer dusts my cheekbones, so much so that it makes me wonder why I never did fool around in mom’s makeup case the way most little girls do.

On a recent visit to one of the newer cosmetic stores around, I found myself incredibly disappointed with the others at play there. I watched as one woman grabbed tube after tube of lipstick, unwrapped the plastic seals to try them on then put each one back, used, because she didn’t like the way they looked on her. A girl nearby stuck her fingers into a jar, slathered cream on her face and then went back in for a dreaded double dip. All I could think of was, “Ewwww,” as I watched. Of course, there was a glass of plastic spatulas right next to her, but she ignored them.

After witnessing this, I began looking around me and paying even closer attention to the others in the store shopping alongside me. What I saw made me feel the way I used to when one of the kids flung sand in my face or was mean to someone else. I wanted to stand up on a chair (the ones I learned, as a trained skin care consultant, to get customers in to because they always buy more if they are comfortable) with a megaphone:  “Attention shoppers, what the bleep are you doing? Do you care about anyone but yourselves? What about the store owners who have to write off the products you just damaged? How about your sisters (and even some brothers too) who will not be able to afford to shop here after prices are raised because of your disrespect? Do we really want your GERMS? Why are you so selfish? Do you understand that the safety packaging, Q-tips, spatulas and alcohol are there for people’s health and safety?”   

Yuck, just yuck! That is how I felt. I wanted to stamp my feet and cry. When I got home, I sat down at the computer and posted on Facebook. I guess it was a bit of a rant, and that is not usually my Facebook style, but I figured it was OK. I mean, how else do we start to raise consciousness in today’s day and age? I am not saying that I lost sleep over my experience, but it did make me disappointed in consumers. It also made me realize how good it feels to be someone who actually tries to do the right thing, who uses store testers appropriately and who actually “shives a git” (mom used to say it like this) about others not only in cosmetics departments, but in other places as well. I am glad I know that “live” merchandise is “live” and not a sample the way some folks think it is and that using a salable item and then leaving it behind unpaid is stealing.

I find it truly ironic that women shopping to feel more beautiful, young and lady-like often do such immature and ugly things in their efforts to get what they need. They want to buy glamour in jars or tubes and have no conception that by being graceful and considerate as they shop for it, they will actually be “super-sizing” what they buy.

In a world with so many warped messages thrown at us about what beauty is, I just wish more “kids” playing alongside me in the sandbox would pay attention to trying to be lovely on the inside first and to be thoughtful of others. That attitude would certainly radiate from within and “Wow,” how gorgeous that would be!



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