Skin Care

Shopping over the beauty counter

Last year we ran a survey to find out about the service Black and Asian women in the UK receive over the beauty counter. Now that we are out of Lockdown and shops are open, shopping over the beauty counter will be an unprecedented experience.

Black and Asian women spend around £6 on hair and beauty for every £1 that a white British woman spends, it should be a given that we are treated with the respect we deserved right? I mean this is 2020. Turns out we were wrong.

The shops where our readers buy their makeup, skincare and hair products are a mixture of indie hair shops to standalone stores such as MAC and Bobbi Brown to large department stores such as Selfridges and Harvey Nichols. Beauty specific stores such as Superdrug and the revamped Boots were also high up along with cult beauty space, Space NK

  • 54% of you purchase beauty products less than once a month with 49% buying once a month.

  • 66% of you rate your experience of shopping over the beauty counter as average, 22% describe it as poor, 15% have had a great experience while 1% rate it as very poor. 

It seems that the main issues you experience buying products in the store are to do with low stock levels and the attitude of the staff. 68% of you point out the lack of products suitable to your skin tone, 58% say it is the reluctancy of samples, 39% blame the attitude of staff and just 1% state busy counters. 

Beauty Counter pic 2.jpg

Your suggestions for a better shopping experience was for brands to give their staff training, supply better stock levels and create more correlation between brand’s marketing strategy and customer service.

Worst experience shopping over the beauty counter

Ok now this was bittersweet to read – as entertaining some of these comments were, they were also sad and frustrating to hear. The general consensus were as below:

  • Being shade matched incorrectly

  • Being pressured into a sale for a product that is entirely unsuitable

  • Your needs not being addressed and listened to

  • Being ignored

It was at a makeup counter and both sales attendants just carried on chatting and laughing, completely ignoring me. When I then asked for help I was made to feel like I was bothering them. They were very uninterested in helping me.

I had a makeover at the Chanel counter which I felt made me look like a clown. The person who did it was all, “You have dark skin, so you can take bright colours.” It felt like a weird, ill-informed one-size-fits all approach that didn’t take into account my personality or what I actually wanted.

Trying on a product made by Benefit that claimed to change to match all skin tones. I told the beautician that it wouldn’t work on my dark skin but she convinced me to try it anyway. She applied it and I was left wearing what looked like a white mask and she had to apologise profusely as she wiped it off

The lady behind the counter colour matched me at least two shades darker than my skin tone. When I mentioned this, she told me I looked like I needed a tan and that she knew how to do her job.

Too many to count, mainly issues with buying foundation. They match you with a product, you say it is too light or too dark, they say it is not, you trust them and then when you get home it is wrong. This has happened at Bobbi Brown so many times, and NARS. Other times I get ignored. No one wants to serve me but they are happy to serve someone else who has just walked in. I’ve walked out so many times it’s crazy. So now I research online, go swatch myself, and then buy. I’m now actively steering clear of staff. They are time wasters.

Photo by Francesca Grima on Unsplash

Best experience shopping over the beauty counter

On a positive note, it’s not all doom and gloom, despite the negativity, there are some brands out there who get it and beauty staff who are simply amazing. Interestingly enough but not surprising, a lot of the positive experiences our customers have had have been with a Black or Asian member of staff or MUA. Here are some of the comments below:

  • Staff who listen and are attentive

  • Staff who are knowledgeable about the brand

  • Staff who are passionate about their jobs and want the best for customers regardless of race

  • Staff who are generous with samples

I’ve had great experiences at Bobbi Brown. They’re friendly, helpful, their marketing makes it clear that their products are for everyone and they don’t layer on the slap with a trowel.

Purchasing a Fenty Product because the staff had to understand about diversity within the brand 🙌🏽

It was actually with a black makeup artist in Harvey Nichols. She went above and beyond to be helpful, she helped me realise I had been wearing the wrong foundation shade, correctly matched me and hen sent me home with a load of samples to ensure I was sure before I invested in the products.

Was looking to try a new foundation but I always get nervous about selecting the right shade. One sales assistant could see me struggling and came over and took me through all the different products and helped me select the right colour.

Got a black Makeup artist who wasn’t trying to just push products she actually knew her stuff.

Looks like there is a massive disconnect between what some brands are telling us in their glossy adverts and campaigns to what is really happening in the stores. We say it’s time beauty brands fixed up and offered better training for their staff. 


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