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After graduating last May from the University of Texas, I moved to New York with hopes of starting a career in fashion. As a 22-year-old artist with a savings account that consists of a few paychecks from working at a summer camp and parents who are very willing to help in my first year out of school, but forbade me to shop with the money given to me, purchasing new beauty products is hardly on my to-do list. So being asked to visit the E.l.f. Studio in Greenwich Village and check out the inexpensive makeup line was an assignment perfectly suited for my current lifestyle.
This story first appeared in the November 8, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Before I dive into my experience, I should say beauty has always been a big part of my life, which consequently has made me a very picky shopper. You could also say beauty runs in my family. When I was six, my mother worked for Donna Karan fragrances. True story: My brown-bagged lunches tasted like Donna Karan Chaos Eau de Parfum (remember that one?) and the smell lingered just about everywhere I went.
Despite my resultant lack of love for fragrance, I am a big user of makeup. I decided not to take time out of my job search for my E.l.f. expedition, so I hit the store on Saturday afternoon around 4:30. The store was buzzing with Millennial shoppers. I walked in and was met with bright lights in a white, narrow studio. While I’m fond of white space, the fluorescent lighting allowed me to see every blemish on my face, which led me to suspect this was a marketing tactic to make me buy more. Despite lighting that made me spot all my imperfections, the store was organized and easy to maneuver, with each section labeled by category.
My first stop was the eye shadow palettes. Since high school, I’ve used the same Laura Mercier shades and was looking to broaden my horizons. To my disappointment, the palettes were too bright for my taste, too similar to the ones found in that suburban mall staple, Claire’s. Although each was only about $6, I wasn’t looking to choose from the entire rainbow for a Friday night out.
I continued to browse, hoping a salesperson would offer to assist me, considering there were about five women on the floor, two of whom didn’t appear to be helping anyone.
I approached one associate who seemed to be fairly new since she had to ask someone else to recommend a product for me. I wanted to learn about eyebrow applicators and the differences between the powders and pencils. Luckily, I have somewhat decent eyebrows, but that was not always the case. In my younger and blonder days, my eyebrows were very light, and by very light I mean hardly there. As I got older, they grew in thicker and darker, but they still tend to bleach in the sun.
The more experienced associate began by explaining which products would best benefit my brows. She said that I should use a pencil, but when I asked to try it she wasn’t able to demonstrate on me due to low stock. Instead, she described in detail the best process of applying it, advising me not to directly draw on the shape, but rather shade in the color. “Start at the edge, using a brush, and apply tiny strokes, so that you blend the color with your eyebrows in the same direction that the hair grows,” she said. Having majored in art, this obviously made sense, but from the standpoint of someone else, it could have been confusing. As she was reciting the process, I got distracted by her perfectly shaped, yet hairless brows. She seemed educated on the product, but I wasn’t totally convinced by the look of hers, so the eyebrow arena wasn’t so successful and mine are still a little lighter than I would like.
Next, I asked the first salesperson for help picking out some fall lipstick colors, a subject she was more knowledgeable about. I told her that I like a matte look and hate when my lips get sticky, so she showed me some options. I picked out two colors I really liked, but when I asked to try them on, I wasn’t able to do so, in a sanitary way at least. She said that they had Q-tips I could use to put the lipstick on, but they had no alcohol to sanitize the bullet. I bought the colors anyway because they looked pretty on my hand and I hoped for the best on my lips.
On my way to the register, I snapped up some Makeup Remover Cleansing Cloths, $3, a Makeup Remover Pen, $3, and an Essential Nourishing Cuticle Pen for $1. Based on those prices, I couldn’t really pass them up. When I went to check out, I was shocked when my total came to $18.51. I felt like Hanukkah came early this year. That’s the least I have ever spent on an assortment of beauty products. Despite the mediocre customer service in the store, I left with a steal.