Land of the Free (Gift With Purchase): How to Be a Sample Queen

Scoring beauty product samples

Nothing lights up my world like free stuff. Oh, how I love free stuff!


I’m also a teensy bit of a commitment-phobe and hesitate to fully say “yes” to anything before trying it out. And while yes, nearly every single beauty supply shop has a stellar return policy, we here at BB understand the very real struggle of being a busy and/or lazy person who just doesn’t wanna go through the trouble. Also, what do you do when you wanna try out six different moisturizers because you can’t decide on just one???


We’ve all been there. We’ve all bought something that looked awesome in-store and then woke up the next day to a nasty, nasty reality. Certain beauty products, skincare especially, should be taken on a test drive before purchase. I mean, you won’t really know how much you like a night cream until you’ve been able to use it overnight!


When you went to bed looking like Sanaa Lathan and woke up looking like Lorde

But even with makeup, having too many options can be a blessing and a curse. Of course you’re tempted to buy one of everything, but can you afford to? If you are a Broke-Ass Biddie like me, the answer is no. So, to Sample Town we go!

Observe the fruits of one of my latest shopping adventures in Sephora:

samples on samples on samples

Here’s something that not enough people know: most beauty supply and department stores–like Sephora, Lush, Nordstrom, and Bloomingdales, to name a few–will give free samples of products to customers. How do you get them?

1. All you gotta do is ask.

Sephora samples

Sephora samples also come with a printed sheet with instructions for use.

Those three lil baggies on the upper right are samples of different daytime moisturizers. If you’re in a store like Sephora or Lush that has lots of “try me!” containers lying about, simply pick up the “try me” containers of the products you’d like to test out, bring to a sales associate, and ask for samples. They’ll be more than happy to hook you up, and even steer you in the right direction if what you’re asking for might be the wrong product for your needs.


I’ve got a small bin in my bathroom cabinet reserved for my lil’ loves.

At Sephora, anything that can fit into a small plastic tub–like moisturizers, serums, cleansers, creams, liquid makeup, etc–are fair game. Don’t go crazy, though, and start asking for EVERYTHING in sight. Stick to three products. You’re not going to be using them all at once, after all! At a department store, just go up to the counter and ask for a sample. PRO TIP: Did you get super-tan (or lose your tan) and now find that your foundation/concealer doesn’t really match your face anymore? Ask for a sample of the same product in a lighter/darker shade and mix it in at home. Voila! Just saved you the hassle of buying another bottle. You’re welcome.

2. Shop around.

“Be a ruthless, coldhearted bitch and go to every department store/Sephora possible and use the same spiel.” This gem of advice comes from Biddie Amanda, and I second it wholeheartedly. If you’re still not sure about something, or want to try a product for a longer period of time than you have enough sample product for, HIT UP OTHER STORES. We’re lucky to live in NYC where you can’t throw a rock in any direction and avoid hitting a Sephora (or a Starbucks), so I’ve definitely made a ~*few*~ pit stops on the way home from work/brunch/whatever to pick up multiple samples of a particular serum or eye cream…what? Don’t hate the player, hate the game. Just kidding. Don’t hate the game; it’s fun.

3. Loyalty counts.

Signing up for loyalty programs, like Sephora’s Beauty Insider program, can net lots of awesome rewards. In addition to periodical flash sales or special discounts for members, being a part of the club means free samples as well. The reward points system allows you to get points for every dollar you spend, which can be exchanged for deluxe-sized samples of products. You’re also oftentimes eligible for free samples with your purchase. If you download the Sephora app, you’ll get alerts whenever there are special offers. On this last shopping adventure I found out that if I spent $25, I would also get a set of skincare samples. Awesome! Check out the samples I got below:


At the counter, the saleswoman was super-friendly and after a particularly fun chat, she tossed in an additional bareMinerals sample set:


Yay for additional samples and super-friendly salespeople!

4. Take the plunge (sort of).

Sets of sample-sized products can allow for you to test out products that you can’t ask for samples of in-store. Since they’re also curated by the store, you’ll be getting a set of products that are most popular, new, and exciting. Sephora has its Sephora Favorites collection, which consists of sets of products that also include one full-sized product. I got the “Draw the Line” one:


Now I’ve got enough eyeliner to last me until the apocalypse…or until next month, more realistically. But still. At only $30, it’s an awesome deal.

Another $$$ option? SUBSCRIPTION BOXES!!! If you’re willing to make a more regular commitment, subscription boxes–like Ipsy, Glossybox, Birchbox, Sample Society, and Beauty Test Tube, to name a few–send (paying) subscribers deluxe-sized samples of (and oftentimes full-sized) products every month. The only downside is that you never know what you’re gonna get, but you’re always guaranteed to get a whole lotta bang for your buck.

5. Hit up the internet.

Sites like Influenster are a great way to get free samples (or even full-sized products) to test out–all you have to do is review them afterwards! Just last week I got a box that included a set of false lashes, a nail polish, and lip balm. It’s a pretty sweet hookup.

Hope this helps all y’all thrifty Biddies. Go out there and score some samples!

ron swanson shopping

2 thoughts on “Land of the Free (Gift With Purchase): How to Be a Sample Queen

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