Purchasing Cosmetic Products from Overseas

A reader asked me some good questions about getting cosmetic products from overseas, so I’ll respond here because I believe these are common dilemmas people face with getting cosmetics outside the country.

“May I ask if you think it wise to buy creams from abroad, because when you run out of stocks, you have no choice but to look for other brands unless you've someone to help replenish your supply?”

I’ve been shipping in cosmetic products from overseas for years. Back then, facial products specially designed for Asian skin were rarities and I often preferred to buy products from Taiwan and Korea. Now, although more Western brands are boasting product lines specially designed for Asians, online shopping has been so deeply inculcated in my lifestyle that it’s habitual for me. Besides, it's an extra avenue for me to try new products!

Most cosmetic lines from reputable brands have their own online storefronts these days. As long as you own a widely accepted debit card or credit card that you can use to do online payments, it’s easy to get cosmetic products from abroad. But even if you don’t have a card or find the shipping fees hefty, not all is lost.

There’s a wonderful concept called online spreeing (also known as ‘group order’ in other countries) which I depend on for most of my overseas shopping ventures. Online spreeing came into existence in Singapore a good couple of years, probably due to demand by people like me lol. For those who are not in the know, let me provide a brief explanation. Online spreeing is carried out by one person, known as a spree organizer, on behalf of a group of participating shoppers who wish to buy items from the same online store. The organizer places a combined order and the orders are shipped to him alone instead of to each individual. The lowered shipping fees are split among the participants and everyone saves some money!

Here’s a list of online spree communities that I frequently spree with. You can visit them to learn in detail how spreeing is conducted and what sort of products are usually spreeed for:

I also enjoy browsing sprees for products that I’ve not used before. It helps me learn about new products. Also, the response and reviews of spree participants help me to gauge whether a product is popular and worth my trying. So if you’re in love with a certain product that you got overseas but ran out of stock, do check out these spree sites!

However, there are cases where the product is so obscure or new that it cannot be bought online, or it contains prohibited materials that cannot be shipped in (always check with customs the eligibility of your shipment before placing your order, especially large shipments). In which case, you will just have to switch to another brand.

Personally, I enjoy trying new products. I believe it’s the only way for me to keep discovering brands and products that may suit my skin better. Some people like to stick to the same brand or product that works for them and are wary of the idea of switching brands. That’s up to individual preferences, but I’d just like to say that one shouldn’t avoid a particular product just because it’s difficult to access. You could always switch back to a previous brand you’ve been using and come back to it again when you get hold of it.

I know some people have complained that their skin reacts adversely to new products. The trick is to always choose the type of product that suits your skin type. Usually, there should be clear indications on the packaging, the skin type it is suitable for understand the ingredients it contains. That’s why I prefer getting products whose instructions and information are written in a language that I understand. However, if you have sensitive skin or skin conditions that can only tolerate special cosmetic products, it is advisable to avoid hard-to-obtain products that you’re going to change around often.

Unlike skincare products, where length of usage sometimes determines the results, cosmetic products are generally temporal means to cover up flaws and enhance features. The committment factor is less significant. Therefore, availability and accessibility should not be a hindrance.

Another thing that online shoppers should be wary about is the authenticity of the product. Do not be swayed by an expensive brand that is cheaply listed. You could be getting an imitation that doesn't work or worst, damages your skin. To be on the safe side, I'd avoid purchasing cosmetics on sites like Ebay, where there is little quality control. Always purchase from the brand's online store or reputable online beauty product portals to avoid getting scammed!

Well Charlotte, I hope this was helpful to you. I'll respond to the other question in my next entry!
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