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Makeup Isn’t Cheap. Here’s Where You Can Score Some Free Beauty Samples

makeup samples with gold background
Carmen Mandato/The Penny Hoarder


Can we all be honest for a second and admit that looking good doesn’t always come cheap?

I’m talking makeup, my friends. It’s an ugly truth, but someone has to break it down.

On average, the American woman spends up to $300,000 on face products in her lifetime. I don’t know about you, but that’s a number preventing me from putting on my silk sleep mask and getting my beauty rest tonight.

There’s good news, though.

As the shopping and trends expert at RetailMeNot, I test new makeup and best-selling staples on the regular. During my research, I've found plenty of ways to save money on cosmetics.

For instance, the employees at many of my favorite department stores are always happy to throw in trial sizes of fragrances, eyeshadows and even mini mascaras when I make a purchase. This makes it easy to sample products without the high costs or commitment.

So whether you're on a tight budget or just love free swag, make sure to check out the stores below when looking to find a new concealer or add to your lipstick collection.

Bonus: Because these free beauty samples are small and TSA-friendly, they make ideal traveling companions. Side note: These are in alphabetical order, not preferential order!

12 Stores That Offer Free Beauty Samples

1. Aveda

Aveda is a must-shop spot for freebies. The brand is constantly announcing new sales that include trial-size goodies. The salespeople are generous with in-store gifts, and online shoppers can cash in by adding up to five beauty samples with a minimum spend (usually $30).

Pro tip: Be sure to try out Aveda's free beauty consultations. For example, you can book a free 20-minute facial and makeup or hair session at your local store. This is a great way to get an expert's opinion on which products are best for your beauty routine before buying them.

2. Clinique

In the world of beauty, Clinique is a tried-and-true brand with a super-loyal following. This is likely due to the consistency, simplicity and quality of its products. Plus, you'd have to put forth effort in order to not get freebies while shopping here.

When Clinique isn't offering a free gift set with a purchase, it's promoting mini sizes of popular products for people to try at zero cost. You can also get $5 cash back through RetailMeNot when you spend $50 or more.

3. CVS

Don't forget your neighborhood drugstore when searching for samples. The selection varies with each location and season, but CVS sales reps can supply you with a variety of trial-size moisturizers, acne treatments, lipsticks and more if you simply ask.

When shopping online at CVS, you're eligible for free samples with orders of $15 or more. In the past, for instance, I've seen free nail files, masks and cleansing cloths available.

4. e.l.f.

Even if you have little to spend, you can still rock luxury-style makeup thanks to e.l.f. and its affordable cosmetics (sometimes, less than $1 — no joke). And with purchases of $25, you get free shipping and “mystery gifts.” Your mystery gift bag will include four items and is valued up to $12.

5. L'Occitane

This French beauty company is known for its organic lotions, balms and oils, all of which smell amazing. The products can cost a pretty penny, but L'Occitane always sweetens the purchase with free samples and gifts.

For instance, the brand usually offers free beauty sets with a minimum spend and three samples at checkout. When in doubt, check RetailMeNot for the latest L'Occitane deals.

6. Nordstrom

Purchasing cosmetics through Nordstrom has its benefits. When you buy online, you'll receive gifts and samples (typically three). These goodies come from luxe brands, such as Chanel, Burberry and Dior.

If you're at the makeup counter in a Nordstrom store, also ask about samples. If you're there for a makeover or purchase, the salespeople will likely give you mini-sized cosmetics.

7. Sephora

I can't talk beauty freebies without mentioning this cult-favorite store. Sephora is lauded for its perks, and its offering of high-quality samples is a big reason. Each online purchase gives you access to an ever-changing assortment of goodies from brands like Urban Decay, Too Faced and bareMinerals.

When shopping in-store, always ask for samples at the register. Sephora will also do a free, 15-minute mini-makeover and give you samples of the products you've tried out. This is a clever way to get a tutorial on applying that smoky eye or bold lip color.

8. Smashbox

This Hollywood favorite offers free samples at checkout, as well as travel-size products with a minimum spend. Right now, you can scoop up a free makeup bag, pore-minimizing primer and lipstick. Also, shipping is always free at Smashbox.

9. Tarte

Chances are you're familiar with Tarte if you follow any beauty influencers or editors on social media. The vegan brand has made a name for itself with its good-for-you formulas, colorful packaging and fun products — the shadow palettes legitimately smell wonderful!

When you spend $40, you'll get free Tarte samples, as well as free shipping. These can range from moisturizers and mascaras to blotting papers and blushes.

10. The Body Shop

Pop into any Body Shop location to have a product sample. Just ask a store consultant to help you out. The store sometimes offers free samples with an online purchase, too.

11. Ulta

Ulta is another go-to in the beauty-freebies scene. The store does a lot of brand-specific promotions.

Right now, for example, you can get a free Benefit Cosmetics confetti zip pouch with any $45 Benefit purchase and a free Escada bag with any $79 Escada fragrance purchase.

The freebies can differ online and in-store, so do your research, and don't be afraid to ask. A friend of mine couldn't decide on a fragrance to purchase, so she asked the Ulta salesperson if any perfumes came with promotions. Less than 10 minutes later, my friend was walking out with her perfume and free Coach umbrella and laptop case. Worth it!

12. Urban Decay

Because Urban Decay products can be pricier, it's the promise of free samples that keeps the brand on my radar. The mini-size products available with purchases include some of Urban Decay's popular offerings, such as the All Nighter Setting Spray, Primer Potion and metallic eyeshadows.

Be sure to peruse Urban Decay's sale section. You'll find awesome discounts there, especially during Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

One Final Freebie Tip

Follow all of your favorite beauty brands on social media. When a new product launches, companies often make the announcement on Facebook or Instagram, and might even provide free beauty samples to followers. You’ll also get access to exclusive promo codes and deals this way.

Sara Skirboll is a beauty aficionado with an advanced degree in savvy savings. In fact, she's the Shopping and Trends Expert at RetailMeNot.

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