How to get high-end cosmetics for free

Cosmetics displayScoring free designer cosmetics is easy. To get them, you just need to ask. Yes, you might have to endure a 10-minute spiel from a well-coiffed saleswoman, undoubtedly clad from head to toe in black. But smile, nod a lot and remember you are there to get high-end samples. Period.

Designer cosmetic lines all give out samples of their new products. Some people find the sales pitch at the counter too intimidating just to charge up and ask for the freebies. But why not? You may actually like the new moisture cream so much that you'd sacrifice a week's worth of groceries to buy it.

If you want to sample a new moisturizer that relies on technology developed by a Nobel-prize-winning chemist, you don't need to shell out $56 an ounce. Nor do you need to whip out your credit card to afford a popular Kiehl's anti-wrinkle cream made with a hardy "survival molecule" that thrives in hydrothermal ocean vents. Just ask.

On a recent trip to the mall, I managed to score quite a few up-and-coming cosmetic samples without spending a cent.

After a 10-minute visit with an enthusiastic, electric-red-lipped salesgirl at the Christian Dior counter at Macy's I walked away with samples of Hydra Life Pro Youth Protective Creme SPF 15 -- enough for about four days -- and Pro Youth Sorbet Eye Cream -- which retails for $56 for 1.7 ounces. The eye cream sample should last for about two weeks.

According to the saleswoman, Hydra Life products "keep moisture moving under the skin" with the help of aquaporin -- a protein required by cells to take in water -- discovered by Peter Agre and for which he won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2003. (Never mind that she told me the chemist was Peter Avery, I'm sure most customers don't question her on this point.)

I left the Dior counter looking somewhat like a giraffe, with several shades of $46-an-ounce Dior foundation on my left cheek--a requirement to obtain a good-sized sample jar of Diorskin Nude Hydrating Makeup. It's disappointing to hear that Dior doesn't dole out samples of mascara, or anything with color for that matter.

Next up: The Lancome counter. Here, I submitted to a 15-minute makeover, with more foundation slathered over my face and under my eyes, in order to obtain a 10-day sample of Photogenic Lumessence in bisque number 4--which retails for $42 for an ounce.

An added bonus: I discovered foundation tends to turn orange on my skin after it's applied, requiring a shade lighter than my normal skin tone. This is news to someone who hasn't worn makeup on a daily basis for a decade.

The makeup artist -- whose son attends my son's elementary school -- is fresh out of samples of moisturizers and makeup, suggesting that I return during the holidays when counters are flush with freebies.

As I pass by the expansive Bobbi Brown station, I ask what's new and am led by a saleswoman to several drawers brimming with cardboard boxes filled with samples of moisturizers and eye cream. I slip shiny packets of hydrating face cream and hydrating eye cream into my bag (which retail for $50 for 1.7 ounces and a whopping $45 for a half ounce, respectively.)

She suggests that the best way to receive free samples of color, mascara and lipstick is to make an appointment for a makeover. (Although a flier she hands me advertising a store event the following weekend says participants must plunk down $60 to receive the "Bobbie Loves Color" gift, which includes mini extreme party mascara and a mini pot rouge.)

Next, I'm keen on nabbing some perfume samples. The bored salesgirl yanks open a drawer only to discover a Kleenex box. She advises that Monday mornings are the ideal time to visit the store to sniff out samples of hot new scents.

On my way out, I score the best freebie yet: An impromptu facial at Origins.

A saleswoman tips me back in an over-sized lawn chair, sanitizes her hands and removes the layers of foundation from my face with remarkably good smelling toners and cleansers. Then she moves on to masks and serums--to "increase your cell's defenses"--and lotion--which is "like medicine for the cells."

Fifteen blissful minutes later she's sold me on the 3.4-ounce $35 Dr. Weil Plantidote face mask. This comes with the best sample yet -- a box full of mini Dr. Weil products including a .17-ounce eye serum, a 1-ounce exfoiliater and a one-ounce cleanser.

Attending an event is also a good way to walk off with plenty of high-end cosmetic samples. My editor recently took in Fashion's Night Out in Los Angeles at Saks Fifth Avenue and pocketed enough goodies to fill a make-up bag, including: a sample of Chanel's Inimitable mascara; Chanel's Hydramax + Active Serum, Ultra Correction Line Repair and Lift Serum Extreme Anti-Wrinkle Firming Complex.

She also received Nars firming foundation and makeup removing oil; ReVive Fermitif neck renewal cream and eye renewal cream and La Prairie neck cream.

Meanwhile, back at Bloomingdale's, I'm successful at the Kiehl's counter, where a saleswoman hands me a weeks-worth of Abyssine Cream--which runs $46 for 1.69 ounces--and a creamy eye treatment with avocado--which will also set you back $46 for .5 ounces.

Customers who purchase items at the counter typically receive three free samples, advises Angela Terzian, a Kiehl's selling specialist.

But she said that she often will give out free samples to those who ask and sometimes will even stop patrons as they hurry by and advise them to try a new product.

"Most people know what they want," Terzian said. "But if someone is new to the line--sometimes people aren't familiar with it-- I'm happy to give out samples."
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