Beauty Product Reviewing Guide: Method and Terminology

I thought instead of going full steam ahead to review all of my backlogged beauty products, I’d take a step back and talk about how I review beauty products.  It’s something people don’t really dissect or provide a guide when you start a beauty blog.

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Everyone has their own method and here’s how I approach reviewing beauty products.

My review process:

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1) Acquire new beauty item
2) Let it sit in my stash for minimum of 6 months*
3) Take photos
4) Test out product
5) Take notes (mental or actual notes – usually I start a draft blog post and add notes as I go)
6) Research information on product – sources can be from: official product page, product packaging, online reviews

* This step is optional 😄

At this moment I’d like to expand on #4: Test out product. It seems so simple, right? Just slap it on my face! I am not about to employ the Scientific Method on beauty products, but I do like to have some rigor around the trial period on the product:

  • For skincare and foundation, I typically like to use the product for a minimum of 2 weeks, preferably for a month. My skin changes throughout the monthly cycle so I want to see how the product will perform through various skin conditions.
  • For colour products like eye shadows, blushes, lipsticks, nail polishes – I like to try out for at least a week or two, to get a solid feel for how they perform. I might test out different primers under eye shadows, or wear blushes over different foundations to see how they interact with different products.
  • Some products though, like mascaras, I can tell how they will perform after a couple of uses. Although, sometimes mascaras do perform differently after it has been allowed to dry out a bit, so I do tend to wait for a couple of weeks after opening the tube before I give the final verdict.

Given the above timelines to thoroughly test out products, this is the reason why you won’t see me provide a review too quickly after I get a new product. Also, my skin is sensitive so I do not like to introduce more than one new skincare / base makeup product at a time so I can pinpoint any potential issues clearly.

Writing the review:

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The most important thing I keep in mind is: what would my readers want to know about this product? And the easiest way to make sure I capture all of their questions is to answer the classic: Five Ws: What, Who, When, Where, Why… and sometimes How. Let’s see how these apply:

What:
• What is the official name of the product?
• What shade (along with the shade # if applicable) is being shown? Advise how many shades are in the range.
• What are the ingredients?
• What is the packaging like?

Who:
• Who makes this?
• Who is this product targeted to? Skin type, age group, etc.

When:
• When was this product released? Is this a new product launch? Is it part of a limited edition collection?
• When did it come into my life? ie how long have I been using this?
• When do I use this? In the case of skincare – is it a daytime or nighttime product?

Where:
• Where did I buy this? Where can others outside of my country buy this? Provide the store name or online url.
• Where was this made? You all know it’s a slight obsession of mine. 😉

Why:
• Why did I get this product? Does it solve a problem I’m experiencing?

How:
• How do I use this product? What tools and techniques are best suited for this item?
• How much did this cost?
• How was this product is made? This can be fascinating, especially in the case of unique formulations or indie brands.

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Notes & Tips:

• If I attempt to answer ALL of the above questions, I do run the risk of information overload. I make decisions on what to focus on depending on the type of product. For instance, I’d likely not post the ingredient list of an eye shadow, but I would for skincare or foundations.

• A good approach to reviewing is to look at the product claims one by one, and then agree or disagree on whether the product delivered on its claims. This can help readers decide if the product is worthwhile based on more objective measures.

• A review is a mixture of objective (facts) and subjective (opinion) parts – as a guide, I aim to have a 1:1 ratio of fact and opinion in my reviews. Readers want to know detailed information, but they’re also interested to know what my experiences were using the product, and if I liked it or not. And ultimately, if I would recommend to buy the product.

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• Of course, a picture is worth a thousand words, so when words fail you, post photos of the product. I like to show the outer box (I have a pile of packaging in my stash, it’s quite sad actually 😛 ), the compact / bottle, actual shot of the product inside, swatches, etc.  Comparisons against other products can also prove helpful to show the differences in colour / finish / consistency.

• I like to consider all my senses: we rely heavily on our sense of sight, but there are other senses that contribute to the overall experience. What does the product smell like? Does it have a taste (especially for lip products!)  How does the product feel using my fingertips? Does the product sound like anything… (don’t laugh, I had a Stila palette that talked! 😄 )

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• A quick note about integrity. I like to provide the same useful information to others as what I’ve found online which have helped me make informed purchasing decisions. Before I started blogging, I mainly reviewed beauty products on MakeupAlley. There was no inherent benefit from reviewing products on a beauty forum – there were no free products or website page clicks – it was just for peer to peer honest reviews.  I like to extend the same mindset on my blog: would I recommend this product to my friend?


Ratings:

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You know, I’ve never officially broken down what my “Stash Worthiness” ratings really mean. Here’s what the ratings out of 10 mean:

10: Holy Grail!!! Look no further. Throw out what you have and go buy this now!
8 – 9: Outstanding! I fully endorse this product as long as your skin type, concerns, and expectations are similar to mine.
6 – 7: It’s a decent product. Good but not great. Kind of like one of those slackers in school with potential.
4 – 5: This product didn’t work for me but maybe it could work for other people who have different skin type, concerns or expectations than mine.
2 – 3: I really try to find the good in some products. If the packaging is nice, or the product delivered on at least one of its many claims, I try to say something nice.
1: The product did the opposite of what it claimed to do. Or it delivered on none of its claims at all.
0: This product caused me physical and / or mental harm. Alert the authorities so this product can be pulled off the shelves (for the record, I’ve never rated anything a zero on the blog… yet.)

I don’t always give a numeric rating to every item I review, especially things that were gifts.


Unofficial Beauty Review Terminology:

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Here’s what I mean when I use these words to describe beauty products in reviews:

Blendable: applicable to both powder and liquid products. The product diffuses easily using a tool (brush, sponge, fingers) over the skin surface

Buttery: this gets used colloquially – I use it to mean a powder product feels like a cream product. It has a cushy feel and applies smoothly and evenly onto the skin.

Chalky: a dry and / or stiff powder product, and typically with low pigmentation.

Crease resistant: primarily with eye shadows – the ability of the product to not settle into the folds of  eyelids due to oiliness.

Fallout / falldown: when powder eye shadows does not adhere well to the eyelids during application and migrates down to lower lid or cheeks – this can cause a mess during application especially with deeper shades. [Thanks to Thoughtful Pigeon for suggesting this one!]

Finely milled: powder product with particles that are very small – can be a pressed or loose powder – this makes the product more blendable and look more skin-like / natural.

Flaky: product comes off skin in little bits through the day – mostly applicable to mascara and gel / pen liners

Long wearing / Long lasting: product lasts for more than a regular working hours. This is subjective as I consider anything more than 8 hours to be considered long wearing.

MLBB: stands for “My Lips But Better” which is not a universal shade, but rather a colour that enhance one’s own natural lip colour. Some people have more pigmented lips while others have paler lip colour – an enhancement could mean the same hue but slightly darker, or lighter, or brighter. The meaning of MLBB is quite individual.

Oxidation: a change in the colour (usually deepening or turning orange) of a liquid / cream product (typically foundation and concealer) as it dries down, usually when mixed with skin surface oils and oxygen.

Patchy: product does not apply evenly onto skin, leaves bare exposed skin randomly.

Pigmentation: how much colour coverage a product provides on the skin

Pills: product balls up on skin like eraser shavings – mainly used to describe face moisturizers, primers or foundations

Powdery: a pressed powder product that kicks up dust when a brush is dipped into the pan; this is not necessarily an indication of product performance. Alternatively, it can also mean a product looks obvious, doesn’t blend into the skin, and sits on top of the skin.

Tacky: a liquid, gel or cream product that leaves the surface sticky ie. if you press your lips together, they will have a tendency to stick together

Do you know how difficult it is to write definitions to words without using the word in the definition! 😄  Let me know if there are common review terms that you’d like me to add to the list.


I hope you found this helpful! What’s your process for reviewing beauty products?

PS. Have you entered “Some of Stashy’s Favourite Things Giveaway” yet? It ends tomorrow! 🙂

94 thoughts on “Beauty Product Reviewing Guide: Method and Terminology

  1. That’s a good comprehensive list. I typically try out skincare a minimum of 2 months as I want to ensure it truly works for me. Make Up I am less fussy about. I have a ‘rule’ to always include at least 3 looks for eyeshadow palettes so I will have tried out every shade possible. Other than that I always structure my reviews in the same way: intro, price & availibility/ reason why I wanted to try the product, packaging, product, swatches incl. performance, looks, conclusion incl recommendation. I also make sure to link to previous blog posts as much as possible if products are similar or inspired by others that I’ve already reviewed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yes, 2 months would even be better. I probably do end up using skincare for longer before I form an opinion (unless, of course, if it broke me out – but, sometimes there is a “ramp up” phase where my skin is getting adjusted to it).
      Linking back to similar products is super helpful!, for sure! Thanks for sharing your approach, it’s so helpful to hear how everyone does it. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Really loved reading this!
    I’ve found that since starting to blog, I leave my beauty products sitting longer than I used to after purchasing, because they need to be photographed in pristine condition first before I start using/testing, and most of the time it takes me a while to get to photographing them.

    I love how methodical your reviews are. I think every time I review something, I remind myself to mention all of the things you listed, but most of the time I forget a couple (at least…ahem). It would probably be beneficial to have a checklist of some sort as I’m writing the review! Totally agree with you on testing out skincare or foundation for a longer period before reviewing – you don’t really see any results or reactions for a few weeks!

    Heh, great job on the glossary! It IS really hard to define some of those terms without using the word in the definition! I find it hard to explain the term ‘buttery’…a powder product that feels…like butter?? lol.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed this post! It was a labour of love… but it really helped me take a step back at my own process. I’ll probably need to refer back to this from time to time to check if I forgot anything. 😛

      I know… I have so many things waiting in line to be photographed. I go in phases where I’ll spend an hour or two just photographing a whack of stuff. And then I’ll go weeks without photographing anything.

      Buttery is a weird one – it’s so popular too! The other word that is tossed around a lot is “glow” but I think it’s easy to figure it.

      Like

  3. I love this post so much I want to do one now. I can only imagine how long it to you to put it together. Firstly your ratings made me giggle but I can relate to them. I love that you gave a breakdown of the terminology you use too. And the testing system you have is pretty on par with my own. One of my biggest annoyances in the blogging/youtube world is when someone hauls something and “reviews” it in the same video. I’m like do you even know wtf the word “review” means!!??

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You totally should do one! 😀 Yes, I started writing this in bits and pieces in the beginning of January, just because I had planned to start doing a lot of reviews. But it made me think – would people want to know how review? Writing it all down really helped me solidify my process. I’ll probably come back to refer to this post myself. 😛
      I totally hear you on haul videos with review – or when people review products based on swatches on the back of the hand – I can’t take them seriously!

      Like

  4. A great post and I love the rating system, would have been useful to find a post like this a couple of years ago when I was starting so think it’s a great one for new bloggers to read. I think I’m guilty of going into too much detail in case I miss something people would want to know in some posts and they get way longer than I mean them to but it’s something for me to work on. Some good definitions there, not sure I can think of any other apart from maybe fallout as I found myself explaining that to a non blogging internet friend the other day but it’s become part of how I explain powdery products.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The amount of detail is really a personal preference. Some people will gloss over certain sections and focus on others – I think as long as you have clear headings / titles so people can choose what to read, that will help people navigate.
      Oooh “fallout” is a great one! I will add to my list – thank you! I’ve also heard of it called “falldown”.

      Like

  5. I love this! The rating system is pretty clearly layered out like this.

    This post has all that meticulous, obsessive and psychotic goodness that I love about your blog. I do share the same obsession about the country of origin, so you’re definitely not alone.

    Based on your ‘optional’ leave the product for 6 months + the testing time, I won’t be expecting reviews on your Japan haul any time soon *LOL*

    O, on the safe side, I am sure that Stila palette did not talk to you… were you drunking? 😛

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do not take any offense to being called meticulous, obsessive and psychotic! 😄 I take pride in it!

      My plan is to dive into the Japanese stuff in February so expect some reviews coming up in the coming month!

      And I assure you that Stila palette spoke to me! Check it out:

      Sadly, I no longer own this palette! 😛

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This is so awesome Stashy!
    Love your mini dictionary at the end there. Lol and it IS hard work describing a word without using the actual word. I usually try and use it in a sentence to put it into context if I’m explaining to someone.
    I’ll refer back to this next time I feel like reviewing a beauty/skin care product 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Great system you have going, it’s not too dissimilar to my own reviewing system if I’m honest 🙂 I definitely work through the products I’ve had the longest first and I never open new products instantly because of expiry dates there would be too much wastage. Like the terminology list too, I do know these (I didn’t know pills) but always nice to hear someone else’s thoughts as these buzzwords tend to get used a lot x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good to know it’s similar to your process! I don’t think it’s too unique but it’s good to lay it all out and possibly help others use it as a guide / checklist. 🙂
      I hear you about needing to use things up according to oldest to newest – I’ve definitely wasted products that I waited to open and they were nearly their expiry!
      I’d love to add more to the terminology list – there are so many words that beauty blogs use that might not be familiar to some people.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You could make the terminology list an actual page on your blog? I think that would be good! For expiry dates I’ve seen people with three mascaras on rotation at once or a drawer full of old foundations and I’m just like why?! You’re throwing away so much! Maybe I’m just a stingebag though ha!

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  8. Really great breakdown of your process! So helpful! I always trust your recommendations (hello, Shiseido! Haha) but I love the breakdown of your rating system.
    And I got a good laugh at number 2 of your review system! I feel like so many of us do this!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank – I’m glad you found this helpful! I’m just one opinion but I try to be as methodical as possible.
      I feel like buying stuff and not using them is a universal issue… be it makeup, skincare, clothes, accessories. 😛

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Guilty here! I have a gazillion stash sitting here that needs to be shared, some have been tested while some still waiting to be tested. Love this post stashy! Very informative as always!!👍🏻👏🏻😍

    Liked by 1 person

      1. me too. Since I will try really hard not to buy any makeup this month, I guess it’s the perfect time to start reviewing some of my goodies. hehe

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    1. Thank you! Yes, the “Five-W” is an easy to remember guide. Sometimes I get really caught up and start typing and forget about what I’m trying to convey in my reviews. The Ws questions help me get back on track.

      Like

  10. Saving boxes and letting things sit for months before use…I can SO relate lol. This post is so thorough! Anyone who is an aspiring beauty blogger/reviewer would find this amazingly helpful. It’s nice to see you out so much care into the review process. I’m not surprised though, your product recommendations are always spot on 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I knew my fellow beauty addicts would understand about saving boxes and keeping unopened stuff for months and months! 😄
      I do hope new beauty bloggers might stumble upon this and find it helpful! 🙂

      Like

  11. Wow you’re so organised! I go through these questions on my head throughout the period that I’m testing the product. When I start my post, these pours out and some I forget (which I make updates after posting)… It’s so bad 🤔 no one will read a post that they have read… I need to be more organised! Great post I love it 😊

    Like

    1. For me, I realize that I can’t just have thoughts rattle inside my head or else I lose my mind! I must jot them down to get them out of my head, so that’s why I create a draft right away and keep adding to the draft as I go along. My posts end up having a lot of revisions before I publish them but at least I feel like I’ve capture things as I went along and not try to remember it ALL at the end. For instance, this post has 18 revisions since I worked on it a bit at a time and I started writing this post in early January! 😄
      I’m glad you enjoyed this post!

      Like

  12. I’ve been pretty lazy with reviews lately. But the product(s) is/are part of a subscription and the next box is already here and I have yet to touch the previous one, then it’s time to get to it. 😛

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Step #2 is unavoidable for the beauty obsessed, there are only so many products you can try at once!

    As a newer blogger, I found this super helpful! I might have to write up a checklist for myself, or at least a list of goals, to reference for each post I write so I am being consistent and providing adequate information. There have been soooo many times I’ve thought I was done with a post and realized I forgot to say this or that. Sometimes just relying on your own memory is not enough.

    Also, I totally just read your “where was it made” post and now I’m going to be obsessively checking everything. I’m already like that with clothes, don’t know why I’ve never considered that factor with beauty products :]

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I think unless any of us do makeup blogger as a full time job, it’s just not possible to get through the volume of stuff. 😛 And I’d never ever want to be a full time blogger – I would feel so pressured and take all the fun out of it.

      I’m glad you found this useful! I know some people like to use a template for reviews so that they hit all the marks every single time – that might be helpful for you.

      I’m constantly shocked at where some things are made! Nail polishes made in Luxembourg? Weird!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree about full-time blogging, if I felt like I “had” to blog, it would probably ruin it! Plus, I actually want to wear nail polish instead of just swatching all the time…

        Like

  14. Great idea for a post! Excellent tips! I used to use a template for reviews and then I sort of starting changing it up. I’m always caught with where do I stop? …. or I could go on forever. Considering I do that in real life too, it’s no shocker! LOL xox

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I think a template is really helpful – it guides your review and it keeps it consistent from review to review. But yes, it can get a little long and some products just don’t require THAT much detail.
      Haha, I’m curious about how you are “in real life” – you know that Cat and I would love to chat with you for the podcast, so let us know! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Didn’t you see the massive amount of emails we copied on you! Your box should have literally blown up! I’m not working right now but I will be later in February so in the next 2 weeks is the best time if you are doing pods! I’m exactly how I am in writing in real life. Only maybe possibly worse! Victoria Styles will tell you! OLOLOL She was just here in Phoenix with me about 3 weeks ago!

        Like

  15. P.S. that iPhone photo links to a cool article as well! I happened to click it and read that about taking high quality photos with a mobile device and now I’m about to check my phone app photo settings. Double bonus on this!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I do about 25% on my phone and the rest with my camera. It’s just the camera is big, lens huge, flash… gotta get it OFF the camera because you know, I bought the one with WIFI capability that doesn’t really work. OMG….

        Like

  16. Brilliant! And the glossary is priceless. I agree, it’s so difficult to write definitions for words you use every day. 🙂

    My approach to reviews is much simpler. I literally write down my thoughts (“ooh, this smells nice”, “what a sticky mess”, “it smells like… heaven”, “this is rubbish because it balls up – every time and no matter what” and so on).

    Sorry I’m behind with commenting on your posts. For the past ten days I had to deal with my tax return. I finally submitted it last night (I had to, 31 January is the deadline – submitting it later results in an automatic fine). And now I feel like a free human being again!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You must feel so liberated! My SO is the accountant so he does all that stuff. I feel for you!

      Hey, sometimes the simple route yields the same results! I do often note down quick things in my draft like, “this crap smells like a funeral parlour”. But when it comes to the review, I try to tone it down / class it up a bit. 😛

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Truly, I am so lucky. It’s like I went out to hunt down the person who can do all the stuff I can’t do! I give him beauty and fashion advice. LOL. I’ve also knitted him hats and scarves.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. I just hate it when I forget to mention something in a review. And if I’m as objective as possible, then I don’t find myself wanting to change an earlier review because a new product is better / worse relative to it.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. This post is so useful! You are a real wealth of knowledge! I hope you don’t mind if I refer back to it for my reviews in future. I don’t review a lot on my blog (mainly because I don’t know how to write them) but I’m sure this will help 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I’ve always appreciated your thoroughness and attention to the details! You obviously put a lot of time and effort into every post and it shows. I was thinking of putting together a more consistent process for testing products too and you’ve inspired me.

    Side note – I always thought your background was polka dots and I just noticed that it’s actually little “S’s”….not sure if that’s a lack of attention to detail or the opposite! Hee hee!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There’s no “beauty blogger” playbook so I just made it up as I went along! But after 2 years, I’ve gotten a better process of how to tackle reviews. I’m glad you found this helpful! 🙂

      Oh, my background used to be just polka dots! I only changed them to “S” in January – so you’re VERY observant! 😀

      Like

    1. Thank you so much! I always like to take quick notes of first impressions and then additional comments as I’m using the product. I hate forgetting anything. Your reviews are always so thorough – I appreciate that!

      Liked by 1 person

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