9 Beauty Bargains Only Insiders Know

Who doesn't love discounted (or free!) beauty loot? The experts spill their secrets for saving on everything from spa appointments to skincare.
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SPA TREATMENTS
Think you can't afford a day at the spa? Hit the mall! At department-store beauty counters, score free mini facials at Clarins and microdermabrasion sessions at Perricone. But you've got to ask for it, says Cheri Botiz, Nordstom's national beauty director. "It's a great insider perk."

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BRUSHES AND TOOLS
Professional makeup artists buy many of their supplies on industry websites like allcosmeticswholesale.com and rellascosmetics.com. You can often find huge markdowns on the most-used brands, like Dior makeup brushes and Japonesque eyelash curlers for half the price, says Lori Riviere, owner of shortcutstofabulous.com.

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NAIL POLISHES
Drugstores have huge aisles dedicated to polishes and files, but celebrity manicurist Carla Kay stocks up on bargain supplies at stores like Kohl's and Bed, Bath & Beyond. "I went to buy a shower caddy and walked out with salon-quality Essie polish and Duri Rejuvacote," she says.

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LIPSTICKS AND GLOSSES
When buying lip color, go cheap. "The formulations of drugstore and prestige brands are very similar," says cosmetic chemist Ron Robinson of beautystat.com. In other words: You won't feel or see a difference if you switch to a lower-priced version.

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SPECIAL SETS
Through longtime relationships with major brands, QVC sells exclusive, souped-up value sets that beauty junkies covet, like the Mally Volumizing Mascara Duo ($28 for 2 on qvc.com, $20 each on other sites). More set-savvy brands to follow: Bare Escentuals, Philosophy and Proactiv.

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EYESHADOWS AND MASCARAS
Get a whole new drawer full of makeup each month with just a click! The websites all-free-samples.com and free-makeup-samples.com catalog major beauty discounts and freebies, covering hundreds of drugstore and department store labels. Also on the radar: new mascaras at Clinique and the latest eye palettes at MAC.

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GO-TO FAVES
Get the best price on your beauty staples using a smartphone. Download thefind.com's cost-comparison app and use it to scan the barcode of a beauty item (say, your regular body wash or razor) to find where it's being sold for less. The app scans stores and websites for shipping costs, too.

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ANTIAGING LOTIONS
Companies know they can entice buyers by naming exotic, powerful-sounding plants and botanicals on the label, yet it's the proven antiaging ingredients that really make a product valuable -- and those don't have to be expensive. Look for terms like "retinol," "vitamin C," "tea tree extracts" and "hydroxy acids," which are used in affordable lines like Olay, Neutrogena, Roc and L'Oréal, Robinson says.

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SUPERSIZE SAMPLES
Many department-store counters offer "test-drives" on premiere products, like jumbo samples at La Prairie and La Mer. Nordstom's Sample Saturdays are also a freebie goldmine: "We'll give customers samples whether or not they're buying the product," Botiz says. Bobbi Brown offers two complimentary samples, plus trials of their bestsellers, and Kiehl's "gives out tons of stuff, at least three with each purchase," says Robert Scott, aesthetician and owner of Robert Scott Face/Body.

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