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Online Beauty and Fashion Scams

Don't fall for these money traps

Lois Joy Johnson: Fashion Scams

Dan Saelinger / Trunk Archive

Is your quest to save online actually costing you more money?

Online shopping tricks us into buying more stuff more often. Our fingers fly from to Target and from Amazon to Sephora faster than a parking meter gobbles quarters. Notice I didn't say we were shopping smarter, saving money or looking better as a result of all this keyboard action. In fact, we're making the same mistakes we made inside the stores and, in our zeal to save, adding new ones. Here's when to step away from the mouse.

Don't get seduced by last calls, final markdowns and flash sales. Retailers know these words trigger FOMO (fear of missing out). Once you show an interest in an item, retailers retarget and follow you in hopes you'll buy. For example, I clicked twice on a three-quarter-sleeve, sequin-covered sheath dress by Haute Hippie that was marked down from $995 to $348 during a one-day only sale — and yet it keeps popping up in my inbox and in ads on other websites I view a week later. Yes, I am being stalked by a dress via creepy technology! Do as I did: Delete your browser's cookies, and search for a good roasted cauliflower recipe instead.

Don't shop emotionally for beauty items. Small indulgences such as lipstick, perfume and face cream are comfort buys when we feel anxious, angry, sad or, let's be honest ... fat. Playing hooky from your diet, skipping workouts or scarfing bags of veggie chips and spoonfuls of almond butter? That’s reason enough for beauty therapy, especially if a gift with your purchase or a discount code sweetens the deal. Here's a mistake-proof secret: Keep a sticky note on your laptop or iPad with beauty items you really need to make impulse splurges — clever and guilt-free.

Don't cheat on size, color and details because it's the "Biggest Sale of the Season." This is the road to returns. Yes, your size may sell out fast, and the color you prefer is gone. But stop talking yourself into it. If the shoes are size 6 1/2 and you're a 7 ... if khaki does nothing for your skin tone and the sold-out red does ... if your arms look better in elbow- and three-quarter-length sleeves ... just go read your Kindle. Any sale item should also allow you to walk, eat, breathe and let your body live without mandatory shapewear ... aside from the price.

Don't trust that the product you see is the product you'll get. Between clever on-set stylists (pinning, taping and posing items for the best shot) and post-production photoshopping, nothing is as it appears to be. While we love makeup try-on apps and online beauty adviser "chats," both can lure you into a false sense of security. Check out sites where you can read consumer feedback — all of them, not just the five-star ratings. And be skeptical! One age 50+ woman's "Holy Grail" product may not be yours unless your specific goals match — like a matte lipstick that's not drying or a foundation that covers brown spots but looks authentic.  

Don't take "Buyers' picks! See what's trending!" personally. More sites bait consumers with trend reports to promote sales of new merchandise. Check them out for fun and because it's good to know what's new, but don't let this push you into buying. Colorful lacy bralettes (a huge lingerie trend) are cheap and pretty, but they don't hold anything up! Use them as inspiration to find a pink or blue lace bra with support and structure that's on sale — and buy panties that match, too! 

For more beauty and style tips for women age 50+, check out The Woman’s Wakeup: How to Shake Up Your Looks, Life and Love After 50 by Lois Joy Johnson and AARP’s Beauty & Style app for tablets.