At Mac Cosmetics in Boston, they don’t let you leave ugly. In fact, they want to make you happy even if you’re not going to buy any of their products.
I discovered this one quiet and cool spring night when I walked into the empty make-up store on Newbury Street where gossipy girls sat around looking gray with boredom. I was greeted by a woman dressed in all black with eye makeup that looked like neon green lasers were shooting from her eyes.
“Do you know what you want, hun?” she asked.
“I don’t know” I laughed, “Probably a change.”
The gal guided me to sit on a bar stool. She told me she was going to give me a special surprise. It’s Showtime! My makeup guide reached for my face and smeared concealer all over. Like an inspired painter attacking a blank canvas, she applied the stuff with broad, dramatic sweeps. Then she pulled a small fluffy brush out and gently applied a creamy eyeshadow that felt like liquid cashmere. She repeated this again and again until she had covered my entire face. I felt my hands tensed and began to sweat as I wondered what I should say to her if she ends up making me look like a drag queen. When finished, she stood me up, demanding the gaze of every eye in the place. I heard an explosion of applause. I opened my eyes and turned to the mirror. Is that me?
And that's how I stumbled upon the free make over. There are plenty of ways you can get free products and free makeovers. Stores like Sephora, Mac, The Body Shop, and Origins give out testers of any products upon request. The grand thing about it all is that you'll usually get a fairly decent amount—samples can last weeks. And they're portable. The sample products come in perfect sizes to bring along on plane rides, pack on weekend getaways, or to carry around for a quick freshening up after the gym. Retail associates are paid to help you find the right product, so go on—ask for a tester. And it pays to recycle. When you collect six empty Mac containers and bring them back to the store, you'll get a free product.
Many of the top salons, including Vidal Sassoon and Aveda, have sessions for stylists and colorists still going through training. These classes present the perfect opportunity for anyone in search of a free hair makeover. The stylist gets to test out different techniques, while you get a high-end haircut. And don’t worry about leaving with the kind of cut that will have you wearing a hat for the next month; a senior stylist always closely observes the trainees. Be prepared for the cut or color to take longer than a normal haircut—stylists in training take longer to make sure they are doing their work on you correctly. For more information, contact the hair studios and ask if they are in need any models.
If offering your hair sounds like too much of a risk, then try other free pampering by contacting a nearby cosmetology school. Cosmetology students are always looking for volunteers to practice their manicure, pedicures, wax, and haircut techniques more. If you’re hesitant about the quality of treatment then you can always ask for someone who is near graduation. Like at a salon, professionals supervise every student giving a treatment.