Beauty lovers, there's a whole world out there of websites brimming with pretty little pots, palettes, creams and bottles of fragrant concoctions. Sure, the mega-beauty websites – Sephora.com, Beauty.com, Ulta.com — have a wealth of products to choose from. But sometimes you're in a mood for something more akin to a boutique than a mega mall.
Passionate about hard to find fragrances? Check out Luckyscent.com. Inconsolable because your favorite lipstick color was discontinued? Threecustom.com will make it for you from a sample or pull from their database, and they also do custom-blending.
Now's the time to expand your pretty purview and doll-up your "favorites" tab on your laptop. Besides the two websites mentioned above, here's a sampling of some of the other specialty sites that are only a mouse click away.
For the Surprise Party Enthusiast
What it is: Although birchbox.com also sells full-size beauty products, it's best known for offering $10-a-month "subscriptions" for four to five haute beauty samples to be delivered to your door monthly.
What we think: Birchbox.com really does live up to its mission of being a fun, smart, stress-free way to sample high-end beauty products. First, there are no shipping and handling fees, and you can cancel your membership at any time without cancellation fees. My box of beauty goodies came adorned with pink tissue paper in a pink-embellished, gifty-sweet box. The surprise of what's coming is part of the delight, but the surprises are tailored to the client — when you sign up, you fill out a "Beauty Profile" about your general preferences, skin color, hair color and texture and beauty concerns. My samples — which included Archipelago Pomegranate Soap, BVLGARI Mon Jasmin Noir perfume, indigo-colored Stila eyeshadow and AHAVA mineral hand cream — pretty much hit my beauty sweet spot. Nars, Laura Mercier, Marc Jacobs and others are also partner brands.
For the Traveler
What it is: An online boutique offering luxe beauty and grooming products in sizes approved by the Transportation Security Administration for airline carry-ons. They are perfect for the jet-setter, road-tripper, city gym-schlepper or the beauty lover with a wandering eye for whom a full-size product is just too much of a commitment.
What we think: Brilliant idea. Why pay the extra cash to check your bag because your beauty products are too big to take on board? High-flying brands include Ted Gibson, Malin + Goetz, Phyto, The Art of Shaving, Go Smile and Ole Henriksen. If you are staying in New York City within a certain area they even offer a messenger service.
For the Planet Earth Steward
What they are: Spiritbeautylounge.com is dedicated to products from companies with clearly defined humane, ethical and environmental policies, including product packaging that's 100% biodegradable, reusable or recyclable; animal-free product testing; and organic or natural ingredients. Nubonau.com's goal is to connect people with the finest natural and organic brands in the world.
What we think: Finding a host of high-end, organic and/or ethically made beauty products all on one site can be a challenge. Spiritbeautylounge.com does the footwork for you with flair. Tata Harper, Intelligent Nutrients, Patyka and Chocolate Sun are gorgeously notable brands.
NuboNau, their website says, translates to "CloudNine" in Esperanto. The shipping box containing my order — Intelligent Nutrients Certified Organic Anti-Aging Serum for $60 — was filled with silver and white sparkly confetti, a hand-written thank you note and generous free samples. Signature brands include Dr. Hauschka, Pai Skincare, Strange Invisible Perfumes, Juice Beauty and REN.
For the Internationalist
What it is: Their mission is to "source and offer a carefully edited selection of high quality, original and effective beauty products from innovators and specialists around the world," the website says.
What we think: It is a chic website that features brands such as L'Artisan Parfumeur, Jemma Kidd, Diptyque and their own line of Space NK products packed prettily enough to be hostess gifts.
And note: for those times when you need to satisfy your beauty cravings in person, Space NK recently opened a bricks and mortar store at the Brentwood Country Mart in Santa Monica.
For the Independent Thinker
What it is: Their self-assessment of selling "precious," "eclectic" and "exclusive" beauty products from indy brands is right on target.
What we think: This site has an exuberant, playful quality, and it's bursting with quirky, arty products with packaging you can imagine seeing at Anthropologie or Urban Outfitters. With brand and product names such as Alaska Glacial Mud Company, Love & Toast and Miss Ferling's Baume des Tigresses Bling-Bling – this is definitely the place to experiment. But they also sell better known cult favorites such as Tokyo Milk, Paul & Joe, Comme des Garcons, Laqa & Co. and Hollywood Fashion Tape.
For the Deal Chaser
What they are: Hautelook.com is a website where clients register for free and gain access to a bevy of limited-time sales up to 75% off. Gilt City is similar to Groupon in providing discount deals to members, but offerings are more selective.
What we think: Hautelook.com also has fashion, accessories and travel discounts and while the beauty deals aren't vast, if you can catch your favorite brands on sale you really can save a lot of money. For instance, the Kevyn Aucoin Precision Brow Pencil that usually retails for $24 was offered here for just $6.
Giltcity.com offers deep discounts and A-list partnerships in multiple areas, including food, drink, fitness, entertainment and shopping. The beauty category includes premium brands such as Fresh, Murad Inclusive Health Spa, Warren Tricomi, The Nile Institute, Bellacures and Privé Salon. Also look for their fun members' events including movie screenings and cocktails.