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Shopping for beauty products online is no easy feat. Depending on how good your monitor is (or in our case, how dirty your computer screen might be) that coral lipstick you ordered might end up looking more orange than planned when it arrives at your door—which is actually the least of the disasters that can befall you when purchasing products you can't test in person. To help navigate the world wide web of beauty, we've listed what we consider to be 38 of the best beauty websites out there. Did we forget your favorite? Leave it in the comments below.
1. Sephora: Naturally, Sephora is an obvious choice for our Beauty 38—for the brands it carries and for the super-simple shopping format. Browse your favorite products, or peruse categories like "Today's Free Samples" (bingo), "Editor Obsessions," and "Top Rated Products." Plus, they've just implemented a redesign, and it's even better than the original.
2. Beauty Bar: Beauty Bar is relatively new on the scene (the site launched in 2010), but we're already hooked. It stocks everything from makeup, fragrance, men's products, and natural lines from about 150 brands, and each order comes with three free samples. They've also recently partnered with Allure to deliver the "Sample Society," a monthly membership program that delivers luxury, travel-friendly samples with expert advice.
3. Bliss: If there's one thing that Bliss is awesome at, it's making you feel really, really good about spending a bunch of money on beauty products. The site, just like the brand itself, is extra cheery, and the "Special Offers" tab always has great deals. Become a "Glow-It-All" to receive member's only offers.
4. MAC Cosmetics: Visually, the MAC Cosmetics site is just as great as its products. (It's strangely hard not to be tempted with neon purple eyeshadow when the landing page is a model done up in an extra bold lid.) Bonus: The "My MAC" tab let's you customize your profile and select your favorite products for easy shopping, and there's free shipping on every order.
5. L'Occitane en Provence: There's always a ton of stuff happening on the L'Occitane website, so try not to get overwhelmed with the sensory overload. In addition to e-commerce, the site also features tons of helpful beauty tidbits, like information on why almonds are so good for you, and a YouTube video on how to pronounce the brand's name.
6. Nars: Sometimes, all it takes to make a website top notch is really good imagery. Cue the Nars site, with its dramatic lookbook images plastered on the homepage. It also doesn't hurt that they stock the best bronzing powder on the planet.
7. Fresh: You probably already own some sort of Fresh beauty product. If you forget the name of it, no worries—it'll most likely be on the "Fresh Favorites" page, which highlights everything from their Sugar Lip Treatment to the Sugar Body Polish. They throw in three samples per order, so you'll always be able to find more products to obsess over.
8. Laura Mercier: In addition to stocking products we're in love with, the Laura Mercier website is also quite educational. On it, you can watch video tutorials, play with the "Virtual Makeup Artist Tool," and use the "Flawless Face Finder" to figure out exactly what products are best for your complexion.
10. Diptyque: Diptyque candles aren't cheap, but there's just something about their packaging and that label—not to mention the delicious signature scents—that seem to make the extra dollars worth it. And the website is just as appealing: Take an endless-scrolling tour through the brand's Paris flagship, should you not be able to make it there in person.
11. Shu Uemura: Shu Uemura's website makes the list because Shu Uemura's website is the only place in the U.S. you can currently buy Shu Uemura. The "Discontinued" tab might feel like salt in the wound, but for every product that the company no longer sells, they'll recommended another one that's just as obsession worthy.
12. Chanel: Chanel doesn't really need any sort of explanation as to why it made the list, because, well, it's Chanel. If you need one, how about the online exclusives, the "Foundation Diagnosis", or how cute this is.
13. Bobbi Brown Cosmetics: Maybe you're shopping online for beauty products beacuse you don't feel like dealing with a salesperson, but every now and then you're going to have to suck it up and accept the fact that you need help. In comes Bobbi Brown's "Chat With an Artist," which you can do on the site weekdays from 10am—10pm, and on Sundays from 11am—7pm. Just in case you need some cat-eye pointers, or what have you.
14. (Malin+Goetz): Each (Malin+Goetz) product contains a bevy of information on the label (what's in it and exactly what it's gonna do), and the website is no different. The "Problems+Solutions" tab also recommends appropriate treatments for skin conditions like rosacea, seborrhea, and eczema.
15. Aesop: Curious how antioxidants work? Aesop will explain that for you. Need to buy some corporate gifts? Want to watch a short film while looking for lotion and shampoo? They're on that too. In fact, the Aesop site is real afternoon time-suck, albeit a good one—you'll initially arrive to shop, but you'll most likely get sidetracked with all of the odds and ends they've added for your viewing pleasure.
16. YSL: Two magic words here—online exclusives. Some other magic words: Free shipping all the time with no minimum purchase, and 10% off your first order. Trifecta!
17. SpaceNK: For novices, arriving at the SpaceNK website is like arriving at Beauty School 101 with features like "Must Have Skincare," "Hot Spring Shades," and "On Trend Makeup." For those in the know, bypass those steps and go straight to the product pages, categorized by type.
18. Clinique: The Clinique website makes shopping online for beauty and skincare products a cinch. All of your purchases are stored automatically, so there's no more guessing if you bought that last eyeliner in black or black/brown. There's also a "Skin Diagnostic" section, and an area where you can sign up for auto replenishment of your favorite items.
19. Bloomingdale's: The beauty department over at Bloomingdale's carries pretty much any high-end brand you could ever want. Some of our favorites include Chantecaille, La Mer, Sisley-Paris, Dior, and SK-II.
20. Drugstore.com: There's nothing fancy about Drugstore.com, but that's what makes it genius. Let's face it: Some of the best beauty products can be found at Duane Reade, and here's where you can shop them all in one place.
21. Apothica: If you know what kind of things you like, but you're not sure who makes them, no worries: Apothica will figure that out for you. Shop by note (jasmine, orange, sandalwood...) or by scent type (floral, fresh/clean, spicy...) to navigate the site's heady stock.
22. Beauty.com: For people who need extra help (us), Beauty.com offers a "Skin Care Analysis" as well as a "Hair Care Consultation." Plus, there's a "Runway Recap" section, in case you forget what's cool this season.
23. Nordstrom: Do you like saving money? Nordstrom's online beauty department offers up a ton of "beauty values"—like a Lancôme's set worth $100 for $75 and a Bvlgari set worth $90 for $59. Plus, the last time we checked, there were about twenty how-to videos posted on the site.
24. Sebastian Professional: If you're going through an "I hate my hair" phase, Sebastian's "Looks" index is full of new dos to try, with product recommendations on how to get them just right.
25. Jurlique: Since biology was never really our subject, we appreciate Jurlique's "Natural Ingredients Glossary." Now we know what allantoin, nettle, and sichuan peppercorn extract are.
26. Butter London: The British import has a dedicated nail fanatic following, but don't look for it on the shelves of your favorite cheap manicure spot. Instead, pick your favorite colors for the season here, and bring 'em with your to your corner salon.
27. Barneys: Barneys, much like the other department stores here, makes the list for its extensive selection of products. Brands we love include Oribe, Clé de Peau Beauté, Lipstick Queen, Deborah Lippmann, and plenty more.
28. Fekkai: Every $50 purchase gets you a complimentary gift, and currently all shipping is free. The "Consult Frederic" questionnaire will guide you to the perfect product (or regime, if you're planning an entire Fekkai-approved makeover).
29. Smashbox: The interactive options on Smashbox's site are no joke. Shop by "Recently Liked" products, "Most liked products," and "My Friends Like" products. Plus, the "All About Prime" page will fill you in on every possible detail about the brand's famous primers.
30. Benefit: Benefit's site will not only assist you with buying a slew of new beauty products—it'll also put you in a really good mood. Their cheeky packaging and extensive use of puns puts the fun back in shopping for makeup (or at least distracts you from how much you're spending.)
31. Saks: Saks' beauty collection is the crème de la crème—think La Mer, Chanel, Dior, Tom Ford, and more. Plus, there's a designated "Special Offers" page, which includes gift with purchases and other goodies.
32. Jo Malone: Fragrance combining is a tricky thing to master, so it's a good thing the Jo Malone website has an entire section dedicated to helping you through amateur hour. Also: Shopping for gifts is a cinch, and includes the extra perk of tissue-paper spritzed with the brand's fragrances.
33. SaffronRouge: If you're looking for organic products, then Saffron Rouge is your go-to. And they take their selection seriously: All of the products sold on the site must have organic body care certifications (or prove they would qualify for one), and they refuse to sell anything with even one "Black List" ingredient—which include benzenetriacetate and naphthalenediol, or, the scary products normally found in hair-dye.
34. Maybelline: Out of all the drugstore products in the world, we keep coming back to Maybelline. On the brand's site, the "Lessons" page is full of ways to make those $10-and-under products even better.
35. Shiseido: Shiseido's site offers free shipping and lots of special offers, and their designated page will help you navigate one of the most cultish beauty products around.
36. Bond No. 9 New York: The online destination for this local favorite offers plenty to look at, from the playful site graphics to pages and pages of perfumes, candles, and even T-shirts.
37. Dior: Looking for inspiration? Dior's "The Universe of Makeup" tab on the bottom includes how to pick a product, backstage makeup, and instructional videos. Plus, the "House of Dior in Video" and the newly launched "Dior Mag" are just clicks away.
38. Urban Decay: Urban Decay's "What's New" page will keep you up to date on this season's trends (like their upcoming line of eyeshadows), but they also realize that oldies are goodies. There's a designated page with current product recommendations, in case your favorite shade from last season was discontinued.
Want to know where to shop on the ground? Find out who made the list in Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York.
· BOOM: Presenting the First Ever Racked National 38 [Racked]
· All Beauty Week 2012 Coverage [Racked]