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Finding the Right Shade

Finding the Right Shade

on Nov 6, 2013 in Blog, Travel Log, Travel Tips

A Lesson about International Cosmetics

It seems that some standard commodities—like make-up—are a bit more expensive in other parts of the world. I was running low on foundation as we prepared to depart Europe, so I had hoped to save money and make use of the airport duty free store to replenish some of my make-up staples.

I’ve always walked past the duty-free make-up, perfume and accessories at airports, but I never really paid attention to what products were actually stocked in the stores. I should have known that the make-up selection is much smaller than what you find in an American department store. After browsing the cosmetics and not finding my favorite shades, I quickly realized that I was going to need an alternate plan to replenish my supply. It’s probably something that I should have thought of prior to heading to China!

Luckily, I had been conservative and was able to make the cosmetics that I did pack last for over four months … and was even able to comfortably extend that for another month as we traveled through China. However, by my estimations, it wasn’t likely that I’d be able to stretch them for another four weeks while traveling in Thailand.

I decided that Bangkok was my best bet for mainstream cosmetics, so one evening after dinner we walked past a store that had all the customary department store brands. We ducked into the store and I moved to the appropriate counter and politely requested a specific foundation color—by both name and number. The woman across the counter returned my request with a blank stare. After a brief exchange, I soon learned that the available colors (and associated numbers) in Thailand are limited AND bear no resemblance to those we have in the U.S. This transaction was going to take far more than the two minute exchange that I was anticipating.

The woman proceeded to pull out cotton swabs and test a handful of colors on the back of my hand. It was clear that my skin tone did not bear any resemblance to the targeted Thai consumer. Even in my semi-tan state, none of the options were really all that good. Hmm … that wasn’t something I had anticipated.

I evaluated my options: a) make do and go without more make-up until we reached a western country; b) pick the best of the available Thai hues; or c) continue shopping and hope for a better outcome somewhere else, with a different product. It was a pretty simple split-second decision to pick the best available option, move on, and hope to acquire a great bronze tan before I needed to break into my new stash!

We packed on the premise that you can buy most things nearly anywhere in the world. And that’s true.  However, there are some instances where finding the exact product you want may be a bit more difficult and require a little compromise.

Anyone else out there have similar issues with cosmetics? Are there any other products you’ve had trouble finding while on the road?

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