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How to avoid the most common Black Friday shopping mistakes

From Ulta to Amazon — pro tips for discovering the best Black Friday beauty deals while avoiding the dreaded buyer's remorse.

Black Friday shopping is wildly popular in the U.S. for a reason. Our Black Friday deals can be shockingly robust and the non-stop campaigns surrounding these once-a-year sales are often irresistibly tantalizing. In fact, consumer psychologists report that saving money during Black Friday sales induces positive sensations in our brains; leaving us feeling like winners, like we've "won" the smart shopper prize. For some, Black Friday also triggers an adrenaline response, a heightened sense of urgency and/or a panicky fear of missing out on something great.

According to a survey by The National Retail Federation, more than half of all Americans opened their wallets on Black Friday 2022, with the average U.S. shopper spending $430. Still, no matter how thrilling the post-Thanksgiving discount chase initially feels, many of these same consumers — up to 60% according to The National Retail Federation — regretted buying at least one sale item and felt they'd made purchasing mistakes. So how can you avoid Black Friday buyer's remorse while still cashing in on the biggest beauty deals?

woman choosing lipstick Black Friday shopping
During Black Friday sales, consumers save an average of 25% on items like cosmetics — but some deals are not as good as they seem.

I reached out to beauty industry expert Dana Oliver, along with Jill Dunn and Carlene Higgins, co-hosts of Dear Media's mega-popular Breaking Beauty podcast, to find out the smartest ways to shop this year's Black Friday beauty sales while escaping its most perilous shopping mistakes.

Black Friday Shopping Mistake #1: Failing to plan

For most Americans, Black Friday shopping events become omnipresent around this time of year; they follow us everywhere we go online and into the places we shop in real life. This nonstop bombardment — along with heightened FOMO — can make the urge to impulse buy extra enticing even if shopping like this often leads to ill-thought-out trash purchases or, more likely, perfectly good items that are simply no good for you (I'm looking at you, never-worn pleather skort I bought in 2015).

In order to avoid regretting Black Friday beauty purchases later, experts say it's important to devise a plan now, before you start to spend. "I recommend that people take stock of their daily or weekly beauty and grooming routines and really consider: What are the products that will be beneficial and help them to reach their individual goals?" says Oliver. These could be overarching concepts such as "I want a better nighttime skin-care routine" (then listing out all of the products that go into it) or just one-off items, as in: "I want to start wearing eyeliner" (and researching and writing down the best brand).

Remedy: Make a master "Black Friday beauty" shopping list

To create your list, start by sorting through products you already own, love and would like to re-stock. Next, add any "wish list" items you've been curious about but don't want to buy at full price. In addition to noting the items themselves, jot down the original cost (more on this in a second) and links to where you're likely to buy each product (Sephora vs. Ulta vs. the brand's site for example). This will help you quickly analyze discounts. Explains Oliver: "I strongly recommend comparing the prices across retailers before rushing to add to cart."

If you're stumped for ideas, the Breaking Beauty hosts advise: "Black Friday is the best time to stock up on big-ticket items." Higgins adds: "Skincare tools like LED face masks are some of our faves to invest in — almost every skin type can benefit from these."

Oliver similarly recommends shopping for gadgets and gizmos: "This is usually a great time to get good deals on high-priced beauty tools such as facial toning devices, electronic toothbrushes, shavers, curling irons, blow dryers, and, yes, LED masks!"

Black Friday Shopping Mistake #2: Falling for deals that aren't actually deals

woman browsing Black Friday deals online on her smart phone,
On Black Friday, read each item's description carefully to make sure you're getting exactly what you want.

"The major thing I’m looking for during a Black Friday sale event is the actual deals," says Dana Oliver. "Are the discounts really discounts? Or does it seem as though these brands and retailers have increased the original price and tacked on a percentage off to lure consumers like myself?"

Buyer beware: Brands may inflate a products' original retail price to make their Black Friday discounts seem more appealing. Or, they may sell an older and/or discontinued version of a product or a special miniature version with a too-large price tag. All of which will most likely negate the big-deal savings they've implied and, once these not-great items arrive, leave you feeling foolish/sad.

Remedy: Go slow and read everything

Before moving any individual item to your cart, carefully read its product description (including specs like size and volume). Second, be sure to compare the listed sale price with the original cost you jotted down — if it's higher than it was a week ago, you know you're being scammed.

Black Friday Shopping Mistake #3: Overspending

Even if you've followed our rules so far, it's likely you'll get caught up in the thrill of capitalism next week and start blinding shopping/transforming into a consumer goblin, tossing last minute foot peels in your cart, or an eye cream you know nothing about and do not need, or a perfume you saw on Instagram one time and though "huh, maybe" get the idea.

Remedy: Check return policies and shipping dates and seek out every savings you can

This is smart advice for any kind of shopping, not just Black Friday: Always find out what you can return and how you can return it before you pay. 

"I’m also paying attention to shipping dates," says Oliver, "and if there is any free and fast shipping available because this event is so close to gifting season."

Last, to get the most out of every sale, Dunn and Higgins recommend the following: "Often you can 'stack' deals. This is the best kind of girl math! Say a brand has 35% off site-wide, then, if you sign up for their newsletter, or download their app, you can often get an additional 5 or 10% off," Higgins explains.

Black Friday Shopping Mistake #4: Purchasing "gifts" that should never be gifts

Testers of different lipsticks in the cosmetic store
Not everyone wants a lipstick for a holiday gift, even if you found it on mega Black Friday sale.

Here's what's going to happen. You're going to open your email next week, see a great deal on a popular beauty item, maybe even one you like yourself, and think, "Ooh this would make a great gift for Aunt Helen!" Cut to the day of the gift exchange when Aunt Helen unwraps your well-intentioned cream/lip gloss/bronzer and is instantly offended because she believes you think she's a wizened crone who doesn't know how to make herself up.

"Beauty products as gifts can be tricky," says Oliver. "Unless you know the person well enough to get it right, I always take into consideration the individual’s personality, interest and general affinity for beauty and grooming." Put another way: If you're not ABSOLUTELY sure someone will LOVE a particular product or they haven't asked for it, steer away from most grooming and skin-care items as gifts.

Remedy: Choose these gifts instead

"Candles are often a nice alternative to beauty products," Oliver explains, "especially for travelers or new homeowners. Mini candle gift sets make it easy for the recipient to try different scents and find out what they like best."

Look for a non-burning gift? "Advent calendars are a really fun way to sample a bunch of products at once," says Higgins."And we also think fragrance samplers are genius — mini sizes of a bunch of different scents that you can trial-and-error."

Your Black Friday Shopping Guide: See all of Yahoo’s Black Friday coverage here. Follow Engadget for Black Friday tech deals. Learn about Black Friday trends on In The Know. Hear from Autoblog’s experts on the best Black Friday deals for your car, garage and home, and find Black Friday sales to shop on AOL, handpicked just for you.