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Savvy shoppers go online

MANY moons ago, when we were all sure that by 2010 we'd be popping food pills for our every nutritional need and using jet-packs to zip around the place, it was imagined that we'd do all our shopping from our own homes.

Our every purchase would then be delivered right to the door, most likely by an intergalactic postbox on a Jetsons-style spaceship.

Well, while I'm still waiting on a personal rocketpowered flying device and my postman still has to use his bike to make his rounds, at least it is now possible to do an awful lot of your beauty shopping from home. Purchasing make-up, skincare, haircare and bodycare products over the internet from your couch (or work desk — shhh!) has become a viable alternative to traipsing around the cosmetics counters of a wet Wednesday evening.

Convenience is, of course, the huge plus of buying your beauty bits online. If you have difficulty travelling to the shops to get your beauty fix, work during store hours, or, like SATC actress Cynthia Nixon, simply hate the whole physical shopping experience, online shopping is for you.

It's hard to beat surfing the virtual shops from home with the laptop on your knees while watching telly over the top of your computer screen. It's also possible to make substantial savings without having to schlep from shop to shop to compare prices by shifting your beauty shopping from the high street to the internet. Online retailers don't have the same overheads that shops do and these savings should translate to cheaper prices.

Additional savings can sometimes be had by changing the currency in which you shop, although some e-tailers are cottoning on to this trick and clamping down on it by linking the currency in which you're permitted to shop to your location — sneaky beggars. It's worth a try, though, so select sterling or dollar rather than euro as your currency if possible, and just work out the equivalent euro value to suss out the potential savings.

I bet it's what Hilary Swank would do — the Oscar-winning actress is a very savvy shopper and has spoken of her love of nabbing a bargain. While some consumers cite cutting the sales assistant out of the transaction as another advantage of online shopping, this can be a real mixed blessing.

Okay, it means you'll no longer have to deal with being ignored for what feels like forever as two assistants gab about their plans for the weekend before one of them eventually rolls her eyes and deigns to deal with you. Sure, you'll never again have to skulk away with your tail between your legs from the assistant who behaved as though you'd asked for her first-born child rather than a sample of her brand's newest foundation.

However, online shopping also cuts out the good — and the sometimes absolutely great — sales assistants, and removes the personal touch completely. It also makes a real guessing game of things like choosing the right shade of that new foundation.

The workaround? Try items instore if necessary . . . and then buy online if the sales assistant is less than lovely. Before you reach for the credit card, though, please bear in mind that you are liable for VAT charges on goods purchased from Jersey or outside the EU if the value of any individual parcel exceeds €22, and you will be charged if it's stopped by Customs.

Now that the small print is out of the way, here are my favourite places for an online beauty bargain.

EBAY.IE can be a great place to pick up new, hardto-get or sold-out beauty bits — although you may have to pay over the odds to get your paws on the latter. Shipping charges from eBay sellers are often more reasonable than some online stores.

HQHAIR.COM is a UK-based company with an almost bewilderingly vast product range. There you'll find GHDs and foot creams and everything in between – these guys have you covered from topto- toe. Try sister outfit HQoutletstore (hqoutletstore. com) for discounted sale items. Shipping to Ireland costs £4.50 (€5.33) for a single item or £6.50 (€7.70) for an unlimited number of items across both sites.

ASOS.COM is not just for fashion: the UK site also has a well-stocked beauty boutique. Look out for gorgeous bits from niche brands such as Paul & Joe Beauté and Illamasqua; standard shipping to Ireland costs €2.99.

EYEKO.COM sell their eponymous nail polishes, eye make-up and moisturisers direct through this UK website. European shipping is free. These are products that will find favour with teens and girls of all ages who like a bit of cuteness with their cosmetics.

FEELUNIQUE.COM have rock-bottom prices on a wide range of beauty essentials and luxury treats. The Jersey-based company offers free shipping.

ADONISGROOMING.COM If you're looking to replenish your Dermalogica supplies without paying full price, make a beeline for Adonis Grooming, also based in Jersey. There's a flat fee of £5.95 (€7.05) for shipping to Ireland.

STRAWBERRYNET.COM is one of the few places to pick up discounted MAC make-up online. The selection can be hit and miss but shipping from Hong Kong is free.

8TY8BEAUTY.COM and TRANSDESIGN.COM cater for nail varnish fanatics, with bottles from high-end brands selling for a couple of dollars apiece. Both offer flat-rate shipping of about $16 (€12.18) for eight bottles, but email first to get the best P&P quote.