#TuesdaysWithLarry: Horrors From The Beauty Retail Floor

What a former beauty counter staff wishes he could say to customers


Besides his amazing makeup skills and depth of knowledge on everything beauty, another reason why we love working with celebrity makeup artist Larry Yeo is his (often brutal) honesty. When you need someone to tell you your foundation colour is wrong, or your K-pop inspired brows are ridiculous, he’s your guy. So buckle up for #TuesdaysWithLarry, where the makeup maestro dishes out beauty tips, tricks and advice with a big spoonful of sass and spice.

Larry Yeo with a model, circa 2007

I have worked in the retail and service line for quite a while; first starting out as a sales assistant for children's wear, a waiter at Molly Malone's Irish Bar and Chinese Swimming Club, followed by stints at makeup brands like Clinique and MAC. I’ve even worked at ZARA for a little while.

I loved being in retail, because it arms me with the right skills to read customers and pre-empt what they want with the right questions.

But it can be shocking how people forget about their own manners, while expecting great customer service. It is even more shocking when self-entitled individuals think they are better than the service staff in whatever imaginary world they are in.

Here is a tip:  Treat people how you would like to be treated.

So, let me tap into my 20 years of experience in the service industry and share what beauty brands are too polite to say to customers, and the horrors that their retail staff face daily (yes, the following is completely drawn from my personal experience on the retail floor).

Oh, I am just "testing" the fragrance and how it sits on my skin.

I know you are.

You are always here every day after your gym session to spray your favourite perfume.

Here is a tip, buy a travel-sized bottle and put it into your gym bag.

Do you have samples?

Yes, I have.

You took them last week when you were here for the same products.

Yes, there are people who constantly go to different beauty counters to ask for product samples. All the retail staffs recognise their faces, and they might even be banned by different companies. This doesn’t stop them, however, as they will just target new staff for samples.

There is also a group of 10-12 people who share a WhatsApp chat group to talk about where to get skincare samples / free food / free drinks or update each other on events that are giving away goodie bags. Even though their numbers, names and email addresses have been blacklisted by various companies, they continue to register for freebies using different contact details. #ExtremeFreebiers

Can lah. I’m only short of $2 to redeem the free gift.

Sure, Madame. Let me take $2 from my own pocket so you can get the free gift, which you are keeping for yourself.

I have sensitive skin...

Sweetie, let's get real. "Sensitive skin" is a term created by people to make themselves feel special.

Anyone can react to anything and yes, this includes "natural products". Allergy to a particular makeup/skincare/body wash can be developed over time from exposure to the same product, triggered by an active ingredient or fragrance.

So, understand what is causing your skin sensitisation before rushing out to buy every new skincare product that is launched.

Oh, my child is not doing anything wrong. He/She/It is just playing with the products testers, what!

Oh honey, I don't go to your house and just play with your things, do I?

The testers are there for customers who want to try makeup. This is not a kindergarten.

Your kid just dug his nose and is putting that finger onto the powder testers. Your kid is putting blue eyeshadow on her lips. Your kid is playing hide-and-seek at the counter with sharp edges.

We know that your child learnt bad manners from you, but understand that you are not the only customer that would appreciate clean product testers.

Which colour suits me?

How would I know? I barely know you.

There are no hard and fast rules about what colours would suit us. Our personalities determine what colours we are comfortable with, and our skin tone affects the colours that we can wear.

The location and how the surrounding lights up are also factors that affect how the makeup will eventually look on our face.

I want to cover my cystic acne, but I also want the makeup to be natural and not too thick.

I will not suggest using makeup to hide the skin. Piling makeup on your face will never look natural.

Treat the acne first before applying more makeup, because makeup will not help with the inflammation, nor last long on your face, given our weather.

Oh, I just want eye makeup that is natural... -30min of trying on eye makeup later- How about this one, is this one natural? (points to blue eyeshadow)

No Madame, unless you have naturally blue eyes for an Asian or you fell down and bruised yourself… Blue is not a natural colour for you.

Taupes, browns, mauve, flushed pinks, warm apricots, beige and hues of every skin tone are natural colours.

No, that foundation is too dark. I want my face "brighter", I am as fair as you!

No Madame, if you are washed-out pale, I will be transparent.

Let me show you how to find the right foundation for your skin tone.  

But this is from your brand!

It is my brand, but you bought it off Carousell from an unknown source, who might have already used it because the seal is broken. By the way, the sticker on the box says it’s from Korea and Singapore isn't a state of Korea.

This tub of skincare product has turned bad (after 7 months of usage).

Excuse me Sir, are you trying to breed a fungi farm with the product? This is the first time that I’ve seen fungal growth in the cream.

Once opened, a tub of skincare is best used within 4 months due to the heat and humidity of our climate. So, finish the product before you buy another.

Your facial soap is spoilt.

Of course it is spoilt – you have been using the facial soap for 7 months and it is already 1/6 of its original size. #DontBeGrossAndCheapoPlease

Isn’t this made by your company? I am sure that I can exchange it! (Product was bought 8 years ago.)

Yes Sir, I am sure that I can exchange a new product for this discontinued product, which you’ve kept in the abyss of your drawers and found after hoarding it for 8 years.

Where is the CHAN-NEL Counter?

Madame, I have no idea what are you talking about.

However, the Chanel Beauty counter is just further down the beauty aisle.

Your lipstick quite expensive, hor? (while carrying a super expensive leather bag)

Really, Madame? Maybe you can try the drugstore for a more "reasonably" priced lipstick that suits your budget.

But your products give me breakouts (after 11 skincare steps).

Madame, I think you should stop after that 5th serum and 2nd moisturiser are applied on your skin. There are more products on your face than your skin.

This product with some holy plant on some high mountain can give me beautiful skin, even though I do not get enough sleep.

Sweetheart, before you claim that, I can see that your face has benefited from Botulinum Toxin injection and I can also tell that your cheekbones are on-point from new fillers, as they are more aerodynamic than an A380.

No matter what skincare products you put on your skin, sleep and rest are most important for proper skin regeneration.

For more from Larry Yeo, check out #TuesdaysWithLarry: The Right Match  and #TuesdaysWithLarry: Beauty Myths Busted.

sign up for our newsletter

Sign up to receive a weekly round-up of the latest fashion, beauty and lifestyle news!

By signing up, I consent to ELLE’s Terms & Conditions.


you will love this

we also recommend

you’ll love this