When was the last time you were accosted by a perfume pusher or squirted with hand cream by an orange sales assistant in your favourite department store? The beauty department is always strategically placed between the entrance and the parts of the shop you’re actually aiming for and it can seem like you’re walking through some overpoweringly smelly obstacle course.

I used to find beauty departments intimidating until I started working in the makeup business. Now that I have a more purposeful look on my face and my sights on a particular product, I find I am left alone by the assistants. They seem to smell fear – and pounce on anyone who looks uncertain.

It’s not just me, I’ve asked around and the general opinion of my friends is that the beauty department is all hard sell without the product knowledge to back it up. Imagine going to the womenswear floor and being approached by a sales assistant with a dress two sizes too big for you on its hanger, who then holds it up against you for size. You wouldn’t put up with that would you? But the beauty sales assistants don’t know if you have any allergies or if you would refuse to wear a product that had been tested on animals. They just squirt away.

And they always seem to have run out of the tester I want – hmmm, what a coincidence.

So what’s the solution?

Support your local pharmacy, where the assistants have more knowledge and time to talk you through what products will suit your skin, or ask your friends for recommendations, read blogs and online reviews, take your time and buy your cosmetics online.

As far as the beauty department is concerned, walk straight through, with purpose and don’t make eye contact!

Let me know if you’ve had any funny or unusual experiences in department stores.