How, Where, What | Ordering Beauty Products Online

I had a few requests to do a post on shopping for overseas brands online, where to shop from and the details regarding customs etc. New brands keep arriving in South Africa (yay Urban Decay!), which is great, but there are still some brands which we are longing for and have to source overseas, like Hourglass, Tarte and NARS…to name but a few. So here is a roundup of some good places to shop online. I’ve updated this post to include a few South African online stores I love.


Look Fantastic

I’ve bought from LookFantastic before when I ordered my Naked 3 palette. They offer free worldwide shipping, but be aware that you will have to pay customs when you collect your parcel. My experience has been roughly 50% of the order value.


Beauty Bay

I’ve also bought from BeautyBay before, and they also offer free worldwide delivery. They stock the same brands as mentioned above, as well as a host of others – unfortunately not NARS – including Paul & Joe. The same customs will apply; factor in roughly 50% of the order value.

Feel Unique

I haven’t shopped here before but know a few people who have. Feel Unique. Will you have to pay customs? Yes.


I have bought Real Techniques brushes from Amazon on two occasions as well as books and toys for Christmas. Now that we can get Real Techniques here it’s a bit null and void. Amazon is great in that they calculate your shipping and import duty when you check out, so you know what the total will be, you pay upfront, and they deliver by courier to your door. Sadly not everything on Amazon ships to South Africa, so you have to browse around.

Vivadream Cosmetics

I heard about this site from Luzanne of Pink Peonies and have subsequently ordered from them myself. They stock theBalm, so I ordered the Mary-Lou Manizer at the time. As we know we can get theBalm from Retailbox in SA now. There is a shipping cost of around $10 I think. Luzanne said she paid very low duties (R70 to R100 on a R600 order, for example) when ordering here. I received my highlighter within exactly two weeks and paid absolutely no customs. I’m not sure why, but customs is a weird, weird thing. But the service was really good and I also received samples and a 10% voucher off my next purchase.



I’ve been investigating and NARS seems to be the most difficult to get hold of. There must be plenty of places to buy it from, but I haven’t been able to find them at a glance. So I asked my friend Nicole from Princess Noo and she sent me a reliable seller on eBay called Bellaflora who sells NARS and some Tarte items. You can also buy Tarte on eBay from Feed The Pugs (love that name!).

I haven’t braved eBay myself, but I think you need to make sure to buy from reputable, recommended sellers and check their shipping costs. The one benefit is that if items are sent marked as a gift you can usually avoid customs. You’re only allowed a certain number of overseas gifts a year though, so be mindful of that. Gifts also need to be valued at R400 or less, otherwise you will need to produce an invoice.


Exciting news is that Tarte now ships to SA! This brand is the one I’ve longed for most and has been very difficult to get. You can order from their website. It’s free shipping for orders over R1990 – so unless you’re feeling spendy you will have to pay around R285 shipping with DHL which takes 1-14 days.

Kiss and Makeup NY

Another great suggestion from Luzanne is Kiss and Makeup NY which stocks NARS and Laura Mercier! They offer shipping for $10 (about R100) which is amazing for international. The customs duty can be as low as 20% (see Luzanne’s comment in the comment section) but I would still budget for 50% just to be safe, specially if you’ve got luck like mine.

laura mercier


This is my favourite SA store for hair products and they also stock Morgan Taylor nail polish, theBalm makeup as well as Stila and Billion Dollar Brows. They also stock Vita Liberata tanning products and Decleor skincare. They offer free collection from a Stylebar branch or shipping is around R75. They are super speedy with parcels often arriving the following day. You can shop online here.



24 thoughts on “How, Where, What | Ordering Beauty Products Online

  1. All Dolled Up (@AllDolledUp_SA) says:

    They’re only supposed to charge you customs duties if the value of the products (excl. shipping) is over R500, so I always think putting in a few, smaller orders should solve that problem. It does seem to be a bit hit and miss though, who knows how they really calculate it!

  2. Hlobi says:

    Hi Bronwyn,

    Thanks so much for this post! I ordered my Real Techniques Core Collection brushes on May 23 and they arrived yesterday. I am beyond excited!! Can’t wait to use them!!!

  3. anisah16 says:

    Hi! I’ve been lusting after the balm’s mary loumanizer and their hot mama blush for a while, so I ordered it from Shipping was free. Sadly, my order was lost in the mail, but they replaced it at no cost and when it arrived (about 15 days) I didn’t pay a penny to customs! Def recommend the site! Btw, love your blog x

  4. anisah16 says:

    I’ve been lusting after the Balm’s mary loumanizer and the hot mama blush for a while now, I recently ordered it from, they offer free shipping which is great! Sadly my order got lost in the mail but their customer service was fab and they replaced my parcel at no cost. It arrived in 15 days and the best bit is that I didn’t pay a penny to customs! Def worth using their site! Btw, love your blog x

  5. Affy says:

    Hi guys how reliable is Beauty Bay? I am getting a bit concerned coz I placed my order on the 27th of October and have not received anything as yet… I assumed it takes up to 10 working days… and I did not choose tracked shipping… I had no idea abt paying customs… I didn’t do proper research I suppose… I feel so heartsore and disappointed coz I have read alot of negative feedback abt lost deliveries and damaged goods and no help from customer services or even a refund or a return… plzzzz tell me I haven’t made a huge mistake…… I bought the ud naked palette 2 and ud chill setting spray… wotks out to almost R1000..

    • Mother City Mom says:

      I think they are reliable and I would happily order from them. The problem is on our end with the postal strike and huge backlogs in customs in Cape Town. It might take eight weeks to reach you. I wouldn’t worry about Beautybay, but the post office is a big worry. I have been waiting six weeks for brushes I ordered from Real Techniques, and people in Jo’burg seem the worst off, they’re not receiving any overseas parcels. Try contacting Beautybay and ask if you can get a refund (after 30 days)

    • Melanie says:

      Beauty Bay is great. I have ordered there a couple of times already and just ordered the Too Faced Chocolate Bar😍 this morning.
      I also ordered the Naked 3 from them and it arrived in perfect condition. But customs was 50% and with my previous order (Anastasia Beverly Hills brow dip which was only 12£) even more. Crazy!
      Normally the delivery took about 2 weeks but with the brow dip and the ongoing strike about 4-5 weeks. I really thought it won’t arrive anymore. But considering the small price I wasn’t too worried but super happy when it arrived 3 weeks ago:)
      So now I really hope that the strike will be solved very quickly and we will receive our goods (quick and in mind condition)😊

  6. Marieke says:

    Great post, thanks! I have been trying to get hold of NARS for the longest time, but the postal strike stops me from international online orders… Have you made any orders at the sites mentioned above with the current postal strikes?

    • Mother City Mom says:

      Hi there the strikes are over now as far as i know. There might be a little backlog but they are working again. I ordered in the middle of the strike and it took me over 2 months but I got my stuff in the end!

  7. RR says:

    Hi there, anyone ever ordered from Also any recent experiences ordering from BeautyBay, Amazon? What are delivery times and customs duties like these days?

    • Mother City Mom says:

      I haven’t bought anything this year since the strikes. I won’t use the post office any more. There are a few sites that offer courier like FedEx (Amazon for example) which is great. I last ordered in December via Amazon and it took less than two weeks to my door

  8. Nbd says:

    Hey just wanted to know whether we have to pay customs on the tarte cosmetics website as well? How much do u presume it would be? Has anyone ordered from them?

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