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Want free beauty products and toiletries? If you're willing to test them out and fill in a short survey after the allotted time given by the company, then you may be interested in this site.
I first discovered cosmeticresearchonline.co.uk, home of the Ayton-Moon Consultancy, earlier this year, after reading Trampus' opinion on the site. I have now completed three trials for the company, and think it's time to share my experiences...
Founded in 1995 by Sue Ayton-Moon, this company began operating at the City of Bath College, where students were asked to test products for certain companies and give their feedback. As more and more companies became interested in Sue's students, she realised it was time to go national.
The website was only launched to the public in November 2003, but since then, has been incredibly popular. Thousands of people have volunteered to test products for such companies as Tesco, Virgin Vie and Boots, and are confident that the products they receive are safe to use and have not been tested on animals. All products have strict toxological testing carried out before being given to people to trial, and trials are not carried out for companies who test their products on animals.
****WHO CAN TAKE PART?****
This website welcomes volunteers of all ages, from the very young to the elderly. One of the recent trials, for example, was for a babycare device for children under twelve months old. A lot of the trials are aimed at people of specific ages, such as recent skincare trials for the over-30s that have been carried out.
If you are worried about signing up because you have sensitive skin, eczema, or any other conditions, then don't worry: I have sensitive skin, and have participated in trials relevant to me. They really are looking for all kinds of people so their trials are as successful as possible.
And men, don't think this is just a site for women! As I've said, they're looking for all types of people...it's not just girly products at all!
Sadly for foreigners, the trials are only open to those living in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, The Republic of Ireland, The Isle of Man and the Channel Isles.
Signing up for cosmeticresearchonline is simple. Just go to the homepage, click the "Volunteer Sign-Up tab" at the top of the page, and fill in a quick questionnaire with basic name/age/location type questions. You will also be asked, for purposes of the trials, which of three listed kinds of toiletries/beauty products most describes the ranges you usually buy - basically, whether the products you buy are expensive, middle of the range, or cheaper.
After signing up, you will then need to complete a series of questionnaires about different parts of your body: Hair, Face, Hands and Arms, Body, Feet and Legs, and Lifestyle. These need to be completed so that the company can determine what kinds of trials are suitable for you - once completed, you will be sent emails when a suitable trial becomes available, and you can sign up.
Family members can also be added under your username, and when trials become available that are suitable for them, you will be emailed.
****HOW DO I TAKE PART IN A TRIAL?****
When you receive an email telling you that there are trials that you can take part in, log onto the website and take a look. You can look at the trial details beforehand, so that you can decide whether or not you want to take part, and if you do, go for it!
However, before you take part in your first trial, you need to do the online training - a couple of pages detailing how things work, the information you are and aren't given access to over the course of the trial, and so on. At the beginning of each trial, you are asked a couple of questions from this training, so it IS important!
The product will then be sent out to you, normally only a few days after you sign up, and you will be asked to test it for a specified amount of time. All products are sent in packaging without labels, so you have no idea of the brand of the product you are testing.
Trials also vary in style: with some you will be sent one product to test for a certain amount of time, with others you will be asked to compare two brands by, say, using one product for one week, and another product for the next. Either way, the majority of the time the remainder of the product does not need to be sent back, so you get another few weeks' worth of toiletries or cosmetics for free!
The accompanying letter will also give you a date on which to complete the questionnaire about the trial online...the only problem being that you are not emailed a reminder - you have to remember to complete it. You are rated on the basis of your punctuality - if you are constantly failing to fill in questionnaires, your rating will go down and you will be eligible for fewer trials.
You are also given a contact phone number in case of allergic reactions to ingredients contained in the product you are trialling, but you should always read the label before commencing a trial.
So far, I have participated in three trials: one for a moisturiser, one where I was sent two different shaving gels for sensitive skin, and one for mascara. The questionnaires were quick and easy to fill in, the products were great, and I got to keep them afterwards! The whole thing is very simple, and although there is no cash incentive, free toiletries and beauty products can never be a bad thing!
The only niggle is that once you have been sent an email telling you of a new trial, you need to log in to the site very quickly to sign up, as with over 7,000 volunteers taking part, the trials are filled very quickly!
****THE WEBSITE ITSELF****
The Ayton-Moon website is very easy on the eye, in a dark shade of purple, and also very easy to use. Tabs at the top of the screen lead you to your trials page, your profile page, and a page containing further information about the company, and each of these tabs, when clicked on, has subtabs to take you to different pages within the section. The website, as a whole, is very user-friendly, and if you're having any trouble finding your way around, the "help" button at the top left-hand side of the page will give you all the assistance you need.
If you have any queries or complaints, the website also features a section where you can send a message to Ayton-Moon. I, so far, have had no complaints, but before complaining about anything it is worth reading the terms and conditions on the website, if you haven't done so already, just to check that whatever comments you have to make aren't covered there.
****THE OVERALL VERDICT****
This website is fantastic. Getting to try beauty products and toiletries for free is always a bonus, and the faster you answer questionnaires after the trial, the more your rating will increase and the more trials you will be asked to participate in.
In taking part in trials, you are not only gaining a personal benefit, but you're helping with development of new products that will hopefully appear on shelves later on - sadly, though, you won't know which ones you have tested, as you are not told the brand name!
Products are dispatched quickly and are good quality products, tailored to your needs so that you don't experience allergic reactions and so on, and so that you only receive products suitable for you. A definite thumbs-up from me, but I'm knocking one star off, partly because of the speed with which trials become full, meaning that I have missed out on quite a few, and partly because of the lack of reminders about filling in questionnaires - you really do need to remember when to go back to the site!
Overall, though, a great site where the benefit is mutual: companies get feedback on new products so they can decide how popular they will be if sold, and consumers get free products in return for filling in a quick questionnaire: what could be better?!