We went undercover and found nine counter services you don't have to pay for - including 30-minute facials.
Ask for: Shiseido Skin Check
Where: Shiseido counters
Duration: 45 minutes
All Shiseido counters have a machine to diagnose your skin type and problems.
I made an appointment at the Tangs Orchard counter a day in advance and was met by a beauty adviser, who explained every step to me patiently.
She checked my skin's hydration levels, sebum levels, resilience and turnover rate with a mini camera on the tip of a "wand".
My skin was slightly oily yet lacked surface moisture.
I was sent home with two-week samples and scheduled for a follow-up session in a couple of weeks to see if there had been any improvements to my skin.
1) Ask for: Clarins Skin Time (FAVE BEAUTY ADVISER)
Where: Clarins counters
Duration: 30 minutes
I booked the express facial at the Robinsons Raffles City counter a day before.
I was introduced to the brand's bestsellers like the Shaping Facial Lift serum, which promises to slim, firm and contour the face.
As she applied the recommended products on me, the beauty adviser also taught me the Clarins method of application - gently pressing palms against skin, which aids absorption and lymphatic drainage.
It made me realise that skincare should be a luxurious, sensorial ritual.
Amid the throng of busy shoppers rushing by the counter, I felt relaxed listening to the beauty adviser's advice while she performed my facial.
When I left, my skin looked soft and brighter. I also took home samples of the products I showed particular interest in.
2) Ask for: Origins Mini Facial
Where: Origins counters
Duration: 30 minutes
This by-appointment service lets you try out an entire skincare routine.
At the Isetan Scotts counter, I asked for help with my dull skin that was breaking out from stress.
After filling in a questionnaire on my skin type and concerns, my skin was cleansed, exfoliated, and the decongesting Out of Trouble mask was applied.
After 10 minutes, it was removed and moisturiser was applied.
I got to try most of the skin-illuminating Brighter By Nature range and an anti-ageing serum since I was also concerned about fine lines.
My skin looked clearer and felt extremely clean, and not at all tight.
1) Ask for: Estee Lauder Fatigue Fighter
Where: Estee Lauder counters
Duration: Five minutes
This quickie is great if you've had a long day in the office - resulting in dark circles and tired eyes - but have a dinner date.
At the Tangs Vivocity counter, the beauty adviser mixed a dollop of the lightweight Advanced Night Repair Eye with the Double Wear Stay-in-Place Flawless Wear Concealer (in my shade) and patted it gently all over the eye area.
I looked refreshed, sans dark circles.
2) Ask for: Lancome
Two-Minute Youthful Gaze Service (QUICKEST SERVICE)
Where: Lancome counters
Duration: Less than five minutes
At the Isetan Scotts counter, the beauty adviser who served me during this walk-in service was extremely friendly.
She gently removed my eye makeup before applying the cream portion of the brand's anti-ageing Renergie Yeux Multiple Lift in soothing strokes.
This is an eye cream with a separately-portioned brightening BB eye base.
Once the cream was absorbed completely, she dabbed on the BB base.
I loved how the cream plumped up my fine lines, and how the BB base made me look less tired. I felt ready for a night out with my friends afterwards.
Ask for: Escentials Fragrance Profiling (BEST OVERALL EXPERIENCE)
Where: Escentials at #B1-142 The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands (tel: 6688-7372) or #03-02 Paragon (tel: 6737-2478).
Duration: 30 minutes
I made an appointment the day before and was greeted by name when I arrived.
After a chat about my scent preferences, I picked my favourite fabric textures and scenes from a folder of photos.
This revealed the fragrance families I like. For example, if I picked a velvet fabric, I would lean towards a sensuous, musky fragrance.
Next was a scent test with a rack of test tubes, each with essences of different notes from fruity and floral to woody.
The fragrance adviser (and expert) narrowed down the perfumes with the notes I liked and I sniffed them on a blotter before testing a couple of favourites on my wrist.
She suggested I let the perfumes "sit" for at least two hours before deciding.
I ended up buying a bottle of the one I liked most, a Memo perfume, and was given samples of the others I liked, too.
I loved how the well-structured session let me get acquainted with so many perfumes at a go.
1) Ask for: Kanebo Point Makeup Makeover
Where: Kanebo counters
Duration: 10 minutes
Ask any beauty adviser at the Kanebo counters - I went to the Takashimaya one - for eye or base makeup services, or lip colour application.
I wanted to learn to do a smoky eye using one of the new eyeshadow palettes.
The beauty adviser used her fingers to smudge the various colours on my eyelids while instructing me step by step.
I felt confident I could duplicate the steps at home.
I would've enjoyed it more if she had cleaned her hands with an anti-bacterial gel before applying the makeup though.
2) Ask for: Chanel Flash Makeover
Where: Chanel Beauty counters
Duration: 15 minutes
I asked to have my eyes made over with one of the Chanel eyeshadow quads.
The makeup artist at Tangs Orchard gave me a handheld mirror so I could observe as he got down to work.
After applying each shade, he would stop and give me tips on how I could achieve the same look at home.
I liked that he was meticulous in disinfecting his hands and cleaning the brushes.
I walked out feeling glamorous.
Mini spa treat
Ask for: Jo Malone Hand &
Where: Jo Malone at #02-12B Ngee Ann City (tel: 6738-6842).
Duration: 15 minutes
Pick two of your favourite scents (or ask the therapist for recommendations), and get ready to be pampered.
My hands and arms were gently washed with a perfumed bath oil (from the same range as my first fragrance pick) before being luxuriously massaged with a matching body cream.
Finally, the therapist spritzed on the second perfume I had picked and patted it lovingly onto my skin.
For the rest of the day, I caught little wafts of my very own scent combi whenever I moved my hands.
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