November 30, 2012, 12:00 AM

Health / Beauty

The best-looking beauty sites keep shoppers looking their best.

Lead Photo

The leaders in this year's Hot 100 health and beauty category have this in common: a feel for merchandising. For instance, Avon knows there are a slew of sites that sell makeup. So it focuses on its key differentiator—offering shoppers a personal relationship with a trained representative. An on-site referral tool provides e-mail and phone access to an Avon lady near to the online shopper, and consumers can opt to have their representatives deliver orders placed online.

Another Hot 100 site,, deploys a site search engine that lets web shoppers refine products by category, color, skin needs, product benefits and formulation. Meanwhile enables shoppers to load their personal photos to virtually try on a pair of glasses. Shoppers can also use photos of models to test how frame styles look on different people. "Everything on our site involves quite a bit of customer engagement, and customers are really drawn to the virtual try-on," says co-founder and CEO David Gilboa.

Consumers increasingly like purchasing health and beauty products online: The combined sales of the 57 health and beauty web merchants ranked in the 2012 editions of the Top 500 and Second 500 Guides grew their combined sales 12.6% to $4.28 billion in 2011 from $3.80 billion in 2010. But it's the Hot 100 sites such as that are category leaders because they offer extras such as advice from noted makeup artist Romy Soleimani, videos and product selections by guest experts. "Beauty is so personal," says Deepika Pandey, vice president of online strategy and customer experience at "It's a category consumers want to be inspired with."

This year's Hot 100 health and beauty selections further separate themselves from the competition by helping shoppers create "just for me" looks and providing resources that help consumers discover products that will work for them. BH Cosmetics, for example, has drawn millions of views of its makeup tutorial videos on YouTube, and promotes a skin analysis tool that matches consumers with particular skincare needs to products. For all of this year's health and beauty Hot 100 selections, it's all about helping consumers look their best.

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