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Recession-Proof Beauty: Free Mario Badescu Samples

There may be no free lunch (unless you're enjoying Taco Thursdays, of course). But there is free skin care. Mario Badescu, the spa where celebrities such as Jennifer Aniston and Natalie Portman have their pores purged, offers complimentary skin consultations through its web site. You just have to fill out an online questionnaire, and in a few weeks, you'll get free samples of products customized to your skin situation.

The deal sounds too good to be true, but it's actually great. I went undercover, using my own name and not mentioning BellaSugar. Within days of filling out the online questionnaire, a Mario Badescu representative e-mailed me to ask some follow-up questions about the state of my skin. I answered them and sent a picture, too. In about two weeks, I received a packet of samples along with a guide to using them. No freaky sales pressure, just detailed guidance and generously sized samples. So if you're looking for a new skin-care regimen and want to try before you buy, you know what to do.

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