Lipsticks are regularly between $20-$30. A palette with five eyeshadows can be close to $100 bucks and the cheapest and usually ‘cost-friendly’ packaging apparently is the most bougie thing because it has an ominous K attached in it.
What the fuck? Did I go to sleep one night and wake up in an alternate timeline? Did I hit my head? Again? Wasn’t the MAC lipsticks I was buying in Canada 15 bucks like.. two seconds ago? Now to get one I’m looking at $36?? Again, what the fuck?
With previously non-cosmetic brands dipping their toe into the makeup waters, beauty influencers (aka “YouTube Makeup People”) attached to companies being the norm, everyone is taking a ride at getting your money. I mean, that’s cool; competition is good for customers as we hold the key. However, the price I’m willing to spend and the products I’m offered are not on the same page most of the time. When I review a product on here, the price and value are pretty much the top of the pinnacle… which I guess is why I haven’t reviewed much makeup.. *cough*
Anyway, it’s getting a bit ridiculous out there and I want to know why, so, I went on a month-long journey down the Alice-In-Wonderland rabbit hole to gather as much information and to cover different areas and instances. It was… stressful. My eyes hurt. The speech program on my computer needed a glass of water every 1000 words spoken.
Do I have any real information to give you? I don’t know, but let’s find out.
[I might try to break this up into smaller parts because once you go down this rabbit hole of bullshit, it’s hard to get out. I literally have 12 tabs open, 2 down from a few days ago.
Also, don’t be surprised if I amend this post 20000 times because I’ve forgotten to put things in it.]
Let’s break down what goes into producing makeup.
If you’ve stuck around to read my trials and tribulations of starting up my own makeup brand, you might already know it takes a lot to actually get a company started, let alone getting to the nitty-gritty of making the actual product.
We’re starting with the products, or to narrow it down further as an example, lipsticks. Lip products have always been a hot seller and will continue to be.
Also, since most of the brands you see in stores and online are owned by a larger company now, let’s focus on those established brands. I’ll try to mention smaller or cult brands as much as I can as well, but more recognised brands make it easier.
Now, this is a hard area to give you any real evidence or examples. Cosmetic brands are very tight-lipped about three things in particular; their formulations, where their bulk or raw materials are sourced from and the how much profit they earn, or their markup. The first one is a given; no one wants to share their secret recipes.
Disclosing information about bulk or raw materials is still a part of that recipe technically so it’s tricky to find percentages, but also because they might be making their raw material or ingredients in their own labs, like L’Oreal Paris Research and Innovation laboratories. Like when a company says they have new flexi-shine blah blah technology.
Lipstick is generally a mix of waxes, oils and pigments. That’s it. You mush them together really well and you get lipstick! From there mica (shimmery pigment stuff), emollients (something moisturise-y and smooth), preservatives (so you don’t get a reaction or die) and other ingredients are added to make your lipstick matte, shiny, last a few hours or stain. Whatever you want, a little bit of something is added, and the motions are gone through over and over and over. These days you will see more things like vitamin e, sunscreen, all different oils and fats are added, but the same Big 3 (or 4, emollients are pretty important) are always shuffled around like the smallest card deck, mixed together, shoved in some packaging and shown to you.
So, how do so many companies take this staple formulation and make so many amazing products? That is where the beauty of makeup lies.. and also where packaging and marketing live…
In the next part I’ll talk about packaging and possibly marketing. I also hope to cover why places like Sephora and Ulta are driving up prices.