For all our fellow makeup addicts out there, shelling out our hard-earned dough for some upscale products we feel will last is an investment we're willing to make. But as wonderful as it is picking up that gorgeous lipstick tube at Sephora and bringing it home wrapped in red tissue paper, it can take a serious toll on our bank account. Why exactly does makeup, especially pro brands, cost so much, and are we actually paying for better quality?
It turns out, not so much.
In Style estimates that on average, a woman will spend $15,000 in her lifetime on makeup. We're not going to lie; there's a good chance we may even spend more. But when it comes down to it, only 15 percent of a product's cost can be attributed to its ingredients, cosmetic chemist Randy Schueller told Quartz.
But what about that remaining 75 percent? Well, the remaining cost creating the holes in our pockets comes from packaging, marketing and brand prestige. Yes, Nars lipstick may be glorious, but at the end of the day, you're pretty much paying for the name and the sleek black tube that draws you in. According to Randy, most makeups, pro brand or drugstore, are made from the same thing; ingredients usually include wax, oil and pigments, but what sets them apart is the brand attached to them and how they're sold. It's not about how pretty it looks on you, but how pretty the product looks to you.
In fact, packaging has become such a marker of the prestige of a product that awards are given out to products with the best tube or palette design. Just ask Marc Jacobs, whose makeup line won the Pentaward for best worldwide packaging design recently.
Makeup also costs more depending on where it's sold. When you go to an upscale makeup retailer like Sephora or Ulta, you'll pay more for the product because cost is also going to the displays put before you, and the makeup artists hired to help you. Karen Grant, the global beauty industry analyst from the research firm NPD, also notes that these retailers will often provide you with testers and easy return policies that allow you to bring back your product, even if it's used or out of the packaging. All these things are factored into the cost when you buy that stunning, new pressed powder.
But despite all this, we continue to buy, because honestly it's hard not to. If you think about it, are you more inclined to buy a product thrown on a shelf and sealed in cheap plastic packaging? Or do you want the product coming in the sleek, decorative box with an applicator that is in itself a fashion statement?
Those marketing peeps really know how to do their jobs.
And the numbers seem to speak for themselves. Apparently, more and more people are buying pro brands at increasing rates, to the point where the industry is expected to make more than the $56.9 billion it made last year. And all of this is happening despite the fact that product costs aren't going up.
"What's happened is that there's a stronger growth for the prestige items, more so than the mass items," Karen told Quartz.
But Randy says it's important to remember that a higher price tag doesn't necessarily mean better quality. For example, when making shadow or pressed powder, Randy says that some smaller brands will invest in the cheaper manufacturing method of using a hammer mill, which tends to leave clumps in the product, and ultimately on your face. Larger brands, pro or drugstore, will invest in more expensive manufacturing methods which grind the powder into fine particles that give you a smoother finish. There's no way to know what a product's manufacturing process is, but it's safe to say that a well-known, well-established brand like Revlon, L'Oreal or Estee Lauder is putting more money into its products.
Now that you know the truth (though you've probably always expected it), what do you do next time you get to the makeup counter? Just remember, higher prices do not guarantee quality. Go for products by larger brands designed for the specific purpose you need. With some trial and error, you will find what products work for you, and it may even give your bank account a break.