I will always remember my first ‘proper’ makeup purchase. Having spent years investing my pocket money, part time earnings and later my student loan on an array of brightly coloured and carefully selected purchases, it was a moment when I left behind being a child and finally felt like a fully fledged grown-up. I was spending a whole £16.00 on a lipstick and it came from Clinique. The delicious scent, intricate metallic casing and iridescent shine left a tingle up my spine; I was so keen to keep this precious commodity for as long as possible I barely used it, meaning to my pain it eventually dried out and had to be thrown away. To me, that’s what premium beauty is all about: a moment in time that draws out emotions and leaves you feeling special. It’s sometimes worth paying over the odds for a lipgloss if it makes you feel like a princess every time you use it; importantly it’s as much about the packaging, the scent, the sounds and smells as it is about what’s inside. Over the years I’ve become as likely to gush over a £30.00 bronzer than I am a £2.99 nail varnish, but that’s because I like to treat myself to little moments that remind me how far I’ve come and how hard I’ve worked since that very first Clinique lipstick purchase. However, in recent months I’ve felt myself becoming increasingly disengaged with a lot of high end beauty brands in favour of their much more affordable counterparts. Not only are they sometimes more enjoyable to write about, but you seem to get more excited about a beauty bargain than you do about a limited edition eyeshadow palette that will send you back fifty quid. Is high end beauty starting to lose it’s sparkle?
So what determines whether a beauty product is ‘high end’ or more on the budget side? For me it’s about ingredients, but also crucially about placement and packaging. If a product is in the aisles of Boots or Superdrug then it tends to be affordable and fast moving; if it’s displayed beautifully on counter with a sales assistant offering up advice and a tutorial on how to use it effectively, then it’s definitely on the more premium end of the spectrum. Similarly, if a product is packed in a durable and beautiful compact or jar then it starts to feel a little bit more worth the extra cash – because paying over the odds is about the whole experience, not just about what’s inside. You can often guess the price point of a product just by the outer packaging, with cheaper brands tending to opt for more generic materials, shapes and sizes to keep their costs down. However, with the invention of brands such as Kiko and Ciate, packaging is as much a part of the offering as the formulation – the lines are starting to blur and more budget brands are definitely keeping up with their high end counterparts.
Historically the more a product cost the better quality it would be; however, the direct correlation between cost and quality no longer exisits, as it’s more about finding a story to tell and setting price accordingly. There are so many factors that go into deciding a retail price (that’s for another blog post on another day,) that it’s becoming increasingly hard to navigate our way around beauty departments and know where to invest our cash. Makeup brands including MUA and Makeup Revolution have totally changed the landscape of beauty: gone are the days when you had to pay a lot of money to get a decent product. You could pop into Superdrug this afternoon and buy a whole new look for less than £20.00 – something that resonates and appeals to every one of us. Technology has evolved, prices have come down and volumes that these brands are shifting ensure they can keep their prices as cheap as possible. They’re making makeup fun and accessible again, removing the stigma of spending only a few pounds on an eyeshadow palette and turning it into a matter of celebration. After all, we’re the Primark generation: we’re happy to admit we spent only tenner on those new shoes, or that our Saturday night dress isn’t designer at all. It seems we no longer hide away the cheap makeup and only bring out the Benefit compact powder in public; we’re as happy to be seen with a L’Oreal lipstick as we are a Lancome one.
What’s increasingly interesting to me is the amount of innovation that’s coming out of some of these ‘mass’ brands. They’re quick to jump on new trends, they identify what their customer wants, they churn out new launches at the speed of light and they do all of this while keeping their packaging fun and their prices low. You can justify yet another highlighter if it costs no more than a latte and muffin, but if it’s the price of a weekend away in Paris it may not be something you’ll jump to – especially if there’s nothing new or innovative about it. Over the last year the majority of the more premium brands have become a little lacklustre and stuffy, churning out the same stuff time and time again with nothing new to bring to the party. Although occasionally there’s something truly exciting (notibly the YSL Touche Eclat Foundation, Urban Decay Alice in Wonderland collaboration, Hoola Bronzing Gel, Lancome’s Juicy Shakers and Bobbi Brown’s eyebrow gels,) on the whole it leaves me feeling a touch ‘meh’. How can I talk about yet another nude eyeshadow palette that costs £45.00 when there’s so much newness and innovation in the mass category?
For me, spending a lot on a beauty product goes back to that feeling of excitement. It’s that emotional connection to a product – it’s smell, it’s texture, it’s packaging and the way it makes me feel. It needs to impart pure lust and adoration, rather than a feeling of ‘I’ve got that three times over already’. In order to justify the price point there needs to be a real point of difference, an above average formulation, a unique ingredient or a pack that makes me go weak at the knees; without that it’s just another lipgloss. With MUA, Makeup Revolution, Kiko, MINA and Models Own upping their game and taking a huge chunk of business away from the brands we’ve loved and trusted for so long, these luxury names will have to start doing something new to invigorate and excite us again. Nude palettes and red lipsticks may sell, but I want more than just the expected. I want that moment I felt when I first spent £16.00 on a lipstick. Every. Single. Time.
What do you think? Is high end beauty losing it’s sparkle?
Features PR samples unless otherwise stated. To read my full disclaimer, click here.