Why Is Drugstore Makeup So Expensive?

Image credit: powderdoom.tumblr.com

I walked into my local pharmacy the other day to grab some false lashes for a night out, I left confused and searching my head for an answer as to why I just saw a L’Oréal foundation selling for above €17. I mean, MAC Studio Fix is €32 – it’s only half the price, but it’s a far cry from how affordable drugstore (as it’s called in the U.S., we don’t have a similar name) products used to be. I remember walking into Sam McCauley’s pharmacy as a twelve year old and buying Maybelline concealer for €5 at most, but their most expensive concealer now is around €10.50. What happened to the affordable products?

Refinery29 wrote a great article here for an explanation of the cost of mid-to-high end products a while ago which made me understand a lot more of the reasoning behind brand pricing, but I decided to write a post on why I think drugstore makeup has begun spiralling upwards in price.

The beauty industry is now faster paced and cut-throat than it has ever been before. Brands are pressured to churn out new products, create new colour combinations before the beauty gurus do, beat trends to death and make a profit before they’ve even emerged as properly mainstream. To keep up with that, brands need a lot of research and development, which unsurprisingly is a large cost to business – hence a price hike is needed to keep generating profit for the company. The advent of online affordable brands too has dented the market for drugstore makeup too – why buy that e.l.f. palette when you can order this 30-shadow palette from Morphe with this beauty guru’s discount code?

Not only that, but most teenagers and young adults are buying more mid-end brands like Too Faced and Urban Decay before they’ve touched a Rimmel lipstick. Many drugstore brands can’t compete with the image that mid-end brands put out, so they need to be able to compete on a quality standpoint instead. It’s true that drugstore makeup did used to cost less, but I also remember that I could barely get a proper swipe of colour from my L’Oréal eyeshadow quads – and makeup brands in the ‘80s and ‘90s were even worse, per my long-suffering makeup addict mother. It’s all an effect of being spoiled for choice.

An interesting theory that I learned about recently is called ‘the lipstick effect’, which basically states that consumers will spend more on ‘necessary luxuries’ during times of financial crisis, little stability or wartime. It’s a status symbol in society, so you can freely apply your Dior lipstick with a compact mirror in front of everyone else rather than use a cheap drugstore one in the bathroom mirror. Since our world hasn’t exactly been stable recently so I wouldn’t be surprised if drugstore companies were experiencing sale decreases as everyone rushes to buy mid-end to high-end products from this very effect.

It all makes sense to me now, but I’m still not over the fact that I saw a €17 foundation on a L’Oréal counter. Do you think this price hike will stop anytime soon? Or will it keep going indefinitely? Is €17 too much for a drugstore foundation? Let me know what you think of this down below or on my twitter!