Blogger blaspheme? Or good common sense?
I have often asked myself where I weigh in on the high-end/low-end question. I find the almost undefinable "I'm worth it/I earned it," ideal alluring, but what I'm really after is a high-end, refined look, not necessarily high-end prices. Then again, I love gorgeous packaging. Nothing makes my heart sing like opening a drawer in the dim morning light and seeing an ivory-gold halo from a Tom Ford lipstick tube shining in the shadows, like a lighthouse beaming through the fog.
It's what's inside that counts, and these product usually deliver—if they did not, I'd have no patience for them. But I also want good value, and I am not completely convinced that a lipstick, which is so heavy it could be used as a doorstop, is worth the extra $30 over my preferred price point for a lipstick. And yet I once swore I would never spend more than $25 on a single lipstick.
Throw into the mix the fact that drugstore products have improved, at least in texture, some of which make excellent substitutions for higher-end products. As my friend says, she could "walk into a metro drugstore anywhere ... and buy a whole 'face', including cleanser/moisturizer, and feel well turned out."
I know what she means. A few months ago, I watched an online video that used Rimmel Glam'Eyes Mono Eye Shadow in Spicy Bronze ($3.22), so I decided to try it, and I was completely unprepared for the outstanding quality. The buttery, silken texture reminded me of old-school Stila (before the reformulation, and a product I no longer buy). All this at just over $3, and the packaging wasn't even unattractive.
The next item I tried was L'Oreal Infallible Le Rouge lipstick in Eternal Rose ($8.99). The color in the tube looked flat and extremely matte, but one swipe and I could not believe it. Silky, soft, and non-drying, and a little less than half the price of a MAC lipstick. Is the packaging pretty? Not really, but it's no worse than Shu Uemura packaging, whose lipsticks cost nearly three times as much.
One product I rarely spend more than $10 on (and often much less than that) is mascara. I was lured in by the excellent Lancome Defincils, but I had been perfectly happy with Maybelline Great Lash mascara for years/decades. And since I go through a tube in three months, I don't see the point of spending $25+. Enter CoverGirl LashBlast Length Mascara ($7.79). This is a fantastic mascara for coating lashes and adding length. If you like volume, move along. If you aren't looking for length, move along.
Despite finding such excellent bargains, a lingering snobbery is still active in my shallow soul, which probably says more about my own misguided sense of worth than a true position on the quality of the product. If I truly felt worthy, I'd see past the pretty packaging and realize the worth in not frittering away my hard-earned money on something that delivers nothing but artifice and trickery! All things being equal on the inside, it would be smarter to put up to 75% of the money I spend on packaging to better use. Like my dream retirement cottage on a sea cliff, where no one but the seagulls and mollusks will care about me or my makeup.
Perhaps most pitiful of all is I depot almost everything I can. So inside my Unii palette, you'll find Equal Opportunity Makeup! No one knows where those pans used to live. OK, most of you would probably know just by the shape ofthe pan or the imprint on the surface, but still.
I have read that almost all cosmetics brands are owned by a single giant (Estee Lauder, L'Oreal, Proctor Gamble, etc.) who manufactures both high and lower ends, and that these monoliths use the same patent across all of their lines. MAC = Tom Ford? Maybe. Why not? I love the Tom Ford lipstick I bought recently, but I didn't find its performance or texture better than anything else I own—in fact, it felt rather drying. The color Red Smoke (reviewed here) is really lovely against my skin tone, but I would be lying if I said it wasn't the packaging that drew me in. I intentionally bought a color on its way to being phased out so I could purchase the lipstick in the ivory and gold tube before they are pulled from the shelves.
I do like pretty packaging, but when it comes down to it, no one sees this stuff but me. With the exception of the rare and furtive dash of lipstick, I don't apply my makeup in public, and the only person that sits at my dressing table, or even enters my inner sanctum, is yours truly. So why is the package so important to me—especially when I gut the thing? I want to say it's because it's, well, just nicer, that I have a reasonable disposable income and that I have earned the right for nice things. And I could have far, far worse hobbies.
I cannot come down decidedly in favor of either of the high-end/low-end side, but one thing I know is that when I am retired, I'd rather be sitting on my front porch looking at the ocean waves breaking on the shore instead of sitting in my dim high-rise apartment bedroom looking at a drawer full of makeup I never wear.
In the meantime, when shopping for drugstore makeup, it would feel so much more luxurious if we could bypass the overhead fluorescent lights and be transported back to a 1915-style chemist. Talk about a pampered experience. And I should remind myself that Revlon, Coty, and Max Factor were once sold in department stores before newcomer Estée Lauder started scooping up the market share. And how did she do it? She made her brand seem exclusive with limited distribution and higher price points! Because—say it with me—it may be a sin, but it's human nature to covet.
All photos from stock or Google images
Special thanks to Ten Bells and Pansy.