Are Expensive Makeup Brands Worth the Cost?

Most women wouldn't shell out crazy amounts of money for a diamond-crusted tube of mascara or lipstick ($14 million from H. Couture Beauty) or even a fake firearm full of Dior Cosmetics ($17,000 from Dutch jewelry designer Ted Norton). But most of us are willing to spend quite a bit for cosmetics that will make us look younger and prettier, or that claim to. The only question is: do makeup brands that cost more actually offer better quality than the bargain brands at the pharmacy, or are you paying a lot more for a label? Here are a few things to consider before you lay down your cash on a gloss or shadow that may give you nothing more than the artificial prestige of a name.


Some women swear by pricy makeup brands like Chanel, Dior, and Shu Uemera, but what makes these brands better than middle-of-the-road options like Nars, Mac, and Clinique, or even relatively inexpensive labels like Covergirl, Revlon, and Neutrogena? Is there really a difference in how these products are formulated, how they will work on your skin, and their expected shelf life? What exactly are you paying for when you choose the high-end cosmetics label over the products you can get at the pharmacy for a fraction of the cost?

Okay, let's cut to the chase. Part of the cost is for the name. There's just no getting around that. It may be superficial, but don't we all feel just a little smug when we pull a Chanel lipstick out of our bag and watch our girlfriends' eyes widen in recognition? And maybe you even feel more beautiful wearing that particular shade of red that only Dior seems able to produce. But if you're being honest, you could likely find a hue that is so close as to be indistinguishable at a lower price point from another brand, and if you're paying to impress your friends you've got bigger problems than your overblown makeup budget.

various makeup products

However, it's not all smoke and mirrors. You may actually be getting something worth paying more for when you buy the pricy name brands. In some cases they use premium ingredients that actually are more expensive, rarer, and better for your skin. For example, nearly all cosmetics contain surfactants, chemicals that basically help to balance the oil and water composition of a product. Now, surfactants are not very pricy until you start using a lot of them. Low-cost brands may use less than 1% while high-end cosmetics can add as much as 10%, significantly increasing cost, but also adding benefits like extended performance (for fewer applications during the day) or the ability to absorb oils from your skin, for example.

But there's more. While all cosmetic companies employ chemists and designers to create their products, the expensive labels often put more money into hiring professionals that are at the top of their field, building facilities that are state-of-the-art, and pushing the boundaries of known research in an effort to get the best and newest products to market. So will you get something extra out of pricy cosmetics brands? Probably. Is it worth it? That depends on you. You might find questions about the makeup industry (what makes one brand different from another?) just as confusing as finance (what is a balance transfer?). But that doesn't mean you can't learn enough to make an informed decision.

In truth, whoever said that "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" was onto something. If you feel better about yourself when wearing expensive cosmetics, then by all means buy them. But if you really can't afford the cost, keep in mind that there are plenty of less expensive brands that might offer products that are nearly as good (and no one but you will know the difference).

(Guest Post by Carol Montrose)

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