Rhiannon Harries: The ugly side of the beauty business - who'd pay £35 for a lippy?

Share
Related Topics

The lipstick theory has it that certain products – its namesake among them – are not just recession-proof, but actually sell more during shaky economic times. The man who coined that phrase, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, was Leonard Lauder, the chairman of cosmetics giant Estée Lauder, so it's not surprising that his world picture is seen in terms of tubes of coloured grease. As yet it's not conclusively proven, but sales figures for the cosmetics industry as a whole have been famously good of late.

The supposed reason is that, like ice-cream or a rented DVD, cosmetics deliver a bit of distraction and indulgence at a price-point low enough not to activate your cerebral "waste of money" alarm. So big things, such as a designer frock, are bad; small things, such as a designer lipstick, are OK. But the small things' price tags have been getting disproportionately big of late.

As a beauty-hall habitué, I'm sorry to admit I am inured to this kind of thing. Three figures for a tub of moisturiser is not something I've actually paid, but it no longer merits an eyebrow raise, let alone outrage. Lotions and potions promise miracles, falsely or otherwise, and command corresponding prices. But when designer Tom Ford, never the sort of guy to undersell himself or his wares, launched his range of Private Blend lipsticks (below) earlier this year at the princely sum of £35 each, even I winced.

It's enough to make Burberry's new range of make-up, which has single eyeshadows and lipsticks for £22, look budget. And ultimately this is all about comparatives – you can't afford what you really want, so you buy the next best thing. So it would be a clever, timely move on the part of the beauty industry to substantially bump the price of next best thing, then.

It puts me in mind of a restaurateur I once interviewed who told me that opting for the soup on a menu because it was cheaper than the other dishes was a dumb move (unless you really like soup, of course). It may be £1 less to buy, but it was probably several pounds cheaper to make.

Don't worry, I'm not about to extol the virtues of "investment" purchasing – dropping a grand on a coat only makes more sense than spending thirty on a lipstick when you are in the fortunate position of having a grand burning a hole in your pocket. But if it's a game of relatives, I think I'd feel better going to Boots and choosing like a millionaire than playing the pauper at Selfridges.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Operational Risk Manager - Asset Management

£60,000 - £80,000: Saxton Leigh: Our client is an leading Asset Manager based...

Year 5/6 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: Permanent Year 6 TeacherThe job:This...

KS1 & KS2 Teachers

Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: KS1+KS2 Teachers required ASAP for l...

Year 2 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: Year 2 Teacher The position is to wo...

Day In a Page

 

In Sickness and in Health: Waking up to my 4am witching hour of worry

Rebecca Armstrong
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past