Why Is Makeup So Expensive? (10 Reasons)

Makeup brush and cosmetics on blue wooden table


Beauty products can be pricey, from hair sprays to moisturizers and especially makeup.

Though there are many different kinds of makeup that can be categorized by brand, type, and quality, you can plan on spending a pretty penny at checkout.

Makeup is not a necessary item, but it still leaves many consumers confused as to why it costs so much.

Since makeup became popular in mainstream culture, more and more products have been introduced to the market, creating competition and driving up price points.

Makeup pricing is influenced by many different components, such as sourcing ingredients to getting the product on retail shelves.


Why Is Makeup So Expensive? (10 Reasons)


1. Rising Shipping Costs

makeup products in shopping cart


Many consumers assume the cost of ingredients is what drives up the cost of makeup.

However, the reality is that shipping is a component that heavily affects the cost of makeup.

According to 1and1 Life, “On average, packaging and shipping costs account for nearly 50% of the total price of a makeup product.”

The cost of makeup is affected so much by shipping because makeup products are made and manufactured all over the world, making it a global export and import.

International shipping is not cheap and is affected by the global economy at that given time.

Since the pandemic, global shipping has slowed tremendously, driving up the costs as it takes more resources to get the job done.

It takes more time for items to ship now and costs more money to make up for the lack of labor and work being done.

When makeup is shipped to another country, the country of import has to pay a tax, contributing another factor to shipping costs.

Looking for makeup products made in America might save you a few dollars as its shipping costs will be much lower than makeup made internationally.


2. Eco-Friendly Packaging

Professional makeup tools, flatlay on white background


Packaging is another giant contender in the world of makeup—meaning, it matters.

Consumers are drawn heavily to a product based on its packaging.

You may have noticed how oftentimes, when you purchase a tube of foundation, for example, it’s sold in a much larger box than necessary.

Assuming that box is full of the foundation you want, it can be disappointing to open the box once you get home only to find a small 3oz tube inside.

However, the makeup company knows that creating an easy-to-see, larger, more enticing package is more alluring to the consumer.

Creating the larger-than-necessary box, though it costs more to produce, is worth the added money, as it’s a great tool to lure in customers.

Plus, it requires more employees, such as graphic designers, marketing teams, and manufacturers to create the container, contributing even more to higher costs.

In today’s culture, using environmentally friendly packaging is becoming a top priority for makeup companies.

Unfortunately, it costs much more to create eco-conscious packaging than it does to use plastics and synthetic materials.

As the demand for more environmentally and reusable packaging grows, makeup companies are having to raise costs to make up for the discrepancy between the previous prices of packaging.


3. High Cost of Marketing and Branding

Professional makeup artist working with beautiful young woman


Marketing plays a huge role in the cost of makeup.

As more and more makeup brands pop up, the competition becomes greater, driving makeup companies to spend endless amounts of money on their marketing campaigns.

The cost of marketing is so high, “in fact, 90% of the cost usually comes from expensive marketing and brand campaigns.”

Makeup companies traditionally market to young and susceptible consumers or those vulnerable to falling prey to trendy ad campaigns.

So much makeup is about the brand name, which does not always equate to the quality of ingredients or resulting products.

However, makeup companies know they have a slam dunk marketing to their younger consumer base because young people are drawn to the latest trends and styles, wanting desperately to win the popularity race.

Television commercials, social media ads, and magazine ads are not cheap and cost their companies an arm and leg to produce.

Along with social media ads, makeup companies pay numerous social media influencers to use, promote, and review their products.

As this marketing trend escalates, influencers are charging more and more to represent a brand’s makeup products.

For example, brands like Kylie Cosmetics almost solely use social media marketing to promote their products.


4. Consumers Are Willing To Pay

Young woman with braid chooses lipstick in small cosmetics shop.


Simply put, consumers are willing to pay high prices for their makeup.

This gives little incentive for makeup companies to lower their prices.

When they know they’ll get what they ask, they can keep the price as is or raise it, safely knowing their customers will pay top dollar.

Of course, much of the reason customers are willing to pay so much is due to brand acknowledgment.

Many customers also find a product that works for them and, therefore, stay loyal to that brand for their lifetime.

It’s hard finding the perfect foundation for your skin, so when you do, you’re willing to pay as much as you have to to keep it sufficiently stocked in your bathroom.

Because the size portions of makeup packaging are getting smaller and smaller, consumers are having to shop more often for their favorite products, thus spending more money.

Brand recognition is a huge factor in what people are willing to pay.

Though some popular brands might have better quality ingredients and ethically sourced materials, chances are consumers are really paying the high costs of running a multi-million-dollar company, including CEO bonuses.

Many makeup consumers are duped into thinking they’re paying more for quality, but unfortunately, that is not always the case.

When beauty is valued as high as it is in the United States, beauty companies know they can take advantage of this superficial value.

People are willing to pay anything if they think it’ll make them happy, likable, and popular.


5. Celebrity Endorsements

Make-up artists preparing pretty professional model for beauty shoot


Celebrities have been used to endorse every product, from cars to perfumes to aspirin, but many makeup companies rely heavily on celebrity endorsements as their main selling point.

Just think of the makeup conglomerate CoverGirl.

The name alone sparks the drive for inclusion, as everyone wants to be a cover girl.

So, when celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres, Queen Latifah, Sofia Vergara, Taylor Swift, Zendaya, Janelle Monáe, Pink, and so many more are hired to represent the company, their fans and admirers are sure to flock to the drug store to pick up CoverGirl products.

However, these celebrities don’t come cheap and though manufacturing the actual makeup product may not cost a lot, consumers are paying for the celebrity endorsement that encouraged them to even purchase the product.

Many celebrities become the main face of a makeup product or a representative of the company, signing multi-year contracts.

Also, more and more celebrities are developing their own makeup brands.

These brands not only have the advantage of a built-in fan base, but the cultural attraction allows the company to sell their makeup products for huge sums of money.

Starting in 2017, within 15 months of production, Rihanna’s makeup brand Fenty earned $570 million in revenue.

Today, its operations are worth $2.8 billion.

Similarly, Kylie Cosmetics by Kylie Kardashian was valued at $1.2 billion in 2019 and continues to see extremely high revenue.


6. Rising Inflation Rates

inflation and tax concept Rising graph of inflation


Because of COVID, the war in Ukraine, and other major global events, inflation rates have been on an incline with no ending in sight.

Dictated largely by the status of the global economy, inflation affects every kind of business or service in one way or another.

Unfortunately, because many makeup products are made overseas and rely on international shipping to get to their final destination, the cost of makeup may be affected more by inflation than some other domestic-made products.

Working as a domino effect, when the cost of sourcing and manufacturing starts to rise due to the rising cost of materials, ingredients, and labor, the amount of product being produced may be affected.

When fewer products are being produced but the demand is still high, the cost will rise.

Due to labor shortages at the United States Postal Service as well as international shipping companies, and the high cost of transportation and gas, it costs more and takes more time to deliver makeup products to retail stores.

This is also why we’ve seen a lot of empty shelves in super stores, like Target and Walmart, where many middle-class Americans purchase their makeup products.

The supply cannot keep up with the demand.


7. Cost of Ingredients

A lipstick vial filling machine in a cosmetics factory.


The cost of ingredients isn’t a major factor in the overall price of a makeup product, though it’s been estimated that ingredients account for 15% of the final retail cost.

However, as inflation increases, those ingredients are costing more and more to source.

Plus, with the current push for cosmetic companies to start ethically sourcing ingredients, until manufacturers are able to find sustainable sources, it costs more to use naturally derived ingredients in their products.

For example, it costs more to use natural fragrances, such as essential oils, than synthetic scents that are cheaply developed in labs.

When composing a makeup product, manufacturers use a base formula and then add active ingredients specific to the product’s intention or purpose.

The base formula is really where the quality of a makeup product is established in terms of the proportions of ingredients used.

For example, a cheap makeup brand may technically use the same ingredients that a high-end makeup brand uses, but they’ll use less of the quality (and pricier) ingredients in the base formula, and instead use more filler ingredients that cost less.

The unfortunate part of this situation is that manufacturers don’t have to tell consumers the exact amounts of ingredients in their products, so there’s really no way of knowing if your base formula is better quality or not, except through trial and error.


8. Focus on Sustainability

set of professional decorative cosmetics, makeup tools and accessory


As discussed earlier, though a makeup company’s focus on sustainability is admirable and desired, it does cost more to manufacture its products.

Many companies, regardless of what product they make, are in a transition phase where they are switching to new, sustainable practices from their old ways.

Any time a company undergoes a huge change like this, it takes time and money to execute.

Changing packaging to eco-friendly, recyclable, or reusable packaging is only the tip of the iceberg for makeup companies.

Finding and using eco-conscious and ethically sourced ingredients is another major undertaking that requires a lot of up-front investment on the part of the makeup manufacturer.

Naturally-derived ingredients may cost more, but then those sources must also be sustainable on top of it.

All of this change toward a lower carbon footprint requires the help of environmental specialists, lab developers, environmental scientists, and re-branding in terms of marketing.

Until sustainable practices become the norm, the costs of production will be made up for by putting higher costs on makeup products.


9. Retail Markup

Variety of stylish, fashionable, diverse, colorful assortment of modern cosmetics store


It’s easy to see the drastic difference in the cost of the same product from one store to another.

Larger superstores, like Target or Walmart, can purchase their items in bulk and lower their wholesale costs.

Therefore, they can sell their products at lower retail prices.

However, many makeup consumers shop at specialty stores, like Sephora or Ulta, knowing they’ll offer a greater variety of products and have those hard-to-find makeup products that probably are not sold in big-box stores.

Because of their specific clientele, stores like Ulta and Sephora can raise their costs knowing the customers will pay them.


10. Luxury Brands Cost More

Interior view of Chanel cosmetics store in Changi Airport Singapore


As with every kind of product, the cost of luxury drives up the cost of a product.

Again, expensive makeup does not always mean it’s necessarily the best quality.

However, like with celebrity endorsements, you’re paying for the brand and the name.

Luxury makeup brands like Chanel, Tom Ford, Gucci, and Dior, have built-in committed consumers who are loyal to their brands.

Though some of these products may be more effective than cheaper brands, customers are paying for the brand recognition and reputation.

These brands are synonymous with luxury and help promote a lavish lifestyle that many customers want to have.

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