Having our cake and eating it

julia zaltzman

I had a conversation recently with an organic beauty expert who expressed genuine concern over the way in which we, as consumers, have been conditioned to buy cosmetics. Her fear is that many shoppers are enticed by premium designer labels rather than the contents of the product. The fact that these products often have over-inflated prices has in turn distorted consumer perspective of how much beauty products truly cost to make.

Her point is that while many shoppers are happy to pay upwards of £35 for a designer foundation, they will question the price of an unknown organic brand’s foundation despite its superior quality of ingredients and smaller profit margin.

She added that, more often than not, the bigger the price tag, the more a consumer is likely to trust and buy in to that brand because they believe there must be a genuine justification for such an eye-wateringly high fee. They refuse to believe that a £6 foundation often contains the same ingredients as a £40 one.

The holy grail of facial moisturizers, as endorsed by celebrities worldwide, is Cre?me de la Mer, which retails at a staggering £110 per 30ml pot (or, if you’re feeling flush, £1,370 for 500ml). I can find no list of ingredients on its website, but the product description informs me that the “heart of Cre?me de la Mer’s profound powers of transformation” lies in the secret of its “nutrient-rich Miracle Broth”. (I can’t help but wonder if it’s the same recipe as my mum’s chicken soup, because that too works miracles when feeling under the weather, but I digress.)

Although I don’t doubt that a drop of Creme de la Mer on each cheek will leave my skin feeling silky soft and hydrated, nothing short of cosmetic surgery can, in my mind, justify such a price point. My beauty expert and I can’t be the only ones who are questioning the marketing hype, who can see past the glossy packaging, and would prefer to pay face value for ingredients.

And please don’t misunderstand and assume that I’m simply a cosmetic Scrooge, because that really isn’t the case. Show me a nourishing argan oil serum, and I’ll pay whatever is required because I know full well how labour-intensive the journey is to get this prized argan fruit from seed to skin.

And there it is – product transparency – the real justification behind a premium price tag. And the reason for the latest big buzz launch – Beauty Pie. Masterminded by Marcia Kilgore, the brains behind Bliss Spa, Fit Flops, Soap & Glory and most recently Soaper Duper, the digital brand’s simple proposition is to cut out the middleman and allow shoppers to buy direct from the factories that also supply the majority of make-up to well-known luxury beauty brands. Those who sign up to Beauty Pie can buy a lipstick for £3.43, a mascara for £1.87, and foundation for a mere £5.29.

The Telegraph’s acting beauty editor Victoria Hall believes it to be a game changer, commenting: “The theory that ‘you get what you pay for’ has allowed the prestige cosmetics industry to thrive for years. However, it could all be about to change with Beauty Pie.”

It is unclear at the time of writing whether organic products are offered, but that aside, this is surely the long-awaited expose? the natural beauty industry has been waiting for. At last, consumers will be able to see the face value of beauty products – no marketing spin, no luxe packaging, just cost-price ingredients. That’s definitely the kind of pie that I will happily pay for a slice of.


Julia Zaltzmann is a freelance journalist and editor of Natural Beauty News.