Why I Defend My Decision to Love These Totally Mediocre Beauty Brands
Since working at Brit + Co, I’ve experienced for the first time what it’s like to be surrounded by “women’s things,” and it’s changed me. For instance, I know a lot more about makeup than I used to, and I wear it a lot more regularly. And, for the first time in my life, I have loyalties to beauty brands you can’t buy in a drugstore… or even in a store at all.
When I first got my hands on a Kylie Lip Kit, it was on the heels of a Kylie Cosmetics company restock after all of the three shades that were then available had been sold out for ages. I went for Kandy K, a mauve-y nude that seemed like it’d flatter my tan. It did, and the formula was okay — not life-changing, but pleasant. It was runny and smelled like a vanilla scented candle from my ’90s childhood and, like most mattes, it dried the F out of my lips. But it became my summer go-to lipcolor anyway.
Despite long-running conspiracies that Kylie’s Lip Kit formula is just repackaged ColourPop with a higher price tag, I found it had a nicer dry down and left my lips less crusty than the cheaper alternative. But more importantly, I liked that it gave me a distant link to the Kardashian-Jenner mythology. I wasn’t the type of person who’d ever made real makeup investments (and at $37 including shipping for the liquid lipstick + lipliner set, it IS an investment) and it amused me to think about how I’d broken character on such a silly piece of personal branding. It was hilarious, but I was sold.
Then there’s Glossier. It’s the cool girl beauty brand launched by blogger-turned-branding genius Emily Weiss, known for white plastic packaging and a minimalist credo. It’s the brand you pick up after you’ve fallen off the turnip truck from a flyover state and rolled into Brooklyn, to show you can walk the talk. I have, anyway.
Many more astute beauty consumers, including the writer Haley Mlotek in The Fader, have observed that the brand’s Priming Moisturizer ($25) — which I’ve come to rely on — is like a more expensive version of the widely-adored brand Embyolisse‘s face cream ($15), repackaged in a cuter tube. Their “lipsticks,” which are really little more than tinted lipbalms, have the color payoff of a light stain with none of the durability, but still cost more than any lipstick you’d find at a drugstore — and I adore them, even though I have a hard time understanding what, besides branding, makes them worth $18. I will admit now that I was the “Kelli” referenced in Mlotek’s article who scoffed at Glossier’s product quality while admiring the way the brand presented itself to the world. I will also admit that, a few months later, I’m still wearing that crappy lipstick.
When I received a shipment of Glossier’s Limited Edition Black Tie set, which comes out today in time for the holidays, I was so blown away by the beautiful attention to detail in the packaging and presentation that I didn’t notice that the set of understated products (including a clear lipgloss and a baby pink nail polish) were hardly anybody’s idea of nighttime holiday makeup. Glossier’s brow gel, called “Boy Brow,” is in fact the only one of Glossier’s goods that I would defend as great — and at $16, possibly the only one worth the price tag. Yet I will continue to support the brand. When they release a new product, I make sure to try it.
We think of beauty products as either meeting their duties of providing desired coverage, texture and consistency, or failing to. We don’t necessarily think about how intimate they are, how they literally become extensions of our bodies. You don’t just apply a lipstick or a tube of cream: you carry it in your purse and it travels through your day with you, its label peeking out while you go about your business. Because of this, we’re inclined to choose beauty brands that we feel good about embodying — and formulation is only one ingredient in that mix. What you’re buying is more than a product; you’re also buying into an idea of the kind of person you are in the world, in a pink and particular kind of way.
So no, I don’t think some of my go-to brands are the best. If I were a makeup artist, I would probably leave them at home. But I love them, and my loyalty is legit.
Do you have a brand you’re loyal to even though the product itself is kinda meh? Tell us @britandco!
(Photos via Kylie Cosmetics + Glossier. Illustration vy Marisa Kumtong.)