7 Of The Real Reasons Why Your Favorite Beauty Products Are So Expensive

I’ve never been a makeup nut, but watching my mom apply her MAC makeup every morning growing up predisposed me to being drawn to high end makeup when I finally started wearing the stuff. Whether it was the MAC counter at a department store or a Sephora, spending over $30 on a foundation or over $15 on an eyeliner always seemed pretty reasonable. This also made it really easy for me to venture into the world of expensive skincare; if it costs more and you got it at a fancy shop, it’s better, right? Well, not quite. It’s easy to dismiss drugstore brands as second rate or lower quality, but this perception can be at best misguided and at worst straight up false.

Some of the reasons for price disparities between that Chanel foundation and that L’Oreal foundation are understandable. The rest? Eh, they’re pretty much BS, and we end up wasting our coin for no reason! But whether the reasons are legit or not, you deserve to know what they are. So check out these seven real reasons why your favorite beauty products are so expensive.


We love brands, and we do a lot of our shopping based on brand recognition or reputation. But that comes with a price, literally. think about the grocery store: Name brand items always cost more than the generic store-brand version, right? You don't really know if you're spending more on the brand version because of quality, but you trust that brand to give you what you're looking for, so you'll shell out more money for it. That's why Chanel can sell scented water for over $100 and we'll nod and go, "Hm, fair enough." But Bath and Body Works selling perfume for that price? Total rip off. They can be the exact same formula and everything, but you associate Chanel with luxury, so you'll agree to shell out luxury prices! You know that Chanel looks fancier on your vanity than a Bath and Body Works brand perfume too, right? Right. So brand name really is king when it comes to pricing.

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The Location Where It's Sold

In other words, do you want to know why products at Sephora are expensive? Because they're at Sephora. At Sephora, department stores, and the like, you're paying for ambiance, aesthetics, and customer service. That thumping Carli XCX remix playing in the background as poised, dolled up employee helps you pick out the right concealer for your skin type in a beautiful, spacious, well lit building...the samples galore? Yeah, you're not getting that in the fluorescent lighting hell of your neighborhood drugstore. It's kind of like a fancy restaurant: You're not just paying for a nice steak, you're paying for the ambiance that you aren't going to get at a diner.

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The Formula

To be frank, a lot of your favorite high end products have virtually identical ingredients to cheap, drugstore products. But sometimes, high end products really are higher quality due to the fact that they sometimes contain more luxurious chemicals. For example, some silicones that provide ample slip to high end moisturizers, primers, and foundations are a little more scarce in drugstore counterparts. So sometimes, yes, that $60 moisturizer really does feel nicer than its $15 dupe, and for a real reason.

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Here's something that might justify paying more for a product: Research. Some companies go the extra mile--and shell out big bucks--to conduct clinical testing to help prove that their miracle product really does what it says it will. The extra money you pay for that vitamin C serum is justified because the company reported that 95 percent of participants in their clinical trial had a more even skin tone after six weeks. The extra money you pay for that lipstick is justified because 91 percent of participants in a clinical trial reported that it didn't rub off after 12 hours of wear. Yes, there's real science involved in your favorite beauty products, and larger companies with money to burn will make sure that science can justify a higher price tag. Think about it: Are you willing to pay more money for something that you know works?

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The Proportions Of Certain Ingredients

Okay, so for the billionth time: Many skincare and beauty products that are considered high end have identical ingredient lists as lower end dupes. But here's another reason why one is more expensive than the other: Proportions of ingredients. Maybe a lipstick contains wax, oil, and pigment, but perhaps the high end version has more pigment than its drugstore equivalent. That lipstick is now considered more pigmented and considered a better value than a comparable, cheaper option that might take more applications to produce the same level of vibrancy. Let's say two hyaluronic acid moisturizers have the same ingredients; there's a chance that the more expensive one has a higher percentage of that moisturizing acid than the cheaper one.

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The Aesthetics Of The Packaging

Look, we're human, okay? Humans like pretty things, and in this world of ours we're even willing to pay a lot of money to have pretty things. High end beauty products tend to go out of their way to be super aesthetically pleasing in a way that a lot of drugstore varieties don't. We're more willing to drop some extra coin on that serum that comes in the super minimalist bottle or the pressed powder that comes in that cute millennial pink jar. When it comes to beauty, it's clear that it's not always a matter of being the better product, but rather the prettier product.

Glossier @ Instagram

Literally Because They Can

Nearly everything we buy is upmarked. Your favorite $50 foundation might cost $1 to make, while a comparable foundation at the drugstore costs $7 and was made for 50 cents. So when all is said and done, no matter where you buy your beauty products, they're arguably overpriced. But, hey, that's the system we live in: People way up on the economic food chain decide how much things cost, and we just go along with it because oh my god this setting spray makes my pores disappear, guys. It's a pretty vicious scam but we all buy into it.


Do you usually buy high end beauty products or do you stick to drugstore classics? What products are you willing and not willing to splurge on? Tell us in the comments!

You can follow the author, Ashley Reese, on Twitter or Instagram. Don’t worry, she doesn’t bite!

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