On the Beauty of Beauty Products - Beauty Addict

Thursday, July 27, 2006

On the Beauty of Beauty Products

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

- Robert Frost

Chanel’s beauty headliner for Fall – in case you’ve missed the umpteen mentions plastered all over the beauty mags – is Pink Lamé, a super-fancy, high-concept eye shadow described as such:

“A highly original eyeshadow that blends sophistication, luxury and fashion in one! The innovative, embossed surface reflects the intricate beauty of lamé, weaving together three opulent layers of silky powder in gold, silver and rose tones.”

Pink Lamé will set you back $40; keep in mind that for all the fanfare, it’s still just a single eyeshadow. It follows in the footsteps of similar items from previous seasons, like last fall’s $60 Coromandels de Chanel compact (gold, brick, and black powders inspired by Coco’s Coromandel screens), and spring’s pastel palette embossed with “classic Chanel textures” or something of the like. They usually lead the seasonal collections and carry a higher price point because they’re “exclusive creations” with a couture feel.

They’re all beautiful to look at, and I appreciate the aesthetic, the intermarriage of cosmetics with the iconic emblems of the house of Chanel. But the concept behind them begs the question: Where is the line between fashion and function in beauty products?

Pink Lamé’s “innovative, embossed surface” certainly wouldn’t affect product performance, but as consumers we are instructed - by the marketing team of course - to view this as a selling point. And as for the weaving of three colors, by the time they’re swirled on your brush and applied to your eyelid, they’re all one color (a "radiant shade of rose" according to Chanel, mind you). If you like the end result, great – but it’s all presentation, no substance. And you’re paying for the presentation. Surely you'd be able to find radiant rose, black, gold, brick, or pastels, even from Chanel, without the added hype and artifice.

Many of us have no qualms about plunking down extra cash for pretty packaging, but the concept of dressing up the actual product inside is newer and more nebulous. When it comes to the actual goods, how much does presentation count? Once it’s on your face, after all, how it looks in the compact doesn’t really matter.

Furthermore, the beauty of these “couture” makeup items is ephemeral; after a few uses, Pink Lamé will lose its texture and color definition, the lovely gold swirls of Coromandels will be scratched away, and the embossed textures of the Spring palette will be eroded by your shadow brush. Nothing gold can stay, indeed. At least when you pay for packaging, you get to enjoy it until the contents run out.

So why shell out for high-concept cosmetics like Pink Lamé? Are we really willing to pay more for a product just because it looks more luxurious?