By Anneli Rufus, AlterNet
Posted on September 11, 2010, Printed on September 11, 2010
Worth $50 billion in the U.S. alone, with Asia a close second and gaining speed, the $170 billion beauty industry conspires to convince women that our fates depend on our looks which depend on what we spend. In this equation, ugliness — as society sees it — can be remedied like a disease, if you just spend enough. Refuse to buy? Your face and fate are your own fault.
But is a MAC Haute & Naughty Lash mascara really worth $18? When industry meets beauty, what does “worth” even mean? Are cosmetics’ ingredients so rare and precious and labor-intensively processed as to merit these prices?
No — we’re just being bamboozled by huge markups, says cosmetic chemist Perry Romanowski, one of the minds behind BeautyBrains.com, a site that answers users’ questions about science and cosmetics.
“Some skin-care products you can buy in Sephora cost about $2 to make, but then are on sale for $300. Other skin-care products can be made for 50 cents and are sold for $2,” says Romanowski, whose many books include Beginning Cosmetic Chemistry. And although the actual percentages of the markups is a trade secret that companies don’t reveal, “in general, these products are not using ingredients so expensive that they would warrant the cost. No anti-wrinkle cream is worth $150. In fact, any product over $25 is a waste of money.