The Price Of Green Beauty

I actually started writing this as an Insta post until I realised I had written so much that I couldn’t continue unless I did so in the comments. That’s when I thought, this needs to become a blog post so I can get all my thoughts down in one place.

I was recently tagged by Tamara of Rainbow Feet to show my daily skincare routine and consequently how much it would cost me if I were to go out and buy all the products I am currently using right this minute. It was definitely thought-provoking and after a few comments back and forth I realised I’d like to do mine but from a different angle. I didn’t quite agree with ringing up the total of my current products because there are a number that I wouldn’t buy myself. As a blogger I don’t think it comes as a surprise that we get sent PR products and/or gifts every once in a while. But to do the topic justice I felt it was important to focus on items that I would actually purchase with my own money regardless of being a blogger, to make the comparison fair with those who don’t blog. And yes, I do buy many products myself and happily so.

As a blogger, I am very lucky to try products that sometimes are outside of my own set skincare budget and this is not something I take for granted (I very rarely, if ever, step over the $100 threshold for a single product, mainly because I feel it’s a high price point and there are so many beautiful products with high quality ingredients that retail for much less). If you were to count the total value of everything in my bathroom cabinet it would probably amount to a silly number but this is where I’d like to put a different spin on things and not just focus on The Number. But before that, you’re probably curious what the total of the products pictured above would come to – well, it’s $504 (not pictured but included in the total as a product category used in my daily skincare routine is Kahina Giving Beauty’s Eye Serum. It’s not the eye product I’m currently using however). Now that’s a lot of money. The products are ones that I do in fact use, if not every day, then several times a week and those that I would repurchase if they all suddenly disappeared into a black hole. However I have omitted some others because they are either ones I am currently testing or over my budget at full price (the Bottega Organica Illuminate is one such product, super lovely but I’m not spending $145 on it. Beauty Heroes members were lucky to receive it in a box last year). Mists will usually finish before balms and oils so that’s a product I really appreciate finding at a reasonable price, but all in all I feel that many products I own last for a good many months. Maya Chia’s The Super Couple is still going strong from January for example.

I’m aware there has been some discussion in the green beauty community regarding the price of products recently, perhaps more so with the increase brought on by May Lindstrom not too long ago and the opinions are many and varied. My take on the subject is the following:

  1. It’s up to brands to set their price points. I personally don’t feel they owe us consumers anything. Not only does this take into account the cost of actual ingredients but also their market positioning. Do they classify themselves as luxe? Accessible to everyone? And just as a price spike may always lose some customers depending on their personal budget, others love something that is considered luxe, decadent and slightly ‘out of reach’ for everyone else. In those cases, you’re not only buying a product but also status, a notion of luxury. Whether this is right or wrong is besides the point but I’m under no illusion that it doesn’t exist in every industry under the sun, and green beauty is no exception. Also, when a brand increases an existing product exponentially, it’s up to you to decide whether you find it justifiable for your budget. The brand will have their own reasoning but at the end of the day, it’s their call to up the price and your call in deciding to go along with it. There’s certainly no lack of brands and products to suit everyone’s budgets these days and how great is that! The same could not be said even 5 years ago.
  2. Paying ca $80 per brand is something I’m quite happy to do. Why? Because oftentimes I know the person behind it, have had a dialogue about their line and products and thus I know my money is going to a person who needs to pay for the ingredients, the packaging and design, their staff, their suppliers, rent for space and investment for R&D amongst many other things. Not to mention their time. Time is one of the most valuable commodities we have (ask any lawyer 😉 ). Factor in GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) which is necessary to produce safe and effective products – do all formulators do this? How about those who create in their kitchens? It begs considering. And of course GMP courses take substantial time and money, something Leah Klasovsky of Leahlani Skincare knows all too well. And when I think of Leah, I think of deep knowledge and expertise. We are paying for that as well even though it would seem that “anybody” can start making products in their kitchen. My pet peeve is high priced brands where the formulators may not even have sufficient knowledge and background for what they’re doing, but that is another post in itself.
    Would I not gulp and cry a little inside if my favourite brands hiked their prices up considerably? Of course I would and I’ll readily admit that I may have to reconsider my spending habit (should a beloved item suddenly shoot up into the stratosphere, well then I’ll have to look around for other options), but my point is that it isn’t something that the brand should take into account or be held accountable for. Oh yes, I want you to make more and better products with high quality ingredients and grow your team to meet increasing demand but please don’t ever augment your prices in order to do so. Say what? All of this is a choice. I choose to indulge in skincare (in the past it was designer items and bags) because that is my treat, what I place value on. But then also consider that many of the products pictured last a long time. I don’t see myself using up Lavish until the end of the year! I’d say that’s a great $48 spent. This also means that I never actually end up spending $500+ in one fell swoop, and let’s not forget that great companies like Beauty Heroes give their members a 15% discount whenever you shop in their store. How’s that for making beauty more accessible to everyone? Not to mention how many subscription boxes these days give us the opportunity to try products for much less than their RRP. On top of this, the discounts that various brands and online stores give throughout the year is another way to keep the cost down.
  3. I truly believe you get what you pay for. None of the products (apart from Mermaid) retail for less than $40 (which I still think is super reasonable). Quality = higher cost. We all have our personal pain thresholds when it comes to how much we are willing to spend on a product. I will admit that a part of me has become somewhat price blind when it comes to green beauty but I also know that you don’t get an effective product with nutrient dense ingredients at high street prices. I’m extremely happy when green beauty reaches more and more people, especially at an affordable cost, but I won’t fool myself by thinking that a certain plant oil used in a cheaper product is just as good as one used in a more expensive one (though as with most things, there are always exceptions to every rule). There’s also something to be said for products made in small batches by hand by artisanal brands. Again, you get what you pay for.
  4. Personal budget – what are you willing to pay for a good cleanser, face oil, mist etc? How much are you willing to put down on skincare in general? Had you told me 5 years ago that I would be spending what I do on potions and lotions today I would have scoffed, but priorities change. Interests change. Who knows where I’ll be in 4 years and of course much of this depends on one’s own finances. There are times when you have to sacrifice something in order to pay for other things, but again this is not something a company should or needs to take into consideration. We are not owed. As a professional buyer you would think I’m damaged by always going after the lowest price (savings, savings, savings!) but we also know that it’s not about the cheapest, but the best price based on current budget. Privately I can be a bit more frivolous of course but I’m always asking myself if it’s the right price for the right product at the right quantity for the right conditions.

This subject is much bigger and multifaceted than anything I could ever pin down in a blog post and just as I have shared my thoughts on the topic, I’m sure there are those who would readily disagree with me. Which is completely fine and to be expected. My main point with this post is that there is a lot more to product pricing than what regular consumers may see and understand and also – profit. Who doesn’t want to earn money doing what they do? I can think of many people and companies making huge profits off not so great products, some even harmful to us. Isn’t that a whole lot worse? The beauty industry is a big lucrative pie and with the wave of green beauty gaining momentum and making its way into mainstream, it will only become a bigger beast. For me, the focus is on continuing to support authentic brands I love and respect and part of that is by voting with my dollar. I’d like to thank Tammy for giving me food for thought and consequently, giving birth to this post.

*Side note about Mermaid: I don’t use this every day, but it’s in my regular skincare routine and thus it’s a product I repurchase fairly frequently.

14 comments

  1. Layna says:

    This is so true and is the reason why I look for skincare that has green ingredients but lots of science behind them like True Botanicals and YULI. There are legitimate scientists are work behind these lines, True Botanicals is from an SF lab and YULI’s research department is at Stanford University as that is where the founders went to school. On top of that I have been more critical of founder backgrounds after reading from great blogs like Beauty Idealist and Green Derm that accurately call out the overall lack of qualifications from a lot of people in this community.

    Beyond that, I also see a lot of value in paying for fresh and high quality ingredients which is also something green derm talks about here:
    http://greenderm.blogspot.com/2013/07/not-all-oils-are-equal.html
    http://greenderm.blogspot.com/2016/02/reader-questions-formula-edition.html

    Thank you for sharing your post!

    • caprinic says:

      Hi Layna, thank you so much for stopping by and adding your thoughts to this big subject. There really are so many different factors to take into consideration when looking at the price of a product, many of which I haven’t thought to mention in my post even as the more I think about it, the more that pops up!

    • Jenny says:

      I’m so glad you linked Green Derm because he is so on point! If you look here: http://greenderm.blogspot.com/2016/02/reader-questions-formula-edition.html#comment-form –> he really explains why it’s important in the comments that a founder knows what they’re doing in regards to MOSS and the dangers of regulation with “home made” products.

      I support small businesses but there are plenty that spend the money to do it right so $100 at those companies gives me more than $100 at an unchecked company or a big brand that does not use good ingredients. It really does go many ways and as caprinic says, so much to think about!

      I do think that lines like Bottega Organica, Drunk Elephant, Yuli are fantastic for the price and what you actually get.

      • caprinic says:

        Hi Jenny, many thanks for reading and for leaving a comment! Yes, I definitely agree with supporting small businesses as well as those who may price themselves in the luxury range IF they are doing it right. I can name a handful of brands that just don’t interest me because I find their pricing to be way too high for what they are claiming, especially when I’ve found brands and products that perform so well for far less. There’s a lot of marketing hype to look out for but this is why it’s good to be able to fall back on those with clinical and evidence-based studies, which is not the majority. Another way is to get to know the brands and ask questions – that usually sheds a lot of light in many ways!

  2. Ana Green (@Anagoesgreen) says:

    Lot’s to think about here, I was also tagged by Tammy to do mine and I am thinking about the best way to do it. If I just add up the products I am currently using the total would be higher than if I added up the cost of the products I repurchase on a regular basis, as those tend to be good value for money, although not necessarily budget. Although I also am happy to pay for quality, your argument regarding pricing forgets that for some brands staying smaller actually keeps costs higher, for example when SW Basics entered Target they were able to offer the same product at a cheaper price to the consumer because buying ingredients, packaging etc… in a higher volume enabled them to do so. There are high end products I adore, but generally speaking I tend to find that the results on the skin are not dramatic enough to warrant some of the dramatic differences in pricing. I am more of a mid range girl with the odd high end and budget product thrown in. Like you say though there is something for everyone 🙂

    • caprinic says:

      Hi Ana, thanks for chiming in! Funny how you mention the cost factor regarding smaller brands because it was something that came to mind right after I had hit published, again proving that there are so many aspects to consider regarding the cost of a product. I totally agree that staying small will drive costs up compared to bigger brands since economies of scale will always get a better deal. Thank you for mentioning it in your comment. I think I’m fairly similar to you in terms of my own buying ie mid range with some higher end. I personally can’t justify getting a single item for over $100 because as you mention yourself, the results are not dramatic enough to warrant the high pricing. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! xx

  3. Ava Zhan @earthwisebeauty says:

    Wow, such great points from you and the commenters. Thank you for writing the post. My personal take on the price increases and how it makes some customers not only upset, even angry, is that at least in the U.S., there is a long history of brands (conventional brands such as Chanel, Dior contributed to it) charging a lot of status-symbol products but with little quality in those jars. Customers who purchased these products eventually felt betrayed, cheated. Green beauty has not been around long enough for a history of trust in the ingredients, manufacturing processes, and qualifications of the formulators to be well and consistently established. But on the whole, I do think that smaller successful green beauty companies have their heart in the right place. We hear a lot about the founders and formulators, they make effort to publish articles and let others know what level of expertise they have. We see how many small companies support sustainable ingredient sourcing and Fair Trade practices. What customers do not see are the very things you mentioned, the time (to develop and test the formulas, but also to answer daily e-mails from customers and their questions via social media), the upfront investment of a lot of personal funds and years’ of time not getting paid, but also with companies growing, there is a need for liability insurance and equipment purchases. It all adds up.

    • caprinic says:

      Thanks for your thoughts Ava. There are so many factors that need to be considered when looking at a price tag and I think once you start going down the green beauty path that you begin to understand it a bit better. And really, you do end up getting more because a lot of the ingredients used in these smaller brands are more potent and active than anything you’d find in a conventional high end product. That being said, I’m not a huge fan of those who see the dollar signs in this industry and think it’s as easy to grab a bit of the pie as cooking things up in your kitchen. I know many brands may have started out that way and there’s nothing wrong with that but I believe as a consumer we have to become even more discerning about what brands to trust etc. This is where getting to know the brand and asking questions becomes important.

  4. Caitie (@naturallabeauty) says:

    Great post! I totally agree with you that companies don’t owe us anything and can price as they see fit. I understand the disappointment over ML’s price increase, but she’s always been a brand where price tag far exceeds the actual cost of ingredients, so I was a little surprised by how heated everything got! I can’t personally justify most luxury price tags at this point, so I was just observing without a horse in the race 🙂

    I do think you need to look closer at individual brand practices, etc. than just quality=price. Holiskin, for example, places a big emphasis on top quality ingredient sourcing and yet most products are inexpensively priced between $15-30. I’d be hard pressed to find a $5 product that compares to a more expensive one, sure, but I think it does a disservice to brands that intentionally position themselves in the more affordable bracket to fully equate quality and price. (Not saying that’s what you were doing!) I’m also aware that there are only so many ingredient sources out there, and realistically, many green beauty brands share suppliers and are using the exact same raw ingredients, regardless of final price/market position.

    • caprinic says:

      Thanks so much Caitie, I’m happy the post resonated with you! Yes, I completely agree with you about the need to look closer at individual brand practices (hence my little disclaimer about there being exceptions to every rule). As you mention Holiskin is a great example of a brand that is super affordable and offering great products. The subject itself is really hard to pin down in one single post as there are so many angles to it and it also comes down to a person’s personal values regarding pricing and affordability. An interesting discussion!

  5. Chidi Beauty says:

    This is a thoughtful blog post. Each consideration you raised applies equally to green and conventional products alike. For this reason I recently decided not to purchase a clean so-called “body butter” that was selling for $35.00USD (for what looks like a 4 oz jar, but the website did not specify) when I saw the first ingredient was water. Likewise, a small scientific experiment found that Nivea face cream outperformed La Mer (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2418153/Claire-used-1-Nivea-cream-half-face–105-Cr-la-Mer-The-results-VERY-revealing.html). Anyone using La Mer who cares about more than the name brand must have reconsidered their product choice after that finding.

    No matter what type of products we use, people want to feel they are getting value for their money. And I have found no better way to voice my opinion than by voting with my wallet.

    Chidi Beauty | Green Beauty for All Skin Tones
    http://chidibeauty.com

    • caprinic says:

      Thank you for your kind feedback. I think we need to stop focusing on just the number but also look deeper into WHAT constitutes that number. Sometimes it can be totally justified and other times, not at all. I obviously stopped using conventional beauty products a long time ago so none of that holds any appeal to me anymore but even green beauty brands/products can be overhyped. “People want to feel they are getting value for their money” – exactly! And oftentimes this is quite a subjective area. What you may feel gives value may not give me any so on top of pricing itself being a multifaceted topic, you have people’s values to consider as well which is never black or white.

  6. vivien_noir says:

    I like your thoughts on this. Yet I do cringe at Prices above 15 – 20 €, because often, I have to buy things in full size, without testing them before. With my very complicated scalp and lip skin, I ended up having products worth much over 140,- € Standing in my bathroom without any use, because my scalp/lips just couldn’t get along with it. I tried passing it on for much less via second Hand platforms, but apparently, not many People are able or willing to pay 10-20 € for a shampoo or 5-10€ for lip care.
    The same applies to lightly (!) used decrative cosmetics and face care. It seems like the majority of secondhand buyers still only asks for “hyped” products, while I’m happy to find e.g. a Kjaer Weis eyeshadow (even with metal casing!) for 18€ instead of 38€.

    I’d pay up to 40 or even 50€ for a product if it lasted me about 1/2 a year, and if I could try it out before, so I knew I would use it (up), and if I didn’t already own enough (or a bit too many) of it, like eye shadows. Decorative Cosmetics lasts me such a Long time I’d be incredibly happy to buy much smaller amounts of it (e.g. eyeshadow pans half the size).

    I’m happy whenever I manage to get receive sample sachets or have a tiny bit filled in a Container, but it’s getting harder and harder to acquire either one of These. I even tried and mailed a few companies, friendlyly asking them for samples, but None of them replied at all.

  7. Wonderlusting Lynda says:

    Certainly food for thought and such a massive topic! There is so much more to a price tag and even an ingredients list! (ie you can’t tell from a label how fresh or what grade oil a company is using). At all price brackets from budget to luxury, there are good and bad products…I think with the May Lindstrom situation specifically people have taken it very personally rather than as a commercial decision as she is so much the brand. Ultimately as consumers we are in control of where we spend our money, no company is putting a gun to our heads (as far as i know lol) to force us to buy their products.

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