On Saturday, I popped into a Mac store. The shop was heaving. Gaggles of women were talking excitedly, their hands livid with stripes of lipstick, daubs of eyeshadow and blobs of foundation. Some were definitely pissed. Is this a Thing nowadays, I wondered? Cheeky glass of Pinot with lunch and then a trip to Mac in lieu of pudding? I loved their enthusiasm and their joie de vivre, but I couldn’t share it. This was largely because I had gone into Mac to buy exactly the same eyeshadow that I always buy. It's a crème brûlée sort of shade, if you’re interested. Which you probably aren’t. As make-up purchases go, an eyeshadow that mimics the hue of your eyelid is about as interesting as snooker.
To say I’m stuck in a make-up rut is an understatement. “I’ll still be drawing liquid black eyeliner over my crow’s feet!” I remember saying as a youthful goth. Alas, I am. For decades, my make-up routine has consisted of: Chantecaille concealer stick daubed on each side of my nose (I’d tell you its exact name, but it was discontinued long ago), By Terry Liquid Densiliss Concealer daubed under the eyes if they look particularly purple, the aforementioned Mac eyeshadow, Rimmel Exaggerate Waterproof Liquid Liner, any old brown eyeliner, any old lipsalve. I’m not proud of this, nor am I ashamed. What can I say? While I’ll be moved to add to my wardrobe any number of times a month – okay, week – new make-up products rarely tempt me.
Bizarrely, it seems I’m not alone. The latest make-up trend? Not buying make-up. Ironically, though some might say unsurprisingly, the trend is a reaction to all the make-up tutorials and make-up haul vlogs on YouTube, many of which, over time, have revealed themselves to be no more unbiased and / or objective than a traditional ad. We’ve all heard tales of unscrupulous bloggers who recommend products in exchange for payment, but fail to flag up that their posts / videos are #sponsored. It’s hardly surprising if the deceit involved has turned fans off.
On Reddit, meanwhile, the MakeupRehab thread has 18,600 members and recently hit 10,000 subscribers. Created as “a place for those on a no-buy, low-buy or those who just want to talk makeup without being bombarded with sales, hauls and other tempting posts”, it offers tips for beauty lovers who want to nurture their creativity but curb their spending. Tips include waiting until you’ve finished a certain number of products before buying more (there is an entire thread devoted to “panporn”, aka empty “pans” or palettes), and resisting the lure of limited edition products.
It remains to be seen whether no-buy / low-buy becomes more than just a passing trend: in April, the data analytics company IRI found that cosmetics sales in the UK are now worth almost £1bn a year
Which is sensible advice, given the dizzying number of limited editions foisted on us – a trend that has been fuelled in no small part by celebrity beauty brands from the likes of Kylie Jenner, Jessica Alba and Kat Von D. Over the last ten years, most major make-up brands have ramped up the number of new products they release every year. Mac alone has more than 50 collections either launching anew or repackaged, a fact sure to delight the tipsy women in my local London branch. It remains to be seen whether no-buy / low-buy becomes more than just a passing trend: in April, the data analytics company IRI found that cosmetics sales in the UK are now worth almost £1bn a year, up £55m in the year to March 18th 2017. Thanks to the “selfie generation”, sales of bronzer alone almost doubled to £43m within the same year. The big guns – and even the small guns – really needn’t worry.
Obviously, a shiny new make-up purchase is a glorious thing. The beauty industry is temptingly full of genuine innovations and delights. But it also has its fair share of products that aren’t exactly worthy of the price tag or the hype. With inflation at its highest rate in four years, most of us are feeling the pinch. Even if #panporn is a step too far, the idea of buying make-up carefully and mindfully can only be a good thing. That said, it might be time for me to update my make-up bag. Drawing winged eyeliner over your crows’ feet really isn’t a good look.