Sunday, April 10, 2016
Let's Talk About Cost Per Ounce
Something that's been banging around in my head is the "cost per ounce" discussion we sometimes have on the blogosphere--really, discussions about cost in general. We ask if a foundation is really worth $120 an ounce, we wonder if a $5 eyeliner can out-perform a $50 option, and we run through face cream and brow pencil on the regular. The beauty industry is a 160 billion dollar a year machine that encourages us to empty our wallets in exchange for eternal youth and on-fleek faces.
Yet even if we're aware that it's capitalism and the hype machine at its finest, we still buy in to it. I spend hundreds of dollars on makeup and skincare every year while grumbling about ridiculous claims. And even though ads like the one above make me roll my eyes at their blatant passive-aggressiveness, I still sometimes fall prey to stuff like this:
Are permanent items like this going to sell out if I don't buy NOW NOW NOW? No. If it's limited edition and it sells out before I make a decision, will I never find another product like it? Doubtful; the beauty industry is uber-saturated. But damn, between the slew of promotional emails and the slick social media posts displaying elegant packaging on clean, minimalist shelves, it's easy to forget those facts.
So if we're going to keep tossing our money at these companies, regardless of how carefully they prey on our insecurities and insist we should buy things we totally don't need, shouldn't we be very, very aware of the cost per ounce? Shouldn't we take careful note of the value of everything we buy?
Yes and no. Let me explain with a super professional graphic.
I've broken down the cost per ounce for a variety of lipsticks. I did this using fractions. A MAC Satin lipstick, for instance, is $17 for 0.10 ounces of product. We want to know the cost per ounce, so we do 0.10 / $17.00 = 1.00 / X and solve for X. This works out to $170 per ounce. I did this for several different formulas in my collection, lopping off any "cents" (the numbers after the decimal point) for ease.
As we've discussed, the cost per ounce for Glossier's Generation G lipsticks ends up being utterly absurd: $450 for an ounce of product. MAC lipsticks look like a bargain by comparison, clocking in at under $200 per ounce. Most other high end brands seem to be around $250 per ounce, give or take a few bucks.
While it's easy to think that the lowest cost per ounce equals the best value for money, how much product you're getting is not the only factor you should consider. So what other factors are there?
Well, formula is the big one. The MAC Huggable lipsticks look like a major steal over the NARS Audacious line, since the former is almost $50 cheaper per ounce than the latter. But the Huggables have a softer formulation that doesn't wear as long. I probably reapply my MAC Huggable lipstick three or four times throughout the day when I wear it, as compared to maybe one reapplication of a NARS Audacious lipstick after a meal. Hence, I'm likely going to go through the MAC lipstick much faster.
Packaging can also be important. MAC Huggables are slightly more expensive per ounce than lipsticks from the standard line, but the tubes are heftier and feel nicer in my hands. I also think they look a bit prettier due to the shiny finish, but we're probably splitting hairs there. If you want a sleek, attractive tube, it's hard to top the NARS Audacious lipsticks, especially since they have a magnetic closure that keeps the lids from popping off in your purse.
Pricier-per-ounce products may also suit your needs better. The Glossier Generation G lipstick price can be hard to swallow if you just look at the math, but I can't deny that the formula is absolutely dummy-proof and works better than almost any other lipstick in my collection for work. Bite's High Pigment Pencils aren't cheap, but I've been unable to find dupes for my two shades (Bouquet and Velvet Rope) in another formulation I like just as much.
And of course, promotions, coupons, and incentives can make a difference. An insane number of people have used my Glossier.com affiliate link (thanks, guys!), which makes it easier for me to order and test their products. There's no denying that this incentive program is quite generous: the buyer gets 20% off of their first order, and the referrer gets $10 in store credit. The famous Back 2 MAC program factors in to my decision to keep purchasing MAC lip products, because not only do I get a free lipstick when I gather 6 plastic empties, I'm also participating in a recycling program.
This doesn't change the fact that some products are clearly more expensive than others, and that expense may not be worth it to you. And of course, taking a step back and examining how much cheap-per-unit products really cost is important, if only because it emphasizes how careful consumers should be. But I just wanted to toss these ideas out there and see what you guys think.