Allure asks our CEO: Why does your favorite makeup get discontinued?

As published in by Renee Jaques

Here's what some people do when they find out that the last tube of their favorite lipstick has suddenly become discontinued: take a cotton swab and dig out every tiny scrap from the bottom of the tube, smear it on their lips, and savor that last bittersweet moment of lipstick bliss. Then there are the other people, the ones who spend hours scouring stores and online shops for every last tube, stashing them away in the back of their refrigerator to try and hold on to that perfect shade for just a little while longer. These are the kind of people Daniel Adler, president and CEO of BuyMeBeauty, had in mind when he created his site.

For those who haven't fallen into a discontinued product spiral before, BuyMeBeauty is a popular website that helps users searching for elusive discontinued makeup products. "When we started our website, we didn't think it was going to be anything big, but then we noticed that people weren't buying just one lipstick or package of makeup remover pads—they were buying a dozen," says Adler. "It became clear that when a manufacturer discontinues a shade of an item, the customer is still looking for it."


Customers also grieve for the loss of certain items from popular product collections, such as the bright loose pigment eyeshadows in the L'Oréal Paris HiP Line. (The company still sells the HiP line, but only sells the shadows in pressed form.) "The loose pigments were so good, and I miss being able to get stuff like that at the drugstore," writes one Reddit user. "It was one of those really rich loose shadow formulas that balls up a little and applies really creamy with great payoff." Adler sells the L'Oréal Paris HiP Shocking Shadow Pigments on BuyMeBeauty for $8 a pop, and he says that people are insanely grateful when they discover that they can find them there. "All of a sudden we are literally like saviors," he says. "You should see the emails we get from customers. It's amazing. They say things like, 'I can't believe you have this. You saved my life.'"

But if the loose pigments in the HiP line were so popular, why would L'Oréal discontinue them? Adler thinks it's all about what trends companies believe will yield demand. This makes it hard for his company to know what products to purchase. He says they do market research all the time to figure out what trends major cosmetics companies are selling and what makeup trends BuyMeBeauty's customers remain interested in, regardless of whether there are currently products on the market to satisfy it. "Planning is difficult, because we don't have the data that companies have on what is in demand, so over time, we've figured out certain things that work better for our customers," says Adler. "Right now in eyeshadows, browns and nudes are really in. But we know our customers really want those bright pigments in the L'Oréal Paris HiP line, and they can't find them in the market anymore. Essentially, we have to carry a lot of different things, so we have to purchase a lot of items."


Adler believes a lot of discontinuation has to do with scale. "They are huge brands and they can afford to just throw stuff out there. They can't worry about people wanting a certain shade," says Adler. "Its a scale thing. Lets say when they make a range of lipsticks, they make 20,000 of each shade, and they look at their research and they're fine with only selling 5,000 online. And the truth is, once it's not in the store or online anymore, most women just move on. It's just the ten percent who really want it. They're assuming that 90 percent are just going to move on, so its better to scale that way." Elkins does say that it's important for M.A.C. to keep new product rolling in every month, which means older product needs to be taken out of production. "Part of our rationale in making these decisions is that we are really a unique brand in that we launch close to 90 collections globally a year, and this enables us to stay on top of trends in both fashion and pop culture. It also gives our consumers a chance to see something new every time," she says.


Overall, the most popular products people search for on BuyMeBeauty are lipsticks, blush, and mascara. "Mascara is very popular. The thing with mascara is that you use many more tubes throughout the year than you do lipstick. And once its opened, after a couple months, you have to start with a new one," says Adler. "We have people who buy 12 mascaras, and they go through one a month. They just want to make sure they have it. Or they buy 24 to make sure they are good for the next two years."

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11th Jul 2016 Renee Jaques

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