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Luxury cosmetics are expensive and may actually be less effective than an inexpensive item at doing a certain job, depending on the product. Sometimes, though, luxury products are of a better quality than less expensive cosmetics, and the manufacturers have put a lot of money into scientific research. In addition, as a status symbol, an expensive version of a product may be more impressive to other people than another product that does the same job but is less costly.
Cosmetics tend to be more variable than other products like medicine on their action on the body. Different people vary in skin type, for example, and sensitive skin may react equally as badly to both a variety of inexpensive and expensive products. For people who experience spots, irritation or dislike strong fragrances, choosing luxury cosmetics over cheaper brands in the hope that the expensive version works better may not be warranted by results. As a customer often does not try out the luxury product before buying it, if it doesn't work, or if it is an irritant, then the money spent is wasted.
As luxury cosmetics manufacturers may put more work into their products compared to some cheaper versions, the quality of the product, in terms of its consistency and longevity, may be better. Eye shadows, for example, may contain finer particles that last longer on the skin, and skin creams may contain a higher concentration of substances that have a noticeable effect on the skin. Colors may also be stronger in luxury cosmetics, as the substances that give an eyeshadow color, for example, may be present in higher quantities in more expensive brands.
Ethical marketing options also come into play with some luxury brands. Organic materials tend to be more expensive than non-organic sources, and cosmetics that only contain natural ingredients generally cost more to make. Rare ingredients can also bump up the price, and luxury brands may be the only manufacturers to be able to turn a profit on cosmetics that cost a lot to make.
When it comes to effectiveness, cosmetics tend to vary widely, and often may have exaggerated claims. Typically, a cosmetic advertisement contains some airbrushing and models in mascara advertisements, for example, may wear false eyelashes. Many luxury cosmetics do undergo scientific testing, and have a noticeable effect on skin hydration, as an example. One potential source of price disparity between cheap and expensive cosmetics is that the luxury manufacturer may have put a lot of money into identifying and producing potentially useful chemicals.
Luxury does not necessarily have to be more effective than cheaper products, however, as one of the central features to a luxury cosmetic is that it is a symbol of wealth. Primarily due to the price tag, a person who buys a luxury item may feel good about herself or himself because the money is there to buy the expensive option. As well as a personal pride in having expensive items, use of a luxury product can also be impressive to other people.
@Grivusangel: Good point. I've also found the luxury skin care products are really good, but gosh, are they pricey! Wow! I think the drugstore products, like Oil of Olay, are really starting to give them a run for their money, though, which is good. Maybe it will force the luxury people to lower their prices just a bit, so more people can afford their products.
I'll buy luxury once in a while, but mostly only if I'm convinced it's something I need and can't get in one of the lower priced brands. That's kind of my benchmark.
There's no doubt that most drugstore cosmetics do just about everything the luxury kind do. However, there's also no doubt that the luxury brands have the best lipstick. You don't need as much so it lasts longer, and it wears longer. I don't know why; maybe there's more pigment in a luxury brand. In any event, the "good" lipsticks are usually better. The color is more intense and as I said, they wear longer.
In the case of lipstick, it's probably worth spending the extra money for a luxury brand, since it will last longer and wear longer. I normally stick with the drugstore cosmetics, but once in a while, if I see a really great color in a luxury brand, I'll buy it.