Two weeks ago I went to Sephora and dropped $280 on makeup. I do this regularly at Sephora because I’m passionate about makeup and the internet community it’s created. I also take my physical appearance very seriously because if I do it right, I get free shiz.
Grace Choi likes makeup, too. She likes it so much that she’s decided to completely eff up the makeup industry and collapse the market as a whole. You know how I feel about that? Excited!
Choi was a Harvard Business student when she discovered the makeup industry’s well-guarded secret:
“The makeup industry makes a whole lot of money on a whole lot of bullsh__,” Choi said during her TechCrunch Disrupt speech. “They charge a huge premium on something that tech provides for free. That one thing is color.”
The bullsh— she’s referring to is that makeup is created with the same ink that your printer uses for a few bucks a cartridge, which is already FDA approved. The rest, she says, is the concoction of super-cheap raw materials.
In the age of 3D printing, Choi had no trouble finding a way around the markups the makeup companies inflict on us gals and created the Mink desktop 3D printer, which will retail for only $300. This printer would allow anyone to print any shade of any kind of makeup instantly. [Queue excited squealing.]
At Sephora, I have a finite range of colors to choose from when searching for pigments. At my local drug store, I have even less to choose from. But the internet has a near infinite range of colors and, by ripping the hex code from any color on any page on the entire interwebz, I have access to makeup made with any pigment that could feasibly be created in the universe.
In addition to the incredible availability of product, the price would be near nothing compared with what I’m paying now. The ink? I’ve already got it. The raw materials? They cost practically nothing.
Choi demonstrated the process from start to finish, ripping a code from a makeup tutorial in less than a second, printing it into an eye shadow pallet, and applying it to her skin. All of this took about a minute to do, and that’s with a roughly hewn proof-of-concept printer.
When all is said and done, this printer could completely undo the $55 million makeup industry and destroy a pillar of the fashion industry.
Choi is aiming the printer at the 13-21-year-old girl demographic, which has yet to develop beauty habits and will grow up with the printer. One panel member suggested marketing the printer to trendsetters and letting them sell custom pallets to their friends, essentially creating a network marketing company a la Avon and Arbonne.
I think he’s barking up the wrong tree. The printer, at only $300, is the cost of one small bag of goodies from Sephora. The second generation Mink would probably cost $190. The third generation would level off in the $115-$125 arena. So, why would we not all by one of these for ourselves? Sit down, silly panel member. You know nothing, Jon Snow.
I’ve just stepped out of the 13-21 demographic this year, which according to Choi means I officially have makeup habits. And she’s right! But I also have a finite amount of money, so I’d be more than giddy to fork over $300—heck, I’d pay a thousand!—for this printer. I want this printer. I NEED this printer.
What does this mean for Mac and Maybelline? If I were an exec for one of these companies I’d be panicking, because makeup is about to start growing on trees… sort of.