What if you could print your own makeup?

Yesterday I saw an interesting article over on TechCrunch. It's about Mink, a 3D printer for cosmetics! It is at its very early stages, so early that the demo isn't even a real one but just a simulation, but I'm pretty excited about the concept. It can print your desired color on an eyeshadow, blush, lipstick, or foundation. The raw materials or substrates I assume will be purchased separately, but in the long run us women should be able to save quite a bit of money from buying makeup in stores.

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What Mink promises to do is provide us the freedom to choose our own colors. Love that lipstick that blogger is wearing? What, it's from Chanel? No problem, just "grab" the color from your screen using a color picker and then print that color on a fresh blank lipstick. Et voila! No need to spend 40USD on a lippie.

Working with retail brands, I am aware that raw materials are so cheap that you'd cry knowing how much a product costs to make. Wouldn't it be amazing to be able to create your own makeup from your house? Perhaps you can even start a business out of it, yes?


This technology seeks to disrupt the cosmetics industry by placing the manufacturing and distribution process in the hands of anyone who can afford the 300USD 3D printer. However, it's not quite as simple as it sounds. 

Grace Choi (the inventer of Mink) says the cosmetics industry perpetrates bullshit because it charges a premium for the colors it comes out with. She says that the raw materials are all the same, but brands are able to jack up the price because of the colors they design.


That's true, but color is not the only thing that determines the price of that Chanel lipstick. There's the quality of the actual product itself - does it stay long? Does it hydrate the lips? - and the packaging. The formula and raw materials cost more than what you can find in a Maybelline one, because the ingredients have better quality and the packaging is more luxurious. They've also spent a bit of money researching ways to make the product even better (so they can charge higher, of course).

Big brands also make sure that all their ingredients are FDA compliant and safe to use. They also take (sometimes extreme) measures to maintain sanitation and prevent contamination of their products while in production. I've been to a luxury brand's factory in Japan and I've seen this in person. How sanitary and careful could everyone be while making cosmetics in their bedroom or garage?  

Seeing as the target market are girls who are 13-21 years old however, I don't think they'd care much about the quality. They would just want fun colors they can wear immediately without costing a ton of money. The 300USD is an investment if you're 13, but you can make a business out of it if you're smart enough...which, in the end, will cause you to charge a premium for your products because you'll be spending time creating them for your customers and will be dealing with overhead costs due to the increase in your production.

So it comes full circle - consumers, i.e. us, would still be buying beautiful things from other people and they would still have every right to charge for how much they think that's worth. That would bring down the cost (and quality) of cosmetics in the long run as even more independent brands will crop up.

That being said, I'm still excited about Mink, and will keep an eye out for it this year. What do you think? Do you want to print your own makeup?


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