Does a Woman Really Need a $23 Undereye Concealer?

My favorite Beauty Supply Store is a ten-minute drive from my house, on a high-end, but Main-Street-y boulevard that cuts a swath through a pocket of Mediterranean, Tudor, and Craftsman mansions.

What with last year’s obscene legal fees and a house in which my husband and I are underwater, I have no business strolling this boulevard at all, never mind wandering into a store stocked with $50 votives and $65 eye serum.

But I can’t help it. I love it there. The salespeople have exotic accents and trip over themselves to help you find just the right curl enhancer. The owner, always in a crisp button-down and cuff links, calls you “dear.” The air smells like lavender and gingergrass and prosperity.

The thing is, I cannot get out of that store without spending a minimum of eighty dollars. And that’s on maybe two products. After getting a temporary high from the ambience, the moment I exit the store with my pink-and-white striped bag in hand, I am inevitably plunged into a pit of consumer’s guilt.

But I keep going back.

Two weeks ago, for instance, I went to get a new undereye concealer, as I was nearing the final dab from the product I had been using: a swanky concealer in a black tube, the brand name etched in stylish white letters. The perpetually perky salesgirl had told me that this was the creamiest, the bestiest concealer ever. That’s why it was worth $23, she said. It did what no other concealer could do.

Which is how I justified my intent to spend another $23 on a tiny tube of custard-colored paste.

Only this time, the Beauty Supply Store was out of my brand. The salesgirl checked two other brands — both similarly-priced and similarly-packaged, that had a comparable color — but those concealers were back-ordered as well.

The owner was very apologetic about the inconvience. “Come back in a week, dear. The orders should be in then.”

So I went back the next week. But the orders still weren’t in.

“You wear the most popular shade of concealer, dear,” said the owner.

I felt special. And then bereft. My old tube of concealer was scraped clean. This would mean I would have to brave the world with dark undereye circles. Unthinkable.

I stepped out onto the sidewalk, walked a few paces, and stopped in front of the Rite-Aid. Rite-Aid sold tons of cosmetics, I thought to myself. But they weren’t the creamiest or the bestiest.

They were, however, the cheapest.

So I went in. Under garish lighting, I pored over rows of concealers that were nowhere near as stylin’ as my old brand, but were cheap. I settled on one from Revlon that looked close to the swanky brand I had been wearing. And it was $7.99, one-third of the price I had paid for the concealer in the shop next door.

I walked to the cash register. The cashier did not call me “dear.” The scent of lavender was not in the air. But having saved myself $15, I felt elevated to a cloud of practicality, instead of lowered into a swamp of buyer’s remorse.

I’ve been wearing the $7.99 undereye concealer for a week now, and I honestly can’t say what the extra $15 bought me, other than the illusion of specialness. The cheap one does pretty much what the expensive one did.

Which is, not ever cover up my eye circles completely.

So I think I’m going to stick with my low-rent concealer. I’ll miss my favorite Beauty Supply Store, but I can always sniff lavender from a Trader Joe’s potted lavender plant. I have a man at home who calls me “honey,” which is actually a step up from “dear.” And with that extra $15 in my pocket, I am slightly more prosperous.

Now, if I can just kick my Anthropologie habit…

Where do you shop for cosmetics? Beauty Supply Stores or drug stores?

Do you believe high-end cosmetics are worth the price?

And how much do you pay for your concealer, anyway?


About perilsofdivorcedpauline

I am a survivor of a world-class gnarly divorce. My dastardly ex-husband is suing me for full custody of my son, and more time with my daughter. He’s super-rich and I’m super-not. You get the picture.
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16 Responses to Does a Woman Really Need a $23 Undereye Concealer?

  1. I buy my cosmetics in department stores, but tend to avoid brands with perfumes, because my skin is so sensitive. However, I buy all my facial cleansers and moisturizers at Rite-Aid.

  2. CeCe says:

    I know that Beauty Supply store well. It is indeed very seductive. I have fallen prey to the little pink and white striped bag on numerous occasions and experienced the same “purchase buzz” and subsequent let down. Not worth it. But you know what IS worth it? Giorgio Armani concealer and foundation. I would eat hot dogs and beans before I would give it up. I order it via telephone to avoid being seduced by the sirens at the counter. Try it…and kiss L.B.S. goodbye forever.
    P.S. (The cherry on the cake? My order always arrives with fun GA samples.)

  3. Jenny says:

    I’m ashamed to admit to a YSL concealer habit. It’s in a pretty gold pen and costs more than $23. The design, a constantly moist brush, probably breeds e.coli. It works, though. Sort of. You know what really works? Ten hours of uninterrupted sleep. Now that’s something you can’t pick up at the beauty supply. If they sold great sleep, those beauty hawkers would really be onto something.

  4. Makeup is my weakness, and I spend an embrassing amount of money at Sephora and Ulta. My concealer is “only” $18 (I use Clinique), but the other day I spent $50 on the Urban Decay neutral eye shadow collection, I can’t even begin to describe how ashamed of myself I am over that one!

    • Sephora, for me, is like walking into a crack den with the shakes.

    • Joli says:

      I know the palette you’re talking about and honestly you probably couldn’t pick up that many useable colors at even the drugstore for much less. Plus the quality is so much better. I use the original Naked palette pretty much everyday for work, and over a year later there is still tons of product, the texture and colors haven’t changed or dried out, and I haven’t needed to buy any replacements.

      Now if I’d spent that same $50 on neon pinks, purples, and greens from the same company it might have been a waste because I won’t use them. Sometimes the wear and use you get from a product justifies the expense. Plus I am not a big jewelry or accessory person. But I like being able to play with different makeup looks everyday. So it’s a personal choice. I don’t buy everything high end, but what I do, I don’t feel guilty about.

  5. endurovet says:

    I have really pared back my “femininity-compliant” beauty practices over the years… Yes, all the way from giving up daily application of cosmetics (I’ll smear on a lil’ war paint for special occasions) 20+ yrs ago, to ditching compulsory depilation of legs n’ pits shortly after my son was born (almost 14 yrs ago).
    I order Avon cleansers & moisturizers for the benefit of a friend of my mom’s, but really like some of the Gardiner products at Walgreen’s! (Oh yeah it’s basic Suave shampoo & conditioner as well)
    My big splurge, limited to 2 or 3 times/yr, is a trip to Lush for their bath products: fizzies & fancy soaps! I can drop $100 there in a heartbeat.

  6. I am addicted to Lancome. The saleswoman is Russian, named Tatiana. I’ve been trying to break this habit, but so far the methadone of CVS hasn’t taken.

  7. Joli says:

    I touched on this in my comment above, but it’s really a very personal choice how much a person opts to spend on beauty products. Asking if we really need to spend “x” amount on “x” product implies we should be ashamed if we do. And I don’t. I enjoy makeup, it’s fun to me. So I spend more on it than I do other areas such as jewelry, shoes, or clothes. I think most of us can admit to be frugal in some areas so that we can be more extravagant in others. So long as we are happy with our choices ( and not spending above our means), I don’t see any problem with it.

    I don’t buy all high end cosmetics either. I buy what I like, and I find works for me. Additionally, there are always sales and bargains to be had if you’re willing to look for them. For example, the foundation I use originally retailed at $44. It’s got great coverage, a built in primer, and is buildable so I don’t use concealer. But this fall the formula was changed, so the company cleared all the ‘old’ bottles for $5. I bought four. I won’t find a product for that price that works this well at the drugstore.

    • It’s definitely a personal choice…didn’t mean to imply anyone shouldn’t be spending a certain amount of money on cosmetics, but examining the message that cosmetics companies send out that more expensive is always better.

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