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?