Grab your popcorn and soda and have a seat because I put together a whole spreadsheet of brands and eyeshadow palettes to calculate out how much product you ACTUALLY get for what you pay… find out if Natasha Denona is as expensive as you thought, or if Maybelline is really the hidden killer.
This morning while munching on some cereal like a fully functioning adult, I was watching Lauren Mae’s video on drugstore products that are overpriced. She basically talks about some drugstore items that need to “check themselves” aka items that are way too expensive for what they are, and it got me thinking about how much you get per eyeshadow for brands in general, and then how much you get per gram. Naturally, this spiraled into me putting together a whole spreadsheet on a bunch of different brands in which I took a few palettes or singles from the brand, calculated the price per # of pans, calculated the price per grams, and then “equalized” everything by using a theoretical palette as a proxy. I learned some pretty interesting things, so if you’re not completely lost yet… stay with me!
The spreadsheet was built using 21 brands, which comprised 61 palettes and 12 eyeshadow singles for a total of 73 palettes. Here are some “hypotheses” I had going into this:
- Single shadows are going to be more expensive (per gram) than if considering shadows individually in palettes – this is just basic economies of scale and the reason why most companies advertise palettes as being a “$X value!!” as seen with the Makeup Geek Starter Kit Bundle, which retails for $45, but is apparently a $67 value
- Per gram & per pan, “drugstore” brands are going to be less expensive than “high end” brands, EXCEPT for in the cases where they’re collabing with celebrities (looking at you, Maybelline & Gigi Hadid!!)
- It won’t really make a difference whether I’m talking about per pan or per gram when I “equalize” everything in terms of ordering brands & palettes by how “expensive” they are – I’m thinking that they’re going to have a 1:1 correlation because I *assume* (again, IDK for sure, man) that brands are going to just price based on product weight, so everything will even out (does that even make sense?)
If you’re STILL with me, here’s what I actually found…
HYPOTHESIS 1: $ Single Shadows > $ Palettes
This one I was correct on – no matter which way you’re looking at it, you’re going to be paying more for a single shadow both based on # pans and grams than you would be for the palette. However, something that I thought was interesting is that it looks like no matter what “class” of product it is (high end vs. drugstore), the % difference you find when comparing palettes based on price/pan and price/g hovers at around 30%.
When it comes to single shadows, you have a little more fluctuation here – it looks like the disparity for drugstore price/pan vs. price/g is lower (49%) than for high end comparisons (67%), which I personally take as meaning that it starts to matter more as to which basis you decide to compare differences on when you step into high end brand territory.
Buuut, when you stay “within” the same comparison types and start looking at palettes vs. singles, you’ll notice that there’s so much more of a difference when looking at price/pan – a 96% difference overall, in fact. Price/g will give you a 65% difference overall, but when breaking it down by drugstore vs. high end, you’ll find that it’s 2x greater in high end (71%) vs. drugstore (31%). I take this as meaning that when you’re comparing palettes vs. singles, it’s probably safer to compare on a price/(g) basis as this seems to give you a more “fair” estimate to compare on, although you should note that high end territory is a little more disparate.
Tl;dr – you’re always going to pay more for a single shadow than you will for an individual shadow in a palette no matter how you look at it (based on # of pans or grams), but if you really want to compare, I would say stick to using price/grams, even though this still isn’t *perfect,* especially when taking the “class” of palette into consideration. Calculations aside, I also think this is more “correct” because lbr… you’re paying for the amount of product, not how many “pans” they give you.
HYPOTHESIS 2: $ Drugstore < $ High End (excluding celebrity collabs)
On an overall average basis (excluding the 2 Gigi x Maybelline collabs from this) – yes, this is true. You’ll see again that singles are still “more expensive” than palettes no matter which class you look at.
Another ‘but’ here: when looking at price per pan, this checks out, except for Morphe down below. I classified it as a “high end” brand just because that’s what it is in my mind, but I’m thinking that I may have to change it’s designation.
When looking at price per gram, this gets a little more messy. You’ll see Covergirl shoot up to #4, while Huda Beauty drops down to #14 on the list out of 19 brands. Morphe is the most affordable in terms of price/g and the second-most affordable in price/pan, while Wet n Wild is the most affordable if just looking at the pans.
HYPOTHESIS 3: Per Pan = Per Gram When Equalized
So we already know that this is going to be wrong from the findings in the first two hypothesis, but I was wondering just how much this would matter. I took the Zoeva palette as my proxy because it’s “easy” to understand – it has 10 individual shadows and contains 15 grams of product, which I think is your standard run-of-the-mill eyeshadow palette.
When “equalized,” things start to get a little bit crazy. When looking at price per gram, suddenly Natasha Denona (which I always think of when I think about the most expensive eyeshadow) is much more attainable than Marc Jacobs is. The whole Covergirl being #4 when considering price per gram thing really comes into perspective here as it would be $50, while Zoeva is $26… drugstore who? I don’t know her.
1.) That Gigi Collab Tho…
In Lauren’s video, one of the products she mentions is the Gigi Hadid palette and how ridiculously expensive it is – when broken out like this, you can see that the palette comes in 5th place behind Urban Decay, Marc Jacobs, Kat von D, and Make Up For Ever… but it’s MAYBELLINE!
Additionally, you’ll see that somehow, it’s right behind all of the SINGLE SHADOWS the apparently ridiculously expensive Marc Jacobs palette. Again, Covergirl is pretty high up there too, but dang I feel kind of personally attacked by Maybelline rn. Just give me a minute. I’ll be ok.
2.) “Upgraded” Makeup
When it comes to “re-released” or “upgraded” makeup, it looks like it really depends on the brand. For example, with the Carli Bybel palette, you’re paying almost 3x more per gram, while with the new and improved Morphe palettes, you’re getting the same thing. When it comes to both the new Comfort Zone and Silent Treatment palettes, you’re paying less per pan, but more per gram.
3.) Is That Mirror Worth It?
So basically all of Colourpop’s “normal” 12-pan palettes retail for $16 and something I thought was strange was that one of the palettes, You Had Me At Hello, looks the same, yet retails for $18… because it comes with a mirror. Ok?
All things aside, it looks like you’re paying $2 for this mirror – per shadow, you’re paying $0.17, and per gram, you’re paying $0.19. I guess this isn’t that much in the grand scheme of things if that mirror is really what you need in a palette, but hiking up a palette a whole $2 extra makes me wonder how much it actually costs to put mirrors in eyeshadow palettes in the first place!
4.) Go Big or Go Home (But Not Too Big)
When it comes to mini palettes like the Matte Chocolate Chip by Too Faced, you’re paying a little over 1.5x the amount per gram than you would for the “full size” version of the palette. On the other hand, in Urban Decay’s case, you’re paying virtually the same amount of the “mini” version as the full-size version (I used the Naked Heat as a stand in for all the “normal”-sized products in the Naked line because they’re all the same price per gram), while you’re paying slightly more for the “ultimate” version of the palette in this line.
Considering I only have two brands to use as examples here, I would say this is an exact science, BUT it makes me reconsider whether that Matte Chocolate Chip palette is really as cute as I think it is.
WHAT ELSE DID I LEARN?
1.) Juvia’s Place, Morphe, & Natasha Denona – more affordable than I thought
Again, when you look at how much you’re getting for what you pay, I think I really misjudged Juvia’s Place and Morphe – looking at the actual data makes so much sense now considering how much product you get for what you pay. With Juvia’s Place, the pans themselves are HUGE, and with Morphe, you’re getting a ridiculous amount of shadows.
Furthermore, Natasha Denona has always seemed like the ultimate expensive brand to me because of how expensive their eyeshadow palettes are overall, but when you look per gram, again… you see that yes, they’re expensive, but not too much more expensive than a brand like Too Faced, which to me is high end, but not unreasonable. This doesn’t make the $230 price tag on Natasha Denona palettes any more attainable to me, but it does allow me to see how much you actually get in a palette like that.
Another thing I noticed was that the Jaclyn Hill Palette by Morphe really seems to be a great value – you pay less per gram than you would with the Carli Bybel x BH Cosmetics collaboration and even a Colourpop or Maybelline palette. Are you paying more for the collab vs. a “regular” Morphe palette? Well, yeah, but only about $0.01 more than for the 15D and $0.27 more than for their regular ’35’ line of palettes.
2.) “High End” vs. “Drugstore” = Imperfect Classification
Going off of my point above, designating “high end” vs. “drugstore” get kind of difficult when you look at the numbers. For example, Huda Beauty, which I consider “high end” because of the image and the overall prices, is somehow less expensive than Colourpop, Zoeva, and Maybelline. In the same vein…
3.) Maybelline & CG – W.T.F.
Maaan these brands are actually EXPENSIVE when you look at what you’re paying per gram. Now I feel like I’m getting ripped off when it comes to buying makeup at the drugstore – granted, I don’t always need that huge 35-pan Morphe palette (even though I’d be saving so much money that way) and sometimes a drugstore quad just hits the spot, but I feel like moving forward, I’m much more inclined to take a step back and ask myself if I really need these four colors, or if I can find them in my other palettes.
I think this will actually help me a lot in my quest to declutter my makeup collection because again, it puts things into perspective – if I’m paying $3.35 per gram for a Covergirl shadow, which is more expensive than the majority of “high end” brands on my list, and it’s still only an $8 quad, that means I’m basically getting no product. It also means if I continue to buy a “collection” of quads from this brand instead of just “splurging” (which isn’t really splurging, apparently) for a larger palette from a higher-end brand, it means I’m financially doing myself a disservice.
I guess this is really how drugstore brands entice you – they lure you in by offering quads (that don’t really have much product in them at all) at appealing prices (again, say $8 per quad) and you’re more inclined to buy more of them just “complete” the collection because in your mind, they’re only $8 each. At the end of the day, you bought 4 quads and spent $24 – not bad, right? You bought 4 quads for the price of 1 palette Sephora!
…and then you realize that you paid 4x the amount per gram of Covergirl shadows than you would have if you just bought one larger Huda Beauty eyeshadow palette, which would have actually been the better deal. How sneaky. I see you, drugstore!
4.) Weight Reporting Isn’t Perfect
You know how ridiculously expensive that Marc Jacob palette looks? Yeah, well, I had to do a gut check previously because the weight was reported wrong on Sephora!
According to Sephora, this contains 7 shadows with .08 g of product each, making the whole palette .56 g, which really makes no sense at all… especially when it comes out to being $87 per gram. I hopped onto Temptalia to double check and it turns out that it actually contains .03oz per shadow, meaning Sephora added some extra zeros in there.
Sephora also did the Natasha Denona 28 palettes dirty because right under the product name in the “header,” the website says the size of the overall palette is 70 g; however, when you actually calculate it by how much it reports each shadow as weighing in the body of the description (28 x 2.26 g), you get that you get 63.28 g of product instead of 70 g.
Maybe 70 g is the reported weight of the entire palette (including the packaging), but I feel like companies need to be more transparent about this – that 6.72 g may not seem like that big of a difference, but when you consider that you’re paying $3.78 per gram for this palette (using the “proper” weight in the body of the description), that means the difference is costing you $25.40 AND the palette is already $229… that’s a no from me, dawg.
SHORTCOMINGS OF THIS “EXERCISE”
This exercise basically had two purposes: the first was to entertain me because I’m a freak and love making spreadsheets, and the second was to get a better idea of how much you pay per gram for different brands. While I think overall, it gives me a good picture, it’s definitely not perfect, both due to human error on my end (I’m no scientist) and human error on the part of brands, such as in the circumstances of Sephora reporting the weights wrong.
I know enough about data that if what you put it in is wrong, what you get out will also be wrong, so I can’t guarantee that everything in these tables are 100% accurate. Another big problem in my eyes is that I guess you can’t guarantee if the reported “weight” on the packaging is really the weight of the palette overall, or the weight of the actual shadows themselves.
This brings me to the whole “The Makeup Breakup” series done by Beauty News on YouTube, where they destroy makeup both because it’s just so satisfying to watch and because it allows them to weigh the product before and after emptying it to see what you’re actually getting for the reported weight – in some cases, you get more product than what the packaging says, but in other cases, you get a lot less than what’s advertised. This series is both entertaining and interesting, so highly recommend checking it out!
Another “shortcoming” is a lack of data for some of these brands, again both on my end and on the brand’s reporting of the weights. I chose not to include Anastasia because it was surprisingly difficult to find the weights of things on the brand’s website and websites like Sephora/ULTA (also because I was tired at this point), but I would like to include the brand in maybe the 2.0 version of this post in the future if anybody is interested. Additionally, I recognize that Covergirl might be as expensive as it is in my spreadsheet because I only have two palettes worth of data to gauge off of and when you have a larger sample size your reporting is more accurate and yada yada, but again, this isn’t an exact science, and I would try to “flesh out” brands like this in the future.
I know this post is super long and probably a little boring, but I enjoyed doing this in the grand scheme of things. The most surprising findings to me where how “expensive” drugstore brands actually are when you look at them on a per gram basis vs. the overall cost of the palette because I realized that you’re really not getting that much product. As I said before, this will make me think a little bit more when I’m about to impulse-buy a quad of shadows just because they look so appealing.
I know people like to calculate and compare brands on different a basis, but I’ve come to the conclusion that personally, I find calculating the price per weight to make the most sense to compare brands just because it shows what you’re really paying for and because it seems to be the most “stable” indicator.
And that’s all I have for now – if anybody cared enough to notice any miscalculations or if anybody has any questions, please let me know! Did you guys find this useful at all? Would want to see a 2.0 version?
- Lauren Mae Beauty // Drugstore Products That Need to Check Themselves! // Over Priced Makeup at the Drugstore!
- Beauty News // The Makeup Breakup