May 13, 2014 I Tom Head

The Future of Cosmetics

In the good old days, paying for a creative product meant paying for the medium. If you wanted a novel, you bought the physical book; if you wanted a picture, you bought a print; if you wanted a video, you bought a videocassette or DVD; if you wanted a piece of music, you bought a record or CD; and so on. What we've seen over the past 15 years or so is a shift to digital media, where you pay for the creative product without having to pay for the physical medium that carries it—and this has opened up all of these media to more independent production, where anybody can make their own content and either use it themselves or sell it to others.

So inventor Grace Choi had a fairly logical question: why do people pay so much money for makeup that only approximates the shades and textures they're looking for when they could 3-D print the real thing? Her Mink printer, which she describes here, may solve that problem—and potentially disrupt the entire cosmetics industry in the process:

There are some potential snags in her design and business plan, and the $300 price tag (not counting base material) may scare away some customers, but it's hard to imagine how the idea behind the Mink won't catch on—if it isn't Choi's design, it'll be somebody else's. And it'll be glorious. Women of color, especially, are likely to benefit; while white folks can generally find foundation that at least generally approximates their skin tone, most cosmetics manufacturers have done a middling to poor job of approximating the mixes of red, yellow, and brown tones that make up the majority of human pigments.

Tom Head

Tom Head is an author or coauthor of 29 nonfiction books, columnist, scriptwriter, research paralegal, occasional hellraiser, and proud Jackson native. His book Possessions and Exorcisms (Fact or Fiction?) covers the recent demand for exorcists over the past 30 years and demonic possession.

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