Grace Choi Presents Mink 3D Makeup Printer

Could you imagine a high-tech world where we can print out our colour cosmetics just like we do currently with paper. Can you picture yourself snapping a photo, picking a colour you like and printing it out into an eyeshadow pan instead of forking out cash (or card in my case) to buy it from a retailer? It sounds like a fantasy but one young woman has presented her concept that could become a reality. Grace Choi, a graduate from Harvard Business School has publicly stated that the beauty industry is a bunch of “bulls#!t”. Choi says that we could all be DIY-ing our cosmetics and put an end to these big cosmetic companies. Is she right? Is she wrong?

Whether you have heard all about this story or not, I’m going to tell you why printing your own makeup is not going to be a reality for quite sometime, and I may never want it to be. 

The Backstory

First, a quick summary of the news incase you missed it. On May 5, 2014, Grace Choi was a presenter at TechCrunch Disrupt, where she launched her concept invention, Mink. Using 3D printing technology, Mink could potentially allow you to pick a colour and simply print it out onto a pre-made cosmetic base.

At this point I recommend you watch Choi’s presentation. It’s well worth it and I want you to draw your own conclusions on this invention before I share mine.

My Thoughts

The idea of printing out an eyeshadow or lipstick in the exact colour you are looking for does sound very appealing. We’ve all had those times where finding the perfect red lipstick for our complexion makes us want to cry and give up ….. but if you could pick any red in the colour spectrum and print it out, how many times would you have to do that before you found one that suited your complexion? The process does not become any easier and definitely not any cheaper. Let me elaborate.

You buy the USD $300 Mink, you plug it in, you pick a colour you like using a basic hex code, you pop in the powder base and voila, a new eyeshadow. Simples, right? Not really.

Grace Choi Presents Mink 3D Makeup Printer

The actual concept Mink 3D printer as used in Grace Choi’s demonstration

At this point I want to say that Choi’s concept is exciting and I love the idea of 3D printing being used for a cosmetic application but I do have a big problem with some of the things she said in her presentation. Here are just some of the reasons I’m calling foul on this concept:

  • The cosmetic industry is not operating on “bulls#!t”. Choi claims that every brand from top-shelf beauty (Chanel, Dior) through to drugstore favourites (Revlon, Maybelline NY) all use the same ink (in the beauty world we call them pigments). This actually isn’t true and even if they did use the exact same pigments there are huge variations in the other ingredients used in each product AND the manufacturing process varies. This is why you don’t find every powder eyeshadow feels the same, even if they look the same.
  • As we all know, not every product works for every person. When it comes to the bases that Mink will need to offer, they will need one to cover all types of skin textures and types. They may also need an additional line of bases to address key decision contributors like cruelty-free,vegan, gluten, preservatives and oil ingredients. It’s not as simple as offering a powder base and a cream base. Will that cream base be crease-proof? Will it stick to oily lids AND be comfortable on dry lips? Multi-tasking cosmetics are rare because the formulations can’t work well on every part of your face.
  • I’ve had my fair share of upsets caused by Sephora and other big beauty retailers, but despite that shopping at those outlets isn’t all about the price. It’s an experience that is coupled along with great service, an exciting environment and a world of discovery. A trip to Sephora isn’t just a trip to a store for me, it’s an adventure.
  • Per unit pricing cannot possibly be much lower than current drugstore prices, as quoted by Choi. 3D printing is a new technology and it offers exceptional possibilities but there is more required to producing a good cosmetic than the coloured ink. The price for the bare bases is where I say the expense will lie. The bases themselves may come in at an affordable price eventually, but if they are to be of any quality they would need to developed by a cosmetic chemist and undergo extensive research & development. That doesn’t come cheap and the cost would have to be passed on through the unit price if the printer alone is only going to retail at around $300. In a piece published on Harper’s Bazaar a leading cosmetic chemist explains why Choi fails to understand the process required for producing colour cosmetics.
  • While the DIY solution may fix our need for instant gratification, it doesn’t address the many other reasons we buy cosmetics. Packaging is a big one for me – I don’t want my cosmetics in a bunch of pans that I store in a Z Palette. I like beautiful packaging, I like limited edition designs … when I buy a cosmetic product I’m buying more than just the product inside (and that is why all my reviews address packaging!).
  • Choi claimed during her presentation that this device could empower young women and girls to set their own beauty ideal rather than allowing cosmetic companies to use their glossy campaigns to dictate what is beautiful. This is the claim I found to be most offensive. Cosmetic companies aren’t bullying women into believing they aren’t beautiful, in fact, of all the aesthetic industries I would say they’re the least contributing offender. Nevertheless, allowing girls to print the colour cosmetic they want won’t happen without inspiration. Inspiration can come from bloggers (like me), vloggers (from the outrageously colourful Phyrra through to the classical elegance of Chloe Morello), celebrities and of course, cosmetic campaigns.

I do hope this technology eventually becomes available in my lifetime but the emphasis Grace Choi has put on this product changing everything we know and (according to Choi) loathe about the cosmetic industry is inaccurate, in my opinion.

What do you think of Mink? Would you print your own colour cosmetics? Let me know by commenting below! 

Image source: TechCrunch

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