Bare Escentuals Bucks Tradition and Tries Liquid Foundation


Bare Minerals evangelists are obsessed with the company because of its powder makeup that suggests consumers use a mildly hilarious “swirl, tap, buff” technique. But now, the company has gone into dangerous territory by deciding to sell (dun dun dunnn) liquid foundation.

“Can liquid foundation actually be good for you?” the company asks in their latest ad touting their move into the world of liquid foundations which they’re calling bareSkin. Like their original Bare Minerals powder foundation that seems to disappear into the skin as you “buff” it on, Bare Escentuals is proud of bareSkin because it’s reportedly free of bad stuff: “no silicon, no oil, no parabens, no fragrance.”

“The future of foundation is here,” the commercial says.

Leslie Blodgett, the head of Bare Escentuals who has as much of a cult following herself as her makeup does, told Women’s Wear Daily that even though they’re selling a liquid foundation, it’s not really a liquid foundation:

“We still want people off liquid foundation. We are against liquid foundation. This isn’t a liquid foundation, just like our original bareMinerals was not a powder. We had to explain for years that it was crushed minerals and not a powder. This is a serum, and it has got half of the ingredients of a traditional liquid foundation. We felt that every woman deserves to have a foundation, whether it is in the serum form or powder form, that has the fewest possible ingredients that allows them to have the look and the health benefits that they want.”

Considering Bare Minerals started somewhat of a mineral foundation industry itself, it was probably just a matter of time before the company tried to go after their competitors in the same way. Before bareSkin, they’d already expanded their brand past the Original formula, selling their block powder matte foundation for women with oiler skin. And WWD reports the company (owned by Shiseido) could make $50 million to $100 million from bareSkin alone in the product’s first year on the market.

Probably the biggest part of the Bare Minerals success is Blodgett and her connection with customers (a few years ago, the New York Times wrote that, “Not since Estée Lauder dabbed Youth-Dew behind the ears of thousands has a lone woman so influenced the beauty industry”). You can almost hear the concern ringing in her voice in the WWD interview that people won’t understand this new product, because these people are so important to her. The company is known for how specific they are about how to use their products, on QVC, in online makeup tutorials and in the CD that comes when you buy a Bare Minerals starter kit. They’ve done the same thing with bareSkin, releasing several tutorials about how to use the foundation (both with a brush and with your fingers) that might seem odd to longtime liquid foundation users but will make perfect sense to devoted Bare Minerals users. They’ve also put out a few other breathlessly exuberant videos from their top executives about the new product.

The company definitely doesn’t want you to switch from powder to liquid if you’re already buying their stuff (partially because they want to keep customer happy but also because if you switched over, they wouldn’t actually be making more money they way they will if they bring in new customers):

“I really don’t want existing customers here. I want those people who would have never walked into the [bareMinerals] store because they didn’t think we sold what they bought,” said Blodgett. “The reason we care about your current customers is that we want them to respect us for doing this, but we don’t want them to use it because they are happy with the current product. I don’t want anyone switching.”

Such a big part of the Bare Minerals success is this loyalty. They don’t want people to flip-flop between products, even if they’re flip-flopping between Bare Minerals products: they want people to be consistent about their purchases. And no matter how cheesy their tactics or debatably good for you their makeup is, women love them.

A few years ago a friend told me about Bare Minerals and as someone who didn’t really like the idea of painting a whole layer of makeup on my skin, I could mentally get behind the powder-that-seamlessly-melts-into-your-skin thing. I was happy with it, so I bought some for my mom and sister. Watching my their eyes open wide with excitement when they put the powder foundation on and saw it basically disappear into their skin was one of the most accidentally revealing beauty industry moments I’ve had. Their skin suddenly looked smoother and closer to flawless and it was so easy. It’s almost like they hadn’t even put makeup on.

And that’s the magic of Bare Minerals, with all their “buildable coverage” and “swirl, tap, buff” techniques: they’ve convinced women that they can transform themselves without really changing. Bare Minerals is marketed as makeup for women who don’t use makeup to look drastically different but who want to look like their “best self,” a contrast to other beloved companies like MAC, which prize themselves more on makeup creativity and metamorphosis.

And sure, a ton of the Bare Minerals magic is marketing, but does it matter if it works and makes people happy? So far, reviews from consumers on bareSkin are a little mixed, but many do seem pleased with the new product. For Bare Minerals (and Blodgett) that might not be as good as a perfect score, but for a makeup company, it’s still pretty impressive.

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