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Beauty on a Budget: DIY Mass Market Items Offer Options to Procedures

For those who can't afford a visit to a derm or a salon, drugstore and online merchants have products to duplicate social-media-inspired looks.

When it comes to beauty, some women have to fake it.

Social media has fueled growth of surgical and non-surgical procedures as consumers search for selfie-worthy perfection. According to data from the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, Americans shelled out more than 
$15 billion on surgical and nonsurgical procedures last year, representing a $1.5 billion increase in spending from 2015 to 2016. The U.S., in fact, leads the world in total surgical and injectable procedures, according to the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.

Med spas are popping up across the nation and “getting work done” is no longer taboo — rather something to broadcast. Demand is escalating for eyelash extensions, which average $150 in salons, and micro-blading, where a penlike hand tool deposits pigment into the brow at prices that can run up to $600.

But what about consumers with Kardashian dreams on a Natty Light budget?

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Whether limited by cost, preference for natural avenues to mimic cosmetic procedures or even parents who say no — more women are opting for mass-market or online options. Retailers said that trend explains why mass-market sales of brow products escalated 26.4 percent for the 52-week period ended July 9 as tracked by IRI.

Drugstore beauty hacks are hardly new — women have tried Preparation H for bags under eyes for years and recently YouTube popularized the concept of condoms over beauty sponges to aid in foundation application. But what retailers have gleaned from keeping an ear tuned to social media is that younger shoppers without Kylie Jenner’s bankroll want to see them stock products they can afford.

The instant-gratification generation craves lightning-speed results, one reason they often turn to surgery rather than skin-care regimens. “Younger customers are sick of putting on creams again and again with no difference. However, some can’t afford surgery and so many surgeries are botched,” said Ronnie Huss, chief executive officer of the UpYours.

The cheeky-named UpYours generated a buzz at last year’s Cosmoprof North America in Las Vegas with its ChinUp mask positioned as a non-surgical alternative to neck liposuction. People lined up to try the mask and get before and after photos. The company was back at the show this year planning extensions to other body parts such as arms, stomach, thighs and butt.

“Our 30-minute mask gives immediate and visible results of an inch-plus difference,” said Huss. ChinUp is available in a starter kit priced at $128 for 10 masks. A neck lift averages $4,300, according to ASAPS. Initial distribution is online-only, but the company believes home shopping channels are a good fit to demonstrate how the mask firms the chin and jowls.

The chin area is gaining attention as exemplified by Wal-Mart’s latest mask to address that area. “I call that a facelift in a sachet,” said Cindy Lee, Wal-Mart’s senior buyer for skin care.

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Frownies, an old-school take on combatting wrinkles.

The desire to find inexpensive, natural options without fear of a bungled procedure has revived sales of heritage products. Way before there were Botox treatments (and the plethora of masks) there were Frownies. Invented in the 19th century, Frownies are patches designed to mechanically smooth out expression lines or help prevent them from forming. Gloria Swanson was removing Frownies in the film “Sunset Boulevard,” before the signature line, “I am ready for my close-up now.”

Rich history aside, Kat Wright, the company’s ceo, is freshening the product line with packaging in the works designed from input from younger consumers who called for an update.

When Botox was first legalized as a cosmetics treatment, Wright noted a spike in sales. That same phenomenon is occurring with social media, especially Instagram, which has been a windfall for the brand. “It gets everyone talking about wrinkles and we are good for those who want a natural alternative,” she said.

Wright is broadening the assortment beyond facial patches for wrinkles on the corners of eyes and the mouth to neck and full-faced masks. She also plans to extend specific items into men’s. Frownies are sold online as well as at Whole Foods, Ricky’s and Harmon Stores/Bed, Bath & Beyond.

Bold brows continues to be one of the most posted beauty looks on social platforms. Reacting to that, CVS added Wunderbrow to its assortment last year in 500 doors. The do-it-yourself formula contains a blend of hairlike fibers that are combined with specially treated pigments designed to fasten onto skin and hair. It was so successful, CVS extended to 2,000 doors and added the Wunder2 collection encompassing the brow, lash, lip, base and skin categories.

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Divaderme is a brand generating buzz for its lash and brow items that deliver professional application looks at home, with natural ingredients. The brand was created by Noreen Leuzzi who wanted an option to chemical-laden formulations. She set out to create all natural products with not only instant results, but long-term benefits. Divaderme’s line of products is infused with 100 percent natural ingredients and the items contain no artificial or chemical ingredients. The secret, said Leuzzi, is the use of cellulose fibers to safely and naturally enhance the length and volume of lashes and brows.

Artificial lash and nail sales are soaring, up 30 percent and 7 percent, respectively, in mass doors, according to IRI. Looking to offer a product for those who didn’t want permanent extensions or lament struggling with glues, Katy Stoka launched a magnetic version called One Two Lash last year. Using a micro magnet, One Two Lash does not touch the skin, rather it sandwiches the natural lash, affixing above and below it. She sold through her stock, prompting her to secure U.S. production facilities to maintain inventory. New packaging also indicates which lash is for the top or bottom and left or right.

No discussion of at-home beauty treatments is complete without touching on lip-plumpers. Even Kylie Jenner’s physician Dr. Simon Ourian credits the young entrepreneur with opening up procedures to a whole new generation. For those who want her lips without fillers — which she even admitted went too far when she first started — there’s an array of drugstore choices. One soaring up the charts is NYX Pump It Up Lip Plumper. IRI tracked it as growing 228 percent for the 52-week period ended July 9 in multiunit doors. Earlier versions of lip plumpers got a bad reputation in the mass market, but buyers said the new generation of entries avoids past issues.

One retailer building out her selection of DIY cosmetic procedure items said the warp speed at which styles are changing also encourages shoppers to seek temporary makeup decisions. “What’s in today is out tomorrow and you don’t want to undergo a procedure you can’t reverse to achieve what your favorite Instagrammer shows tomorrow. I hear naked brows might be next,” she chuckled.