Friday, September 25, 2009

Au revoir, Prescriptives

How could I have missed this news?

As many of you probably already heard, Estee Lauder will close its Prescriptives brand as of January 31, 2010. Now, normally I'm not one to sign non-political petitions, but if anyone wants to set one up, do let me know because that's a cause I'm definitely eager to get behind.

A very perceptive sales associate of the brand was interviewed by The Epoch Times listed some of the reasons she believes underlie the failure of the cult favorite: poor branding, dearth of marketing, and its refusal to offer samples and free gifts, unlike its other, more popular sisters under the Lauder umbrella, including Clinique. (If the Lauder folks are smart, they'll hire this girl as their next product manager-in-training. Seriously, she's on to something.)

While not devastating on the scale of, say, the 2004 Asian tsunami, the news definitely left me quite saddened. I first tried Prescriptives' color-matching foundation the day before my wedding in 2003, when I was determined to find a base that would perfectly match my Asian skintone so that I could walk down the aisle without worrying that I look like a Noh actor in Western costume. (And yeah, I know, I waited until literally the last minute to get the foundation, but hey, I had four months to plan my wedding. I'm lucky I made it to the altar on time.)

The makeup artist/sales associate who worked with me that afternoon at the Prescriptives counter at NorthPark's Neiman Marcus spent over an hour and a half trying to find the perfect -- perfect -- match to my skin. He'd scrutinize my face like a scientist observing cells under a microscope, turn to his large palette of colors, do a little mixing here and a bit of mixing there, then swipe a stripe or two across my chin. He'd then expertly blend it with a brush -- blending, blending, blending -- before taking me outside in the late afternoon summer sun to analyze the results under natural light. I think we went through this ritual about five times before he finally found a blend that satisfied him. Afterwards, he spent almost as much time doing much the same thing with the matching powder.

By that time I couldn't even tell the difference between the last two or three samples he had tried on my face -- I was just hugely impressed with his dedication to his work. (Did I mention that he was gorgeous? Another reason I didn't mind hanging around for so long, despite all the other things I had yet to do in preparation for the big day.)

I bought both the foundation and the powder for a total of just over $100, a rather big expense for me as B. and I were paying for our wedding out of our own pocket and I'd just landed a job after being laid off only three months before. Still, it was so worth it. The most memorable compliment I received was when B. remarked at the reception that he couldn't even tell that I had makeup on. That he actually liked the results -- a big change for him, as he's always insisted that I looked better without makeup. Now that's magic.

I've tried other brands, including Clinique, Neutrogena, Estee Lauder, Bare Minerals, Jane Iredale, Paula's Choice, L'Oreal, Revlon, Everyday Minerals, and tons more whose names I've long since forgotten. The Prescriptives set that I bought in 2003 lasted me a couple of years, but after that I kept switching brands, mostly to save money, but each time I'm always, always disappointed. I've never found a single drugstore or department store or boutique brand that comes even close to providing the flawless look that I get from my custom-blended Prescriptives. It was expensive, sure, but I still say it was totally worth it, especially if you have challenging-to-match skintones like mine. To twist around that famous phrase: If I don't look good, I don't feel good.

Any other Prescriptives fans out there? What do you think of its premature demise? Do you think Lauder should have made more efforts to market the brand, especially given the increase in the number of ethnic minorities in this country? (Many, many women of color I know spend countless hours trying to find the perfect foundation, to no avail.) Or do you think it's past its prime?


crunchycon said...

Actually, I haven't heard this (I'm living under a rock, I guess). I'm sad because Prescriptives made (and discontinued) my favorite lipsticks ever (and we're talking 35 years of wearing makeup here), and I lived in hope that they'd come back. I'm not tough to match, but I did buy their liquid foundation a couple of times, and thought it was excellent. What a shame - you'd think a clever overhaul of the branding of the product would have solved the problem.

Bobbi Janay @When did I go from a kid to a grown up? said...

I have never used Prescriptives but I am a brand loyal clinque girl. Watch my blog for a peek in to my make up bag, in the next few weeks.

My Inner French Girl said...

Dear crunchycon, bonjour! No worries -- I didn't hear about it till that day either. You know, I don't wear that much makeup, but when I do I like wearing the best that I can afford. I hate that they're discontinuing the one product that I really, really love!

Perhaps there'll be enough of an outcry from loyal customers that they'll bring it back. If they do, I hope they learn their lesson and invest more resources into promoting such a beloved brand!

Dear Bobbi Janay, I tried Clinique a few years ago, but couldn't find a foundation that didn't make my face look either too pale or too dark. I might try their tinted moisturizer, but I'm not hopeful, mostly because I've been down this road before!

You know, I like the idea of a peek into your makeup bag. Can't wait to read it! I might steal your idea and do the same myself!


Crystal said...

I am a bit devastated too. I too have a skin color (olivey yellow) that NO store brand comes even close to matching. I wore color match for over 10 years. Started when I was a senior in college and did my iternship at the Neiman's Dallas buying office. The lady downstairs at the Prescriptives counter encouraged me to try it. I never looked back. The same woman, from the Fort Worth Neiman's, blended it special for me for 10 years. I think that Estee Lauder is making a giant mistake. They could market it again and make it a hit. So sad.