Why That $129 EyeShadow Palette Isn’t So Expensive – Understanding Makeup Prices

Why That $129 EyeShadow Palette Isn’t So Expensive – Understanding Makeup Prices

Over the last few years, I’ve witnessed and participated in many social media discussions regarding the retail price for various makeup products.  I’ve read countless complaints about everything from the price of Kylie LipKits to the price of popular eyeshadow palettes.  Go to any website that sells cosmetics, and you’ll see people rating products with a low “1 star” review solely because of the product’s price. Visit just about any cosmetic-focused Instagram page, and you’ll see discussions or “arguments” breaking out over products that are “too expensive.”  One such recent discussion prompted me to address this topic and share my personal views. Today, Natasha Denona released a highly anticipated eye shadow palette called the Sunset Palette, which retails for $129. Your first reaction upon hearing that price may be “yikes” or “no thanks”! It’s definitely not something you’ll find at the drugstore or a product that many people will be able to afford. Similar discussions have recently occurred with the rising popularity of Viseart eyeshadows, which are priced at $80 for a single palette.  However, understanding the price breakdown a little further can definitely help in understanding why prices may seem so high on the surface and why a product is priced the way it is.  So let’s break this down and talk about pricing vs. product.

The best way to understand the price and value of any makeup product is to do a little math and comparison. Take the retail price of a product and divide it by the product’s weight. That will give you the price per product ounce/gram/etc.  That’s the only true way to understand what you’re paying for and if you’re getting a good value for your money. It’s also the only way to compare “apples to apples” per se. In other words, you can’t really compare the price of an Anastasia Beverly Hills Palette to the price of a Viseart palette because the two different products contain a different amount of product in weight. Obviously, an eye shadow palette that weighs 24 grams total will typically cost much more than an eye shadow palette that weighs 7.9 grams. You would also expect a prestige brand’s product to cost a little more than a drugstore product when price per weight is factored in and when you consider ingredients used should be superior, but you may be surprised to learn that’s not always the case. Take a look at these popular eye shadow products. Specifically, look at the last column which shows the price per gram. That’s the actual price you’re paying for each of these products.

Eyeshadow Prices

Product Name# of ShadowsRetail PricePrice per ShadowTotal WeightPrice per Gram/Ounce
ABH Singles1$12$121.7 grams$7.06/gr
MUG Foiled1$10$101.8 grams$5.56/gr
MAC Shadow1$7$71.5 grams $4.67/gr
ABH Modern Renaissance Palette14$42$39.8 g total
0.7 g each
0.28 oz total
0.02 oz each
ABH Norvina Palette14$42$39.94 g total
0.71 g each shade
0.28 oz total
0.02 oz each
$4.23 /gr
$150 /oz
Viseart Theory Palette (any shade option)6$45$7.5012 grams total / 0.42 oz (2 g each / 0.07 oz each)$3.75/gr
Natasha Denona Sunset Palette15$129$8.602.5 grams x 15 shadows $3.44/gr
MUG Shadow (regular)1$6$61.8 grams $3.33/gr
ColourPop Pressed (full size compart)1$5$51.5 grams $3.33/gr
Viseart Palette12$80$6.6624 grams total / 12 shadows = 2 grams per shadow $3.33 /gr
Viseart Grande Pro Vol 130$175$5.832 g each / .07 oz each$2.92/gr
ColourPop Pressed Shadow (single pan)1$4$41.5 grams$2.66/gr
ColourPop Dream St12$16$1.330.85 grams$1.56/gr
ColourPop Perception16$23$1.441.0 grams x 16$1.44/gr

You may be quite shocked after seeing the comparison above. While some brands seem more affordable on the surface, they’re actually not as cheap as they may seem when you consider the quantity of product you actually pay for and receive.  A ColourPop eye shadow may seem affordable for just $5 per shade, but it’s really not when you do the math and compare it to an equivalent amount of product from other brands. ColourPop really isn’t an inexpensive “drugstore brand” when you look at the details. It just seems less expensive when thinking you pay only “$5 per shadow.”  The price is actually in line with MUG and Viseart prices. Shocking.

Let’s address the idea that certain brands are not “affordable” or priced for their “target market.” I’ve already dis-proven the myth that certain brands such as Natasha Denona or Viseart cost more than other popular brands such as Anastasia Beverly Hills or Makeup Geek. The only difference is that you can purchase products from brands like ColourPop, MAC, or Makeup Geek in singles while you have to fork out a larger amount to get a collection of 12 or 15 Natasha / Viseart shadows at once in a complete palette. I understand that this isn’t in everyone’s budget. It certainly wasn’t in my budget 20+ years ago when I was younger and starting my career. I get it! It’s important to understand that different brands target different consumer bases. Every brand isn’t intended to be available for drugstore prices. That’s just a reality of life. I’ve seen a lot of negative, angry comments on brand’s social media pages, complaining about the prices as if all brands “owe” all customers inexpensive makeup. Unfortunately, the world doesn’t work that way. There will always be people who can afford more expensive things, whether it’s makeup, houses, jewelry, or even an expensive Dyson hair dryer. We are talking about makeup though, and the great thing is that there are affordable options available for everyone to choose from if you’re on a budget.  You just have to find the products and brands within your budget, and have fun shopping!  Arguing with other people or posting nasty comments on a brand’s Instagram page because they priced an eye shadow palette at $129 and you can’t afford it…. well, it’s just senseless and unproductive.

Lastly, I want to talk about all of the “1-star ratings” or negative reviews I frequently see, solely because of the price of an item. This always mystifies me when I see it, but it seems to be pretty common. Recently I was reading the reviews for the new Dyson Hair Dryer. I realize that it’s difficult for many people to comprehend the idea that anybody would spend almost $400 for a hair dryer. Most people spend $20-30 for a hair dryer at Walmart, and they typically use it until it drops dead…. repeat cycle. And honestly, I’ve had many $20 hair dryers that have worked perfectly for many years, some of which out-performed my current $200 dryer. There’s a reason that many brands such as Dyson have to charge a higher price point for certain products though. Research and development can be very costly, and those costs typically need to be recouped within a reasonable time after an item hits the market for sale.  Otherwise, companies would go out of business very quickly. Here’s my frustration though….. If you buy that $400 hair dryer, then why do you then turn around and give it a 1 star rating because it’s “too expensive.” I saw countless reviews on one website where the product was given 1 star reviews. They all said something like this, “Works great. Dries my hair faster than any other hair dryer. Just too expensive so I returned.”  Well, you KNEW the price before you bought it. If it was too expensive for you, why did you buy it?  Why are you buying a product that is “too expensive” if you’re not going to keep it, even if it works great?! This is where we get into that uncomfortable conversation about buying within your budget. All brands can’t be budget-friendly for everyone regardless of your income.  So please….  don’t rate a product with a low review just because the price wasn’t in your budget, especially if it’s a great product that you admit works great.  It skews the product rating for everyone else who is interested in how the product actually functions and performs.

Rant over.

I hope this was helpful. I’m sure it’s going to start some conversations, and I welcome the continued dialog. Sometimes breaking the price down analytically helps one understand that a “high price” isn’t really that high when you understand how much product you’re getting and compare it to comparable products.

What are your thoughts about this topic? Comment below or head over to my Instagram Page and join the conversation! 



  1. Christina
    May 22, 2017 / 8:52 am

    Thank you for taking the time to break things down! I’ll be honest, when I saw the $129 price tag on this palette my immediate reaction was to go “wtf”! After reading this post and seeing it all broken down, the pricing makes a lot more sense! ❤️ -@christinashaw96

  2. November 22, 2017 / 9:34 pm

    Thanks for the price breakdown! This was exactly what I was looking for. That per ounce breakdown really shows what we need to know as consumers :).

  3. C
    December 12, 2017 / 3:58 am

    Thanks but still, “noooooo thanks!”

  4. Harriet K
    February 10, 2018 / 7:48 pm

    What also matters is how YOU like the quality of the product, not just the quantity of the product. The brand name can be enticing, but if the product doesn’t perform like you expect it to, even the expensive brands aren’t worth the price. To me there is an expectation of a certain level of performance at a certain price point. If I’m buying a medium to high-end eyeshadow, for example, I want very highly pigmented color, a smooth application, blend ability, and long-wear.

    • My Beautiful Flaws
      February 24, 2018 / 3:49 am

      Yes I completely agree. At the same time, quality and personal preference is subjective. Measuring a product by price per ounce is truly the only way you can objectively measure what you’re getting without a variance of personal, subjective factors coming into play. Obviously, the more you pay for an item, the higher quality you would expect that product to be. I’m not going to pay $129 for a horrible quality palette just because it contains more product. I believe those factors were addressed in the article also. Speaking about products such as Viseart and Natasha Denona, the more expensive brands, I personally believe they contain the qualities you mentioned, but again, those are subjective qualities. If you look at the reviews from the Anastasia Beverly Hills Subculture palette, which by the way has one of the highest price per ounce costs on the market, there was a HUGE variation between positive and negative reviews. Some people believed it was the best thing ever while others said it was the worst thing ever. All subjective and personal experiences. That’s why we typically bring attention to price per ounce. The purpose of this article was to bring awareness that the cost of some palettes aren’t as high as they seem when you compare what you’re truly getting compared to other brands that label themselves as “drugstore” prices when they’re really not.

  5. Cena
    March 21, 2018 / 8:43 pm

    It’s not fair to say Colourpop is “not drugstore” after comparing gram costs of CP single shadows to high-end palettes. The whole point of a palette is that the cost goes down per gram. It’s also very common for CP to run sales. My typical CP palette has 12 shadows at 0.85 grams each. I got it on sale for $12, but even at full price of $16, that’s still only $1.57/gram. Definitely drugstore, or better actually.

    • My Beautiful Flaws
      March 22, 2018 / 11:48 am

      You’re welcome to disagree. This review is a year old and was published when CP FIRST released the first set of pressed shadows. They didn’t even have palettes back then. The palettes you’re referring to contain mini shadows, which didn’t exist when this was written. I stand by my comments that at $5 per shadow, which is what I said in my CP review (which I published separate from this one), those are not drugstore prices. Find me a drugstore shadow that costs $5 per individual shadow shade.

  6. MissA
    April 9, 2018 / 12:29 am

    The thing is: make up is very cheap to make. Go visit a make up factory.
    Don’t get me started on brushes. Remember when Bare Minerals and It Cosmetocs had great brushes? Now they are made in China.


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