Imagine that you are surfing the web, and you love the color of a particular flower found in the Himalayas, posted by your friend who is traveling in the foothills. Imagine being able to select that exact same color, hitting ‘print’, and having a nail polish in the exact same color hot off your home printer?
Use of 3D printing technology to produce beauty and fashion products is not a new concept. For the past few years, 3D printers were used to create jewellery, accessories, swimsuits, printed shoes and tattoos. Iris van Herpen’s 3D printed dress was recognized as one of the 50 best inventions of the year 2011 by TIME Magazine. Grace Choi, a tough woman whose parents emigrated to the US from Korea and who grew up in Brooklyn, NY has brought her very own stamp to this sector. Grace, a serial inventor and a Cornell - Harvard graduate with some previous hands-on experience in the jewellery industry is all set to disrupt the $55 billion beauty industry in the US with her revolutionary product Mink.
How does it work?
Grace has created a prototype printer that is about the size of a standard home printer, although the vision is to finally get to a form factor of a Mac Mini, with a retail price of $300. Instead of the standard print colors, this prototype uses FDA-compliant cosmetic-grade dye that is safe for human skin and nails. Further, instead of printing on paper, the prototype prints on to a powder substrate, which is a common raw material in regular make up. The software part of the system is a simple tool that lets you pick any color from anywhere on the Internet and map the exact hexadecimal value for that particular shade of purple that you always wanted.
The printer is designed to print a range of lipstick, lip gloss, eye shadow, blush, nail polish, brow powder foundations, eye shadows and powders, which in time will be joined by foundations and face powder. Mink aims to provide the best combination of exclusivity and convenience – exclusivity of choosing and creating your own color that no one else might have, and the convenience of printing it out at your table. The product is slated to make its appearance on shelves later this year.
Why this innovation?
Grace doesn’t mince words when she says, “Beauty is (currently) defined by the colors these companies choose to manufacture, which are the ones they think will sell and the ones we see on the models they select to represent the brands. What if you want a color that you think is beautiful but the industry doesn’t? We have been trained so well by these companies that we blindly accept the narrow band of options in front of us”
Grace believes that her target market is the women in the ages of 13-21, who are still open to experimenting and who she believes have not been regimented by the rules of the beauty giants. They have not formed or settled into their buying patterns yet.
Secondly, another motive behind working on this product is to take out the middleman markups that the high-end cosmetics company charge from the customers. The cosmetics industry currently charges a huge premium on one thing that technology provides for free – color. According to her, all too often beauty products are made by the same old companies at the same old factories in the same old colors and sold at the same old shops at the same old prices making beauty just another bulk produced product.
But like any new revolutionary idea, this 3D printing makeup technology could also sink or swim. Amongst the overall health and beauty care market, margins made by makeup are the highest (38%) followed by skin care (35%) and hair care (33%). The makeup margins for facial makeup including foundation, blush, lipstick, lip gloss and eye makeup like liner and eye shadow are in the same range of about 28-35%.
Grace claims that the beauty industry is a bit anxious because of her innovation and even that some of them have reached out to her. She says she is exploring the idea of each beauty company manufacturing their own substrate that is Mink compatible and that she is very open to partnerships and collaborations. Some beauty experts have already branded this a hoax with few chances of survival, while some are enthusiastic about its ability to empower more women to create, package and sell their own custom product lines.
Ladies, what do you think of this innovation – would you use it for your makeup needs? Share your thoughts below!