Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Match of the Century:
Retail-vs-Wholesale Pigments

If you're a true beauty junkie, then you've likely noticed a HUGE beauty trend over the past year. Independently run mineral pigment retailers are cropping up like mulberry weeds (they're rampant, trust me!) I've tried a few, and overall have been impressed with the smooth texture, vivid finish, and endless range of colors that these retailers provide.

Ignorance was bliss, until my friend Anastasia over at Lipsticks & Lightsabers did a post pointing out the extreme similarities between pigments from companies like Lime Crime Makeup and Beauty From The Earth and those from wholesalers like TKB Trading. I'd been thinking about ordering some wholesale samples for quite some time, and I decided this was the perfect excuse. Here's what I found.

So, a picture is worth 1000 words- but here you get both! If you're thinking this is a trick, I can assure you, it is not. Here's what you're looking at, read from left to right like a book!

Top: TKB Lemon Drop Pop!, Lime Crime Circus Girl, Calypso Mineral Beauty Bandana

Middle: TKB
Apple Green Pop!, Lime Crime Elf, Barry M Dazzle Dust Mint Green #82 (don't worry about the darker green to the right, I've got another pic for that one!

Bottom: TKB
Grape Pop!, Calypso MineralsTramp, MAC Violet Pigment

As you can see from the photo, the differences in the shades are almost imperceptible. (BTW, click the images to see the photos supersized!) Looking at the yellow and green shades, Lime Crime's and TKB's are virtually identical, both in color and texture. I tried to be as scientific as I could when applying these, but any small difference I noticed (are the Lime Crime colors slightly more sheer, maybe a tiny bit more pearlized?) could easily be attributed to the amount applied, or the difference of the skin texture in the areas I applied them.

Even the notable differences weren't that drastic. Most apparent, Calypso's Bandana yellow was more opaque than it's doppelgangers. The Barry M Dazzle Dust seemed like the same base shade as the other greens, but had a dose of fine silver sparkle. Even the MAC pigment looks fairly similar to it's counterparts, though the texture of MAC's pigments are almost moist and spongy, and the finish is more metallic. I think it's safe to say these products are different than the others, because though close in color, they'd definitely achieve different effects.

Lets ponder a few more:

Top row is shown with MAC Blackground Paint Pot as a base.

Left: Lime Crime Fairy Wings Right: TKB Hilite Violet

With these pretty violet duo-chromes, I could not tell the difference no matter how they were applied.

Left: Star Gazer Eye Dust #33 Right: TKB True Green

Two more that look identical. If I were going to say any of these pigments were the EXACT same, it would be these two.

So here's my final opinion (for now, anyway.) Other than the exceptions that I talked about, all of these pigments were virtually identical. I'm not going to say they're the same exact formulations, but I'm also not ready to say they're not. All it would take is a pinch in a pound to say a shade is custom blended, that doesn't mean it will look much different on the skin.

Is it somewhat nefarious to repackage wholesale product and mark it up (literally) 4000%? Maybe, but I can assure you, this is nothing new, nor is it limited to small businesses. One major (and I mean MAJOR) cosmetics company I worked for paid around $2.00 for lipsticks that retailed at $22. The justification is that you're not just paying for the product, you're paying for the image. That means that the retailer is including all of the costs involved in producing the item you're purchasing; things like packaging, website production and maintenance, models, makeup artists and photographers that make the company's promotional images, the cost of placing those images in magazines, on-line in banner ads- the list goes on and on. That's capitalism, kids.

There's nothing wrong with buying a particular brand because you like the way their compacts look, or because you prefer supporting small businesses. Just be aware that there are alternatives out there. For anyone shopping around, here's a price by the ounce comparison of the brands I've shown in this post:

Lime Crime Makeup Magic Dusts: $12 for .07 oz= $171.43 per ounce

In October '09, Lime Crime doubled the size of their Magic Dusts, which now come in .14oz sizes for the original $12 price. The adjusted price is $85.71 per ounce.

Calypso Mineral Beauty Pigments*: about .052 oz for $6.00= $115.38 per ounce

Barry M Dazzle Dusts*: about .07 oz for $7.43= $106.14 per ounce

Stargazer Eye Dusts: about $4.96 for .063 oz= $78.73 per ounce

MAC Pigments: $19.50 for .26 oz= $75 per ounce

UPDATE: In January, '10 MAC repackaged their pigments, reducing the size to .15oz with no price change. This brings the current cost of MAC pigments to $130 per ounce.

TKB Trading: prices vary, ,most are $4.00-4.50 per ounce (no, that's not a typo, the $1.25 SAMPLE size has more product than some brand's full sizes!)

*Calypso weight per 5g jar is approximate. According to Jen, the owner, jars aren't weighed, they're just packed until they're full. Price is also an average price provided to me by the owner.

Barry M Dazzle Dust weight was determined by me weighing my own jar (after swatching) I have contacted the company for an exact weight and will update this if I hear back.


Vintageortacky said...

WOW. I've always known MAC Pigments were a good value, but seeing this. WHOA! I don't know what comes in the TBK trading pigments, but I know that Both MAC and Calypso Minerals put additives into their eyeshadow to give them more "cling"- I've tried a lot of mineral makeup with NO cling factor at all!

Thanks for this post!

Phyrra said...

Thank you for this excellent comparison! That makes me happy for the MAC pigments that I have, as well as the Aromaleigh/Fyrinnae/Meow that I have.

Unknown said...

Hopefully, I'll get around to posting some looks using the TKB micas that I got, but was pleasantly surprised at how well they applied, blended and stayed on- just as well as my other pigments.

I'm sure TKB's ingredients are slightly different from shade to shade, but most are just mica, titanium dioxide, iron/tin oxides. TKB does sell bases to mix in if you prefer, but for the price, I'd definitely suggest trying some samples!

I should have mentioned, with the exception of the MAC Blackground/Duochrome swatches, all the swatches were done without any base.

Mind you, I'm not going to stop buying pigments in the store- sometimes you need to be able to see and test the shade, but these are a nice option, and they're so cheap, I feel fine trying to create my own shades (not something I'm likely to do w/ my MAC pigments!)

Anastasia said...

I have that Stargazer colour.

TKB micas apply fine because they already contain titanium oxide and/or iron oxide. Some companies will put fillers like kaolin clay into their product which makes it dull and chalky.

I'm glad I didn't buy Circus Girl now, man Lime Crime as schmucks. At least Beauty from the Earth make some of their own colours!

maria said...

thank you so much for that blog post! ive been struggling to find affordable pigments all around. in germany MAC & co. cost so much more and its just really annoying. i'm definitely gonna give these a try! thanks so much! <3

Anonymous said...

Without a doubt, Lime Crime is the biggest scam/ripoff out there. Believe it or not, when the company first started they were charging $12 for just ONE gram of repackaged product! They recently upped it to two grams after all the bad reviews, but are still the most expensive repackager even AFTER doubling their product size.

maria said...

i do have one more question: do the pop! samples come in resealable bags or in jars? it doesnt say on the website and i cant buy any jars anywhere i live in case they come in bags, so i wanna order them with the samples, if they do come in bags. can you pls let me know? thanks.

Unknown said...


Great question! I myself meant to order some jars when I ordered my samples and forgot!

I ordered several samples from TKB; all micas came in resealable baggies (about 2-3 times the size of the baggies most other companies use for samples)

I did order some of the micro glitters (Identical in size and texture to Lime Crime's) those come in large stacker jars.

I would recommend getting small, screw top jars without sifters. I find that sifters don't really keep product in the main part of the jar, but they do make it impossible to get the product BACK into the jar! The clamshells that a lot of retailers send samples in also tend to make a mess and waste product, when you shut them you can see your pigment floof out!

BTW, the first picture in this post shows all of the sizes, though the perspective can be a bit confusing. The baggies in the foreground (yellow, green & purple) are TKB mica samples. The largest jar in the picture- bottom, second from the left, is TKB's glitter sample size. For reference, the jar on top of it (with blue glitter in it) is Lime Crime's full size.

Hope this answers your questions, and make sure you let us know what you think of the pigments when you get them!

maria said...

i will definitely order some jars then. just still not sure what size to get (sample or 1oz) cuz it's a lot of costs for intl. shipping so i wanna make it worth it ;)

but thanks a lot for your help and i'll definitely let you know when i've tried them. was thinkin about buyin Lime Crime for their crazy popping colours and MAC for their high pigmentation, but if you and others say it's pretty much the same thing, i'll go for the cheaper option! :D

Miss drifted Snow White said...

im really disappointed with TKB Trading. I ordered more than 4 weeks ago and received the order confirmation but a week ago I filed a dispute on paypal and TKB prodived a tracking number but that has been saying forever that the shipment was accepted for dispatch on Oct 1!! Since then I have not heard from them :(
I was so excited to ahve found a cheap alternative to MAC pigments and then this sh*t happens :(

Unknown said...


Sorry you had a bad experience with TKB!

At the risk of sounding like a TKB schill, which I definitely am NOT, I'd have to say it sounds like they're probably not at fault. Judging from your description of the issue, I'd say that if they were able to provide Paypal a tracking number saying it was sent on October 1st, then they likely upheld their end of the bargain.

International mail can be a pain- I know, I've been eagerly waiting several weeks for an international package that I know was sent by a reliable source!

Hopefully, we'll both get our orders soon!

SashaHalimaPR said...

Your post just reiterated why I'm a dedicated MAC girl for life!

Anonymous said...

Can I just add, re Maria's problem, I don't know whether you've recieved your package or not but I've just moved to Germany & I have noticed a lot of sellers that I used to use in the UK (on ebay etc) specify that they will not ship to Germany because customs have a problem with unboxed cosmetics. Maybe that's what's causing the delay?

LiisK said...

I don't think that would be the case - because these are pigment samples and not actual cosmetics. Their shipping is usually superb, reaching Estonia in 6 days. Hope u get your order in one piece! I'm currently on my 3rd large TKB haul . I think pretty soon I'll have them all... my preeecious...:D

Anonymous said...

Mica pigments are made by a company called merck chemicals, sensient, basf etc which is where the majority of mica's are distributed from. coastalscents, Tkb etc etc will most certainly get there mica's from them as they have the buying power to buy their minimum requirements. Smaller Mineral company's buy from tkb etc as their minimums are smaller. They don't make the pigment either just buy in bulk, repackage and sell on. I think there's a lot of mis-information out there on companies passing off coastalscents tkb etc pigments as their own when actually it isn't even theirs to begin with.

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