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Will 3D-Printed Makeup Be the Next Big Thing in Cosmetics?

Michelle Green
By: Senior Editor & Skincare Expert  |  Michelle Green

When we’re talking about Grace Choi, we don’t mean DC’s comic book super heroine, though she is arguably as awesome and edgy in her own industry. From humble beginnings as a daughter of immigrant parents, Choi learned from her parents to become her own kind of entrepreneur. She completed her undergraduate studies at Cornell and then went on to Harvard Business School.

Real-life Choi has since created her own line of beauty creams and continues to innovate, but as 3-D printing appears on the horizon as a new format for all sorts of industries, she had the foresight to bring the cutting edge technology to the beauty industry.

She is the inventor of the Mink, the first ever at-home makeup printing system. She first showed off her inspired gadget in 2014, and the product was met with a combination of excitement and skepticism. The technology promised to use the media, where cosmetics are being seen today, and use them to create the looks of the future.

Fast forward several years, and her Mink makeup printer system is nearly ready for release. Several other companies have dipped their toes into the market, and interest is growing across social media. Some believe we’re on the verge of the next big breakthrough in makeup, while others think it’s a short-lived gimmick.

What’s 3D-Printed Makeup?

Contrary to how the description might sound, you won’t be printing out a fully loaded tube of lipstick into a conventional 3D printer. 3D-printed makeup works a lot like an everyday 2D inkjet printer, except it prints using a substrate found in most makeup stores instead of ink. In fact, the Mink system is actually a refined version of the hacking projects Grace Choi did with inkjet printers and edible ink during her days at Harvard.

With 3D makeup technology, you can copy the exact shade of a model’s eye shadow or lipstick from a photograph. It doesn’t have to come from a photo of makeup, though. If you really like the color of a flower, or a car, or the cinnamon raisin bagel you had for breakfast, you can turn them into a shade for your makeup, too. Just hook the printer up to your computer or mobile device, select an image with the shade you want to use, and your makeup is printed out onto the page for immediate use.

Why You Might Want to Use 3D-Printed Makeup

3D-printed makeup provides a near limitless range of color options, from the extravagant to the underserved

You don’t need any kind of special qualifications to use 3D-printed makeup, but the technology is sure to appeal to certain people more than others.

  • Unparalleled Color Matching
    Those who struggle to find matching tones in conventional makeup will love the precision color matching that 3D-printed makeup allows.
  • Not A Shade of Beige?
    Makeup users with a darker complexion will jump for joy at the precision color matching that 3D-printed makeup provides when compared to the options available in stores.
  • Favorite shade no longer made?
    If your favorite shades are hard to find or have gone off the market, 3D-printed makeup lets you relive your glory days. With over 16 million colors at your disposal, no shade is off the table.
  • Never stale
    Creative, do-it-yourselfers are the perfect customers for this type of product. With millions of color options at your fingertips, you could try a new look every day.
  • Try every new trend, now!
    If you subscribe to YouTube makeup tutorial channels or follow a lot of makeup accounts on Instagram, this might be right up your alley.

Why You Might Want to Avoid 3D-Printed Makeup

No product is for everybody, and 3D-printed makeup is no different. There are numerous reasons to avoid it, depending on what you want out of your makeup experience.

  • Price
    At the time of this writing, the Mink printer is available to purchase for just under $300, which is a lot more money than most women are used to spending just to have makeup. Products from other companies have had similar prices as well.
  • Upkeep
    Beyond the cost of the system, you also need to refill supplies. You can’t print makeup without base makeup to add color to, and those costs will add up over time.
  • Trendy
    If you prefer more of a natural style and don’t switch looks often, it may be hard to justify the cost and effort. The systems are simple to use, but not as simple as just pulling your favorite tried-and-true products out as you need them.
  • Time-consuming
    Creating your own makeup shades sounds fun and exciting until you’re late getting ready to go out and you realize you haven’t printed out your makeup for that night. Sometimes it’s just safer to fall back on the simplest option.

The Future of 3D-Printed Makeup

For all the exciting new possibilities that 3D-printed makeup proposes, there still may not be many willing to spend hundreds of dollars on a printer for everyday use. The future of the technology may actually be in 3D-printed makeup as a service instead of a product.

Women who wouldn’t spend so much on a printer to create their own makeup might still be interested in buying custom makeup from a third party. Companies could take advantage of that demand and offer custom makeup services, granting women the results of the do-it-yourself approach without all the work and for a fee. This seems like a good compromise to get deeper into the market without depending on what may be a small niche of potential customers.

No matter what happens, we’ll be keeping a close eye on this technology as it develops. In the meantime, be sure to read our articles regularly to keep up with new developments in custom cosmetics.

Michelle Green
Senior Editor & Skincare Expert
Michelle Green is a well-established aesthetician with over 20 years experience in skincare. She has researched over 5,000 products over the past decade, striving to help her readers fine-tune their skincare routine so they can get the results they want.
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