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31st May 2024

Glossier: Cult brand or profit machine?

Glossier were famed for their Balm Dotcom and Cloud Paint Blush, but with product prices rising during a cost-of-living crisis will their cult status last?
Glossier: Cult brand or profit machine?
Rueben Mansell @Unsplash

Once upon a time, Glossier was just a blog by styling assistant Emily Weiss called Into the Gloss. Since then, Weiss expanded her blog into, releasing four products: the priming moisturiser, balm dotcom, soothing face mist, and the perfecting skin tint. At first, the brand was praised: Glossier sold the fantasy of You but better, effortlessly. The brand was on a steady incline for the next six years, surpassing $100 million in annual revenue by late 2019 and earning a cult following. However, by 2020, Glossier made a string of mistakes which still haven’t been forgotten.

In August 2020, an Instagram account named Outta The Gloss was created. The people behind it were former Glossier employees exposing the allegedly toxic workplace culture. Chief among their concerns were issues of racism that the company had repeatedly failed to address. By 2021, Emily Weiss had stepped down as CEO, and the brand had introduced its Glossier for Good program which invested in Black beauty entrepreneurs.

Glossier peaked during the pandemic wellness craze: supplements, green juice, and Glossier’s pastel packaging looked idyllic in the bathroom cabinet. But, the latest ‘messy girl’ style era, with glitter and red wine taking president over green juice and dewy skin, doesn’t exactly mesh well with the clean-cut nature of Glossier.

I bought my first Glossier products in 2019 and was instantly hooked: my skin loved them (my skin doesn’t usually love anything, especially the excessive amount of effort I put into it) and so did my bank account. For the quality of the products, the design, and the gentle formulas, it felt like I had finally found the brand I would use for life. Cut to four years later, and I can’t afford most of my go-to items anymore and my skin is suffering trying to get used to new and different formulas from more affordable brands.

Four years ago, Glossier’s Boy Brow, one of the site’s most highly rated products, would cost a UK customer £14. Yes, the price seems a bit much for the size, but the product lasted a long time and was one of the best brow products out there. However, in 2024, it will now cost you a sizeable £20. The differences between then and now? A more inclusive shade range, and a 20% increase in size, which actually only equates to about 0.4 grams. Similarly, their Perfecting Skin Tint four years ago would have cost £20, yet now it costs an extortionate £28. Perfecting Skin Tint has not increased in size, but its shade range has increased.

via Reddit

Is Glossier accessible outside of the USA?

When Glossier increased their prices in 2023, they released a statement, claiming higher production and shipping costs as the reason for the price hikes. As a result of Brexit, prices did increase for a number of products and brands that shipped to the UK. However, this meant that many of my favourite products became less and less affordable.

Glossier only has one brick-and-mortar store in the UK, the Covent Garden branch. If you don’t live in London and aren’t a frequent visitor, it’s pretty out of the way. Compare this to the USA where there are eleven stores, two of them being in Los Angeles. Obviously, the USA is just a little bit bigger than the UK, but does that mean there should only be one store in a city that is not brilliantly connected to anywhere further north than Birmingham? Without physical places to view products, it can feel impossible to know your shade for certain products.

In terms of Glossier’s famed Stretch Concealer, they recently increased the shade range (woohoo!), but then proceeded to change the names of each shade and didn’t include a comparison chart. This caused me to buy a concealer two shades too light for me, as I had nothing to compare it with my older concealer. To me, having to use a Reddit thread to deduce my concealer shade didn’t exactly scream ‘uncomplicated’ beauty. My old concealer is called G11 to match my foundation, and my new shade was apparently ‘Very Light 2’: even through an iPhone camera, they are very different shades.

Glossier concealer
Via Poppy Clayton @The Mancunion

Perhaps most controversially, Glossier’s iconic and famed Balm Dotcom underwent a formula change in 2023. Positively, the product was made completely vegan, however, this made the Balm Dotcom as a salve quite un-salve-like. Lots of recent buyers who have been loyal balm dotcom users complain of its new greasy and gritty texture that isn’t at all moisturising. Balm Dotcom also was subject to a price increase: in 2022 it would have cost you £10, and now costs £14. Essentially, buyers are paying more for a product that is no better than it was two years ago.

A week before publication, Glossier announced a return to the original formula of Balm Dotcom. Social media and website campaigns have emphasised that ‘nothing beats the original’.

Glossier balm dotcom collection
Credit: Glossier @, Balm Dotcom Trio £36

How much do Glossier care about their customers?

Furthermore, Glossier doesn’t offer anything for customer loyalty. Unlike its competitors, it doesn’t offer birthday discounts or reward schemes. Brands like Cult Beauty offer members £5-£25 off on their birthday depending on membership level, and Sephora UK offer 20% off on your birthday. Recently, Glossier began selling its products in Sephora, but not Sephora UK. So, you couldn’t even attempt to be clever and discount your products with Sephora as they aren’t for sale there.

Glossier’s main ethos is that they are ‘built to make beauty accessible and uncomplicated’ and they ‘believe beauty is about having fun, celebrating freedom and being present’. These quotes are taken directly from the brand’s website. Is something that has become gradually more expensive to its ‘real’ consumers ‘accessible’ and a ‘celebration of freedom?’ Glossier is nearing closer to being a brand you might find at Harvey Nichs rather than Boots, with prices nearly on par with luxury brands like Clinique, whose most popular foundation costs £34.

The products which underwent the more severe price hikes were Glossier’s priming moisturisers range. In just one year, their Priming Moisturiser Rich has gone from £29 to £35 and the original Priming Moisturiser since 2021 has gone from £18 to a whopping £26. These are both products which were staples in my daily routine, but with them now costing me collectively £14 more than they used to, I’ve had to find some alternatives.

Can you get the same effects for less?

Luckily, there are lots of great alternatives for the Glossier moisturisers like the Nivea Creme, which has been sweeping social media recently for its similarities to Creme De La Mer. It will only set you back around £5.99 for 200ml of product. For your morning routine, the Simple Hydrating Light Moisturiser shares a lot of qualities with the Glossier priming moisturiser and is only £3.80. If you want to be scientific, you can compare the ingredients of Glossier products to dupes and alternatives on, which breaks down each individual ingredient and gives you a similarity report.

Credit: Boots, Simple Moisturiser £3.80

So, is it safe to say that Glossier has lost its way since the allegations in 2020? So many brands are gradually becoming solely for profit, without considering the audience they target: the ‘real person’. Glossier says ‘YOU LOOK GOOD’ when you use their products, but how good can you really look after they’ve emptied your pockets?

Glossier has been contacted for comment.

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