Why Some Beauty Products Get Discontinued — & How To Bring Them Back

For me, the saying "you don't know what you've got until it's gone" has never hit closer to home than when my beloved No7 Moisture Drench Lipstick in Siren, a matte brick-red shade that could sway even diehard fans of MAC's iconic Ruby Woo, was discontinued. No longer to be. Gone.
It was as reliable as some of my oldest friends, brightened up my whole face, lasted all day (really), and provided me with an instant confidence boost. No matter what I was wearing or how I felt, applying it served as a much-needed pick-me-up.
I'd put finding out your favorite beauty product is being discontinued up there with stubbing your toe twice in the same place or missing your last train home: It's frustrating, inconvenient, and traumatic in its own way. That's before I've even touched on the hassle of having to search high and low for a replacement, or paying double the price for the discontinued product on Amazon (as I may have done a few too many times). Really, who has the time, energy, or patience?
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Terry Barber, MAC's Director of Makeup Artistry, is sympathetic to our outrage, and explains why sometimes the closest alternative just won’t do. "There’s a sense of rebellion which happens when consumers' beauty products are discontinued," he said. "When you know that it delivers, the idea of being palmed off with something new becomes of the highest annoyance." So why does it happen? According to Barber, brands typically discontinue products to make space for new trends and better technologies. However, for loyalists who've grown attached to those products, the scope for innovation feels more like a personal affront.
But that’s where social media comes in. Thanks to Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, consumers now have direct access to the biggest beauty brands on the planet. As Charlotte Libby, Global Color Cosmetics and Fragrance Analyst at market intelligence agency Mintel, explained, "In the age of social media and instant information, consumers are feeling increasingly connected to the brands and companies they buy from." Alex Fisher, Mintel's Senior Beauty Analyst, expanded on this: "Consumers have higher engagement with beauty brand and retailer accounts than bloggers when it comes to social media sites, especially when they are highly visual such as Instagram or Snapchat," she said. "Brands use these accounts to promote new products, show off photo-worthy packaging, and announce collaborations. These kinds of posts in a consumer's social media feed then become an instant connection to their favorite brands and what they are doing."

"When you know that it delivers, the idea of being palmed off with something new becomes of the highest annoyance."

Terry Barber, MAC Director of Makeup Artistry
It makes sense, then, that consumers would utilize this special connection, often leaving comments under brand posts, sending direct messages to companies, and getting hashtags trending in a bid to bring back discontinued products they just can't imagine their beauty arsenals without. In response to customer demand earlier this year, MAC launched their Throwbacks collection, comprised of lipsticks and eyeshadows in their most popular shades from the '90s. According to Barber, its reintroduction provides a sense of nostalgia and comfort. "They’re like finding clothes at the back of your wardrobe that you’d forgotten about," he said. "You then realize they've gone full circle in being fashionable and they’re still completely relevant." His favorite pieces in the drop? "The lipstick in Marrakesh — it's a brick red which makes you look like a '90s Helmut Lang girl," Barber says, "and Shrimpton, which is the perfect soft '60s beige and works perfectly with your natural lip color."
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Cosmetics giant Estée Lauder also understands the daunting — and time-consuming — process of hunting for a replacement and, in response, set up its Gone But Not Forgotten program, which delves into its beauty archives to recover products that have been discontinued within the last 36 months for consumers. The process is simple: For US customers, reclaiming your beloved product is just an email away. Almost all of Estée Lauder’s brands participate, including: Estée Lauder, Bobbi Brown, Clinique, GLAMGLOW, Jo Malone London, MAC, Michael Kors Beauty, Origins, Smashbox, and Tom Ford Beauty. Even better? The process generally takes no longer than seven days.
One of the biggest comeback stories is Giorgio Armani’s Face Fabric Second Skin Makeup, and it's largely thanks to Khloé Kardashian. Two years ago, the online beauty community despaired as the brand took the foundation off shelves; meanwhile, Khloe took to her blog to lament its loss in a post titled "The Most Missed Products In Makeup History," writing: "Kendall and I heard it was going to be discontinued and I bought, like, 20 on Amazon. I literally have so many." While the brand couldn’t comment directly on Khloé's influence, her 100 million followers — and the united power of the consumer voice on Twitter — was undoubtedly a factor in the matte foundation coming back to stores less than two years later.
So the next time your find your favorite lipstick or go-to foundation is being phased out, before you start stockpiling in a panic, try tweeting it out and messaging brands directly before having a (completely justified) meltdown. Alas, all good things come to an end, and there are some discontinued products we'll forever mourn. But, as a wise individual once said, it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all...
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