Lily contacted me on my Facebook page and drew my attention to a rather remarkable business proposition reported on the Business Insider blog. Basically it is a novel printer that you can hook up to your computer and print out mineral makeup from it. You go into Photoshop to create your colour – or scan it in from an object you have found. There is a video of a demo where the inventor explains what she has created.
The obvious question is does this work technically? I can’t see any reason in principle why this shouldn’t be done. In the video she claimed that the inks used in office printers are the same as cosmetics. I don’t think that is even close to being true. But that doesn’t mean that it would be impossible to do what she is suggesting. But it did explain how she managed to create such an impressive looking demo. Basically all she did was print out a sheet of paper with a colour printed on it and scrape off the pigment to create her powder. (Or maybe she simply cracked open a cartridge – she did choose what looks very much like a standard magenta colour.)
Try that at home if you wish, I don’t think you’ll find that the results are really comparable with actual cosmetic pigments. She went on to claim that it would be possible to create other products such as lipsticks. Again, in principle this seems entirely doable. But there are quite a few technical problems to be overcome before doing it.
I wasn’t impressed by the presentational style of the inventor. Her jibes at the cosmetic industry as one that achieves big margins by smoke and mirrors is one that has a big element of truth in it. But to critique something requires a bit more knowledge and understanding than she showed. She also oversold what she had outrageously. It is certainly a good idea and I can see it becoming a very serious business in the future. But it will need a lot more work to turn it into reality than her video suggests.
I don’t doubt that somebody somewhere will do that work and that this will one day be something you can go to a shop to buy. She is right that it is a very disruptive idea. I don’t know whether it is something you will buy from a beauty counter or a computer retailer. Or maybe it will be in the back of your beauty shop and you will just pick up your order there- who knows? I certainly don’t. But I’ll watch how this develops with interest.