A recent interview I’d done with Natasha Singer, a lovely editor at the NY Times, has been included in her latest piece entitled ‘En Garde! The Great Mascara Duel’.
From today’s Style Section:
CALL it the Battle of the Battery-Operated Mascaras.
On July 17, Estée Lauder introduced TurboLash, a mascara with a battery-operated vibrating brush, at Saks Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. The night before, the company’s Web site, esteelauder.com/turbolash, sold out of its stock of about 1,000 mascaras, said Elana Drell Szyfer, the senior vice president for marketing at Estée Lauder.
On July 31, Lancôme, which had been scheduled to trot out its own battery-powered wand in November, fired back with a one-day advance sale of the mascara, called Ôscillation, in a handful of stores nationwide.
By the end of the day, more than 5,000 mascaras had sold out at outlets like Bergdorf Goodman in Manhattan, Neiman Marcus in Houston and sephora.com, said Kerry Diamond, the vice president for communications at Lancôme USA.
Both companies said the purpose of an electronic mascara wand is to better separate and more evenly coat lashes than a traditional brush would.
Estée Lauder said TurboLash, $30, produces 7,500 vibrations per minute.
Lancôme said Ôscillation, $34, produces 7,000 “micro-oscillations,” or pulses, per minute.
“It has been a question of who would get to market fastest,” said Karen Young, the chief executive of the Young Group, a beauty marketing firm in Manhattan, who has worked at both companies. “It is the mascara wars.”
The battle is so intense that manufacturers are borrowing the promotional weaponry of cellphone companies. They compete over technological iterations, stoke expectations by favoring certain bloggers with advance information, and tightly control initial distribution so that people who pride themselves as being early adopters can buy the product first. Beautymaverick.com, a blog written by a former cosmetics publicist, referred to the Lancôme mascara as “possibly the iPhone 3G of the beauty realm.”
“If you miss the boat, you are unable to be one of the people who have the It product, who are in the know,” Lily Nima, who started the blog 18 months ago, said last week in a phone interview.
“If a mass-market brand were to put a vibrating mascara on the shelf, it would look more like a novelty you would expect a drugstore to do,” she said. “The limited edition at the beginning makes it cooler, unattainable and more glamorous.”
A mass-market wand has been on the shelves at stores like Target and CVS since March. Called Spinlash (spinlash.com), the battery-powered gizmo costs about $14.99; more than 100,000 have been sold, a company spokeswoman said.
But, whatever the price, will women embrace a device that requires greater meticulousness to use than a manually operated mascara, and which emits a hum as annoying as a vibrating cellphone?
Beauty companies are positioning the power mascara and the power-free mascara as the difference between automatic and stick-shift.
But even beauty bloggers predict the electric mascara may find only a niche audience.
“An electric battery-operated mascara can be a tricky thing to apply in the back of a cab or on the go,” Ms. Nima said. “The beauty junkies may take to it, but the average beauty consumers may have a harder time with it.”
Still, Jennifer Nobriga of Woodbridge, Va., one of a pair of self-described average beauty consumers and stay-at-home moms behind the blog Beauty in Real Life (beautyinreallife.blogspot.com), said she had already tested Spinlash and was eager to try its higher-end competitors.
“Once we get our own hands on them,” she said, “we are going to be doing a comparison.”
TurboLash is available at Saks; Lauder is working seven days a week to produce more, Ms. Szyfer said. For those who must have Ôscillation, there’s a waiting list at Lancôme counters.