The Cosmetic Copycat

by Aug 30, 2013Product Review13 comments

The cosmetics industry has been overtaken by a disturbing phenomenon where innovation is replaced by imitation. It’s easier to copy the competition’s successes than risk launching an innovative new product that might not produce guaranteed sales.

More disturbing…the industry has moved from product imitation to literal DUPLICATION.

All cosmetic companies work with external manufacturers to produce a percentage of their products (some more, some less). These manufacturers create new and innovative formulas and packaging to entice cosmetic companies to work with them. It’s normal for the same concept/formulation to be sold to multiple brands.


(do not read this if you want to remain blissfully unaware of how cosmetics are made)

Most premium cosmetic pencils are produced by one of two European manufacturers.
Example: The difference between MUFE Aqua Liners, Urban Decay 24/7 and Smashbox Timeless waterproof pencils – NOTHING (except the exterior of the pencil).

Don’t be shocked, it’s pretty much standard practice in the cosmetic industry. Each cosmetic company chooses different product colors and exterior packaging so they won’t all look alike …even though the guts (formulation) of the actual pencil might be the same.

BUT what happens when the exterior packaging IS the innovation? And the innovation is VERY distinctive looking?

Today's Cosmetic Copycat Case

Innovation  NYX Cosmetics The Curve (they launched it first).
Duplication Sephora Collection Smart Liner (launched almost a year later)
Applying liquid eyeliner to create that perfect “wing” seems to generate terror in a lot of women. Skillful, steady hands begin to shake and curse words fill the air.
Those smart folks at NYX Cosmetics sourced this innovative application system from a VERY famous cosmetic manufacturing company in Germany. The thoughtfully designed component addresses liquid liner phobia with a clever ergonomic shape, making application almost mistake-proof.
The Curve ($15 USD) features a grip zone providing just the right hold for a precise and secure application. Even the klutziest hands stand a better than average chance of conquering their liquid eyeliner neurosis with this applicator. I’d qualify that as a stroke of genius (sorry about the pun).

Well, obviously Sephora agrees because they went directly to the same manufacturer and printed their name on the same component – not a similar component – the identical component.
Allow me to introduce you to the  Sephora Collection‘s copycat of The Curve – Smart Liner ($14 USD).

NYX’s The Curve and Sephora Collection’s Smart Liner are the same product, so they both deliver on the most requested features for liquid eyeliner:

  • rich, opaque black pigment
  • smudge-proof and long-lasting
  • a versatile tip that goes from very fine to wide
  • easy, comfortable application in right or left hand
  • affordable price (there’s a $1 difference between brands)

I’m a product/brand developer and a huge supporter of cosmetic innovation. So it makes me scratch my head and wonder …
Why would Sephora slap their name on an exact duplicate, after it had been launched by NYX, a highly visible global cosmetic company, a year previously?

But wait, here it is again (sort of)…

Obviously, this is from the same manufacturer. At least, the nice folks at Pierre Rene Professional opted for “originality”, and choose a different color exterior.


I hope this exposè hasn’t damaged your perception of the magical, mystical world of cosmetics (too much). I DO hope it’s made you a smarter and more aware consumer.

UPDATE: Sephora has discontinued the “Smart Liner”. “The Curve” is still available from NYX Cosmetics.

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