How Far Would You Go to Track Down a Discontinued Beauty Product?


In hopes of a restock, Stewart and her boyfriend returned to the warehouse a week later, digging through bin after bin to find one single, newly-added box. By her third attempt, her boyfriend had tapped out. In the middle of a snow and ice-packed Canadian winter, Stewart drove alone, navigating Muskoka’s slippery, winding dirt roads in -5C (23F) weather only to discover the pop-up was gone. “I’ve been out of Hello Flawless for two years now,” sighs Stewart. “RIP.”

Even industry pros aren’t immune to the heartbreak of discontinuation, including makeup artist Erin Parsons. “There was a Milani black pencil,” says Parsons. “It was the best damn eyeliner I have ever found. I’ve been doing makeup for 25 years and to this day, nothing surpasses it. I don’t understand why they discontinued it. When they stopped making it, I found 50 on eBay. I bought every one. I think I spent $500.” A few years later, she has only “a couple” left.

Parsons also tracked down a bottle of Revlon Outrageous Shampoo, wildly popular in the 90s, because it held childhood sentimentality. “I just wanted to smell it again.”

She’s not the only one. A petition was started in 2022 to revive Revlon’s original Outrageous formula; it currently has 131 signatures.

That’s probably not enough. At the end of the day, it’s about the bottom line, says Cathy O’Brien, a longtime cosmetics industry consultant. “Unfortunately, a cult or niche following does not necessarily translate into sales,” O’Brien explains. “Every business does a monthly or quarterly SKU [or stock keeping unit] review that looks at its top and bottom performers, what is or isn’t selling. Brands have to manage their costs. There have been a number of times they’ve had to discontinue things that people are devastated over, but just weren’t selling.” On the flip side, brands often test the earning potential of a new product by presenting it as a limited edition: “If it sells quickly and people love it, they may decide to add it to the permanent collection.”

If you’re passionate about a discontinued item, it’s worth letting the company know. “Brands want to hear from the customers, always,” says O’Brien, who is now CEO of skin-care brand Naturopathica. “Contact customer service or DM them. Social media is a great way to communicate your feedback. You never know how many others might be telling them the same thing.”


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