Blame it on beauty advent calendars, but all brands take bite size

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When John Lewis released his annual trend report late last year, there was a big surprise for beauty watchers – or rather a tiny one. Car sales of beauty miniatures increased by 35 percent.

Usually, of course, we associate the minis with summer vacation, but last year we picked them up by load all year round.

It’s not just about tiny deodorants and mouthwashes: you can also buy miniature versions of the fanciest skincare products, with luxury brands lining up to take advantage of the demand.

In the beauty salons of 12 of its stores, including the flagship Oxford Street branch, John Lewis has introduced floor-to-ceiling ‘miniature walls’, including everything from hair treatments and highlighters to eye creams and to the correctors. This is called “bite-sized beauty”.

A 4ml tube of her famous Push Up Pillow Talk lashes costs £ 12, unlike the full size (10ml) version for £ 23

A 4ml tube of her famous Push Up Pillow Talk lashes costs £ 12, unlike the full size (10ml) version for £ 23

The first attraction is being able to “try before you buy”. Who wants to spend £ 40 on a 200ml Eve Lom cleanser, only to find out it’s too rich for your skin or you don’t like the smell?

But a 20ml mini for £ 18? That’s enough for a weekend, and if it doesn’t suit your skin, you won’t feel like you’ve wasted your money.

Another reason is that it allows people to experience a luxury group at an affordable price. Take the iconic skin brand La Mer, the favorite of celebrities like Elizabeth Hurley and Beyonce.

At £ 70, a 15ml jar of her moisturizer doesn’t seem like a great deal (you can even pay it in installments on Space NK), but compared to £ 245 for a full-size 60ml, that’s the case.

Expensive brands are all rushing to produce scaled-down versions of their bestsellers as we spend more than ever on skin care.

Nars' popular Climax Extreme mascara costs £ 22, but a mini mascara (left) costs just £ 10 and is small enough to fit in your jeans pocket

Nars’ popular Climax Extreme mascara costs £ 22, but a mini mascara (left) costs just £ 10 and is small enough to fit in your jeans pocket

Watching their own tired faces on Zoom has convinced many women that they need to improve their daily skincare routine. UK brand Oskia specializes in biocellular skin care and one of their top selling products is the Super 16 anti-aging serum. A full size (30ml) costs £ 92, but the 5.5ml version of a doll costs £ 23.

Even Victoria Beckham took advantage of the mini being the pinnacle of fashion. A full-size (50ml) bottle of her Cell Rejuvenating Priming Moisturizer costs £ 140, while the 15ml version (left) costs £ 58.

The minis are always decadent, but not enough to make you feel guilty – the beauty equivalent of those little chocolate bars you get in a jar of Celebrations. A Martian bar? Oh I shouldn’t. . . but it’s very small, go ahead then!

The miniature boom owes a lot to the success of beauty advent calendars. Everyone from Liberty and Harrods to The Body Shop and Asos produces a calendar, most of which sell out instantly.

The £ 199 version of Space NK ended up on the waiting list the day it became available. Opening a window and finding a little beauty surprise has clearly left people begging for more.

La Mer's Moisturizing Cool Gel Cream, priced at £ 70, a 15ml jar doesn't seem like a great deal (you can even pay for it in installments at Space NK), compared to £ 245 for a standard 60ml size.

La Mer’s Moisturizing Cool Gel Cream, priced at £ 70, a 15ml jar doesn’t seem like a great deal (you can even pay for it in installments at Space NK), compared to £ 245 for a standard 60ml size.

Along with toiletries and skincare items, there are dozens of makeup miniatures to choose from, all neatly tucked away in a minimalist evening clutch.

Travel-sized goodies have always been offered by major cosmetic brands. They invariably feature a product you love and a bunch of other monstrosities, which always include a coral lipstick or peach blush.

No more! Nars’ popular Climax Extreme mascara costs £ 22, but a mini mascara costs just £ 10 and is small enough to fit in your jeans pocket.

A Radiant Creamy miniature concealer is available for £ 13 (as opposed to the regular size at £ 24.50).

Cosmetics queen Charlotte Tilbury produces minis 12 months a year. A 4ml tube of her famous Push Up Pillow Talk lashes costs £ 12, unlike the full size (10ml) version for £ 23.

Or you can splash on a scaled-down Flawless Finish powder for £ 20 rather than the traditional size at £ 35.

Even Victoria Beckham took advantage of the fact that the mini was the ultimate in fashion - a full-size (50ml) bottle of her Rejuvenating Cellular Priming Moisturizer costs £ 140, while the 15ml version costs £ 58

Even Victoria Beckham took advantage of the fact that the mini was the ultimate in fashion – a full-size (50ml) bottle of her Rejuvenating Cellular Priming Moisturizer costs £ 140, while the 15ml version costs £ 58

But while we’ve all fallen in love with miniatures, there’s no denying that a lot of them are a big rip off, with a quarter the size rarely equaling a quarter the price.

Yet their lack of value is not a deterrent to consumers.

The Cult Beauty online store currently offers over 300 mini product versions.

Meanwhile, John Lewis’s best-selling beauties include Bobbi Brown Face Base (£ 15); Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant (£ 14); Caudalie Beauty Elixir Face Mist (£ 12); and the Dr Jart + Tiger Grass color correcting treatment (£ 15).

I keep reading that 2022 is set to be the year of the “big squeeze” and a time of painful financial calculations.

Well, it’s a squeeze I’m not afraid to embrace. And if that cuts down on my annual beauty expenses by preventing me from splashing out on super-expensive products that I end up not using, so much the better.


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