“You Don’t Know What You’ve Got (Till It’s Gone)” might be the title of an almost-forgettable 1980s power ballad, but it’s also true—especially when it comes to beauty products. Every year, top brands “retire” colors or formulas for myriad reasons. Maybe they weren’t selling well, maybe they were part of a limited-edition collection, maybe the formula was upgraded, only to find customers clamoring for them postmortem. “It can get crazy,” says Buffalo, N.Y.-based Daneen Woolstrum, owner of Discontinuedbeauty.com, an e-commerce store that sells phased-out cosmetics and hair products. (She counts Sarah Jessica Parker and the hair-and-makeup team from Dancing With the Stars as customers.) “I have to watch the market very closely.”
A product that was once priced at $20 can garner $100 if it’s scarce enough. And some cases are even more extreme. For instance, a bottle of Tuxedo by Ralph Lauren—introduced in 1979 and discontinued in the 1990s—is currently for sale on eBay for $595.
So, where do these discontinued items even come from? While the bathroom cabinets of individuals can be fruitful for one-off listings, professional sellers like Woolstrum often buy directly from distributors who are sometimes left with product when the brands stop selling the formulas.
While the market for no-longer available makeup, haircare and skincare isn’t slowing down, there is hope for fans who fear their favorite product will someday vanish from the internet entirely. If there’s enough demand for a particular color shade or formula, brands will occasionally bring them back. Fans convinced our own editor-in-chief, Bobbi Brown, to revive her Raisin lip color and Banana eyeshadow, and Revlon brought back five of their most popular lipstick shades at the start of this year. After all, the customer is always right. Right?
10 Discontinued Beauty Products Fans Can’t Get Enough Of
Nars Mysterious Red Velvet Matte Lip Pencil
Devotees of Nars’ chubby lip pencils won’t stop asking the company to bring back this limited-edition color from the Fall 2013 collection.
Maybelline Lash Stylist Mascara
Phased out in 2009, fans of this comb-applicator mascara still mourn its disappearance. “This was the best mascara I’ve ever used!!” a devotee commented on Makeup Alley four years after it was removed from shelves.
Bobbi Brown Dual-Ended Eyeliner
Shoppers obsessed with this two-in-one eyeliner. It hasn’t been available for a couple of years, but you can get lucky on eBay and Amazon.
M.A.C. Candy YumYum and Heroine Lipsticks
There was such a frenzy around these limited-edition lip colors that the brand decided to bring them back permanently. Get ‘em for $15 each at maccosmetics.com.
Nars Danmari Cheek Palette
Sold exclusively at Sephora over the holidays in 2011, this six-blush compact, including brand classics Orgasm and Desire, is still requested.
Chanel Black Satin and Jade Nail Polishes
Originally released in 2006 as a limited-edition color, Black Satin was the first Chanel beauty product with a wait list. It was later brought back permanently due to popular demand. (Fans of 2009’s limited-edition color Jade, on the other hand, are out of luck.) Black Satin is available for $27 at Chanel.com.
Maybelline Kissing Potion
You can still find tubes of this roll-on lip lacquer, which was popular in the 1970s, on eBay.
Bumble and Bumble Alojoba Shampoo and Conditioner
Retired in 2012, the low-lather shampoo still has devoted followers. “BOOHOO….,” said one Makeup Alley reviewer.
Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick
This classic lipstick is a permanent fixture, but the colors change. At the beginning of 2014, Revlon brought back five of its most popular shades: Icy Violet (first launched in 1946), Snow Peach (1956), Jungle Peach (1963), Sandstorm (1999) and Fifth Avenue Red (1958).
Essie Starry Starry Night
In March 2014, the New York Times reported that a bottle of this sparkly navy—which is also known as SSN—sold for $250 on eBay.