How a 3-D Printer Called 'Mink' Could Completely Make Over the $55 Billion Beauty Industry

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Serial inventor and Harvard Business student Grace Choi is looking to disrupt the $55 billion global makeup industry, which she says “makes a whole lot of money on a whole lot of bull shit."

“They do this by charging a huge premium on one thing that technology provides for free,” Choi explained at TechCrunch’s Disrupt NY event yesterday, “and that one thing is color.”

Accordingly, Choi constructed Mink -- a proprietary 3-D printer that allows users to select any color on the internet and print it into an eye shadow pod.

She says that Mink will eventually be able to print other cosmetic products as well, including lipstick, foundation, powder and blush.

Related: With $6.4 Million in New Funding, This 3-D Printed Insole Maker Is Looking Hot

The device aims to fundamentally change how the world buys makeup, said Choi, who calls young women 13 to 21 with unformed shopping habits her target customers.

She is looking to disrupt both the mass and prestige makeup categories. While a wide selection of shade offerings at high-end outlets like Sephora come at a steep cost, Choi explained, mass retailers stock cheaper items but in fewer shades.

“I’m beating the selection of prestige because I’m giving you the selection of the internet,” Choi said. “And I’m beating the convenience of mass, because I’m giving you the convenience of your own freakin’ house.”  

Related: Staples Rolls Out 3-D Printing Program

Mink will retail for roughly $300 and works just like an inkjet printer, Choi said. Users simply find a color they like anywhere on the internet, copy the hex code -- a six-digit pigment reference figure -- into a program like Photoshop or Paint, and print as normal.

In addition to the printer itself, consumers will have to buy ink and substrates (the base material upon which something is printed) -- both of which will be FDA compliant and commodity-priced, Choi said.

Beyond addressing an antiquated business model, Choi says the invention has a greater philosophical message. More than anything, Mink seeks to prove that “the definition of beauty is something that [girls] should be able to control, not our corporations.”

Related: Beyond Novelty: Architects in Amsterdam Are 3-D Printing an Entire House

Edition: July 2017

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