Monday, 13 June 2011

My reflections upon ELF cosmetics

a fraction of my brush collection

My adventure with ELF began when I was looking for a purple or blue cream/ gel eyeliner. The totally unfamiliar brand had excellent reviews on and when I opened their website to my utter surprise the prices were much below ordinary and what is more they sent their goodies to my country at a reasonable price. So I gave it a try!
After a few months I've ordered and tested I guess every product that was worth my attention and I've come to several conclusions concerning the products and the company itself and I thought I'd share my thoughts with you.

top-notch products: kabuki brush and HD powder

I'll start with what attracted me to the brand.

1) The company policy to send affordable beauty products, which is a euphemistic way to say the brand is cheap.

2) Despite being cheap, the majority of products are of reasonable quality.

3) The customer services do excellent job: they answer any queries within minutes, the products are despatched usually on the same day they are ordered, when my parcel was lost in transit I received full compensation.

4) Goods, however cheap they are, can be bought at even lower prices during endless promotions (discount codes are issued almost every week - depending on the number of "likes" on ELF UK Facebook website).

5) ELF managed to create a community of ELF addicts sharing their opinions, comments, advice, wishlists on Facebook.

6) The company uses very clever marketing strategies based on word-of-mouth advertising, Facebook website users spread the word about the company and attract other potential customers to "like" the page, the award being free delivery or a 20% discount. This sounds like aggressive marketing, which in fact it is not, cause the Facebook page functions more like a fan-club, where everyone is welcome. When inviting other people to the website you don't feel like you participate in advertysing a brand, it's more like sharing the good news with other women that they can buy some goodies cheaply. Other, more established companies, should learn from ELF how to build customer loyalty. If I were a student of marketing I would definitely write my BA thesis about ELF.

ELF minerals

However, no matter how enthusiastic about ELF I may be, I'm concerned about certain issues connected with the products.

1) First of all, let's face it, the products are cheap because they are made in China. This is the only cosmetic company I know which manufactures their goods there. You may say I'm fussy or prejudiced, yes I am, cause I remember scandals about toxic baby formula produced in China or cancerous toys made for such corporation as Mattel. Hence the next point

2) Certificates of compliance with EU regulations or standards are nowhere to be found. Neither are the traces of  any approvals by any respectable laboratories etc. I wouldn't raise this issue if the cosmetics were made within the EU, but in case of China, yes, it does bother me.

3) There are no expiry dates on the packaging. I saw someone ask a question about it and ELF's answer was that on the bottom of every package there's a symbol of a jar with the number, which specifies how long you can use the product. But these are two completely different things, eg. I use eye drops with the expiry date of about 2 years, but once opened they need to be used up or discarded within a month. Every product needs an expiry or production date.

4) In connection with the above: products with no expiry date very often arrive old. I personally don't know how this is possible with such high tutnover of stock. If you observe the website a number of products go out of stock and they are replaced with new ones within 2-3 months. How come they have outdated products in stock? This beats me. My cream eyeliner was so dry that it didn't stick to the egdes of the jar any more, but it was still usable when you removed the outer layer. I realized how bad it was only when another shade arrived perfectly fresh.

cream eyeliner in purple

5) No 2 products are exactly the same. Sometimes I was reading reviews of products I had at home and used regularly and I didn't know that the heck they were talking about, it was like something different from what I had. Then I happened to buy 5 brushes of the same type and I realised what was going on. Each single one was different! For me this proves a total lack of control over the production line.

6) None of the products arrived broken or faulty, but still the packaging in many cases could be improved. It's hard to screw back the lid on cream eyeliner jars, I don't even try to close my undereye concealer tightly for fear it might break.

one of my favourites - the brow kit
the box snaps shut so tight that the vibrations caused the powder to crack

7) For a small price you may get very little product, which I personally don't mind as I like trying different things out.

8) The colours of the website in no way reflect the colours in reality, so always search google images for swatches!

studio blushes in peechy keen and candid coral
EDIT: ELF cosmetics have kindly commented  upon this blog entry clearing a number of matters which have bothered me about their products. I guess I needed this consolation to be absolutely certain about the quality and safety of these goods. To close this entry let me just quote the information provided by ELF:

Most cosmetics dare I say it are made in China (most high end brands in fact). In terms of quality control and safety, we hold all of the independently laboratory approved and tested certificates for EU compliance, as is our legal obligation. We could not retail cosmetics in Europe without it, we are not obliged to publish these. In the EU expiry dates are marked with a symbol of an open jar with a number. Items with a shelf life over 30 months do not require an expiry date (you can find out more by reading ISO 8601). Swatches are an issue for any online retailer simply because screens are all different as are browsers in showing colour.

Disclaimer: I bought the product myself for my personal use and I am not affiliated with any company. I am not paid to do this review and everything I said here is my genuine opinion.


  1. Very good blog! Brought up things i had never relised before!! Thanks =]

  2. Very good thorough post :)
    a question - do you actually use your fan brush?

  3. I'm glad you liked it, girls! @LiisK I sometimes use the fan brush to contour my face with a bronzer, but now I bought an incredible brush for that purpose ( I use it less often. Anyway, if it hadn't been a part of a set , I wouldn't have bought it. It's a good quality brush, but it hardly serves any purpose.

  4. I agree with many of the things you said here, but *many* cosmetics are made in China, including brands like Smashbox and Tarte. A very quick Google search would have shown that. I'm surprised you said that you had never heard of cosmetics being made in China before, and the implication that ELF is the first cosmetic brand you've run across that is manufactured in China is a bit disingenuous. The difference is that ELF does not mark up the cost as much as the high end brands.

    1. Hi, I do not want to enter into the discussion on what is made in China and what is not, which is sort of futile as we could shower each other with brands which outsource their production in China or in Germany or elsewhere. First of all, the post was written two years ago, when instances of high-end brands moving their factories to China were relatively rare, All Smashbox stuff I possessed at that time was made in Germany. Unfortunately Tarte is not sold where I live, so there's no way for me to verify that. Except google search of course. Secondly, I admit I'm prejudiced, but not holding anything against the Chinese, I just believe that when you shift your production elsewhere there's less quality control and the quality of the final product suffers. This has exactly been the case with many foreign products made here in Poland. And thirdly, the fact that Smashbox or Tarte make their goods in China does not serve as an example of good business practice. With the price tag that they attach to their products I'd expect them to protect their own domestic market and economy, offer workplaces in their own country, protect human and animal rights etc.