Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.
In the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, so-called mineral makeup was all the rage. Powder "foundations" made with titanium and zinc oxide were marketed as healthier for your skin, since the products didn’t contain preservatives and promised not to settle into your pores, or cause breakouts. Like a lot of things in beauty, this wasn’t all strictly true, but the category still became the darling of the beauty world.
BareMinerals, founded in the 1990s as a part of the Bare Escentuals company, arguably started the trend. According to an interview with Leslie Blodgett, the former CEO of BareEscentuals, the middle aughts were a huge growth time for mineral makeup, spawning a sea of competitors. Mainstream brands started creating mineral products, and indie brands with names like Glo Minerals and Pür Minerals also launched, making the field crowded and confusing.
Fast forward to now. There’s a bit of a perception that mineral makeup is your mom’s makeup, making it inherently uncool. Plus, in this age of dewy skin, a fully powdered face isn’t that desirable anymore. While BareMinerals is still going strong, its competitor Pür Minerals, which launched in 2002, recently took a hard look at its business model, decided to pivot, and appears to be succeeding.
It’s becoming a tale as old as time: Brand has been around for years. Brand sends products to Instagram makeup "gurus." Guru posts herself/himself wearing the brand. Brand re-grams. Repeat until you have two million followers.
Brands like Benefit, TooFaced, and Tarte aligned themselves with influencers early on without necessarily changing the DNA of their brands. The 18-year-old Anastasia Beverly Hills, a brand which was lucky to count the Kardashians as early fans when it only sold a few brow products back at the dawn of Instagram (Anastasia Soare, the founder, did the Kardashians’ brows), was one of the first companies to reinvent itself completely via social media. It now boasts over 10 million Instagram followers and a full color cosmetics line. Pür Cosmetics (which dropped the "Minerals" from its name in October 2015) is the latest brand attempting to pass "Beauty Brand Reinvention 101: Selling Makeup in the Digital Age" with a very deliberate rebranding centered around embracing social media.
While Pür isn’t totally leaving behind its mineral roots, its chosen to downplay them. "We completely relaunched the brand and we dropped the mineral from our name because we are more than minerals," says Tisha Thompson, the vice president of sales and marketing at Pür, who has been with the brand for ten years. (Its best-selling product, however, remains its classic 4-in-1 Pressed Mineral Foundation, which includes a proprietary "complex" of skin care ingredients.)
The brand also changed its packaging. Previously a sedate pale pink, brown, and beige, it now features – let’s face it, very Instagrammable – black, white, silver, and textured gold boxes. "It’s much more modern, very chic, very sophisticated," says Thompson. "It speaks to a wider range [of customers] but also appeals to the millennial audience, which is what we’re focusing on. That’s been the shift. Our core demographic is 18 to 34."
According to Thompson, at the end of last year before approaching the all-important Instagram influencers, Pür "relaunched to our retailers, got our branding right, fixed a lot of our packaging, updated our fixturing. When we made our move in January we were ready and we looked like we wanted to look," explains Thompson. Ulta is Pür’s biggest retailer; it also has full distribution at Kohl’s.
In January the brand hosted 14 influencers in Cabo for some wining and dining and brand immersion. One of them, Angel Merino, who goes by the handle @mac_daddyy, quickly became a fan and brand ambassador of sorts. (Merino is one of the rare Instagram gurus who actually has a career putting makeup on faces other than his own and counts Chanel Iman, Fifth Harmony, Ariana Grande, "the entire Braxton family," and "reality people and Housewives" as clients.)
Merino hadn’t heard of Pür before its reps reached out to him. "I went on their website and saw they had a really extensive product line. I realized it was a pretty established brand that probably just needed a little more help with social media so I thought it was a prefect partnership," he says. "They sent me a care package and I immediately was obsessed with a lot of the products that have really become staples in my makeup wardrobe now."
One of Merino’s favorites is the eye polish, a liquid eye shadow product dispensed via a pot with a mesh cover that can be used as an eye base coat, base color, or top coat. Other recent best sellers for the brand include its pancake-sized bronzer, a "magnetic" mascara, a "Love Your Selfie" palette, and that Instagram staple, matte liquid lipstick.
According to Thompson, Pür still considers itself a complexion company at heart, but it uses the flashier products as an introduction to the brand. "We say that the color is the bait and the complexion is the hook. That’s what allowed us to scream in a louder voice, really embracing that," says Thompson. "We flash our new innovative color products like our eye polish and mascara and then we get them in." She acknowledges that popular complexion products like the newly launched HydraFluid serum foundation don’t necessarily show well on social media, but they’re the products that keep people coming back for more.
As of now, Pür has a modest yet respectable 188,000 Instagram followers; it has some catching up to do with Benefit and TooFaced, who have over four million and six million respectively, but Thompson is zen about growth. "We are seeing a lot of our growth organically. We’re trying to rely a lot on our relationships and organic growth is really our core strategy."
While some traditional makeup artists like Pati Dubroff and Mai Quynh have used Pür on their famous clients, the brand will continue to court the denizens of Instagram. The brand hosts meet-and-greets with influencers and has a presence at events like BeautyCon, Coachella, and Generation Beauty, a strategy Thompson says will continue.
Time will tell whether or not beauty brands within the Instagram bubble will survive. Thompson is optimistic, though: "We will continue to evolve and widen our reach. We want to be a lifestyle brand. People are now looking and searching for brands like us."