Since When Did a Waitlist Become Beauty’s New Normal?

Summer after summer, I have put myself on the waitlist for New York City’s Shakespeare in the Park (I still haven’t nabbed tickets). I have waited for Rubirosa’s pizza (yes, it’s as good as they say) and Mansur Gavriel’s ballerinas (the new collection is coming soon). But most recently, I played the waiting game for Biologique Recherche’s Masque Vivant, a complexion purifying and stabilizing mask so good, it garnered a three-month waitlist earlier this year when a fraction of the expected import arrived in the U.S. from France.

Having worked in the beauty department at a magazine for five years, it had been ages since I’d hit the “add-to-cart” button on anything beauty-related. But the family-owned French line had me ready to invest, and ready to pay up for its Masque Vivant magic—until I couldn’t.

“They’re sold out everywhere,” Danuta Mieloch, founder of Rescue Spa, tells me over a facial. Mieloch, who sells Biologique Recherche, was instrumental in putting the wunder-mask on the map. There was once a time when she had to convince clients to use this “brown, stinky” treatment. Now that it’s a cult-favorite, she urges clients to explore other options while they wait, like Masque Biomagic. Without fail, a stash of Lotion P50 is always on hand because “we never want to run out!”

Mieloch clues me in on the scale of the company’s shortage, adding that because “they’re a small company, and it’s a natural product—sometimes they can’t make enough.”

“Can’t,” for this established independent operation, boils down to the very admirable notion of “won’t”—quality control. The formulation requires a special fermentation process, and that process takes time.

As it turns out, this once-incomprehensible notion of a beauty waitlist is becoming more commonplace thanks, in part, to word of mouth.

The Active Botanical Serum by Vintner’s Daughter requires a waitlist, too. “People are buying two and three bottles at a time,” says founder April Gargiulo. Customers, she says, tend to re-up every eight weeks via subscription. “They’re using it on their bodies, they’re using it all over.”

Three years into the company’s run, the serum has sold out six times. And when its much-anticipated second product, Active Treatment Essence, launched this year, the projected three months’ stock sold out in three days. After subsequently being back on shelves for three weeks, it’s now sold out again until September.

“It’s a joyful problem to have, but one that we’re trying very hard to correct,” says Gargiulo. “At some point, because we’re not willing to compromise on quality, there may be a limit to what we can produce.”

“If you run out of a product it can be a real catastrophe,” says Cassandra Grey, founder of Violet Grey, but “it’s definitely much harder on the small brands than the customers that are trying to get their cream.”

Ingestible powders are also shepherding in a queue, like Agent Nateur Holi’s (Youth) The Oceanic Adaptogen and Sakara’s Metabolism Powder. Ditto at-home facial offerings like the ZIIP, a nanocurrent and microcurrent device, and Hanacure, a brush-on treatment. Mascaras, blushes, and foundations from Kjaer Weis, and deodorants from Corpus can be unavailable at times too.MOST POPULAR

“Beauty, the product, is a material thing, but it really creates an experience,” Grey adds. “If you feel better in your skin, you’re going to have a better quality of life.” You might even enjoy that Rubirosa pizza more, those ballerina flats, and eventually—maybe next summer—Shakespeare In the Park.

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