“I can’t believe what I’m seeing. Olay has a new SPF 30 mineral sunscreen for sensitive skin. OMG $50 is insane,” said a recent TikTok post by Houston-based dermatologist Andrea Suarez. Filmed at what appears to be a Walgreens location, the discovery of the steep price for the 1.7-ounce product was the latest expression of sticker shock that shoppers have been experiencing in the drugstore beauty aisle.
Inflation continues to drive up beauty prices, which include those of drugstore brands that appeal to price-conscious consumers. Between March 2022 and March 2023, cosmetics prices rose by 4.2% and personal care prices grew 8.7%, according to the U.S. Consumer Price Index. Thanks to beauty influencers focused on dupes and value-for-money product comparisons, beauty consumers’ awareness of cost is rising along with the prices of the goods.
With over 279,000 followers on TikTok and 464,000 on Instagram, Suarez hit a nerve with the video, which has seen 66,000 views. It’s been met with comments like, “I gasped out loud!” and “These drugstore prices are crazy. Nowadays every drugstore skincare item is $15-25!!! Those are Ulta prices.”
The “premiumization” of drugstore beauty brands has been a hot topic on TikTok and online beauty forums. Popular beauty Reddit group BeautyGuruChatter frequently features posts by users complaining about drugstore prices. In a post from February this year, one user expressed surprise at the price of a $20 Nyx Professional Makeup primer. Meanwhile, a post in the group from November 2022 lamented “the death of drugstore pricing,” stating that Nyx Cosmetics, Makeup Revolution and E.l.f. Beauty had become too expensive. “I’m just sad that $15 cannot seem to get me a good deal anymore,” said the post.
While Suarez did not respond to a request for comment, the drugstore appears to be a Walgreens location due to Walgreens logos on the shelf behind her and a Walgreens sign in the background.
Rising costs of shipping and raw materials have impacted increases in beauty prices. But the price of the sunscreen in the post appears to be based on Walgreens’ pricing.
According to a representative from Olay, its official manufacturer’s suggested retail price for the Olay Sensitive Mineral Sunscreen at SPF 30 is $29.99. “Pricing is at the discretion of the retailer and we do not have control over the listed prices in-store or online at retailers,” said the statement emailed to Glossy. The product price is $24.99 on Olay’s DTC site, but it’s currently not available for sale on the site.
Retail prices “can vary based on location to account for our convenience offerings and various operating expenses. We strive to offer continued value through our Walgreens brand offerings, ongoing promotions and our myWalgreens loyalty program,” said a Walgreens representative via email.
TikTok posts about drugstore beauty sticker shock have become especially common among shoppers and influencers based in Canada. In mid-April, TikTok influencer @carewithkate (57,000 followers) posted a series of videos about beauty prices at Canadian drugstore Shoppers Drug Mart that went viral. A 2023 report by NPD estimated that beauty prices in Canada have risen by 1% in the past year.
Olay’s marketing has highlighted affordability on social media, with a TikTok post from July last year stating, “We know it’s getting expensive out there. But we’re staying affordable.” In a May 2022 TikTok ad, influencer Sean Anthony called the brand’s Micro Sculpting Cream ($29 at Target) a “dupe” for a “$400 cream.”
Other price-conscious brands have opted to raise prices and inform their audience about them. The Ordinary, known for its affordable skin-care options, announced that it would be raising prices by an average of $1.12 per item in 2023, following a similar annoucement of a price hike in 2022.