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Prescriptives finally makes news

Reviewed by Copley September 22, 2009 2 Comments
Prescriptives, the cult skincare and custom blend makeup brand, will be shuttering its retail counters around the world in roughly T-minus 4 months. Prescriptives customers in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Ireland, and Australia will either have to seek out a new cosmetics counter...or start stockpiling their favorite Prescriptives products stat. Estee Lauder, the company behind such successful names as Aveda, Clinique, and Bobbi Brown, determined that the business model of 30-year-old Prescriptives is no longer viable and made the difficult decision to shut down its division effective January 31, 2010.

Though it may come as a shock to loyal customers, Estee Lauder has dropped hints that it would one day pull the plug on Prescriptives. A few years ago, the company drew Prescriptives out of Asia and downsized its distribution in other countries overseas. Ever since the custom-blended foundation made a splash years ago, growth and development of the line has been slow. As Prescriptives made gradual moves to expand its makeup offerings, the original premise of a serious skincare range with dermalogical overtones floundered. But abandoning all hope for a colossal brand with decades of history seems harsh. What brought about this fatal diagnosis?

Industry figures indicate that Prescriptives has endured a steady loss of share in an extremely competitive category, the retail equivalent of a death knell in these uncertain economic times. The brand simply could not turn a profit without a volume of at least $160 million and a growing multinational distribution. After evaluating its under-performing segments, Estee Lauder determined that Prescriptives' "long-term business model is no longer viable in the current market environment." The cosmetics conglomerate hopes to redirect resources formerly dedicated to Prescriptives to alternate areas of the business with greater growth potential. Only time can tell whether other divisions under the Lauder umbrella (ie. M.A.C., Origins, La Mer, Bumble and Bumble, Darphin, Michael Kors) will meet the same fate.

We suspect a reason outside of economics. Once a cutting-edge concept, the brand's custom blend systems, such as the You Pick palette system released over the summer, seem tired in a cosmetics environment where everything is geared toward personalization. Prescriptives was notorious for repeatedly discontinuing favorite items, like the lifting foundation. Customers continuously complained about the mediocrity of its products' performance. On the whole, the brand's history of innovation hit a roadblock, as nothing exciting has come from Prescriptives in years. Stagnation is no prescription for success.

Prescriptives products will continue to be available online until inventory runs out. Since Lauder's announcement late last week, supplies are already beginning to dwindle as loyal Prescriptives customers hoard their favorites. Fans of Prescriptives' Calyx fragrance, however, need not fret. The highly popular citrusy perfume will be adopted by Aramis and Designer Fragrances and sold at the fragrance bar in high-end department stores and on various websites beginning February 1st next year. Unfortunately, there is no knight in shining armor to rescue the rest of Prescriptives' posse.
  • September 24, 2009

    by maria lewan

    I will greatly miss Presciptives foundation-because for many years, I have only used my custom blend from that line. It is the most wonderful match for my skin & includes foundation, concealer, tinted moisturizer & loose powder.
    Thanks for the heads up-I'll be ordering a few bottles to hold me over for a while!

  • September 24, 2009

    by mjt

    Prescriptives never seemed, to me, to rise above the one selling point of a color match. The idea of custom color was never really matched up with peformance, quality, etc, to generate lasting sales value. Ultimately color matching just isn't that hard. I look orange in most foundations - but have found a match with various premium brands over the years. Also agree that in the age of personalization there's something very 90s about making a whole sales proposition out of it.

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