May 15, 2014 at 7:28 AM ET
A Harvard Business School grad wants to put the future of makeup at your fingertips.
Grace Choi introduced Mink, the personal 3-D printer for customized cosmetics at Tech Crunch's Disrupt Startup Battlefield Competition in New York earlier this month, and her invention has been saturating dedicated makeup aficionados ever since.
"Mink turns the Internet into the world's biggest beauty store," Choi told TODAY. "It not only unlocks every image but it unlocks every pixel."
It's as easy as choosing any hue — from your wardrobe, the Internet, anywhere — and converting it into color code using simple software available on most computers. The color code is sent to the Mink, and the device prints an FDA-approved pigment right on the raw materials used for powder, cream or gel makeups. Load the colorless makeup palate, and in less than a minute you have your new color.
The Mink prototype Choi currently uses to showcase her invention is a bit bigger than a professional makeup case, but she says the final product will be as portable as Apple's Mac Mini (That's a height of about 1.4 inches and width and depth around 7.7 inches). And it will sell for about $300.
That's a big spendy for Choi's target customer — 13- to 21-year-old females. But as Choi noted during her TechCrunch demonstration, the makeup industry "charges a huge premium on the one thing technology can provide for free — color." Wal-Mart offers inexpensive makeup, but not a lot of variety, Chop pointed out, while high-end makeup stores offer variety at a price.
Following the tech conference, headlines blared that Choi was poised to "bring down the beauty industry."
But Eve Pearl, who owns her own makeup line, told TODAY there's a lot more to the business than pigment.
"If i wanted to have the eye shadow that Angelina Jolie is wearing, I might get the same exact color," Pearl said. But the quality of the makeup, what it feels like and how easily it's applied, could be far less fantastic than whatever Angelina's got on.
Choi, however, says it's more about the product. "I think its finally training our girls that the definition of beauty is something they should control," she said. "And nobody else."