Beauty lovers know that there's no such thing as too much makeup.
Cos Bar is all about an "elevated" beauty shopping experience. The stores promise the ultimate in elegance — the chicest stores, the best luxury products, all perfectly curated for the most discerning beauty shopper.
Simply put, it's Sephora for rich people.
There just so happens to be a Cos Bar near-ish my office. So I decided to go there, and see what "elevated" beauty shopping really looked like.
On a totally normal summer day, I headed downtown into the ~fancy~ neighborhood where Cos Bar is located.
I was sweating before I even left my office building. But global warming's not real, she said sarcastically.
Because shopping in luxury stores FILLS me with impostor syndrome, I armed myself with a fancy bag JUST BECAUSE.
Let me be real — as a thin white lady, I am rarely mistreated when I shop. But when it comes to visiting FANCY stores, I still always feel like I shouldn't be in them, like I'm not elegant or classy enough to "deserve" to be there.
Obviously this is all 100% baloney, as stores are meant to be shopped in. These perceptions of exclusivity only make luxury stores seem MORE desirable, whether or not they deserve that reputation.
Anyway, when I'm feeling like I don't "deserve" to be in "exclusive" spaces, I wear my Proenza Schouler bag. It's like armor, and is the perfect way to show my impostor syndrome who TF it's dealing with.
After what felt like nine years on an unseasonably sweaty subway, I made it to fancy mall and office building, Brookfield Place. Cos Bar, I knew, was SOMEWHERE inside.
Right away, Cos Bar felt familiar. It made me feel like I was walking into a really fancy Ulta — lots of white cabinets and pastel accents.
Cle de Peau...
And believe me — you *will* have a guide. In addition to ~luxury~ products, Cos Bar is all about that ~luxury~ service. That means a lot of individual attention.
There were three people working at Cos Bar when I visited, and I talked to all of them about different products and industry trends. I was the only customer in the store for a full hour. I found everyone DELIGHTFUL — they were very knowledgable, especially about skin care, very kind, and very considerate. I was lavished with care, like I had multiple beauty concierges on call.
It was a very Rich Lady experience.
That said, it's REALLY easy to get lulled into the Rich Lady fantasy where you can afford everything brought to you. This, for example, is $585 Cle De Peau skin cream. I was told that it's wonderful to slather all over your body after a shower or bath.
On one hand, can you really put a price on nice skin?
On the other, that is a $600 jar of goo.
I fully understand that prices are relative, and budgets are individual. I can't personally imagine a financial future for myself where La Mer is considered "not expensive," and a teeny jar of $600 cream in a crystal paperweight is "after-bath skin care," but if you can, cool!
But even though I'm hardly an aristocratic luxurybitch, shopping like I was proved to be a very calm, pressure-free experience.
I didn't feel pressured, shamed or forced into buying or testing anything at Cos Bar. It was definitely one of the most low-stress shopping experiences of my life, but as with any retail store, you need to speak up.
Because while they're extremely knowledgable about skin care, nobody in this store was psychic — so if you don't like stick foundations or heavy moisturizing oils, it's OK to be polite and say so. People who work retail and who are good at their jobs are *also* really good listeners. I definitely felt listened to, appreciated, and cared for when I visited Cos.
I didn't feel excluded for not being super-wealthy while shopping at Cos Bar. But looking at the complexion products available in the store, I couldn't ignore that exclusion was still happening.
If you're not a pale person, you're going to have a tough time shopping in the prestige makeup market — and, unfortunately, at Cos Bar.
Pictured above is the entirety of the Giorgio Armani foundation ranged carried at Cos Bar. That is 26 shades of beige, with two red-toned "dark" shades thrown in at the end. This reflects what I saw across the store: row after row of expensive foundations that didn't include shades darker than a paper bag.
Not very inclusive, is it?
This is a MASSIVE problem in beauty — luxury brands often choose to ignore people of color and dark-skinned people completely.
I can already hear the chorus of allegedly well-meaning people tweeting to say "There are beauty brands just for Black people. Can't you just accept that not every brand makes things for everybody?"
No. Nobody should accept that.
Billion-dollar brands are fully capable of making, stocking, marketing, and selling makeup for dark skin. If a brand doesn't do that, that's a choice.
And if a store carries perhaps four foundations darker than a brown paper bag, that's a choice, too.
Those corporate choices have real, perceptible effects on people. If you walk into a store and out of 2,500 available foundations, there are zero that match your skin tone, that's like a neon sign that says "DARK SKIN NOT WANTED." It keeps many people of color out of "exclusive" spaces, and away from certain luxury makeup brands.
Part of Cos Bar's mission is to serve a "sophisticated and discerning audience." I genuinely hope that Cos corporate realizes that sophisticated, discerning beauty-lovers come in ALL skin tones, and adjusts the brands — and products — carried accordingly.
People of color don't just exist in the prestige makeup space to look cute in ads. Representation matters, and ALL brands — as well as the stores that carry those brands — need to do the work on this.
And the perfume range is really out of this world. I founds scents I'd never heard of at Cos Bar from brands I thought I knew inside and out!
There was only one thing that I ~needed~ to buy, and of course, it was the only thing Cos Bar didn't have in stock. But that's when I learned about an awesome in-store service.
I HATE that the one mascara I truly love is Cle de Peau Perfect Lash mascara ($50, Cos Bar). It is way too expensive, but also the most perfect formula in the world.
I dally with other side-mascaras, but I always come back to de Peau. I know. You may cut my head off when the revolution comes.
So I took advantage of Cos Bar's mailing service. They place the order for you in the store, you pay there, then they mail you the product you've ordered. It's like having someone shop online on your behalf, which I quite liked! It was much easier than me going home, going to the Cos Bar website, putting the mascara in my cart, then closing the tab because the concept of $50 mascara is SO aggressive.
Delighted with my purchases and feeling the glow that only comes with exposure to expensive oils and nice people, I got ready to head back to my office — cute Cos bag in tow. And then I realized the BEST thing about this store.
The Cos Bar bags have straps long enough so that you can put them over your shoulder!
And they say happiness can't be bought.
Here's what I brought home from my visit to Cos Bar:
So at the end of this bougie beauty trip, what did I learn about Cos Bar?
I learned that Cos Bar is a lot more than a more expensive Sephora. With hard to find brands and a selection more extensive than even a department store counter, it's kind of a game-changer if your jam is niche and expensive luxury beauty products.
I learned that — shockingly — the difference between a normal shopping experience and an exceptional one is the customer service. Cos Bar's staff, particularly Dustin, made me feel as cared about and respected as if I were a regular who'd been shopping there for years.
Cos Bar also made me feel very welcome, even though I'm not a belle epoque-era railway baron with scads of money. But if Cos want to make everyone feel as special as I was made to feel, the powers that be might want to look at the brands carried in stores and online. The failings of the beauty industry aren't on Cos alone by any means, but diversity and inclusion aren't just a trend. No time for 50 shades of beige in 2018.
Cos Bar probably won't replace Ulta and Sephora in my heart — or my wallet. But the next time I need a beyond fancy lip product, I know EXACTLY where to go.
Money might not be able to buy happiness, but it *can* get some really magical mascara and a fun shopping trip. Thanks for upgrading me, Cos Bar.