top of page
Lily Bradbar with orange subtitle.png
  • Lily Bradbar

Why People Are Boycotting Mecca (and Where to Shop Instead)

Updated: Jan 8


A box from Mecca. There are multiple products inside of it, including some perfume, a facial mask, and what appears to be a candle.

Back before COVID upended my makeup hoarding ways, trips to Mecca were full of promise. Somewhere, amongst the identical tubes of flesh-toned fluid, would be the one that would not only even out my complexion, but fundamentally change my bone structure, body composition, and genome. Living with body dysmorphia means my scepticism over beauty marketing is always trumped by that little voice saying, 'What if this is the one that'll make the lambs stop screaming?' It turns out only Paroxetine can do that. Still, for a while, I was determined to hold tight to my magical thinking. Mecca was my temple, and I was a devout adherent to whatever false idea they sold me.

Over time, however, I, like many others, have become disenchanted with Mecca's avaricious business practices, not to mention their endorsement of harmful pseudoscience. It's no secret that consumer exploitation and dishonesty are profitable, but in the age of information, consumers are more empowered than ever to hold businesses accountable through call-outs, boycotts, and good old fashioned shit talk.


I still enjoy the glitter-induced dopamine rush of a trip to Mecca, so I'm not calling for the end of the company. I'm not alone in wanting the company to try a little harder though, and here's why.


Exclusivity Deals


What's one way to create an unethical monopoly, affording you the power to dictate how much an entire population has to pay for a product? Exclusivity deals! Now, to be fair, we're not talking essential goods and services here. No one is going to die if Mecca is the only place one can buy their favourite concealer. Still, advocates for minimally regulated capitalism insist competition safeguards against corporate greed. The sustainability of capitalism is a conversation for another day (and maybe an economist and not a beauty blogger), but if competition protects us from corporate greed, then what does preventing the possibility of competition achieve exactly? Encourage corporate greed, maybe? It's certainly not in the interest of Mecca's customers, that's for sure.


I remember a time last year I'd been eyeing the new Kosas foundation. Reviews for the product had been both abundant and favourable, with a new one appearing in my YouTube recommended each morning. While everyone else was enjoying the product, any attempt I made to find a retailer who would ship it to Australia was obstructed by Mecca's exclusivity deal with the brand. When Mecca finally stocked the foundation, my shade quickly sold out. Even though most other retailers, including Kosas' own site, had my shade in stock, I was at the mercy of Mecca's own supply chain and, ultimately, had to miss out.


This sort of business practice isn't necessarily unique to Mecca, nor is it illegal. Competing companies like Sephora and Space NK, however, manage to remain profitable without denying their customers access to better prices, deals, or shade ranges. Some amount of greed is unsurprising from large businesses, but when you're greedier than the also-greedy, it's not a good look. If we're to take corporate social responsibility seriously, I did it 'cause I can doesn't quite cut it.


Beauty Loop Boxes


Beauty Loop Boxes are one of the few ways Mecca attempts to create brand loyalty. (The remainder of their brand strategy echoes Kimberly Diane Craig nee Day's dating philosophy: 'Treat 'em mean, keep 'em keen.') Depending on the amount you spend in store and/or online, you are assigned a 'Beauty Loop Level' ranging from 1 to 4. According to the company's website: 'Beauty Loop Levels 1, 2, 3, and 4 members receive four boxes every year packed full of sample-sized beauty from some of the biggest and best brands.' The initiative advertises itself as a way for their 'most loyal members' to 'discover new favourites'. Instead of ensuring they maintain the stock needed to actually reward these loyal members, however, these boxes are only available 'while stocks last'. This means many customers are often left with nothing other than the hundreds they spent in the hopes of attaining a higher level. After all, 'the higher your level, the juicer your box will be!' Should that read 'the juicier your box might be'? An asterisk with "While stocks last" would at least be a start.


More than this, these boxes mainly consist of samples most department stores give out for free with any purchase. When customers are missing out on sales and competitive prices on their favourite brands because of exclusivity deals, a few samples barely cuts it. To not even assemble enough boxes to gift those who use the loyalty program is frankly insulting.


Pseudoscience


As if the beauty industry doesn't make enough false promises to vulnerable people, Mecca has aligned itself more and more with harmful pseudoscientific products and treatments in the pursuit of the ever-elusive 'wellness' and — dear god, why? — fertility.


Back in 2020, the company became an official stockist for Gwyneth Paltrow's brand Goop, best known for peddling scientifically baseless products like 'detox' programs and jade eggs one can insert vaginally (or anally if you're freaky*). These eggs attracted a $145 000 fine from government lawyers after the brand made the bewildering claims the product would help to 'balance hormones, regulate menstrual cycles, prevent uterine prolapse, and increase bladder control'. The eggs continue to be sold, only with the more vague and legally acceptable claim that they 'harness the power of energy work, crystal healing, and a Kegel-like physical practice'. You don't even want to know what happens if they hatch.


Mecca, thankfully, had the sense to not stock this product. Its affiliation with the company at all, however, is more than questionable, and part of an ongoing trend. At Mecca's flagship location at George Street, Sydney, a 'wellness expert' (sound convincing?) will help you 'create a naturopathic path to remedy your beauty and health concerns'. Anthia Koullouros, the wellness expert herself, admits her interest in naturopathy was once seen as 'very fringe-dwelling', but now, 'People are now more interested in alternative practitioners we’re looking for something more.' That's right: 'something more'. Legitimate medical science is no longer enough, I guess. To add insult to injury, this same flagship location also offers a fertility suite where acupuncture might possibly maybe even assist anyone desperate enough to go to a makeup counter to get pregnant. Just don't expect that 1mL sample of Magic Cream with your pseudoscientific fertility treatment. They're all out.


Snark aside: It's one thing to claim one glitter yields superior razzle dazzle when compared to competing brands. It's another thing entirely to give false hope to people struggling with fertility issues in the form of unapproved, unsubstantiated therapies. I don't know how much they charge for these treatments, and I'm too angry to look. Save your money and consult your doctor or a medical specialist.


Lack of Sales and Steady Price Increases


Finally, returning to those exclusivity deals, without competition to safeguard corporate greed, you guessed it: the brand is infamous for rarely having sales; offering small discounts at best; and, increasingly, they have lifted prices on brands Australians are unable to purchase any other way. On r/AustralianMakeup, one user was surprised to discover a product from Tatcha — exclusively at Mecca and already overpriced — was now $11 more expensive: from $104.00 to $115.00. Another user was suspicious of a $710 price tag on an at-home LED device from Dr Dennis Gross, another Mecca exclusive. With some help from the Wayback Machine, I was able to confirm that yes, the price had increased from an already stunning $696.00 to $709.00. Receipts below:

This image shows two screenshots of the Dr Dennis Gross Spectralite Faceware Pro product page on Mecca's site.  The screenshots show their website approximately one year apart. The first one lists the product price as $696.00. The second one lists the product price as $709.00.

Still, I put this here last because I cannot find any strong evidence they violate the price promise included on their website. In their words:


'When reviewing prices, Mecca converts the U.S. RRP to $AUD using the exchange rate averaged over the relevant 3-month period. Prices are then adjusted within 3 months in stores and online. As the Australian dollar fluctuates, the daily exchange rate following our review may differ from the rates we used for the pricing review. The pricing of our brands is reviewed every 3 to 6 months. If the exchange rate fluctuates by more than 10% in a 3 month period, Mecca may review prices more frequently.'


I do not know enough to comment on how steadfastly they adhere to this promise, and I do not want to make a bold claim I cannot confidently back up. Accounting for GST, the price of the LED mask from Dr Dennis Gross appears to be in line with current exchange rates. Whatever the case, the absence of sales alone is troubling, especially when coupled with the exclusivity contracts that ensure customers are unable to shop sales offered on a brand's own website. Mecca even successfully sued Hourglass Cosmetics just last year for shipping directly to Australian customers. Hourglass Cosmetics should not have entered a contract they weren't committed to upholding, but because of this intervention, Australians were unable to shop Hourglass's Black Friday sales, leaving them no choice but to purchase Hourglass's already expensive products at full price from Mecca. Mecca is not a small, family-owned business that needs to deny customers discounts to make ends meet. They can afford to be competitive but prefer instead to create a monopoly so customers are at the mercy of what they charge.


So, what do we do with this information? For some beauty consumers, this has meant refusing to shop at Mecca. Some have gone further and contacted brands in an exclusivity deals with Mecca, saying they will not be purchasing the from the brand until they're out of their contracts. Some (me) are weaker and still purchase the brands exclusive to Mecca, but purchase elsewhere when possible. Some still shop as normal, and, let's face it, parasitic corporations are nearly impossible to avoid completely anyway. I'm not a fan of appealing to futility. Reducing harm is always better than apathy, but in this case, I can understand choosing another battle.


I'm not going to urge people to react to this information in any particular manner. This is not the rally cry I would make against uncontroversially abominable companies like Nestlé or Shein or Apple, but I do think Mecca's customers need to remind Mecca of their worth. We are Mecca's biggest asset, and it's time we are treated as such. If you wish to boycott Mecca completely, I have compiled a list of vegan, cruelty-free alternatives (or sort-of dupes) for popular products Australians cannot purchase from anywhere else. Feel free to comment with any of your own favourite alternatives, near-dupes, or convincing dupes.


Mecca Cosmetica | To Save Body SPF50+ Hydrating Sunscreen


This shows Mecca Cosmetica's sunscreen beside my suggested dupe: the Airyday Clear as Day SPF50+ Dreamscreen.

Mecca Cosmetica's sunscreen is known for its lotion-like feel, satin finish, and stunning performance under makeup. Chemical sunscreens, including Mecca's, often aggravate my rosacea-prone skin, but even I was impressed by how beautifully foundation applied over it. If you're after a similar sunscreen that is also avobenzone and oxybenzone free, I would recommend Airyday's Clear as Day SPF50+ Dreamscreen. It is a bit pricier, but if you're like me, you probably use a cheaper sunblock for everyday use and a bougier one for when you're wearing makeup. Airyday's formula, like Mecca's, doubles as a primer and gives a luscious glow that helps even the mattest of foundations melt into your skin. If you have oily and rosacea-prone skin like me, I would also recommend Airyday's Mineral Mousse SPF50+ Dreamscreen. I still reach for my Naked Sundays Collagen Glow Priming Lotion on colder, windier days, but on days when I want a matte, blurred canvas under my makeup, Airyday's mousse has become my go-to. (Sidebar: It works well as a crease-reducing eye primer too!)


Mecca Max | Off Duty Contour Stick


This image shows Mecca Maxima's contour stick beside my suggested dupe: the contour stick from Fenty Beauty.

Mecca Max's contour sticks may beat Fenty's on price, but the formula is a bit challenging to blend, occasionally disrupting the delicate balance of complexion products beneath your contour. Fenty's, on the other hand, glide on with minimal pressure and require less buffering to blend, saving you the need to touch up or adjust your technique. For these reasons, I consider Fenty worth the investment. Since application is easier, you may even find you're using less product to achieve the look you want, saving you money in the long run. Unsurprisingly, you're also getting a better shade range, including the cooler, greyer tones that more convincingly imitate the shadows you're trying to carve out.


Tatcha | The Dewy Skin Cream


In this image, Tatcha's Dewy Skin Cream is shown beside QV Face's Nurturing Night Cream.

If you have so much money that you use it in your fireplace, maybe you want to spend $115 on a moisturiser. There's really no need though. QV Face's Nurturing Night Cream is one of the best moisturisers I have ever used, and it is only $19.50. The formula is hydrating, occlusive, and barrier repairing without feeling uncomfortably heavy. Even better, unlike Tatcha's product, it doesn't contain any of the plant extracts that can be a liability for reactive skin. The packaging is good quality too, with the sort of heft you would expect from a more-expensive product. If you stuck another label on it, it could easily pass for a luxury brand moisturiser. Still, if you can't feel moisturised without flaunting your wealth, Charlotte Tilbury's Magic Cream is comparably moisturising, dewy, and can still be purchased directly from Charlotte's own website, darling babe sugar plumb honey kitten. (Just teasing. I adore the woman.) Also, I must confess: I felt pretty fancy the one time I let myself splurge on the night cream version of the product. My boyfriend said it made me look like I was made out of clay(?), which is probably(?) high praise.


HOURLGASS | Vanish Seamless Finish Foundation Stick

Hourglass's Vanish Pro Stick Foundation is pictured beside KVD's Good Apple foundation in the cream formula, not the serum.

Before tretinoin made any full-coverage foundation precarious, Hourglass's Vanish Pro Stick Foundation was my absolute favourite going-out foundation and by going out, I mean anything from attending a wedding to walking to my letter box. I haven't tried the KVD Good Apple foundation, but it apparently offers many of the same benefits: a cream formula providing full coverage with minimal product. Like Hourglass's product, it is meant to be suitable for dry skin, especially if you use a sponge to stamp it on over areas prone to flaking. Despite Hourglass's best efforts to sell directly to Australian consumers, only KVD can legally ship to Australia from their own website. Most of the range can also be purchased from Australian Sephora, but I'm yet to see this foundation.


Kosas | Revealer Concealer

Kosas Revealer Concealer is pictured beside the Ultra Creamy version of Tarte Shape Tape.

As mentioned, starting tretinoin made some of my old favourites look a little different on my sometimes-radiant-sometimes-flaky skin. When I needed a bit of coverage for a customer-facing job I was working, the Kosas Revealer Concealer was a godsend. It gave medium-buildable coverage, blended out easily, and somehow made even the flakiest parts of my skin look like they were in one piece. So when Mecca's exclusivity meant I couldn't order my shade from any of the stockists who actually had it, I had to get creative. I thought Rose Inc.'s Softlight Luminous Hydrating Concealer might be a solution, and, while I do love this concealer, it is higher coverage and much matter, despite its name. So I took a chance on one I hadn't heard much about: the Ultra Creamy version of Tarte's once-inescapable Shape Tape. Having enjoyed the original Shape Tape in my pre-tretinoin days, I found this gave me everything the Kosas concealer gave me with the bonus of a better shade range and slightly more coverage. The only notable difference was the Tarte concealer was thinner and, therefore, slightly dewier, which may or may not be a good thing depending on your personal preferences.


Whether you're boycotting Mecca or simply looking to switch up your makeup routine, I hope these alternatives serve you well. Ethical consumption is hard work in a world where doing the less-than-ideal thing is often so quick and easy. Still, these companies are nothing without their customers. By voting with our dollar, we can remind Mecca we're worth a bit more than a single-use perfume sample wrapped in tissue paper.


*This statement has not been approved by the FDA, TGA, or any other regulatory body, but let me know how it goes if you ever try it. (In all seriousness, please don't. I don't have $145 000.)

Comments


bottom of page