One of the most interesting new trends in the world of beauty right now is the development of the personalized product. This is a phenomenon that started to emerge some years ago, along with the trend toward fresh beauty products, the sort of things sold by companies like Lush: refrigerated face packs and hair treatments that are all-natural and have a short shelf life due to their freshness.

Both of these trends respond to a sense that the customer now wants a more personal relationship with her products. She wants real, pure, safe products that are all-natural and as good as or better than homemade, a gourmet version of what she could whip up at home. And she wants products designed for her specific needs, not mass-market products that try to respond to many different needs at once. These trends arise from a general desire for truth, sincerity and soul in the products we put on our skin and hair.

In Paris recently I went to a seminar given by Terry de Gunzburg, formerly with YSL and now embarking on her own beauty endeavor: a line called By Terry which is a makeup line designed along the lines of the haute couture and pret a porter collections in fashion. Customers at her Paris shop will have a choice between a custom or a ready-to-wear approach to makeup. The custom client will have an entire laboratory at her disposal and a great precision in color at her fingertips, with, for example, 400 sample skin tones and 700 eye shadow hues to choose from.

At her first visit, the client spends one to three hours being given personal beauty advice and studying color and texture options. The aim is to find the colors and textures that are perfect for each individual client’s skin and coloring. After two to three weeks, during which time the scientists and colorists formulate products specifically for her, the client is given personal test samples which she takes home and tries for a few days. They are then approved, or worked with further until they meet with her satisfaction. When she finally receives her finished products, they are exquisitely packaged in solid silver containers which are both refillable and engraveable. It is a return to the beauty product as treasured object of art, like the compacts, lipstick cases and combs of an earlier era.

The ready-to-wear customer’s products are packaged in the same containers, but rather than have products custom-made for her, she chooses from a still sizable range of colors and formulations. Because the company is dedicated to supplying top quality formulations along with a very broad range of exquisitely subtle colors, the ready-to-wear option sounds just as wonderful as the more exclusive, more expensive custom one.

And finally, the special client is offered, every eight weeks, a limited-edition By Terry product, produced in units of 50 and not made available to the general public. Apparently, the waiting lists for these products are permanently full.

Next column, a look at a few other bespoke cosmetics ventures, including the Shu Uemura Atelier Factory, Cosmetics a la Carte and Prescriptives.