Mini beauty products are, undeniably, trending. More than ever, brands are specifically marketing “travel size” or miniature versions of their product – in the kind of format you’d expect of a gift with purchase or free sample.

The appeal of tiny products is not new. In the 1920s, teeny tiny beauty products were conveniently sized for the dainty purses of the time, Helena Rubinstein marketed a variety of “four-cast” kits of fully functional mini lipsticks in the 1940s and 50s, and Estée Lauder gave out free miniature lipsticks to market the launch of her eponymous brand. Not to mention the many, impossibly tiny fragrance bottles one might unearth in the bathroom cabinets of elderly female relatives.

Helena Rubinstein “Four-Cast” mini lipsticks, circa 1950.

Now, more brands than ever are offering sets or singles of miniature beauty products – often marketed as a “travel friendly” alternative, as we see in Sephora’s jet set beauty sections. This includes NARS, now offering their Natural Radiant Longwear Foundation in a mini size at ULTA retailers, and Glow Recipe marketing several kits and singles in a smaller size. Drunk Elephant is another brand that has offered mini sizes of their range for some time. On instagram, beauty bloggers and consumers coo over their collections of minis, myself included.

This tendency may be seen as more than a simple case of TSA compliance, but also as an effect of several contemporary anxieties. Firstly, we are in the midst of a global housing crisis, with homes getting smaller and more expensive by the minute, space for storing beauty products grows ever scarcer – no matter how many “beauty room” tours influencers put on youtube.

glow recipe mini skincare set
Glow Recipe’s new Sephora-exclusive “Glow Babies” set.

Furthermore, a mini offers less commitment than a full size – as skincare consumers like myself want to try as many different products as possible, it may not be worth investing in a full size of something you won’t use up.  Pricing is another issue – as incomes remain stagnant and the cost of living increases, a mini offers a cheaper alternative even if you technically pay more by volume or weight, making mini products attractive both to retailers and consumers. Sephora and Cult Beauty both offer a mini category on their websites, as does MAC.

And besides – they do look very cute. It must be said that the aesthetic qualities of something tiny has great appeal – it’s fun to feel like a giant using doll-sized product with tiny pipette droppers and jars of eye cream in absurdly undersized proportions.