Take a high-margin product like cosmetics, and cut prices by at least half. Now add online accessibility with customization, community and values. Throw in a pinch of demystifying expert advice, and you’ve got e.l.f., short for “eyes, lips, face.”

Launched by New York-based JA Cosmetics roughly three years ago, e.l.f. appears to be turning the cosmetics industry on its ear. All cosmetics cost just USD 1, and customers can create personalized profiles that generate product recommendations and customized looks. A “beauty secrets” section is filled with tips and expert advice, and a blog section fosters community and discussion. The site also supports the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), promising not to use animal testing on any products or ingredients.

e.l.f. currently ships only to US and Canadian addresses, but versions of the site have recently launched for both the UK and Australia. The company’s products are also available in US stores, including Target and a variety of drugstores and convenience chains.

In an industry prone to high prices, unforgiving return policies, a reputation for ethically questionable testing practices, and a marketing machine that has relentlessly emphasized prestige and brand exclusivity, e.l.f. is like a breath of fresh air. It also makes you wonder when the rest of the industry will wake up and realize that their customers have entered the 21st century.

UK service coming soon…

[Via Springwise]