What Indie Beauty Brand Founders Think Of Ulta’s New Conscious Beauty Initiative

Last week, Ulta Beauty revealed a Conscious Beauty program certifying brands in five areas: clean ingredients, cruelty-free testing, vegan formulations, sustainable packaging and positive impact. Preceded by clean beauty retailers such as Credo and The Detox Market making moves to address sustainability, the beauty chain’s program signals a broadening from clean beauty to a wider view of ethical beauty beyond free-from claims and human safety repercussions. We wondered what beauty entrepreneurs thought of Ulta Beauty’s approach and asked 14 of them: What’s your take on the retailer’s new Conscious Beauty initiative?

Garonne Decossard Founder, The Ronnie Shop

It’s a much needed approach that Ulta is taking, and I hope it inspires other major retailers in taking similar paths. Consumers have always expressed the need to have choice and transparency in identifying brands that fit their own ethical standards. Instead of reaching for an app while browsing, hoping to find information about where that specific brand fits in the ethical standards spectrum, consumers will now be able to clearly see and make an informed choice.

It is also very commendable that they are taking steps to reduce our collective carbon footprint in the world by switching to sustainable packaging. It’s something that all manufacturers have to be working towards. At some point, it will become a requirement, much how we are doing away with plastic bags at supermarkets in many states.

Stephanie Eyison Founder and CEO, Atarah

When I created the first product for Atarah, I was very intentional about the ingredients I used because I was a nursing mother. To avoid passing any toxins or harmful substances on to my daughter, I decided to choose only 100% plant-based and certified organic ingredients. That has been the bedrock of my brand and for every other product we have released. It is just a beautiful thing to see that being conscientious of what you produce is finally being rewarded. I sleep better at night knowing that all my hard work and discipline provide a better option to my customers has been recognized.

At the other end of the scale, the Conscious Beauty Initiative provides brands with the perfect opportunity to really take a look at their production process from ingredients, testing and packaging to societal impact. This is a huge win for the beauty industry as a whole!  I am looking forward to the great strides it will create amongst our community of brands and the positive challenge it creates for us all to be and do better.

BEATRICE DIXON Founder and CEO, The Honey Pot Company

Ulta is taking a step in the right direction! They understand the importance of sustainability when it comes to the environmental impact and the social implications for their brand. Many consumers are very passionate about choosing products that are clean, sustainable, and are sourced and manufactured with ethical standards. Consumer demand for these types of products and brands has pushed retailers to rethink how they are coming to the table and what part they are playing in creating a healthier, cleaner world.

Ashley Whetung Founder, Geti Cosmetics

It seems Ulta and Geti are well-aligned, and it's high time more brands and retailers get on board. We asked ourselves this: What kind of company do we want to be? Sustainability isn't just a marketing fad. It's a mindset we need to take on at a personal and corporate level if we hope to find a balance between economic growth and natural preservation. 

Consumers care about the business they're supporting nearly as much as they do about the products themselves these days, and that's reason enough for brands to hop on board and get "woke" to the social, environmental and economic impacts of doing business. And we've also found there are plenty of financial benefits to being a more sustainable business. We like that warm-fuzzy feeling you get from doing the right thing and hopefully other brands will, too.

Ahmed Nayel Co-Founder, Bare + Bloom

We are really excited about Ulta’s Conscious Beauty initiative as it perfectly aligns with Bare + Bloom’s emphasis on clean ingredients, sustainable packaging, ethical sourcing and positive impact. What we put on our bodies is just as important as what we put in our bodies. So, it's important to exercise caution with what we apply topically to our skin and hair. 

We believe it’s our responsibility as a skin and hair care brand to help make the process of selecting clean, nontoxic and eco-friendly products as effortless as possible. Ulta’s initiative will take that a step further by certifying brands that meet the necessary criteria, which is the kind of action and transparency the industry needs, especially in the wake of a global health crisis.

JESSIKA CARTER-ROSS Owner and Founder, Madam J Beauty

I welcome Ulta's new Conscious Beauty Initiative with open arms! As a clean beauty brand, our core values focus on plant-based ingredients, sustainable packaging and cruelty-free testing. In my experience as a beauty advisor of five years, I carefully studied numerous beauty brands, their ingredients and their applications. All of them had ingredients I couldn't pronounce or were toxic. This inspired me to create my own brand, explicitly focusing on green beauty products including skincare, body care, cosmetics, fragrances, nail care and haircare. 

The skin is one of our largest organs, and we have to do our best to protect our temples. We've been very successful in proving to our customers that plants really do heal and reveal beautiful skin, which a lot of them are shocked when they discover this. We also have much responsibility to our planet to protect it and we must make efforts to prevent further disruption. We love to hear that more brands are making sustainability a necessity for their company. Our carbon footprint is reduced through the use of glass packaging for 98% of our products, and lessened paper materials and product packaging. 

Plastic continues to harm our sea animals, cover our forest floors and cause pollution. Due to this, recyclable material is better suited for our environment. I'm interested to see how Ulta is going to handle the transition. I'm looking forward to more clean beauty brands becoming accessible to our communities, and I hope Madam J Beauty can be a part of Ulta's initiative in the future!

ADODO ROBINSON Founder, Delali Robinson Cosmetics

I applaud Ulta for stepping up and positioning themselves to help take the beauty industry in the right direction. The five steps established will not only help consumers identify which brands share their standards, but help small brands coming into Ulta establish instant trust with consumers with Ulta and their third party certification/approval. We collectively have to work to ensure a clean and healthy environment for the world.

Ayanna Henderson Founder, Ayanna Beauty

We launched our brand with the pillars of Ulta's new Conscious Beauty initiative. We are a clean beauty brand with clean ingredients. We are cruelty-free, vegan, and our product packing is sustainable. We are a very small brand in comparison to Ulta. If we're able to accomplish with a significantly smaller team and budget, we think that the larger brands can do the same. We applaud their efforts. Consumers deserve nontoxic beauty. We cater to vegans and the vegan-curious market—people who are looking for more healthy ways to incorporate a cleaner lifestyle. 

SELMIN KARATAS Co-Founder, Kazani

Ulta is a huge company, and one of the leaders in the beauty industry. The fact that they are following these guidelines shows that this will be the new normal for beauty companies from now on. As far as I see it, many indie beauty brands are already following these guidelines much earlier as it is in their core branding.

I also love the fact that beauty companies will need to use sustainable packaging as environmental pollution is becoming an imminent problem for the world and for our future generations. Ulta Beauty made a big move stating that they will use recycled or bio-sourced materials to recyclable and refillable products on shelves by 2025, which indicates the industry will have a total change in the way they do business from manufacturing to packing the products.

As an indie beauty brand, we've been trying to execute the five Conscious Beauty initiatives from the day we started our company. With the new Conscious Beauty initiative, this will be another door for clean beauty brands who have the same values to try to get into the door as a clean beauty brand and sell their products.

Ulta Beauty also formed The Conscious Beauty Advisory Council. This is an excellent idea because they will have outside people who are experts in the beauty industry advising on current issues and trying to solve problems as they arise and, lastly, taking accountability as a company. This is such a huge leap, and I believe it will gain positive traction and change the beauty industry permanently.

DANIELLE GRONICH Co-Founder, CLEARstem Skincare

As a holistic acne expert and chief formulator, I am obsessed with ingredients: Potency, quality, what you use versus what you avoid, all of it matters more than anything else. People want results, and they also deserve to have brands go the extra distance to ensure that there are no known toxins in their formulas. With so much competition and the stakes being so high for maintaining our health, we need to make sure there are as few hormone disruptors as possible in our personal care products. Brands need to have a conscience in order to be respected now, and I love that.  

I think Ulta is the perfect outlet to pioneer this cause. The new [Conscious Beauty initiative] can eventually be what grass-fed is to meat, which lets consumers know why the price is different and where the values of the brand and that product lie. As a consumer, I love this and, as a brand, I love it even more. It helps weed out the guys just doing this for profit and highlights the rest of us who have bigger values and better standards for the planet and for our customers!

Ebru Karpuzoglu Founder, AveSeena

The clean beauty movement originally focused on what was not in a product, rather than what was. I believe Ulta’s new Conscious Beauty initiative is going to significantly elevate the current clean beauty concept across the industry and among the consumers by raising more awareness on how conscious and clean beauty products can affect our skin, body and the environment. At its core, this initiative will also help establish the much-needed platform for the brands to offer full transparency and disclosure for safer and cleaner beauty within their authentic and expert space.

We at AveSeena as a brand, and me as an Immunologist and a scientist, align ourselves with the same functional, moral and ethical values that the Ulta’s new Conscious Beauty initiative supports. I am seeing a significant rise in the phenomenon of sensitized skin caused by increased exposure to stress, environmental pollution, synthetic irritants and digital aggressors that could disturb the delicate immune defense and balance of the skin leading to inflammations, irritations, etc. This sensitivity will be the new driving force in clean and sustainable beauty to help care for the skin with clean, natural, honest and plant-based ingredients that are safe for the people and planet.

As an immunologist, I cannot stress enough the importance of using conscious, carefully-selected clean ingredients with scientific backing in thoroughly tested skincare formulas. At AveSeena, our expertise in immunology and molecular medicine is used to provide cleaner, safer and effective wellness-focused beauty products that is in parallel with Ulta’s new initiative.

Additionally, I find one of the key hurdles for the beauty industry is sustainable and clean packaging, while providing the luxurious and functional look. Sustainability is a fundamental part of AveSeena’s DNA. We are moving away from our current recyclable packaging to a more eco-friendly, biodegradable and reusable glass packaging in line with Ulta’s initiatives. We are also a member of EWG Verified program that focuses on increased awareness on health and environmental sustainability.

Cruelty-free is in the heart of our brand as members of Leaping Bunny, and we fully support Ulta’s initiative. With so many high-tech in vitro tests available, I agree that it is time to move away from animal testing in the beauty industry. Ulta’s initiative will help consumers to explore the brands’ commitment to giving back to the community and/or environment as well as protecting the welfare of animals shown with badges such as Leaping Bunny Certified or seals from other authorities on products. As a wellness lifestyle beauty brand and as an immunologist, we support all these critical points in Ulta’s Conscious Beauty initiative that will become big drivers in moving forward the clean and conscious beauty movement.

MARY-ANDRÉE ARDOUIN-GUERRIER Founder and CEO, Loving Culture

I think it is a very good start. Ulta is very mainstream among young adults and teenagers. If we can make clean, green, cruelty-free, and socially conscious brands more mainstream, then that in itself will further the movement past just being trendy.

JASMINE LEWIS Founder and CEO, Vie Beauty

The fact that they are pledging to make this change is great, especially for the environment. It creates a sense of ease when shopping in stores with certain brands. Nowadays most people are shopping where their values and ethical views are aligned. It will start to become standard and more retailers and brands will start to make this shift where everyone is more conscious of their carbon footprint from the retailer, brand and consumer.

Melinda Herron CEO and Founder, 103 Collection

Ulta’s Conscious Beauty initiative is a step in the right direction for the nations largest beauty retailer. Although there is still a lot to be done in the clean beauty space, this inspires conscious beauty brand like ours to feel like we have a place on the shelf. From packaging to ethical sourced ingredients, the quality of what we use should always be reflected in the overall selections for each product. We are excited about this initiative and hope that this will encourage Ulta to open their doors to smaller indie brands that share the same sustainable commitment.

If you have a question you’d like Beauty Independent to ask beauty entrepreneurs, please send it to [email protected].