CBD Brand Founders Discuss Differentiation In The Increasingly Crowded Cannabis Beauty Segment

In this edition of Beauty Independent’s ongoing series posing questions to beauty entrepreneurs, we ask 15 founders and executives: How do you differentiate your brand in the skyrocketing CBD market?

Sean McDonald COO, CBD Living

It’s really difficult to differentiate yourself as a CBD company in this incredibly crowded space. From the very beginning, we’ve had a focus on transparency. One valid criticism of CBD is that, because the industry is not regulated by the FDA, there are so many snake oil companies out there who are selling products that contain THC or do not contain the amount of CBD that they claim.

That’s why we send all of our products to independent third-party labs, where they are tested for the amount of CBD, level of THC, presence of heavy metals and more. Then, the results are posted on our website. We want our customers to feel confident that they are spending their hard-earned money on a legitimate product.

Rebecca Winnicki Owner, Homemade Betty LLC

As a brand in the CBD market, it is important to know what you are speaking about. It's hard in a market that is so heavily saturated right now. You can't just throw CBD on a label and call it good.

I have personally spent hours and years researching and meeting with CBD companies to work with the best company for our mission. We only use clean organic CBD with minimal ingredients, so our customer gets results instantly. Our customers expect us to have a clean line with no fillers and a fresh made-to-order approach with every order.

Tess Taylor Founder, Taylor + Tess

This industry has such a special connection to nature and creativity, and it has been this way for decades. We want to continue to perpetuate this free-spirited culture that is connected to Mother Nature in a modern way. My brand is run entirely by women and people who identify as LGBTQ+, and representation is a top priority for us. Our slogan is: for women, men, neither and both.

We differentiate ourselves not only in the cannabis space, but in the beauty industry as well by practicing inclusivity each day when we position our products and brand. We are wholly committed to clean products that are primarily organic and vegan without toxic ingredients. Our products are for all pigments and types of skin.

Erin Mastopietro Co-Founder, Dope Dog

We stand out in the growing CBD market because we are not just a CBD brand. We were created as a pet company with the mission to bring the benefits of CBD safely and effectively to our fur friends. Amid all the hype around the cannabis industry, our dog-first mindset helps us stay true to our mission and continue to create products that our customers value.

Tori Bodin Founder, Dazey CBD

The cannabis industry has historically been represented by stock images of green leaves, medical symbols or apothecary designs, but we wanted to equate our brand with ones we already loved like Glossier, Herbivore and Golde.

Our signature gradient is inspired by the colors of the West Coast and the heart of our brand follows the sun. While we try not to take ourselves too seriously, we keep an extremely high bar for quality and are dedicated to transparent practices and education in order to earn and keep customer trust.

Dazey was created out of my own preference for a CBD oil without flavors, sweeteners or preservatives. We wanted something as natural as it could be and chose to use only organic hemp and organic coconut oil. We also took a lot of time to think about our brand and how we wanted to position ourselves in the market.

Janet Schriever Founder, Code of Harmony

Because there are lots of skincare manufacturers/labs offering to create "your brand here" using CBD as a main ingredient, there is a new CBD brand popping up on the daily.  Due to the craze, consumers should look for CBD brands that can tell the consumer what every ingredient is for and why they are in the formula. If brands are evasive or don't know these facts, they probably don't fully understand what it is that they are selling.

A "your brand here" formula is created by a lab to sell to lots of different brands, and they bank on the fact that consumers don't know any better and don't read labels. The exact same product is sold to tons of other "your brand here" CBD companies without discretion. Sometimes the formulas are tweaked or an ingredient or two is added to make them slightly different than the competition, but it is still a private-label product.

Those shiny new companies with slick IG feeds and marketing might get the initial sale based on the fact that it contains CBD or a pretty package, but the actual products need to keep bringing the customers back.

I simply stay true to my original formulas and keep doing what I do. My formulas are overflowing with botanicals and vitamins and cosmeceutical ingredients that complement the CBD in ways that other brands can't really compare with. I know what is in each and every product and how those ingredients benefit the skin and have very low irritation potential.

After nearly three years of making and selling my products, I have plenty of consumer feedback on how well they work. The results I have gotten from people with problem skin conditions are amazing because of the formulas, not just because they contain CBD.

Kara Soule CEO and Co-Founder, Verdant

In a marketplace exploding with CBD-infused everything, from pizza to energy shots, our focus remains on well-researched, carefully-formulated and best-in-class ingredients, and an uncompromising approach that extends into every aspect of our brand from our carrier oil to our packaging, from our testing to our website.

Using our relevant backgrounds in organic farming, consumer packaged goods and technology, we’ve explored every element in great detail and designed custom solutions when alternatives didn’t meet our standards. And we believe the difference is tangibly noticed in the taste, color, smell and, most importantly, benefit to our customers. We hear time and again that our products are the first CBD products they’ve tried that actually made a difference. That, simply put, is what differentiates us. 

This approach certainly takes time and, while we understand this may put us at a disadvantage in the short term, we believe it’s the right way to do business. We’ve created products we’re genuinely proud of, use daily and share with family and friends without hesitation. 

Joan Sutton Founding Partner and CEO, 707 Flora

The key is superior science that represents the marriage of advanced skincare knowledge and cannabis chemistry, an achievement virtually unprecedented in the beauty industry to date. I’ve been in the skincare industry for 28 years and strongly believe effective skincare seldom relies on the performance of a single active ingredient. Rather, the supporting cast of raw materials work as an ensemble to make it more effective.

At the same time, the best formulations retain a kind of elegant simplicity, free of unnecessary additives and fillers. So, it was hugely important to me that we formulated with absolutely no CBD isolates, carrier oils or synthetics, and went above and beyond with safety and dermatologist testing and created skin changing formulations that are 100% vegan and cruelty-free.

Laure Bouguen CEO, Ho Karan

We don't consider ourselves as a CBD brand, but as a cannabis brand. CBD is just one molecule amongst thousands of incredible cannabis molecules. We also use terpens, cannaflavins and of course organic hemp oil.

My grandparents grew hemp in Brittany (Bretagne in French), a pristine region in the west part of France. We still produce from plant to laboratory in this region.

Dorian Morris Founder, Undefined Beauty

Purpose. After being in the beauty industry for almost 10 years, when I decided it was my time to create something of my own, creating a purpose-driven brand that can make a true impact was key to my entrepreneurial journey.

I created Undefined to democratize beauty by giving people access to high-quality, clean/nontoxic, CBD-infused skincare that doesn’t cost your first-born child. Good skincare is a right we all deserve, and I operate through the lens of inclusivity, an area the beauty industry has neglected for far too long.

Moreover, the cannabis industry was built off the backs of the black and brown community, which is being denied access to the commercialization opportunity now that the regulatory landscape has shifted. My mission is to not only destigmatize and elevate CBD, but taking it one step further, my goal is to infuse social good into my business model to drive sustainable, purposeful impact.

Since my first collection Indigo Rose is focused on CBD, my social good is female incarceration given the unfortunate situation that many in jail are there because of cannabis. As the daughter of law enforcement, it’s been a personal passion of mine since I was a child, and I unfortunately have family members who have been incarcerated for drug offenses and have seen first hand how difficult it is to reacclimate. I want to bring positivity from something that once was negative. I aim to be the bridge and operate by the model “do good, be good."

As a black woman myself, I also empower disenfranchised communities across my supply chain focusing on women-owned and minority-owned businesses. For example, my manufacturing lab is female-founded, my 3PL warehouse is female-founded, my designer is minority, etc. Business can empower business and consumers vote with every dollar they spend.

Authenticity and having a true north will ultimately differentiate me. I look at cannabis and CBD as a botanical, not a drug, which can unlock immense skincare benefits, and I think brands that focus on education and access, not just sprinkling in CBD (or hemp seed oil as some unscrupulous brands are doing) and throwing a pot leaf on their packaging, will win in the end.

Alison Ragusa Co-Founder, Lab to Beauty

We are the first to bring innovative CBD skincare to the luxury market. Being featured in Barneys is such a stamp of the unique and innovative approach we have.  Barneys has always been, and always is, the best at being first to have the coolest new products.

Jewel Zimmer Founder, Juna

Lifestyle integration, dosage and sourcing. We define Juna CBD as everyday functional beauty. We encourage our consumers to us a micro dose of CBD daily to activate receptors and keep the body in a balanced state.  

Our CBD drops are a hero product. They are for ingesting as a wellness ritual, but also incredible used topically to soften and reduce inflammation. Our CBD called Nude as it relates to the balance and comfort one has been in his/her own skin, and it is bare of any psychoactive compounds. The hemp plant is the adaptogen of all adaptogens working with body, mind and mood.

One of our biggest points of difference is our relationship to sourcing and process from seed to final execution in the bottle. We work with small family owned organic farmers in the U.S. This is rare in the industrial hemp marketplace. We also third-party test for purity and consistency.

Solange Astudillo CEO and Founder, Millennial Beauté

I believe I differentiate myself by bringing something to the table that doesn’t already exist and that truly works. My mission is to help my customers in their healing journey. Our CBD peel-off is the first of it’s type in the CBD beauty world, and this is huge. It has proved to help some of our customers improve their acne, eczema, and clogged pores.

Katharine Marinaro Owner and Founder, CBD+nature

Coming from Malibu, Calif., we are all about nature and beauty. Our mission is to get people off pharmaceuticals and promote a healthy, natural, pure, chemical-free lifestyle.

Our tincture is full-spectrum, using Co2 extraction to avoid all chemicals. We use the whole plant to get all the benefits from hemp. We are made from all natural ingredients keeping our products as close to nature as possible. Our cannabidiol tincture has a smooth milky green texture, unlike most brands that are clear in color. 

Jennie Fresa Founder and Owner, Copal Clean Beauty

In my CBD research, I learned that not all CBD is created equal. I knew I wanted to work with a brand that had their own farms and sourced their own plant. The organically grown, pesticide-free, non-GMO hemp used in Upstate’s product line is sourced from Vermont and Colorado.

They have internal breeding research which is focused on the development of high CBD:THC type III CBD-rich cultivars with robust terpene profiles that are optimized for the short Vermont growing season. Upstate is committed to high standards in its production methods, which was really important to me for this brand partnership.

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