The Future Of Clean Beauty
In this edition of Beauty Independent’s ongoing series posing questions relevant to indie beauty, we ask 32 beauty entrepreneurs, executives and experts: Against the backdrop of crowding in the clean beauty segment and the backlash against it, where do you see clean beauty heading?
- Jen Novakovich Founder, The Eco Well
Considering the core ideas behind "clean" beauty are born overwhelmingly out of pseudoscience, and how much misinformation proponents have spread across the industry, I personally think that it should be scrapped. I'm honestly not sure how or the best steps forward, but more emphasis on (actual) facts rather than fear would be a great start.
- Lan Belinky Co-Creator, Boscia
Despite the backlash, clean beauty has only continued to expand and is quickly becoming the new standard in the industry. When Boscia was established in 2002, we had to educate and explain to customers and retailers why we omitted certain ingredients in our formulations (parabens, sulfates, alcohol, etc.) and how these ingredients could be the cause for skin irritation and problems. Now, in 2021, consumers are more educated and demanding clean products from brands.
In the future, we will see the definition of “clean beauty” shift and expand. Brands will need to adapt to become more transparent, eco-friendly and sustainable. Customers want to know what’s in their products and why. For Boscia, that means providing as much transparency as possible into what goes into our products, and we’ve recently partnered with ClearForMe to further highlight this for our customers.
I also envision brands becoming more conscious of their primary packaging materials and moving away from plastic wherever possible and/or using PCR. We have also seen several brands launch refillable products, minimizing the use of plastic. At Boscia, we have started to shift our primary component materials to 100% PCR and eliminating outer unit cartons whenever possible to eliminate packaging waste.
However, the sustainability focus will not stop at packaging, but also to transparency and sourcing sustainable ingredients to create eco-friendly formulas. An example of an eco-friendly formula is something that is waterless. At Boscia, “waterless” means eliminating the use of water wherever possible like in our newest pro-retinol product. This allows us to reduce our packaging, shippers and overall carbon emission and the formula is more potent, concentrated and effective. Not only that, but we are also looking into utilizing upcycled ingredients within future launches.
- Tiffany Thurston Scott Co-Founder and CEO, Róen
I see the clean beauty movement as a way of improving the quality of ingredients in beauty products and the sustainability of the packaging used. This includes being aware of and using ethically sourced raw materials wherever possible, raising the standards by which products are certified for sale, causing brands to be more transparent about the ingredients in their products, and being more responsible for the claims brands make about their products and packaging.
I'm not sure there is a backlash against clean beauty per se because everyone wants things to be cleaner, from the water that we drink to the food we eat to the air we breathe. None of these things is 100% clean, but there is a social movement to improve how clean these things are. The same can be said about the products we put on our skin.
But that's not to say that air we breathe, the water we drink or the food we eat all are dirty. What people tend to push back on are the clean beauty claims some brands make without substantiation for marketing purposes. Just like claiming that your product is natural, what does that mean? It doesn't mean that the other products are unnatural. The same applies to clean makeup, for example. So, if a brand claims their product is clean, it does not mean the other makeup is dirty.
So where is all this heading? I believe it is toward a more transparent, honest and better regulated beauty world. When the term clean beauty is used, it should mean that the brand has researched its claims for efficacy, honestly tried to develop products with the least harmful ingredients as identified by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review or other reputable cosmetic regulating organization such as Environmental Working Group, and that the raw materials used were in fact ethically sourced.
- Namrata Kamdar Founder, Plenaire
I think it will definitely continue to grow, but, like with many things, it may become quite generic. I don’t expect that formulating to a standard that is free of controversial ingredients will go away anytime soon despite the backlash from a few corners of the internet. There will always be a more or less discerning customer who will have access to information and like formulations that take an approach using specific ingredients. Also, giving someone the choice to choose a specific ingredient approach or not isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s a choice like any other. It’s when you limit choices I think that it becomes problematic.
If the Johnson's asbestos lawsuits are anything (or Rely tampons in the ‘80s) to go by, we know that there are examples, though rare, where corporations do make mistakes and, while these in some cases are unintentional, [they] can lead to some pretty big consequences. While I would like to believe these sorts of events are rare these days, it’s really important for beauty to hold itself accountable. So, the clean beauty movement and ingredient transparency are necessary and a step in the right direction. I would rather that than have no pressure on brands (particularly in the U.S.) to focus in safety and ingredients.
- Evonna Kuehner Founder, Anové
The backlash clean beauty is currently facing is really a backlash against certain practices (fear-based marketing, misinformation sharing, ingredient shaming with limited evidence, etc.), but not necessarily a backlash against the core values that often drive founders and consumers to the space.
I see clean beauty heading in a direction of focusing on the benefits of the changes in things like ingredients, formulations and supply chains as a whole without needing to resort to fearmongering. As a founder, I know what led me to start a company in this space, and those reasons are very much aligned with the reasons consumers seek out clean products.
- Niambi Cacchioli Founder, Pholk Beauty
The clean beauty backlash was illuminating for me because it confirmed that many people feel alienated by the term. Even though Pholk Beauty uses all plant-based, nontoxic, botanical ingredients that would include us in the clean beauty narrative, it's a term that we avoid using in our messaging because it has such a negative association.
Today's consumer is so savvy and has much more agency to drive trends. They can discern what's marketing, and what are healthy, high-performing ingredients and products. Rather than aligning ourselves with a single beauty movement like clean, we've focused on building a community around our values, our ingredients and our core customers' specific skin concerns.
The future of our brand is about deepening the connection with our customers and finding ways to bring them into the product design process so we can better serve their needs in an all-natural way. For Pholk, I certainly see us creating more relationships with other plant-based consumer communities and amplifying how our holistic approach to beauty is part of a daily practice of wellness.
- Cary Lin Co-Founder, Common Heir
The clean beauty industry has come a long way, spearheaded by the consumer's growing interest in understanding what's in their beauty products, similar to the way they might read a label at the grocery store. I think, overall, that interest and awareness is a good thing. We're bullish on consumers continuing to care, but the entire industry (not just clean brands) bears the responsibility of being more transparent and accountable. The answer is rarely black and white, and no matter where you stand on clean, it is important to lead with facts and education that doesn't scare or fearmonger.
Consumers have been given misinformation by both clean and conventional beauty brands, and at the end of the day, we see all brands being held more accountable for their decisions. A lot of the backlash is directed at the worst offenders like "chemical-free" as a claim because, of course, water is a chemical. Because of lax regulations around cosmetic labeling, beauty brands tend to suffer from a lack of quality control around claims. Getting a letter from the FDA is pretty much the only market correction that exists, but the FDA can't police every brand's social media posts or website. At Common Heir, we've made intentional choices and judgment calls around our product development, and we are very transparent on our website with our material origins and function.
For an industry that is hungry for innovation, brands can look at the same ingredient and come to different conclusions. A lack of data might mean that a more cautious brand won't use it without a long track record. A lack of negative data might mean that it's "safe until proven otherwise." Instead of calling out an entire segment of brands who in fact make very different decisions, I'd focus the movement more on educating the consumer about your own choices as a brand and letting them make the judgment for their skin.
- Annie Tevelin Founder, SkinOwl
I believe the clean beauty movement began as a way to introduce a more thought-out and well-intentioned ingredient deck to the public, and by default expose the underbelly of the beauty industry as if to say, “ Just because it's on a shelf in a store you love doesn't mean it's FDA approved or safe.”
In the future, I think the clean beauty industry is going to have to ante up in terms of transparency. What started as clean-focused will become integrity-focused, with customers wanting to shop lines that are giving back, inclusive, supporting in their marketing versus manipulative, and transparent in their supply chain, sourcing and ingredient deck.
This will mean the most to gen Z, which will illuminate the moral compass of select brands who want to be seen in that light as well. All this to say, until there are overarching bills passed to ensure transparency in the world of cosmetic products, it will continue to be the job of the brand and consumer to decide what “clean” means for them.
- Christine Martey-Ochola Co-Founder, Nuele
Currently, the clean beauty industry is seeing significant growth with both indie brands and large manufacturers. In the past year, there has been an explosion of products that previously marketed themselves as natural that are now utilizing "clean" as a description to support the market trend.
What may start to distinguish this clean beauty sector is the presence of industry certifications, transparency in ingredient inclusion, propagation towards 100% toxic-free products, and an expectation on the side of the consumer to hold their beauty product manufacturers accountable to clean standards.
Certainly, clean standards are left to the beholder since we currently do not have a nationally recognized standard. Due to the broad definition of clean beauty, it remains the responsibility of the consumer to review product ingredients, sustainability, ethical sourcing, workplace ethics alongside authenticity.
- Kiku Chaudhuri Co-Founder, Shaz & Kiks
The reason for any negativity around clean beauty is because there's no clear definition. Customers' interest and demand for better-for-you products that show transparency and honesty are not going away. So, regulations, brands, environmentalists, chemists, manufacturers and consumers all need to get on the same page and clearly outline beauty industry standards to mitigate misinformation and just overall confusion.
In our opinion, clean beauty is not just marketing terms, formulas and yes/no lists. It starts with the raw materials, plants that are improving soil, air and water quality, avoiding chemical pollution, harvested and processed correctly...really looking at the beginning of the supply chain and how our raw ingredients are truly providing a renewable resource. That's where clean beauty needs to head towards.
- Ann Somma CCO, Tru Fragrance
It’s important to be very clear and transparent to the consumer about what’s inside and why it works. Consumers are looking for safe, effective products, and want to see and hear why they should believe in you right from the first experience. If you don’t have room to explain on the label what your formula contains to make it work well and safely, be ready to explain it in social media or on your site. The consumer that can become your biggest fan and advocate is the one that has a lot of questions that can’t be answered with a blanket statement like clean.
The clean revolution has meant that beauty brands must be educated on the “why” behind the makeup of a product well beyond the format, texture and efficacy. They can’t rely only on their labs or contractors to put together a formula with certain ingredients just because they work well from a cosmetic chemistry or pricing perspective. Deeper vendor partnerships and innovative formulation projects have come from the clean revolution for this reason!
Most people appreciate an ingredient list they can understand and feel good about based on readily available information. So, as social media and retailers continue to present clean as important, the idea is becoming more and more must-have for the average consumers.
There will likely be a greater polarity in the future as some customers become more focused on truly natural, unadulterated—even raw—skincare and beauty ingredients and eschew any industry-created definition of “clean,” while others will happily use synthetics either because they’re more affordable or because they provide innovative benefits. I personally hope the clean revolution means consumers continue to be interested in the science and innovation behind cosmetic chemistry because that’s what allows us to marry nature and (safely) human-made to create incredible products!
- Lisa Mattam Founder and CEO, Sahajan
I believe the increased growth, focus and even scrutiny on clean beauty is fantastic for the segment. I believe it signals that clean beauty is no longer a trend and that true clean beauty will become the way beauty companies do business. The influx of brands will force the important need for differentiation between brands where the reason to believe isn’t simply that the brand is clean, but other variables like performance, efficacy, sustainability and values, something that was less a focus when the clean beauty OGs were growing the segment.
the scrutiny will reduce the greenwashing, will force stronger guidelines about what it is to be clean and will honor a scientific approach to clean versus an emotional one. Even within the clean segment, words like “nontoxic” have no place. They create confusion, and they undermine the transparency that most clean brands are founded on. Clean beauty in my opinion is headed for a beauty takeover, and I am so proud and excited to see it.
- Laura Xiao Founder and CEO, Henné Organics
Of course, there are quite a bit more clean beauty brands now than a few years ago, but I don't think the industry is saturated or too crowded as, with the growing number of brands, there's also been an increasing number of new consumers. I know there's been some backlash about clean beauty. I don't see it as all negative. Yes, hard questions have been asked, and [there are] new discussions within the industry, which is healthy IMO, but there's also been more awareness that's been brought to our space, and I've also seen some misconceptions about clean beauty get cleared up in a positive manner.
Moving forward, I anticipate that there will be even more transparency in not just clean beauty but beauty in general, which I see as a good thing. Consumers are very savvy these days, and they're very quick to smell the BS. I also hope there will be more of a focus on the wonderful and beneficial aspects of clean beauty and less on putting down/condemning non-clean beauty brands or stores. We should respect consumers and at the end of the day. The decision is theirs and theirs only on what they feel are the safest products to use on their face and body.
- Brad Farrell CMO, Beekman 1802
Overall the definition and standards of “clean” in the beauty industry have been quite vague and open to interpretation. This is the root cause of customer confusion. The most beneficial course of action for brands is to put the customer first, through transparency around safety, ingredients and formulation practices.
At Beekman 1802, we believe the microbiome is next frontier of clean beauty. It goes beyond avoiding individual ingredients, it’s a product development philosophy. We focus on sensitive skin formulations that are not only safe and kind to skin’s delicate ecosystem, but clinically proven to nourish and balance the microbiome for healthy skin.
- Pav Völkert Chief Brand Officer, Amala Beauty
As clean beauty is becoming a more buzzworthy topic, we’re seeing brands rethink the way they’re doing business. It’s no longer only about the results you see or the beautiful products you create, but about the integrity and transparency in the process. From responsible sourcing of raw ingredients and formulation to manufacturing best practices and carbon-neutral facilities, consumers are becoming more educated on ingredients and sustainable efforts, creating a more self-aware shopper.
There is a demand for proven efficacy and third-party clinical trials to back their purchasing decisions. While there will always be individuals weary of these standards and initiatives, as well as the price tag that can come with it, clean beauty has been and will continue to make an impact on the consumer decision-making process. The brands that embrace clean beauty, from sustainable packaging and production to selecting naturally fortified ingredients, will be those that continue making a difference in the industry.
- Céline Talabaza CEO, Noble Panacea
Clean beauty could be seen as a trend or a crowded segment, but it is a necessity to deliver optimal skin health, and Noble Panacea will not compromise on the purity of their formulation. I believe it will eventually all come down to the definition of “clean beauty” and the opportunity for brands such as Noble Panacea to potentially lead or adhere to one global official set of requirements for clean beauty.
Clean beauty positioning was often seen as being natural, but there is a necessity to be safe as well. Not every natural product is better for the planet or your skin. Some natural ingredients like essential oils can be irritating for skin, and others can have a big impact on carbon balance for their production.
At Noble Panacea, we select the best performing ingredients for the skin, natural or synthetic like retinol or hyaluronic acid that have proven their efficacy and skin results through extensive scientific testing in our laboratory. Clean is not enough. It also needs to be delivering pure ingredients and pure results: the transparency on whether the ingredients are still doing their job in a formulation after coming out of an open jar will be questioned…Therefore, only science-backed beauty is a source of confidence and trust.
- Susanne Kaufmann Founder, Susanne Kaufmann
For me, terms like “clean” and “natural” go much further than high-quality, natural and effective ingredients. It should also encompass an environmentally friendly production, locally sourced ingredients and materials, sustainable packaging innovation and manufacturing processes, and a deep respect for nature and people.
- Emilie Hoyt Founder and CEO, Lather
Believing clean beauty will disappear is much like believing healthy food will disappear. Of course, there is an opportunity to evolve clearer definitions to guide the consumer. Brands that use deceptive marketing—hardly a new tactic in the beauty space!—in attempt to leverage a trend will pay the price as consumers become more and more educated. And they are becoming more educated.
While there are more clean beauty brands than ever, it’s not overcrowded. Clean beauty still represents a small percentage of the market. The rise of clean beauty brands—many indie beauty brands—is something to celebrate. Never before have we seen customers embracing entrepreneurs—many women entrepreneurs—in the beauty space. It’s a triumph for women all around.
- Hannah Penn Founder, HPPY Skin
At HPPY Skin, we hope to see clean beauty head in the direction of the food industry, where the industry has been advocating for clean labels for the last three decades. It would be great to see more formulated refrigerated, preservative-free products with fresh ingredients and an expiration date rather than shelf-stable products that contain extracts, fillers, stabilizers or preservatives (natural or chemical). Clean beauty should mean only ingredients that benefit the consumer and their skin, rather than the product itself.
The backlash towards clean beauty is similar to the backlash towards the clean food space at the beginning of its movement. There’s always going to be a narrative around cheap ingredients such as chemicals, preservatives, extracts, etc., and claims that these do not affect the body or that the skin doesn’t absorb what is applied to it. This is a false narrative. Some of the most common skin issues like dermatitis, hormonal acne and more can be traced to these ingredients. Just because it is the way it has always been done does not mean it is the right thing for your body.
- Hana Holecko Co-Founder and CEO, Veriant
Where I hope it is going is, because people are getting smarter, that there is more scrutiny, and brands have to get really specific about claims. They have to offer more information and that information has to be more relevant. For example, there is a lot of talk right now about carbon emissions. Sometimes, that information is not quantified in a way that consumers understand. So, it’s just about giving information for the sake of giving it. I want to see information that’s contextualized and clear. I want to see it not just for ingredients and packaging, but going to the nth degree for the full cycle of a product.
Human sustainability is a special interest area for me. I want to make sure sustainability is a 360 approach. What that means is considering who goes into getting a product to market. That can look like work-life balance for employees and making sure the manufacturing flow chart for a given ingredient doesn’t cause harm to the people making the ingredient. It is hard to do that work and get all that detail and information, but there are real people that go into this even before the customers. That’s human sustainability for me.
- Dorian Morris Founder, Undefined
I think “clean” is going to become the standard—table stakes—as consumers continue to wake up and understand the connection to what you put on your skin and its impact to your overall wellness. It’s converging. Beauty is wellness and wellness is beauty. I do think you’ll see “clean-ical” brands rise to the top, those like Undefined that harness the supercharged benefits of plant magic to enhance efficacy. Its performance powered by plants marrying botanical powerhouses with other highly researched actives like my personal favorite niacinamide, which is a hero ingredient alongside adaptogenic mushrooms in my new skincare collection.
What’s in a formula is just as important as what’s not in the formula as we continue to see certain ingredients vilified. With elevated transparency across the space, I actually like that consumers are calling BS, but there’s still a lot of education necessary as a lot of folks think that, after watching a few YouTube videos, they are certified chemists and can dissect an ingredient list. Product development is truly a mix of art and science, but, regardless, I believe in the power of plant magic and look forward to consumers discovering its beauty as well.
- Tracey Woodward Director of Strategy and Innovation, Modern Botany
Over these coming years, we will see brands jump off the marketing spin of clean and move into well-being because self-care is healthcare, and we want to take more responsibility for our health and the health of the planet. It’s a real big clean-up happening.
- Randi Shinder President and CEO, SBLA Beauty
There is a need and a place for clean beauty in our current marketplace. However, “clean beauty” has become a catchphrase for many companies, and I think there is a danger in the widespread use of the term without a central barometer or oversight on how it’s being used. We need an industry standard for how products are tested and defined as "clean beauty."
There is too great of a risk of products developing an issue. The consumers should have a level of confidence that the brand hasn’t just placed "clean beauty" on its label and that, as with all the other claims that are made in beauty and skincare, there is a mandatory review of the formulation to validate the label.
I use some clean beauty brands, and believe in products with "clean" ingredients that deliver results and make my skin feel great. That said, companies have to be responsible with the development and the marketing of these products. There can be an inherent risk if a product strives to be "too clean" and measures are not taken to prevent microbes from developing as has happened in certain instances, resulting in product recalls.
I think that the brands that look at clean beauty as a premise to simply hop on are the ones that pose the most risk. When I set out to develop a product, it is always to solve a problem and pave a new path forward versus simply jumping on a trend. In order to create an effective and safe product, I look at the science behind the ingredients and how they address the issue I am targeting.
I believe there continues to be opportunity for brand success in the clean beauty space with the caveat that there needs to be a system of checks and balances. There is also an evolution for how the consumer is engaging with and evaluating products. Over the past year, consumers have become more acutely aware of what "problems" they are trying to solve, spending more time staring at themselves on daily teleconference calls and Zooms! Additionally, with more time spent at home, consumers are researching and asking questions.
People are looking at how a product may deliver what they need and are interested in the science behind that product. They are prioritizing self-care and have found happiness and balance with creating their at-home beauty routines. Clean beauty or not, the brands that outshine and have longevity need to be built on something more than a marketplace trend.
- Amy Risley CEO, Skinfix
I believe that the consumer wants more than clean and sustainable. The focus in skincare and wellness is now decidedly clinical efficacy. Consumers want science-backed formulations. They want safety and proven results. This trend was bubbling at the outset of 2020, but it feels as if COVID accelerated it. Dermatologists and skin experts like Hyram Yarbro have exploded on social media. These experts dissect formulations and take brands to task over every ingredient, cementing a loyal and engaged audience who deeply trust them. Dermatologists value quantitative clinical data, and they are helping to bring consumers along with them.
For many clean brands that use ingredients like fragrance and essential oils, this represents a significant challenge because dermatologists and many skinfluencers are adamant in their stance against these skin irritants. These experts often ask brands to reformulate out of these ingredients. Reformulating to follow more rigorous clinical and medical standards may be required.
The demand for scientific proof to back performance and skincare claims is another significant challenge for most clean brands. These studies are expensive, take time and are not guaranteed to deliver the desired results. However, I believe that consumer demand for scientific proof will only continue to grow, and brands that claim to be "cleanical" will need to produce evidence to make clinical claims.
It's not enough to use clean ingredients that have some "known" or even proven clinical efficacy. It's critical to use these ingredients at a level/percentage in the formula at which they are clinically active (versus just a label claim) and, then, to prove that the final formulation delivers quantifiable results to substantiate any claims.
I believe many clean skincare brands will need to significantly reboot to meet the increased expectations of today's educated consumer. At Skinfix, we love the quote "extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.” Clean skincare has made some extraordinary claims for years, but now it's time to bring the extraordinary proof.
- Molly Hart Founder, Highr Collective
Consumer trends in every industry show that women always prefer to shop clean and natural. The difference in beauty is that consumers also want to see results from their beauty products. The opportunity, and what Highr is stepping into, is fusing both clean and natural ingredients with the efficacy of a synthetic formula.
As a founder, my baseline for efficacy and color payoff is MAC, where I started as an artist when I was a teenager. I didn't want to produce a product that was not up to par, however after going through pregnancy and breastfeeding while working in the industry I was not willing to compromise on the purity of our product. It was definitely harder and more expensive to formulate with organic butters and oils in place of traditional silicones, petrochemicals and polyethylene (liquid plastic!), but we went through the lengthy expensive custom-blending process in order to deliver a product that was both clean and high impact.
- Therese Clark Founder, Lady Suite
The plethora of private labeling promotes crowding. As a product developer for 20 years, I know how easy it is to choose that route because of less barrier to entry, but it also makes it easier to have less discernment or control around ingredients/ingredient sourcing, and expertise. This isn’t limited to clean beauty. This is industry-wide.
I hope that more funding will go to brands that prioritize quality, expertise and truthful marketing verses. another well-funded digital agency that chooses to make beauty products because of attractive margins. This usually comes with more subpar product launches accompanied by embellished marketing claims to hit those huge numbers.
- Sylwia Wiesenberg Founder, Bawdy Beauty
Long term, all beauty should be clean. I believe the term “clean beauty” for some brands became just another marketing slogan to lure customers. There are brands that clean beauty is their DNA from ingredients to packaging and to messaging, not just a window dressing. Clean beauty is not going anywhere. We just need time and money to educate consumer and weed out the brands that are not part of the movement.
The more we talk about clean products, the better! And while the market may seem crowded, until every single product available for sale is clean, the market isn't crowded enough. I'm excited to get to a point where a consumer won't be able to make a wrong decision because brands and retailers don't release products that have questionable ingredients.
Retailers like Credo, The Detox Market, Follain, and Beauty Heroes are leading the way, but our brand Mother's Shea is launching in Target and Walmart this fall, so I'm also seeing traditional mass retailers jump on board too, which is really incredible. The key to making clean choices regularly is accessibility so bring on the crowding!
- Graydon Moffat Founder, Graydon
I personally take a rather live-and-let-live point of view on the subject. At Graydon, we chose to formulate with ingredients that we like, which are superfood/plant-based, but we’re not waving a clean beauty flag because we do this nor are we placing any judgement on other brands who don’t curate ingredients like we do. There’s room for a wide variety of formulation philosophy in the proverbial sand box in which beauty brands play.
In terms of where I see clean beauty heading, I think the following quote in my blog post covers that: “It is my wish that, in the future, we will no longer use terms like ‘clean beauty’ or conventional beauty.’ And that instead, there will only be one, unified ‘beauty.’ That’s the type of beauty that I stand for."
- Conny Wittke Founder, Superzero
Where does clean beauty go from here? I hope it stays clean by focusing on transparency and education behind choices that each brand and retailer make. I hope it doesn’t suffer from marketing campaigns around inaccurately defined buzzwords like “chemicals” and blindly trusting regulations that vary heavily from country to country. A lack of transparency and a definition behind “clean beauty” perpetuates danger for those who are trying to do the right thing, both from a health and a sustainability perspective, because it leaves room for others to call them ignorant or misleading. We are seeing a little bit of that now.
Let’s not forget, when looking at this backlash on clean beauty, that a lot of money sits on the table. Petrochemical-based ingredients are often much cheaper than materials based on renewables. Formulating with tons of almost-free water and synthetics and, then, packaging the liquid in plastic is much cheaper than formulating waterless with plant-derived materials. However, significant players in an industry who are used to high-profit margins also have a lot to lose if consumer behavior shifts in larger segments towards clean and sustainable beauty. Just something to keep in mind when following this discussion as well as evaluating if campaigns and statements are made to benefit the consumer and the planet or if they are made to benefit someone’s pocket.
- Josh Rosebrook Founder, Josh Rosebrook
It’s all beauty, regardless of the category, and it’s all changing. Formulations and science are continuing to evolve, of course, and consumers still demand and expect safety and transparency. Understanding what is safe or not will always be a debate. Science will always be debated.
The market evolves and defines and redefines itself and its products accordingly, and brands need to continue to evolve their language. There are a million ways to differentiate products based on their uniqueness, efficacy, value and worth to the consumer that I find much more compelling than the overused, broad terms that can polarize people and positions.
The essence of what clean beauty is will increasingly be the future of how ingredients are developed, chosen and how products are formulated. I see the category slowly redefining itself in new ways with sustainability being more valued by the consumer and paramount as a brand mission across the whole supply chain more than anything else.
- Krysta Lewis Founder and CEO, Aisling Organics
Clean beauty isn't a trend, and it is here to stay. We saw it with the food industry and, now, the personal care space is beginning to align in the same ways. The growth of this segment is being reinforced by gen Z, who has a desire to support indie and sustainable brands, many of whom are also botanically based.
The name of the game is a race for market share (the players with the most capital will be in a good position for this) as well as high-performance products. No longer will people use products just because they are clean. If they don't work effectively, they won't be here to stay. Opportunities lie in education (ingredient label reading, how to live a more sustainable life, etc.) and helping the consumer learn how to adapt as the natural CPG industry matures and becomes more mainstream.
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