The beauty industry is constantly evolving. Beyond the passing fads, transient buzzwords, and vacillating preferences for eyebrow grooming, the beauty world reflects our cultural ethos in salient ways. If we look at the beauty brands considered to be movers and shakers of our time, each one offers a new perspective. What begin as anomalies eventually become the industry standard—from ideation, production, distribution, to consumption.
To get an idea of the current climate—and get inspired about what's to come—we thought it appropriate to speak with the ones shaping the new generation of beauty brands (and instilling positive change). We reached out to 13 modern-day beauty founders who are rewriting the rules of the industry. We had them share what they think of the current state and spill what they'd like to see changed—and how they're working toward changing it. Here's what they had to say.
Valerie Grandury, founder of Odacité
"When I launched Odacité exactly 10 years ago, we carved a new path in beauty. I created Odacité to bridge the expertise of French skincare with the green California lifestyle (as I'm from Paris and live in L.A.). While a decade ago [the brand] was completely disruptive, today the clean beauty movement is becoming the fastest-growing segment of the beauty industry.
"The big challenge now is for consumers to avoid 'clean washing,' a phenomenon happening with so many brands coming to the market (those that feature less-than-clean formulas but market themselves otherwise). I would love to see a standard created for clean beauty so you can trust that the products you buy will be fabulous for your skin and for your health."
Sasha Plavsic, founder of ILIA
“I would like to see more from brands and retailers around packaging after it's been used. There seems to be a lot around making sustainable packaging, but not a lot on how to responsibly dispose of it after use. Most just end up in landfills, even if certain parts are recyclable.
"At ILIA, we are launching an initiative with TerraCycle, whereby customers can send us their empties (from any brand in cosmetics) and we will break them down and recycle the parts. If every brand was required to do this globally, just imagine the difference. I believe this is the future for all industries.”
Michelle Ranavat, founder of Ranavat Botanics
"I’d love to see brands create a deep connection with people and build a real sense of community. Bobby Hundreds, the founder of clothing line The Hundreds, always said 'people over product.' Ultimately, we yearn for something more than just a product—beauty and skincare are a way for us to connect on a deeper level.
"For me, skincare has always been about getting back to my roots. I love uncovering an herb that was long forgotten, like manjistha, and discovering its incredible detoxifying value. Or, just imagining what it might feel like to be a king or queen bathing in saffron and roses. It is this connection to my past that really allows me to connect to where I came from, giving my ritual a much deeper meaning."
Caroline Owusu-Ansah, founder of Luv Scrub
"We need more inclusivity when it comes to highlighting beauty products from around the globe. There is currently a focus on K-beauty (from Korea) and A-beauty (from Australia) but there are so many other amazing beauty products out in the world.
"I feel that African beauty does not get the recognition that it deserves. For example, in West Africa, we have beauty staples like shea butter, cocoa butter, and black soap, just to name a few. Our products are simple, natural, and from the earth. A few of these staples have been trickling into mainstream skincare—which is great—but there is still so much more we have to offer. That is why I felt it was important to share with the world our Mesh Body Exfoliator. It is another taste of what West African Beauty has to offer in skincare. We are working hard to educate consumers on all the amazing benefits (and why you must throw your loofah away!). I am excited to help grow the African Beauty category and make this beauty ritual more mainstream."
Thom Priano, celebrity men’s stylist and co-founder of R+Co
"I have been a vegan for over ten years. During this journey, I became far more vested in what I put in my body. The beauty business needs to be more transparent about the ingredients that are used. After all, anything you use on your skin is absorbed into your body.
"We made R+Co vegan for that reason. There are enough resources out there that allow us to develop products without using the blood of animals. We can get rid of petroleum-based formulas that are not good for you and the environment."
Leila Aalam, founder of Beuti Skincare
"I would love to see more brands showcasing what real women and men look like, ditching the manipulated imagery. We are dedicated to honoring individuality in each of us—celebrating what makes each of us unique with each blemish, bump, and crease. We have chosen to spell our brand "Beuti" and not "Beauty" to illustrate how we recognize individual skincare needs."
Dr. Iris Rubin, dermatologist and co-founder, SEEN Hair Care
"I would love to see an expansion of the conversation about natural or organic beauty products. However, just because something is natural or organic does not mean it’s skin-friendly for ever person. For example, Poison Ivy is 100 percent natural! We use many natural ingredients, as well as safe synthetic ingredients, to achieve the best functioning products. Our products are formulated without sulfates, silicones, phthalates, parabens, dyes, gluten, or animal testing."
Lorin Van Zandt, founder of MISSIO Hair
"As a beauty industry professional who ventured to use my gifts in a non-traditional sense—serving women in need—I have seen how what I do has the potential to impact the lives of others in tremendous ways. Hairstylists have a unique advantage to impact the lives of so many women, and I believe we have barely tapped into the platform we have for making a difference (not just in the lives of those in our chairs, but beyond the salon).
"We are unlocking the potential of the industry to use beauty to restore hope and fight human trafficking. By educating the salon industry to recognize warning signs, inspiring and mobilizing stylists to serve women at-risk or in recovery in their communities, and giving to organizations that are helping victims, we are making a true difference—one hair product at a time. Moving forward, I’d like to see more companies use their platform for good. I believe we have barely tapped into the true difference we can make through this industry."
Annie Tevelin, host of Off The Record podcast and founder of SkinOwl
"We have always honored the importance of ethical treatment of our world's animals and hope for stronger reform for cruelty-free testing across the board and globally. Second, in the world of skincare, marketing terms like 'clean' and 'organic' and 'natural' are loosely regulated and often misleading. The reality is, you can't always trust every single brand sitting on a retailer's shelf and you do need to do your own research. My hope is that lawmakers start taking regulatory and formulation reform seriously, so we can continue to protect and conserve our country's health."
Parisa Morris, founder of Town & Anchor
"The modern beauty consumer cares about what they're buying and the impact their products have on the planet. As an environmentally conscious beauty brand, we firmly believe in creating great products without sacrificing sustainability or animal rights. But the issue is, there’s still a lack of transparency in our industry. Moving forward, I’d like to see a change in this and in the 'greenwashing' that has become so prominent in consumer marketing, especially in the beauty industry. To initiate that, we recently launched BIDE Market, which will be Chicago’s first entirely sustainable market. Beyond the market itself, we want to create an inclusive community on social media where we talk about these issues, ask important questions, and offer resources to one another."
Emilie Hoyt, founder of Lather
"The beauty industry is evolving in exciting ways. For far too long, the industry was solely focused on changing your appearance and how you feel on the outside. Now, we are seeing a shift to providing products that change how you feel on the outside and the inside. Beauty used to be tied to fashion and trends and now we are seeing more tied to wellness and health. I am proud that Lather has been a leader in this movement. It’s been inspiring to see women rise up and question their beauty products and put their health first.
"I’d like to see regulations on artificial fragrances in beauty and health products. The fact that products still contain ingredients that are not disclosed is unacceptable. Beauty brands need to be accountable for each ingredient they use and the impact not only on the user's health but the environment as well. Only a portion of artificial fragrances have been tested for side effects and the tests done are primarily skin irritation tests. The impact on neurological, respiratory, reproductive systems, not to mention the impact on our air quality and oceans."
Dr. Kan Cao, scientist and founder of Bluelene
"Many consumers don't understand that an SPF factor only addresses UVB exposure to prevent sunburns and possibly skin cancer, the other part of the solar spectrum, UVA exposure, actually causes photo-aging, which leads to age symptoms like wrinkles and sagging skin. It has been extremely difficult to get new sunscreen ingredients approved by the FDA and so the industry continues to focus its messaging on SPF. My lab is conducting research now on new ingredients that could provide both UVB and UVA protection, but I need the industry to push so the FDA will consider novel ingredients that protect us holistically."
Next up: nine successful women on how they got their start in beauty.