It's 2020. We've made huge strides—leaps and bounds, even—in technology, science, and data, so we can expect that to reflect in our beauty and wellness products, right? Not always. Toxic, overpriced items with misleading labels are still placed on shelves and into the hands of un- or misinformed consumers, and considering these products are going on (or inside) our bodies, we can't really afford to take risks.
And even though it's 2020 and inclusivity should be at the forefront of brand strategy, it isn't always. However, for the brands that are acknowledging the gray area in beauty and have answered the call for change, we wanted to give them a proper hat tip. Thankfully, there are a number of companies championing better quality all around, so we couldn't highlight all of them, but below, we're calling out a mix of beauty and wellness brands that have and continue to disrupt a saturated space.
Marcia Kilgore, Beauty Pie's founder, doesn't hold back. "The beauty industry is broken," she tells Forbes, noting that she feels most prestigious brands sell their products at 10 times the factory cost, an ever-rising inflation trend consumers are suckered into paying. But Kilgore was determined to turn the market on its head and produce top-quality products at an affordable price by creating the "Netflix of skincare and cosmetics."
By purchasing a Beauty Pie membership (not a subscription, as the brand so adamantly clarifies), individuals have a spending allowance of $100 each month. A lipstick will typically cost $25 without a membership, but with a membership, it'll only cost $3.57. The reason the company is able to sell products for so little is because Beauty Pie directly sources, edits, packages, and manages its products, so even with your $10-per-month membership fee, you're only spending around 20 cents to the dollar on products made in the same laboratories as expensive brands.
Shopping for the right shampoo for your hair type can be a mission. Hydrating, gentle, frizz-taming (*shudder*)—it's all a bunch of industry jargon that doesn't necessarily translate in your bathroom at home. That's why celebrity hairstylist Vernon François sought to create easy packaging specifically useful for natural hair. Each of his products contains one or more of six different icons he's created so you can easily identify which product is right for your hair type: coily, kinky, wavy, straight, curly, or damaged.
Jina L. Kim and her husband Chris were fed up with the toxicity of skincare products, both with the contents inside the bottles and tubes and with the packaging itself. As a result, they created Circumference, a 100% toxin-free brand of sustainably sourced, nutrient-rich, indigenous ingredients, all wrapped up in easily recyclable or biodegradable packaging. The formulation is so meticulous that they use state-of-the-art testing to ensure only the purest and safest ingredients are being used, all while maintaining utmost efficacy.
This list wouldn't be complete without Rihanna's iconic Fenty Beauty line. The launch created a mass conversation around inclusivity in the beauty space that was already taking place marginally but magnified tenfold. Fenty's zero-tolerance stance on the lack of shade inclusivity in the industry has actually influenced other brands to increase their own shade ranges, whether it's been directly attributed to the brand or not.
While brands like MAC and Make Up For Ever boasted a 40+ shade range before Fenty, Maya Allen, digital beauty editor for Marie Claire, says it's Rihanna's direct influence that's sparked a movement. "It's because a Black woman we've all loved for years was behind the brand and driving the message of diversity," she says. "The fact that it's Rihanna's brand made a world of a difference because she was so unapologetic about representation when introducing 40 shades. That's why the response from consumers was so crazy amazing and Fenty has sparked this foundation war now [where other] brands are coming out with 40+ shades."
Function of Beauty
You don't have to dream of the perfect shampoo and conditioner. Function of Beauty lets you custom-create your own formula right down to the color and fragrance (or no fragrance if you so choose) so you can get all the good stuff in one place. Just take a survey online based on your hair type, scalp type, and hair goals, and the brand will ship your own bespoke formula right to your door. You can even have your name printed right on the label so everyone in your house knows it's hands-off. Watch this video of us visiting the NYC HQ with FoB's founder to learn more.
BeautyBio founder Jamie O'Banion worked at her dad's company in Dallas, creating ingredients for some of the world's leading beauty companies. But she noticed that the same brands using their ingredients were misusing them by only offering customers trace amounts of actives. That's when BeautyBio came to life. O'Banion decided to create her own line of skincare products where clients are "getting what they're paying for." Her runaway hit, the GloPRO, an infrared-light microneedling device, sold $4 million in 24 hours on HSN, a home away from home for O'Banion that earned her several nights of sold-out television spots.
After studying the ingredient lists on tampon boxes, LOLA founders Jordana Kier and Alexandra Friedman realized there's a huge problem with the way feminine hygiene products are manufactured. Not all of the ingredients are listed, and most times, they're full of unregulated toxins that we're unknowingly putting inside our bodies. That's why they founded LOLA, a natural, organic subscription-based tampon and pad service that allows women to purchase affordable, safe products that come right to your doorstep (because who wants to run out to the store when you're cramping and bloated?).
The brand also launched Sex by LOLA, a line of condoms, cleansing wipes, and lubricant sans scary toxins. But our favorite part about LOLA has to be its philanthropy. To date, the company donated over five million feminine-care items to women in need, a product category among the most requested in homeless shelters.
Fragrance is possibly the most difficult beauty product to shop for, especially online (when will the scratch-and-sniff function be available on mobile and desktop?), but Scentbird decided to take the guessing game out of the hunt. For just $15 a month, you can take prestigious fragrances from over 450 brands for a test drive in a reusable 8mL spray vile delivered straight to you. Considering some bottles can cost you upwards of $200 or $300, it's a small fee for ensuring you really love it before purchasing, especially since spraying once in a department store doesn't give the scent a true test.
Two things are almost certain to happen when Pat McGrath launches a new product: 1) The internet collectively goes bonkers, and 2) the product eventually sells out. McGrath is a legendary runway and celebrity makeup artist known for using just her fingers to apply products seamlessly on her clients. She has no formal makeup training yet an incredibly keen eye for colors, textures, and formulas.
British Vogue editor in chief Edward Enninful says that McGrath has artfully mastered the ability to do looks that range from "couture to club kid," which makes her line of color cosmetics so fun to use whether you're headed to family dinner or dancing with friends. Plus, the iconic packaging with carefully handpicked sequins makes every purchase that much more enticing.
Our skin goes through major ebbs and flows throughout the month, something along the lines of broken out toward the end when our periods hit, in the healing phase toward the beginning of the next month, and fairly clear throughout the middle. But what if we could be in control of how our skin is affected by our hormones, without the use of prescription medication?
That's the goal of Knours, a clean line of skincare in which each product is designed to be tailored to various points of a woman's cycle for maximum efficacy. Items like cleanser, wipes, gel cream, and mists are numbered and correspond with a chart so you know when to start using them. So long, hormonal acne.
"We built Care/of with a focus on personalization—you get what you need to feel great without overdoing it on other supplements," co-founder and CEO Craig Elbert tells us. It's like having a one-on-one with a nutritionist without having to leave your home." With Care/of, you can take a quiz to find your own proprietary mix of FDA-regulated, sustainably sourced, and extensively tested supplements based on your diet, lifestyle, and health concerns.
The best part is you aren't committed to whatever supplements they assign to you. You can take a look at their suggestion, and then review their research and studies before ultimately choosing what's best for you. Then, each month, you're sent a 30-pack of vitamins with inspirational quotes, cool facts, and your name printed right on top. They're making vitamins fun (and way more transparent) again.
It's clear that Instagram is a hot-ticket space to sell products (the Kardashians are proof) and a genius marketing tool considering it's totally free. Marianna Hewitt and Lauren Gores know the power of Instagram (combined, they have over one million followers), so they used the power of their platform to create a skincare line with chic packaging and a catchy name—Instagram bait at its finest.
But aside from the aesthetics, the duo worked hard to find a formula that was efficacious and free of all the bad stuff (no parabens, synthetic dyes or fragrances, sulfates, phthalates, propylene glycol, mineral oil, or silicones). Gores was also pregnant during the formulation process, so it's safe to use during pregnancy (not to mention cruelty-free and vegan).
The first-ever socially conscious luxury fragrance house, Sana Jardin manufactures intoxicating scents with exotic, high-powered essential oils. The brand also gives back to women in Morocco through The Beyond Sustainability Movement by providing skills and jobs for underprivileged women, helping them use the remnants of the fragrance ingredients to make candles and orange blossom water to sell back nationally.