What Does Total Transparency in Beauty Look Like?

Isla Beauty has a few ideas.

beauty product formula

Isla Beauty / Unsplash / Design by Tiana Crispino

Gone are the days when makeup and skincare companies could issue vague claims about ingredients or charge high prices without consumer pushback. As we grow increasingly intentional about the products we're adding to our beauty routines, we have questions for brands. Why does this serum cost $50? Where do the ingredients for my moisturizer come from? What is this sunscreen's packaging made from? 

And in 2022, transparent answers about pricing, ingredients, and materials are expected. While some brands have gotten on board with freely sharing information with their community, there's still more work to be done to banish gatekeeping in the industry entirely. Isla is one brand that has risen to the challenge of tackling this longstanding issue. Since launching in 2020, the skincare brand has prioritized the consumer's best interest at every stage of its product development process. Isla's newest initiative is taking transparency to the next level by outlining price, material, and ingredient breakdowns directly on-site. Ahead, the brand's founders Tracy Dubb and Charlie Denton discuss the far-reaching effects of end-to-end transparency (and lack thereof) in beauty.

The Effect of Information Gatekeeping on Consumers

Information gatekeeping in beauty can foster confusion amongst consumers. Isla views the issue as a two-fold problem, with the first dilemma surrounding the lack of awareness about third-party manufacturers. "The little-known truth is the vast majority of beauty brands are developed and manufactured in partnership with a third-party lab," the founders say. "For Isla, choosing those partners is the first important step in making the best product possible."

Because of this, Isla approaches manufacturing as a thoughtful partnership instead of a one-sided service-based relationship. The brand says this allows them to establish deeper connections with the individuals developing their products. In turn, they receive more information on the development process that they can share with their community.

Denton and Dubb have also taken issue with the way marketers, influencers, and celebrities talk about beauty products. One of the most glaring problems is the unregulated use of words like "sustainable," "green," "clean," and "non-toxic." 

"Through these channels, information that is not scientifically or factually accurate can become commonly accepted truths," they say. "The reality is product formulation is science and sustainability is nuanced. Both of those areas have been dominated by marketing speak in recent years." Denton and Dubb say greater specificity from brands about what these words mean is one way to bring clarity to the industry. 

The Importance of Transparency

Isla Beauty

Isla Beauty

On Isla's website, the brand's end-to-end transparency pillars are laid out in a straightforward format that leaves no room for confusion. You'll find in-depth breakdowns on pricing, materials, and formulas on each product page. For the brand, it was important to present this data as a holistic unit.

"When consumers see something like price transparency on its own, they might suspect a gimmick," Denton and Dubb say. "This is exactly why we wanted to release these three pillars together. We don't want people's trust to hinge on one specific part of the story. We want them to be able to look at the whole story overall and feel like they are buying great products from a company that is trying to do better."

Though they recognize transparency and social responsibility still aren't the biggest factors influencing purchasing, they know being upfront about those areas of their business holds weight. "It's something people respond to on a subconscious level," the founders say. "They appreciate being spoken to without so much fluff. While they may not dive into every piece of information we offer, they appreciate that it's there."

The Future of Transparency in Beauty

Isla's full-frontal approach to product development is a significant step in the right direction. It's essential brands take accountability for their actions and be transparent about their decisions to allow consumers to make the most informed choices. We've seen an uptick in conscious brands who believe in this ethos in recent years. 

Skincare brand Dieux also openly shares pricing information and certificates of analysis for batches of their Deliverance Soothing Trinity Serum ($69). On the ingredient front, Apottera Skincare has developed a batch number system. This allows their customers to know about their product's date of production, country of origin, ingredient certifications, and more about the ingredients in the bottle. Newly-launched Byoma plainly lists each ingredient and its purpose in the formula on the packaging of their skincare products. 

Denton and Dubb hope to continue seeing brands embrace approaches like this. "We both want to see a beauty world with a lot less bullshit in it and a greater emphasis on product development and expertise," they say.

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