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Defining Clean Beauty And Communicating Brand Values (RCD Ep7)

L-R clockwise. Leon Bailey-Green (editor, Upper Clash), Laetitia Arfi (sales director, APG Ecommerce Solutions), Sarah Brown (founder, Pai Skincare), Kevin Davis (founder, The Designlab), Stelios Pardalakis (founder, Stellar Search), Claire Muir (commercial director, Seko Logistics), Debbie Trumper (beauty brand consultant), Natanel Bigger (founder, Monpure London), Jessica Blackler (founder, Jecca Blac), Abi Weeds (managing director, Odylique).

Defining Clean Beauty And Communicating Brand Values

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In this discussion we talk to founders of cosmetics brands about what ‘clean beauty’ really means.

Brands are increasingly associating their products with ethical credentials not limited to ‘organic’, ‘natural’, ‘vegan’, ‘sustainable’, ‘cruelty free’ and ‘non-toxic’, but what do consumers understand of the umbrella term ‘clean’?

Jecca Blac, Monpure London, Odylique and Pai Skincare are example beauty brands communicating their values honestly and responsibly.

Make-up brand Jecca Blac, founded by Jessica Blackler, is certified vegan and cruelty free. Moving towards being certified natural is something for the future, as founder Jessica says it has to be done right and “it takes time.” She understands her customer’s immediate priority isn’t natural formulations but products that cover beard shadow and feminise the face – Jecca Blac’s target market is transgender women who rely on these products to work.

Monpure London strives for clean formulas but founder Natanel Bigger is keen to remind “natural isn’t always better or safe.” His luxury haircare brand explains clearly on its website the purpose and science behind ingredients found in its products. It all helps to educate the consumer that is increasingly looking to be armed with information about what they’re putting on their skin.

“It’s vital for brands to educate the consumer that organic skin and body care isn’t regulated in the same way as organic food” says Odylique founder Abi Weeds. The brand’s products are certified organic by the soil association.

Pai Skincare founder Sarah Brown doesn’t like the term ‘clean beauty’. Whilst she appreciates the catch-all term has driven interest in the natural category she says “It’s very ill-defined, it means different things to different customers.”

Jessica, Natanel, Abi and Sarah were joined by Laetitia Arfi, Kevin Davis, Claire Muir, Stelios Pardalakis and Debbie Trumper for this discussion hosted by Upper Clash director and editor Leon Bailey-Green.

Beauty brand consultant Debbie shared views on clean from the perspective of retail buyers.

The Middle East is a booming market for beauty brands. Laetitia, from cross border delivery provider APG Ecommerce Solutions, gave advice on shipping and customs for brands wanting to tap into that, and other, international markets.

Kevin, from creative design and digital agency The Designlab, offered thoughts on communicating brand values authentically.

Considerations for sustainability were shared by Claire Muir from warehouse and fulfilment provider Seko Logistics.

Insights on the growth in Google searches for natural and organic cosmetics, both in the UK and internationally, were revealed by Stelios from marketing agency Stellar Search.


Scroll down for the long edit.

Is natural always better? – 1 Minute 41 Seconds.

Sarah warns against using ‘clean’ and ‘non-toxic’ together in brand marketing. Natanel explains natural isn’t always safe. Claire says consumers assume cardboard packaging is the most sustainable option, but there’s a hidden truth. Natural isn’t a priority for all brands, for Jess it’s something for the future but formulations have to meet the customer’s needs. Natanel questions whether large established brands are prepared to change formulas that have worked for generations.

What does clean beauty really mean? – 1 Minute 33 Seconds.

Natanel is clear on what ‘clean’ is to Monpure. Sarah doesn’t like the ill-defined nature of the term clean beauty. Abi says more and more customers are clued up about what clean means, but for most consumers it’s too complex. Claire provides a personal conclusion on what she thinks when she sees the term ‘clean’. Debbie reveals all the aspects “conjured up” by the catch all term. Kevin talks about greenwashing with brands jumping on the clean bandwagon.

The global demand for natural cosmetics – 2 Minutes 35 Seconds.

At 64% the USA has seen the largest increase in Google searches for natural cosmetics, according to Stelios. Laetitia reveals customers in the UAE spend almost $250 per capita on cosmetics and personal care. Natanel spells out the prevention and cure differences between Asia and the west. Laetitia spells out shipping and customs considerations for brands wanting to sell beauty products to consumers internationally.

Growth and opportunity in the organic market – 1 Minute 26 Seconds.

There’s a 29% increase in Google searches for organic cosmetics in the UK – but what products attract the most searches? Stelios reveals all. Abi says there are gaps in the certified organic category, revealing plans for new products that would be first to market. The clean and efficacious haircare space is still in its infancy according to Natanel. Sarah thinks organic – certified organic in particular – is a way off being mainstream.

Education and consultation; learning about cosmetic ingredients – 1 Minute 24 Seconds.

Stelios says 74% of searches for natural cosmetics are on mobile, suggesting consumers are doing a lot of research on ingredients in order to educate themselves. Natanel and Sarah discuss one-to-one consultations with customers.

Why these founders started their brands – 1 Minute 16 Seconds.

Jess spotted a gap in the market for a make-up brand to meet the needs of transwomen. Kevin says brands are built from the inside out, not the outside in. Sarah’s difficulty reading an ingredients list was part of the reason she started Pai. Abi’s brand Odylique has a thirty plus year history in natural formulations.

The importance of certification – 1 Minute 57 Seconds.

Sarah reveals the ingredient rejected by the soil association during her brands organic certification process. Abi explains why she thinks the soil association certification simplifies the ‘clean’ narrative. Laetitia prompts thoughts on halal certification. Debbie reveals buyers want to see certification with claims. Jess is happy to promote her brand’s cruelty free and vegan credentials as the brand is such certified.

Retailing clean cosmetics – 1 Minute 28 Seconds.

Abi stresses the importance of retail beauty buyers being educated about clean, as they are – in some respects – the gatekeepers of what consumers have access to. Debbie says clean is what’s selling now. Kevin discusses communicating organic values in different retail settings. Laetitia reveals why online beauty retailers are shipping to customers in the Middle East region from warehouses in Dubai.

The Long Edit – 26 Minutes 8 Seconds.

In this discussion we talk to founders of cosmetics brands about what ‘clean beauty’ really means.