The beauty brands listening to their customers – and getting it right

3 Nov 2018

Once known as an industry that would monetise insecurities, we’ve seen a big shift in beauty brands over recent years. These days, a strong-willed audience demand more from makeup, whether that’s environmental ethics or diversity campaigns. Rather than pushing the message that a product can change how you look, now customers want to know how to make the best of what they’ve got and help the planet along the way. Here are the brands whose messages of self-love are striving to trump our doubts.

New shades: everyone is covered with a wider range of tones

©Fenty Beauty

Founded by Rihanna, Fenty Beauty blew the industry out of the water in 2017 and was consequently voted one of Time magazine’s best inventions that year. Created for the inclusion of all skin tones, their famous Pro Filt'R foundation is produced in 40 different shades. As a brand that is so much more than another celebrity endorsement, Fenty Beauty practice what they preach. Better yet, their ethos is influencing others to do the same - Kylie Jenner’s Kylie Cosmetics have expanded their shade range too. In the UK, hip-hop-inspired British brand MDMflow created lipsticks that cater to black women as their founder believed the countless shades offered for pale skin just didn’t work on darker tones.

No frills: simple, scientific skincare leads the way


When cult beauty brand The Ordinary launched their foundation for £5.90 earlier this year, they completely sold out and had a waiting list of 75,000. The branding was stripped back and the bottles look like they’d been picked straight out of a lab. Ingredients were simple (no endless mineral jargon) and customers are encouraged to mix up the products and create their own potions. Now, they have a shop in Spitalfields and 28 others around the world. ‘Clean Beauty’ brand KINN follow a similar style and morals; they are Soil Association COSMOS certified, vegan, cruelty-free and made in Britain with recyclable packaging. Minimalist designed Disciple is a ‘natural skincare company for stressed-out skin’ who donate a product to a beauty bank for every item sold, so it seems they really do want to help.

Planet care: sustainability promises finally pushed forward

©Kjaer Weis

As the hunger for independent brands is booming, the cosmetic giant Unilever (who own Dove and TreSemmé) launched Love Beauty and Planet at the end of 2017 to keep up with the ‘brands with purpose’ trend. The goal was to bring sustainable beauty to a global market by helping consumers use less water through new shampoos, conditioners and body washes. The oils are ethically sourced (such as rose and lavender), the bottles are 100% recycled, the conditioner takes less time to wash out and there are no Parabens in any of the products. Lush’s packaging-free Naked range also boasts richer ingredients, which means less water. As for smaller brands, Danish designed Kjaer Weis was one of the first companies to create a refillable system using powder compacts to make a ‘harm-free collection.’ Costing $48, a refill costs $28 and they’ve made the cases so exquisite that customers couldn’t possibly bring themselves to throw them away anyway. ‘From the ocean for the ocean,’ Haeckels is located in the coastal town of Margate where their priority is to protect marine life. Discovering that seaweed was wonderfully soothing for the skin, the team harvest from a 20-mile radius of the laboratory to make soaps, hair oils, perfumes, candles, and more. Nowadays, chemicals are not only pushed aside in favour of natural versions, but groups are passionately fighting harmful ingredients through political activism. Beautycounter claim 24,000 of their consultants were drawn to the company purely because of its mission to regulate ingredients in America’s beauty and hygiene products. Earlier this year, thousands of Beautycounter employees took to the streets to protest in Washington DC.

‘His and her’ be gone: the age of genderless beauty begins

©Milk Makeup

In 2015, Calvin Klein reformed its '90s classic ck2 to a genderless scent and since then we’ve seen a wave of similar changes. Financially, it makes sense for products to appeal to as many people as possible, so it’s no surprise that beauty brands are trying to keep it neutral. Unisex skincare brand, Meant, caters to heterosexual couples so they can swap and share products. Others include Løre Originals, skincare brand Sam Farmer and US brand Milk Makeup whose ad campaigns are forever gender-neutral. Even the quieter brands keep it vague to avoid singling out any customers; Aesop and Grown Alchemist never specify whether their products are for boys or girls.

Words by Annabel Herrick