Four founders of Paris-based b-to-c organic beauty brands – Seasonly, Laboté, Typology, and Holidermie – discuss their passion and willingness to advocate holistic beauty through their entrepreneurial and ethical-minded business models.
What if real beauty comes from the inside? Beauty-from-within continues to be a trending topic in 2019. The concept that our appearance outside is inseparable from our feelings inside is gaining momentum in the beauty industry. It is the actual definition of holistic skincare – a beauty concept that connects the appearance of our skin to our daily habits, lifestyle, and level of well-being.
"2018 was the year that sustainable beauty and well-being moved into the mainstream," explained Martin Sawyer, CEO of Soil Association Certification, in his 2019 organic beauty and well-being market report. "The certified organic and natural sector continued to lead this growth as more consumers wanted to be sure that what they were buying was delivered on trust, integrity, sustainability, and benefited the wider environment."
And indeed, current consumption trends favor supplement-rich organic food, ethical treatment of animals, and a sustainable approach to the environment. A more ethical paradigm, which has, by extension, created considerable demand for holistic beauty products. In other words, "holistic" means that the product solutions are tailored to look at our "complete package,” taking into consideration diet, physical activity, air, sleep quality, and stress management. A range of personal factors must be evaluated to determine which beauty treatment is best for each potential customer.
This valuable data is also a gold mine for new-age clean beauty brands that are now booming in Paris, and elsewhere. Skincare brands such as Seasonly, Typology, Laboté, and Holidermie are based on a smart social media empowered business-to-customer approach. One that avoids middlemen (no physical selling points) and speaks directly to the customer by purveying and promoting beauty products solely online.
"We are in a sector where, for a long time, the act of purchase was guided by the sensory aspect of the products, the visual aspect of packaging, and the illusory codes of beauty," explained Typology's CEO and founder Ning Li. Li is no stranger to successful businesses. Before launching his skincare brand less than a year ago, the French-Chinese entrepreneur launched Made.com, a home design e-business that he started almost nine years ago, after partially selling his first self-made company to Kering in 2009.
"I made the observation that today, the innovations in this sector come from abroad, which, to my mind, is a shame because France is the country of cosmetics. Therefore, I decided to create a French brand, renewing the desire for transparency, naturalness, efficiency, and the simplicity that consumers demand. Like its predecessor Made.com, Typology is a 100% digital brand, removing all intermediaries between the customer and ourselves. Our mission is about removing the superfluous, to focus on the effectiveness of components of natural, clean, and concentrated origins, and to offer truly affordable products."
And what are these holistic products actually about? "Basically, we developed a unique personalized daycare concept based on three elements: the customer's skin type, the customer's lifestyle (pollution, stress, sleep,...), and the season of the year, which has a major impact on the skin," explained Seasonly's Founder Fany Péchiodat. "This daily treatment is further completed by a clean, natural, and effective facial treatment routine, which includes options such as a night oil, a gel mask, and various serums. In addition, we have our Skin Studio in Paris where you can book physical Face Glow and Face Gym sessions." In fact, Seaonsly and Laboté owe their raging success to the implementation of a personal evaluation test on their websites. Each customer can participate in an online quiz that questions his or her lifestyle, environment, and medical ancestry in order to identify a skincare product tailored to his or her specific needs. It’s a concept that is undoubtedly Millennial-savvy.
"More than any other generation before them, Millennials are concerned with their impact on the environment," confirmed Aurelia Ziomek, Health and Body Care Buyer at Planet Organic, the UK's largest fully-certified organic supermarket. "Having more disposable income, millennials influence not only their own consumer choices but, more importantly, future generations. This more conscious way of living goes hand-in-hand with making informed decisions about the products millennials buy for themselves in their quest for natural and organic labels."
But why is it that our current generation is so obsessed with the transparency and the made-to-measure beneficence of the products it uses? The Global Wellness Institute highlights that, “In the face of longer lifespans, rising chronic disease, stress, and unhappiness, we are re-examining our lives and refocusing our attention on what makes us well," Martin Sawyer explained. "Consumers proactively taking charge of their well-being is fueling related categories like sleep, anti-pollution, and self-care." In other words: we want to align our holistic beauty routine with the rest of our lifestyle, and make the best out of it. And to do so, we need to challenge our consumption habits. We also need to reevaluate the major brands out there that still operate according to the good old status quo.
"We are in an ultra-competitive field, and we are facing the best marketing machines in the world such as L'Oréal, P&G, Estée Lauder," Li said. "We must be more astute and agile than these large groups. Our size and our motivation are, therefore, a definite advantage against these mastodons. We can act faster and we have way less to lose. Being a challenger, therefore, has its strengths." However, international skincare regulations around this subject and certified quality control are still quite vague, and greenwashing is still an issue. The average consumer still often lacks the factual information and background knowledge to be able to adequately comprehend this holistic beauty trend.
Most of us know that we should avoid chemical components, such as aluminium salts, sulphates, and parabens, and also that a healthy diet usually leads to better skin – but that's about it. Lucile Battail, founder and CEO of Laboté, aims to educate the masses by proposing a new commercial approach. “At Laboté, our pharmacists run an in-depth analysis for every customer, one by one, thanks to a skin diagnosis developed with dermatologists. Our goal is to understand their skin problems with a state-of-the-art expertise," Battail explained. "Also, we are not joking with the custom-made experience we offer: every single cream that comes out from our lab is 100 percent unique and produced on-demand; this is actually the only way to create good skincare formulas."
So clearly, the next big challenge is not only to raise awareness around the benefits of clean and holistic beauty, but to literally educate the customers by being transparent regarding products that are the most beneficial for customers and why. More transparency will lead to more made-to-measure products that require a high-level expertise, Mélanie Huynh, founder and CEO of Holidermie explained.
"The most challenging part was to define the right ingredient, and to source them in France exclusively," Mélanie Huynh noted, adding that even though the brand was officially launched in September 2019, the formula-making process took three years of extensive research and lab work. "We had to test many combinations to find the right ones: so we challenged the holistic beauty concept, we enriched it, we followed our strong conviction based on nutricosmetic personalized synergies," she added, highlighting the brand's unique interaction between nutritional supplements and skincare.
But the most crucial point is that these thriving holistic skincare brands are the proof that we, as consumers, have gone through a seismic shift when it comes to consumption. So much so that sustainability has stopped being an option for businesses. "Awareness around sustainability, ethical working practices, avoiding toxicity, and consumption are all presented as part of a much bigger meta trend: "Kindness to the planet,” Sawyer concluded. No matter the sector – beauty or fashion – well-being, sustainability, and everything else that comes with holistic living, will be paramount.