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Industry • Perspective

The Beauty Industry Is BOOMING. These 5 Brands Are the Ones to Watch

How many of these beauty brands do you know? (Hint: if it’s not “all of them,” you’re missing out.)

Beauty is big business in 2021. Every facet of the beauty and personal care industry is seeing a boom right now, and the market has a healthier growth trajectory than ever. What's driving the industry forward? From where we stand, it's personalization, accessibility, inclusivity, and eco-consciousness.

These brands will be the ones to watch throughout 2021 and beyond. They’re setting the standard for the industry, earning market share and influence as they do. They’ll create the playbook that other brands will follow; pay attention now or risk having to play catch-up later.

#1 Glossier

DTC beauty brand Glossier made smart choices when the pandemic forced it to close all of its brick and mortar locations. Investments in its ecommerce infrastructure and discovery paid off, with the company seeing year over year sales increases across all categories. Glossier has always been at the forefront of online beauty shopping, however, and now 40% of Gen Z and Millennial women are familiar with the brand. Consumers aren’t the only ones responding positively to Glossier’s easy-going approach to beauty; the brand landed an $80 million investment as a precursor to international expansion. 

The secret of its success: Glossier understood the Very Online and adapted to their culture with ease. Its packaging is in Millennial pink, it was one of the first to adopt the aesthetic Instagram grid, and its ethos is all about achieving a natural look with little effort. It knew its audience and went after them with laser precision, and continue to expand into new verticals and markets.

#2 Alchemy 43

The beauty-conscious are no strangers to Botox, fillers, and “wellness” shots, though they’re usually reluctant to admit it. Alchemy 43 wants to change that with its aesthetic bars that offer minimally invasive treatments. What Alchemy 43 provides are medical procedures, but the atmosphere at one of the brand’s locations is anything but antiseptic. They’re places of self-celebration and unabashed dedication to the pursuit of looking just a little bit better. Alchemy 43’s mission may seem to be at odds with the surging popularity of natural beauty, but on the contrary: It leans right into it. Promising “subtlety” and “amazing, natural results”, the brand sells the idea that you can look effortless and prettier, all with a convenience that fits with your schedule.

The secret of its success:  It’s a smart play for a younger client used to tweaking their image with Instagram filters, and it’s working. Half of Alchemy 43’s clients are under age 35, and there’s little reason to think “fine-tuning” will drop from their beauty regimens as they get older. Alchemy 43 also embraces personalization, customizing treatments to best complement the unique landscape of each client’s face.

#3 Curology

Curology chose the “do one thing and do it better than anyone else” approach when it first started. Until recently, Curology only offered skincare products for dealing with acne, with regimens personalized to each client’s specific needs. Curology’s personalization has an old-fashioned twist, though: an actual human being does the customizing, typically leading to excellent results. Curology’s low price point is particularly appealing to age groups the most prone to breakouts, namely teens and young adults. Curology is now looking to age up with its customer base, releasing a line of anti-aging products that are customized the same way the acne line is.  

The secret of its success: Curology isn’t selling beauty, it’s selling empathy, with a straightforward vibe and voice. It certainly helps that the products actually work, and the people who use them are more than happy to share their stories — complete with before and after photos — on social media. That kind of positive word of mouth online has given the brand credibility it might have struggled to achieve with traditional marketing efforts. Curology has turned that to its benefit, working with beauty influencers to increase that reach and strengthen its “real people, real stories” and “unedited results” brand story.

#4 RadSwan

Beauty influencer Freddie Harrel created RadSwan with a mission to bring new beauty options to the African Diaspora, because “blackness is borderless.”  Specifically, RadSwan offers a line of “shapes” — wigs — made from synthetic fibers that mimic natural hair. The human hair trade is unregulated leading to unpredictable quality and price; it’s also highly exploitative, making others rich at the expense of disadvantaged women. RadSwan aims to make “shapeshifting,” aka switching up hairstyles, a guilt-free, high-quality experience.

The secret of its success: RadSwan offers a solution for the pain points specific to its customer base. Rather than spend hours (and hundreds of dollars) at the salon, a RadShape gives women an easy-to-use, affordable alternative. More importantly, RadShapes are celebrations of natural Black hair and speak directly to a market that’s historically been underserved by the beauty industry. RadSwan also provides an easy entry point for those new to hair variety, with a low-cost “Novice Kit.” RadSwan’s line is limited to just four shapes at the moment, but new designs and colors are in the works.

#5 Naked Poppy

Naked Poppy combines two hot beauty trends: sustainability and customized beauty solutions. Visitors to the Naked Poppy site can take an in-depth quiz to receive algorithmically generated suggestions for skincare and makeup products from brands that are “cruelty-free, ethically made, low environmental impact.”. The startup, launched in 2019, wants to sell “clean beauty,” and is doing the work to educate the customer about what that means. Naked Poppy’s “No List” details the ingredients that will never be included in the company’s products, as well as explanations about the potential hazards of each one. 

The secret of its success: Naked Poppy co-founder and CEO Jaleh Bisharat has more than two decades in marketing, some of which was as Amazon’s VP of marketing. Her co-founder Kimberly Shenk was a data scientist in the U.S. Air Force before lending her talents as Director of Data Science for Eventbrite. Their tech know-how is supported by their market savviness: Naked Poppy’s debut original product was an on-trend liquid eyeliner. With the marketing prowess to reach customers with a message of cruelty-free, clean beauty, and the data science to put the right products in their hands — Naked Poppy is poised to topple legacy brands.

It’s an exciting time for our industry as beauty moves towards a more personalized, sustainable future. These brands will be leading the way, and we can’t wait to see where they take us.

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