Regencycore swept the nation almost a year ago as Bridgerton hit our screens. By “us” I mean the collective as I’ve grown to see. We worshipped at the altar of corsets, feathered headbands and empire-length gowns, and developed an intense love of the smouldering Duke of Hastings—and we were not alone. The Mother of makeup—and British Vogue’s beauty editor-at-large—Dame Pat McGrath, was right with us too, and conjuring up ideas for her next makeup collaboration as she watched.
Yep, the new Bridgerton X Pat McGrath Labs collection is everything you want it to be and more. Comprising a next-level eyeshadow palette (named Diamond of the First Water, in homage to the very first episode of the hit show), blush palette (Love at First Blush), and a duo of highlighters (Sublime Skin Highlighter) to gild the face, all three deliver the beautifully blendable, butter-soft gel-cream formulas that McGrath does so well. And they make achieving fresh, Regency-esque skin (with a modern twist) a breeze.
For McGrath, the Bridgerton look is all about eye blusher: “Blushing isn’t just for rosy cheeks anymore,” she tells Vogue. “And I suspect that Bridgerton made the eyes of its 63 million-strong viewership blush. Every shade in the MTHRSHP Eye Palette, Diamond of the First Water, is designed to accomplish just that. These shades were created to drape the cheeks and eyes in divine warmth and illuminate the eyes.” Her top tip is to apply shades “Art of the Swoon” and “Love Match” as a wash of color across the eyes for a gentle flush.
In fact, eye blusher is the trend to try for skin that radiates subtle health. A method which can be built up for high-impact glamour or used as a subtle hint of colour, it draws attention to the eyes and harmonizes the face. “It is perfect for creating the effect of emotion coming from within the skin,” McGrath adds. Of course, she has been doing it for years, and name-checks Dior’s 2004 and 2005 couture shows for some past examples.
Fronting the campaign for the launch are McGrath’s muses, Ava Philippe (who is Reese Witherspoon’s daughter, and her doppelgänger), and model Vinetria Chubbs, both of whom embody the spirit of the collection, according to McGrath. “Can you imagine the sheer pleasure of being on set with such a captivating group of intelligent, confident future legends? So much about this collection is about the idea of making your debut and celebrating what makes you special—it was wonderful to work with such a brilliant mix of talent on a modern take on Regency era beauty, while reveling in their iconic individuality.” In true Bridgerton spirit, she calls the pair a “divinely diverse range of dynamic #DowntownDebutantes”—and we are here for it.
Available to buy from December 26 on Patmcgrath.com, the new range is limited-edition, so get in there fast. Mother, for one, is excited: “It’s such an honor to collaborate with Shondaland and Netflix on the Pat McGrath Labs X Bridgerton Collection,” she tells Vogue. “Shonda’s commitment to diversity, inclusion and disruptive thinking aligns with my own brand, as outspoken voices for body positivity, racial diversity, gender variance and iconoclastic individuality. She passionately invites people to see the past, present and future through a new lens.” Regencycore beauty? It’s a yes from me.
Last October, four years since she left her namesake brand, and 25 years since her non-compete with Estee Lauder expired, Bobbi Brown launched her new beauty venture in the US. This week, after much anticipation, Jones Road, named after a street in East Hampton, launches in the UK.
“I am a total Anglophile,” the legendary make-up artist tells Vogue over zoom. “I have a not-so-secret obsession with the UK. I love it. It’s my favourite place. And I’m just so excited because I know that this range is going to do really well, because it’s so timely.”
Welcome to Artist Spotlight #71 series on my blog.
Jones Road is exactly what you’d expect from the woman who invented the “no-make-up make-up” look back in the ’90s: a collection of clean, high-grade formulations designed with ease of use in mind. Only this time around, Brown wants us to wear even less.
“In the last four or five years, I realized how much less make-up I was wearing and how much better I looked,” she says. “My vision of make-up has changed, and I want to teach and inspire women how you don’t have to look like you’re wearing make-up.”
Three decades ago, no make-up make-up meant natural make-up. Now in 2021, Brown’s signature look has been distilled into just nine core products, including an inky black mascara, a face pencil that can blend away blemishes, an ultra lightweight lipgloss, and a light reflecting Miracle Balm that can be worn, well, anywhere you like.
“It’s a new way of empowerment,” Brown says of her minimalist edit. “I’m someone that thinks a lot. And, of course, I was like, oh my god, what if people say, ‘Oh, there’s hardly any make-up there.’ But it’s what I believed in, it’s what I wanted to stand for. And it’s what I really wanted to bring to the world.”
Earlier this year, the brand expanded to include five skincare products, a small collection of make-up brushes and some merch.
“Nothing is out of the question,” Brown says with a wry smile of the future of her new brand. “If something is interesting and cool, we’ll try it.” Until then, here are some fan favourites.
Aptly named Miracle Balm, this light-reflecting super balm provides a wash of soft-focus moisture. Incredibly easy to use and endlessly versatile, glide it over your cheeks, lips, or eyelids for a dewy glow or light tint. In fact, you can use it all over.
“The Miracle Balm is whatignited me to say, ‘Oh my god, this is different.’” Brown says. “I started giving my friends little pots of it and they would come back saying, ‘Please, sir, can I have some more?’ And I just knew I had something. It’s for people that don’t like a lot of make-up. Some days I only use the balm.”
Made with jojoba seed oil, argan oil and vitamin E, the Miracle Balm comes in four alluring shades: Au Naturel, Dusty Rose, Brown and Tawny. A must for summer.
The Face Pencil
“I can’t live without the Face Pencils,” Brown deadpans. “You know when you get that tired look under your eyes? As soon as I put on the Face Pencil I look better. And it doesn’t look like make-up. I could use it all over my face if I wanted to and I still wouldn’t look like I’m wearing make-up.”
Made with shea butter and castor seed oil, and available in 25 shades, this ultra blendable Face Pencil covers everything from redness to dark spots, corrects discoloration, and lightens the darkest of circles – all the while remaining imperceptible on the skin. Just spot it on and blend it down with your fingers.
It’s rare to find a lip gloss that delivers the perfect shine without becoming tacky. But Brown’s Cool Gloss does exactly that. Lightweight and moisturising, this plumping gloss practically melts on the mouth.
“I don’t like running around promoting that it’s clean, but it is,” Brown says. “I am a crazy health nut, I am a certified health coach. I am someone that really believes that good ingredients make the biggest difference in health, wellness, and just everything, from how it smells to how it feels.”
Made with shea butter, vitamin E, and peppermint oil – which gives it its cooling sensation – the gloss comes in a variety of shades and can even be dabbed over the cheeks for an extra shine.
When Brown talks about the Hippie Stick, she lights up. “The packaging is my favourite. The lab sent it to me and I just fell in love with it.” A universal balm that can be used all over the body (Brown flags the heels and elbows as being the most important), the face and even your hair, Hippie Stick is the moisturizer to end all moisturizers. Made from shea butter, sunflower seed oil and coconut oil, it’s lightweight, buttery and smells irresistible. What’s not to love?
Blackpink’s Lisa Manobal– one of the four members of the K-Pop girl group– is launching her first-ever makeup collection together with the iconic brand MAC Cosmetics. Manobal, who’s also a Global Brand Ambassador for the makeup giant, said in a statement: “I curated the collection myself and designed every piece after things I absolutely love. Every shade, product, name, and even the packaging design represents something very special to me.“
Welcome to Artist Spotlight #70 series on my blog.
The MAC x L collection has five different products, all of which Manobal chose herself. There are six shades of the Powder Kiss Liquid Lipcolour, two shades of the Brushstroke 24-hour Liner, along with an Extra Dimension Skinfinish powder, Powder Blush, and a 12-pan eyeshadow palette.
“The team and I put so much energy and attention to detail into this collection; I channeled the same passion, joy, and creativity I give to making music into creating this exclusive collection for my fans.” While part of the collection features MAC bestsellers in Manobal’s chosen packaging, she also helped create new shades of the iconic Powder Kiss Liquid Lipcolours. “Powder Kiss Liquid Lipcolour has been my go-to formula for on-stage and in my music videos,” announced Manobal. “I’m very happy and proud to share with you the three brand-new shades that I have created and named – Rhythm ‘N’ Roses, Swoon For Blooms, and Pink Roses.“
Every product in the collection was created for consumers of all ages, races, and genders. “I am so proud of what we’ve created together,” said Manobal. “This is my dream come true.”
All the products are limited edition and will be available on maccosmetics.com in early December.
That iconic little pink-and-green-tube has quite the backstory.
Even the most casual cosmetics dabbler is acutely aware of the most famous mascara of all time: Maybelline New York Great Lash. The brand’s iconic lash lengthener debuted in 1971 and remains its top seller, with one of the pink-and-green tubes crossing a cash register scanner somewhere around the globe every 2.5 seconds. It’s earned the Allure Readers’ Choice Award 20 years in a row and remains the company’s best-selling product to this very day.
Beauty historians know that the lore of Maybelline itself begins with mascara — the very first one, in fact. In 1913, young Chicago chemist Thomas Williams had an older sister, Mabel, who was in love with a man who was in love with someone else. Her unrequited feelings proved the perfect impetus for a makeover, much like in every rom-com worth watching.
Mabel did her best with what was available: She used Vaseline on her lashes and brows to enhance them for a sultry stare. Her brother had the idea to amp up the effect by adding carbon dust to the Vaseline, which darkened her lashes and brows more dramatically. The product worked, and in 1915, Mabel scored her suitor and Thomas founded what would become the global industry giant, Maybelline (a combination of “Mabel” and “Vaseline“).
Two years later, Williams introduced Maybelline Cake Mascara, which was the first modern eye cosmetic intended for everyday use. Though cake mascara was initially available only via mail order, it was so popular that women began to ask for it in drugstores. In 1932, Maybelline began selling its Cake Mascara in a variety of retailers responding to overwhelming demand. Now a collectors’ item, the original product sold for 10 cents.
In the early 1960s, Maybelline became the first brand to bring automatic technology — a single tube housing both the mascara formula and the brush applicator — to the public with its Ultra Lash. And then in 1971, Maybelline New York Great Lash was born, further solidifying the company’s standing as the mascara authority.
A cosmetic gateway drug for many who grew up in the ’80s and ’90s, Maybelline Great Lash Mascara is perhaps one of the most easily-recognizable beauty products in history. Its now-iconic neon color scheme was no doubt partly what got it noticed when it debuted, but it was what’s inside the tube that proved to be a real game-changer in the marketplace in the early 1970s.
“The formula is water-based, which was groundbreaking and revolutionary when the product launched,” says Amy Whang, Maybelline’s senior vice president of marketing. “At the time, most mascaras were solvent-based and tended to repel water, making it difficult to remove without an oil-based remover.”
While the tube and first-of-its-kind formula were flashy, the product’s name was intentionally less so. In part, that owes to the fact that the clever copywriting we’re accustomed to today was simply not a priority in the 1970s. After all, there were not only far fewer brands in the beauty market, but there were also far fewer product options available to consumers. For Maybelline, this straightforwardness reigned supreme. “The name was meant to be simple,” says Whang. “A great formula, an easy application and a natural lash look — Great Lash was born.”
The mascara’s easily-identifiable packaging (just try to lose it in the cavern of your makeup bag) was inspired by then up-and-coming designer Lilly Pulitzer. “At the time, makeup trends were all about color,” says Whang. “[The color scheme was] in line with that and the décor and fashion themes of the time. It is so recognizable, and of course remains to this day.”
But the enduring popularity of Maybelline Great Lash is that consumers do, indeed, find the formula itself to be, well, great. “It’s truly an American icon and that’s why it remains Maybelline’s number-one mascara year after year. The Great Lash formula has not changed since the original blend. It’s one of the most closely guarded formulas in makeup,” says Whang.
It’s been posited recently that mascara is losing its ground and waning in importance to beauty companies, but in fact it seems that the opposite may be true: Many brands are doubling down and working with their respective R&D departments to perfect their formulas, bring new technology to the space and generate the kind of excitement for mascara consumers showed for Great Lash’s first 1971 drop.
Glossier, for instance, released its first mascara in May of 2018, more than three years deep into its successful tenure in the marketplace. It took a reported 248 tries to get it just right. Then there’s Chanel’s new Le Volume Revolution, the first mascara to bring 3D printing technology to lashes with its carefully crafted brush. In fact, of any color cosmetics category, mascara is perhaps the one that offers the most opportunity for continued ingenuity and advancement. And for Maybelline, it absolutely remains a key focus. “Mascara is definitely the core of Maybelline New York and a big priority for our internal labs,” says Whang. “The goal is to innovate and break through; we’re the leader on mascara, so the teams work on new formulas and brushes as a priority.”
Some of the best things in life have been the result of happy accidents. MAC Cosmetics Retro Matte Lipstick in Ruby Woo, the brand’s iconic red shade that launched in 1999, also happens to fall under the accidental genius category.
The 21-year-old lipstick has been one of MAC’s best-selling lip colors since its debut. But the brand’s product developers never actually set outto create it; instead, they were trying to tweak the formula of the brand’s other well-known scarlet shade, Russian Red, which was the best-seller at the time. (Madonna wore it all throughout her Blond Ambition Tour in 1990, after all.)
“In the late ’90s, MAC made the decision to make all of our formulas globally compliant,” says Gregory Arlt, the company’s director of makeup artistry. “So if you were in Japan or Germany, and you wanted to buy Russian Red, it would be the same formula [across the board], as opposed to what’s compliant for each country.” With this reformulation came an ever-so-slight change to the texture, making Russian Red a little less matte and a little more comfortable to wear. “Fans revolted, saying they missed that ‘drag your lips off’ dry, matte feeling,” recalls Arlt, who has been with the brand since 1993. “So we quickly ran back to the labs,” he says, and MAC returned to Russian Red’s original formulation, never touching it again. Lesson learned.
However, during the initial reformulation process, the new, slightly less matte version of Russian Red caught the eye of the team. “When product development showed [then-Creative Director] James Gager and Jennifer Balbier (who’s still the senior vice president of global product development) the new shade, they were both like, ‘Oh my God, that’s an amazing color.’ And that’s how Ruby Woo was born. The product development team really tried to match Russian Red. It’s the same combination of pigments, just put into a different base,” says Arlt. “But it was a little brighter and more dynamic, and it just became a standalone color.”
When Ruby Woo launched in the late ’90s, it was part of a line called Retro Matte Lipsticks, along with five other shades (which have since been discontinued). Ruby Woo, however, became an instant success. “Customers would flock to the counters, saying they needed Ruby Woo because they didn’t have another red like it,” says Arlt. “And they didn’t realize it was actually supposed to be Russian Red.”
Decades later, Ruby Woo hasn’t been tweaked since its release. It remains MAC’s best-selling shade in the U.S., and the brand’s second-best-selling shade globally (Chilli currently holds the top spot), with seven tubes of Ruby Woo selling around the world every minute.
“I actually grew up dancing, and long before I began my career as a makeup artist, I was wearing Ruby Woo onstage and for performances,” says makeup artist and founder of Beautifoles, Brittney Foley. “From the time I started competing in elementary school, all the way through college, Ruby Woo was the lip color of choice of all of my directors and coaches.” These days, Foley still reaches for it when working with clients. “Other red lipsticks can definitely be more ‘trendy’ if they get too deep or bright, but Ruby Woo is able to transcend years of trends and always be classic and current. It can’t be defined by a time period.”
Aside from its legions of devoted customers and makeup artists, Ruby Woo is also a celebrity favorite, with everyone from Janet Jackson to Rita Ora to Taylor Swift (who allegedly reaches for a trusty tube of Ruby Woo before concerts) relying on the formula. “I’ve used it on Dita Von Teese and Angelina Jolie,” says Arlt. “I actually used it on Angelina for the September issue cover of Vanity Fair in 2017, and it created a little bit of a frenzy. Everyone was like, ‘What is that red lip?‘” Of course, “it was good ol’ Ruby Woo.”
“So many celebrities started to talk about Ruby Woo, and it eclipsed poor Russian Red,” says Arlt. “It’s what we call in the industry a clean red. There are blue-reds, orange-reds and brick-reds. There’s no other color to influence the state of Ruby Woo. Like, if you’re looking at a color wheel, the red — which is a primary color — is basically Ruby Woo.”
Everything to know about PFAS in makeup, and how to tell if your routine has them.
I know exactly where I was when Urban Decay’s original Naked palette launched… In those pre-Instagram days, I don’t remember how I knew it had dropped, but with the fervor of someone who took any chance to detour into Sephora, I knew it would complete me. It was my go-to for years, but the name “Urban Decay” now takes on an unpleasant irony — because Teflon, listed under the name “PTFE,” is on the label. And that’s bad news for everyone.
As a study published by researchers at the University of Notre Dame in mid-June found, the problem extends far beyond one palette. After testing more than 200 cosmetics, including concealers, foundations, eye and eyebrow products and various lip products, scientists found that 52 percent of all the cosmetics they tested contained high levels of fluorine, which is an indicator of PFAS — per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — in the products.
According to the EPA, the group of man-made chemicals are “very persistent in the environment and in the human body, meaning they don’t break down and they can accumulate over time.” That explains why they’re used in cosmetics, says Notre Dame study lead Graham Peaslee, despite only a fraction of the tested products listing a perfluorinated chemical on the label.
“They’re used basically to impart a water-resistance or a long-lasting effect, and that’s why we know that some of it’s intentional. If you look at regular mascara and you look at waterproof mascara, guess which ones have all the fluorine in it? It’s the waterproof ones,” Peaslee says. To that point, 47 percent of all the mascaras they tested had PFAS in them, compared to 82 percent of waterproof ones. It was a similar story with liquid lipstick (sob), where 62 percent of them had PFAS, versus 55 percent of all lip products tested.
As Peaslee notes, previous studies have found that the average lipstick wearer eats anywhere from 4 to 7 pounds of lipstick in a lifetime. That’s worrisome, because the CDC says that exposure to high levels of some PFAS can lead to an increased risk of kidney and testicular cancers, changes in liver enzymes, decreased infant birth weights, increased risk of high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia in pregnant women, increased cholesterol, and a decreased vaccine response in children.
The risks continue, says Rainer Lohmann, director of the University of Rhode Island’s Superfund Research Center on the Sources, Transport, Exposure and Effects of PFAS (STEEP). “Numerous studies indicate a link to a weakened immune system, and adverse effects on metabolism, insulin resistance, [and] obesity,” Lohmann told InStyle via email. Which is especially bad news, considering we’re still in the midst of a global respiratory pandemic — and, as a Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health study found, higher exposure to some PFAS that accumulate in the lungs is associated with more severe COVID-19 cases.
Elsie M. Sunderland, a Harvard professor of environmental science and engineering in the department of environmental health, says that outside of the ingestion pathway, how well PFAS penetrate the skin isn’t well understood. Lohmann says that drinking water contaminated by PFAS or inhaling them is much worse than having Teflon particles in your eyeshadow, but per Peaslee, that doesn’t absolve manufacturers using PFAS in cosmetics. Because once a mascara with the ingredients goes into a landfill, for instance, the contents will wash out and enter the drinking water supply.
Inhalation is also a concern when it comes to aerosol sprays from brands like Living Proof, which uses a perfluorinated ingredient, OFPMA, in a majority of its products. While the brand says “OFPMA is thoroughly researched and regulators around the world confirm that it is safe to use — for you and for the environment,” Peaslee is less certain.
“Are they all toxic? Pretty much. Every one we’ve tested has been toxic, or bioaccumulative and persistent at least,” he says. “So we maintain a pretty strong line that we’ve never met a good PFAS yet.” Lohmann concurs: “Even compounds like OFPMA can cause problems once released. OFPMA will break down to smaller, very long-lived PFAS that will persist in the environment for hundreds of years.”
“There is no good reason to keep using it. Once problems are discovered later, it is almost impossible, and very costly, to remove OFPMA’s breakdown products from the environment and drinking water.” Which brings us to a point that every expert I spoke with highlighted: Wherever possible, we should be cutting out these “forever chemicals,” and as convenient as it is to not have to reapply lipstick or long-lasting foundation, PFAS aren’t essential in cosmetics — and certainly not worth the risk.
So how do you shop for cosmetics that don’t have PFAS in them when so many are flying under the radar? Peaslee says if it has “remarkable properties of being long-lasting or waterproof, those are the ones that most likely contain PFAS.” If you’re not sure, he recommends a simple test: Paint a piece of paper with a swatch of your lipstick or mascara, put a drop of water on it, and see if it’s there the next morning. If it is, there’s PFAS; if the water soaks into the paper within seconds, there’s not.
Sound complicated? Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) introduced the No PFAS in Cosmetics Act in June, although it’s unclear when the act will pass or take effect. Until then, Peaslee suggests brands place a “PFAS-free” designation on their labels — and while that’s yet to come, brands like ItCosmetics have already taken steps to remove PFAS from popular products (look for ingredients “perfluorohexane,” “perfluorodecalin,” and “pentafluoropropane” to know if you have the old formulas).
In the meantime, the brands below confirm that they’re PFAS-free, so you can shop knowing you aren’t putting your face up close and personal with a toxic chemical.
Launched in September 2013 by iconic makeup artist and beauty entrepreneur Charlotte Tilbury MBE, Charlotte Tilbury Beauty was born out of Charlotte’s long-held desire to empower everyone to feel like the most beautiful version of themselves, helping people around the world gain the confidence to achieve their biggest and boldest dreams. The company now employs over 1,200 people globally and is available to buy in over 76 locations.
CFI CEO, Michelle Thew, said:“I am thrilled to be partnering with Charlotte Tilbury Beauty and bringing great cruelty free choices to consumers everywhere. For a company this size, Leaping Bunny approval is a huge undertaking and shows just how serious the brand is about being cruelty free and ending the suffering of animals for cosmetics. This demonstrates that it is possible to be global and innovative without cosmetics tests on animals.”
Charlotte Tilbury MBE, Founder, President, Chairman and Chief Creative Officer of Charlotte Tilbury Beauty said: “I am incredibly proud that we have achieved Cruelty Free International’s Leaping Bunny approval, a crucial industry benchmark for cruelty free beauty. Today marks a huge leap forward in our disruptive global expansion plan – with a strategic partner that supports our purpose, positive values and disruptive way of doing business! I believe that with the right makeup and skincare, we can build confidence and we can change the world – being cruelty free really is at the foundation of that!”
After years of bringing the most glamorous, Instagram reshare-worthy beauty looks down the haute couture and ready-to-wear runways, Valentino is finally launching its own makeup collection.
Valentino Beauty will launch worldwide with over 100 products in August, but the collection was fully revealed on May 31 at Selfridges in London with an exclusive pop-up shop.
The launch includes a full spectrum of color products, from complexion to eyeshadow palettes. All of the formulas are multi-use and multi-finish to encourage experimentation, self-expression, and individuality. A few products, including the lipsticks and palettes, come in refillable packaging. This isn’t only a better option for the environment — you’ll want to keep the chic red and gold tubes and bottles on your vanity forever.
“Beauty is a complexity resolved through love. Beauty is democratic. I look at the identity of each individual, the uniqueness that encloses diversity and inclusivity,” Valentino creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli in a statement. “Beauty is about grace. Grace is something that you cannot describe, it is a perception. Beauty is something that gives me emotion. It is a connection.”
The accompanying campaign was shot by Piccioli himself and features 16 “eclectic talents” per the brand’s release. These models each represent a different facet of the Valentino Beauty brand DNA and come together in the campaign to create a “Valentino Chorus.”
A few standout products include a 40 shade foundation range, 50 shades of lipstick in matte and satin finishes, and the Go-Clutch, which comes with a mini lipstick. The accessory-makeup hybrid product first made its runway debut on the Valentino Spring 2017 runway.
Valentino Beauty ranges from $30 for lipstick refills to $235 for the Go-Clutch.
In November 2015, Kylie Jenner launched three lip kits. The kits, consisting of a lip pencil and liquid lipstick available in a pinky nude, a beige neutral and a deep brown, sold out almost immediately.
Jenner’s wasn’t the first celebrity beauty brand to launch. In 2009, Australian model Miranda Kerr founded Kora Organics, while actor Drew Barrymore launched Flower Cosmetics in 2013. But Jenner’s was the first to leverage the reach, engagement and influence of its founder in the social media era. Nearly six years later, the lip kits have evolved into a full makeup and skincare brand and in 2019, she sold 51 percent of her business (at a valuation of $1.2 billion) to Coty for $600 million.
Cardi B has teased a forthcoming makeup range, as has YouTuber James Charles, while Hailey Bieber, Gwen Stefani and Ariana Grande all reportedly filed trademarks for beauty products. Welcome to the golden age of the celebrity beauty brand.
It used to be that celebrities were the faces of beauty brands, starring in campaigns, endorsing the products in interviews and wearing the makeup on red carpets. But being the face is no longer enough—celebrities want ownership, becoming major players in the industry in their own right. And with the growth of the global beauty market over the last few years—the industry was valued at $532 billion in 2019—it’s not surprising.
“Celebrities are increasingly aware of the quick financial gains to be made, with the opportunity to monetize a loyal online fanbase and use their social media page as a marketing platform,” says Gabriella Beckwith, beauty consultant at market research firm Euromonitor.
But for everyone chasing a Fenty success story, fame and following alone won’t ensure sales. As the market becomes increasingly crowded, brands will have to rely on that notoriously slippery concept of authenticity to gain the trust and business of their target audience.
The power of authenticity
Today, beauty consumers have never been more educated about what they are putting on their face or more demanding about the quality. It’s why it matters that Pharrell Williams collaborated with his longtime dermatologist, Dr Elena Jones, for his skincare brand Humanrace. It’s why Halsey prefaced the announcement of her makeup brand About-Face in January by establishing her credibility. “Many of you know I’ve done my own makeup for a long time,” she wrote on Twitter. It’s also why actress Millie Bobby Brown drew criticism after posting a skincare tutorial in which she seemingly didn’t actually apply any of the products to her face. Brown issued an apology a few days later, writing, “I’m still learning the best way to share my routines as I get to know this space better—I’m not an expert.”
Eyebrows were also raised when Jennifer Lopez recently said that her age-defying skin was the mainly the result of years of olive oil use—despite selling a new line of skincare products (her multitasking serum costs $118). Followers were skeptical of these claims, with some even suggesting the singer had had Botox, to which Lopez responded: “For the 500 millionth time. I have never done Botox or any injectables or surgery!”
At the other end of the spectrum, Victoria Beckham established her credentials as a serious player by partnering with industry favorite Dr Augustinus Bader for her first skincare launch. “We tend to think of celebrity brands as inauthentic partnerships—traditionally, that is often what they were,” says Sarah Creal, co-founder and CEO of Victoria Beckham Beauty. “Celebrities can no longer slap their name on something and not have their communities realize that’s what’s happening. Those who are in it for the short term or inauthentically won’t last—consumers are savvy.”
A long-time beauty executive, Creal met Beckham at Estée Lauder, with whom the designer launched a capsule cosmetics collection, and was drawn to her passion and vision. While she says there is “no doubt” the former Spice Girl is a celebrity, they don’t consider Victoria Beckham Beauty a celebrity brand, but rather a bona fide indie startup. “Having Victoria as a partner obviously shines a light on the brand that we wouldn’t have otherwise, but we still have to stand up to the scrutiny and credibility that any new beauty brand would need to.”
The importance of quality over influence
Celebrities undeniably wield great influence over their following, but if they want to convince consumers to buy their products, this credibility and, most importantly, gold-standard quality, is non-negotiable. “People aren’t just buying into the face—they equally expect the product to work as hard as any other brand they’d engage with,” says Victoria Buchanan, senior futures analyst at strategic foresight consultancy The Future Laboratory.
The audience agrees. “[I think some] products by celebrities are bad quality because it is believed that people will buy them regardless,” says Marion, a 17-year-old gen-Z consumer from Toronto. “But the product itself should be more important than the celebrity or advertising.” It’s quality that she cites as the reason for buying the few products from celebrity brands that she’s purchased—a Rare Beauty highlighter with good reviews, a Fenty concealer because of its range of shades.
While a celebrity might make consumers aware of a brand (they’ll pay close attention if it’s someone they’re a fan of), it’s rare that they would buy a beauty product because of the name alone. On the whole, they remain wary of products, particularly when it comes to skincare, do their own research, and always listen to expert advice.
Like all trends, the celebrity beauty bubble will eventually burst. The sharp decline of celebrity fragrances following its 2011 peak shows what can happen when consumers move on from a category. Nothing lasts forever and we’ve already seen a gradual shift towards hair brands, such as Tracee Ellis Ross’s Pattern, Priyanka Chopra Jonas’s Anomaly, and sexual wellness products via Cara Delevingne and Dakota Johnson.
When that moment comes, those brands left standing will be the ones that have established their authenticity and credibility, played to the strengths of their creators’ personal ethos and identity, and, above all, proved their quality. As noisy and loud as your social media presence might be, in the end, nothing talks like results.
We know plastic is a big problem in the personal care industry. A look around your bathroom will tell you as much but to give some wider context, in its sustainability studies, L’Oréal estimates that packaging accounts for, on average, 50 percent of the environmental footprint of its products.
It’s something that L’Oréal, and many of its peers in the beauty industry, is making moves to address. It seems every hour on the hour there’s a new brand or company pledging to get rid of superfluous packaging or to up its use of post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastic or to switch to other materials entirely, some of which they say are biodegradable. Those are often steps in the right direction, but in truth, we’re just scratching the surface. There’s still much to sort out and it’s all a bit confusing.
Here, a look at the current, well, climate, plus guidance that can help lead you to the best possible purchasing decisions — because we should all be thinking of each one as a vote. “How we purchase things is more powerful than our political [moves],” says Tom Szaky, CEO of recycling giant TerraCycle. “When we buy certain things or don’t buy other things, it changes the world more aggressively and more quickly.”
So, first, here is what to know about plastic packaging.
Plastic packaging is rarely recycled (yes, even when you do everything right).
So far, the big promise of recycling has largely failed us — only nine percent of the plastic is ever actually remade into something usable. One reason why: If you don’t clean that bottle or jar fully and remove all stickers, residue, etc., it will be rejected — and can even contaminate a whole batch of material sent for recycling, according to a report last year by GreenPeace.
Looking for that little triangle of arrows on the bottom isn’t necessarily a slam dunk either. The reality is that only packaging with a 1 or 2 stamped in that triangle is going to be widely municipally recyclable. A quick experiment: Of five plastic-housed beauty products randomly selected from this writer’s medicine cabinet, two had no recycling symbol at all, one was a category 4, one was category 2 and the final was a 1.
But there’s even more to consider: For example, if a plastic pump includes metal (which almost all do), it can’t be processed. (This is something some brands like Love Beauty and Planet are addressing with new designs.)
“Another uncommonly known fact is that dark plastics — such as black, navy, or dark brown — cannot often be seen by sorters in recycling facilities and so they end up in landfills,” says Sarah Dearman, vice president of circular ventures for The Recycling Partnership. Also a problem for sorters: small packaging. According to TerraCycle’s Szaky, nothing smaller than two-inches cubed is ever going to be recycled — that’s pretty much every cap, lid, and a lot of beauty minis.
At the end of the day, recycling is a business. Recycling plants will only recycle what they can recycle at a profit — things like large pieces of clear plastic, clear glass, and aluminum. “The question is really not can something be recycled, but will it be,” Szaky said at a recent sustainability summit.
When plastic is recycled, there are still a couple of catches.
I am by no means suggesting you give up on trying to recycle the plastic that comes into your life. Even a nine-percent recycling rate is a lot of plastic that avoids a landfill. In 2018, for example, just in the U.S. alone, 7.9 billion units of rigid plastic were created for beauty and personal care products, according to Euromonitor International.
What’s nine percent of that? 711 million units of rigid plastic. Plastic isn’t endlessly reworkable, though — most plastics can only be processed once or twice. Recycling plastic essentially downgrades its resulting quality every time it is put through the process — and that means virgin plastic may have to be added to make a “recycled” package functional.
And, of course, there needs to be a demand for post-consumer recycled plastic for it to have anywhere to go. With reports of large amounts of plastic being incinerated or sitting in storage due to lack of need, this has been a real problem. However, with more companies working with recycled material very slowly increasing, there is some hope for the future.
“Biodegradable” plastic very often… isn’t.
You may notice a shift toward plastic made from natural sources designed to break down more quickly. “These include materials such as sugarcane, and there are also opportunities to source from other innovative feedstocks such as seaweed and other algae, as well as food waste by-products,” says Olga Kachook, senior manager at GreenBlue, a nonprofit dedicated to the sustainable use of materials.
These alternative plastics could have a big positive impact: A 2017 study found that switching from traditional plastic to corn-based material could reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent.
Yet there’s a pretty big “but” here. Some of these alternative materials can contain additives that “may actually result in more environmental harm,” says Kachook. And the term “biodegradable” itself unfortunately doesn’t mean much. “Biodegradability is driven by many factors and stating a package is ‘biodegradable’ doesn’t qualify the timeline, conditions required, safety of the elements, or the degree of degradation,” says Alison Younts, lead sustainability consultant at the consulting company Trayak.
And, for now, looking for the word “compostable” doesn’t help either. A compostable certification only indicates that a material is able to break down in large municipal or industrial composting facilities as opposed to a home or community bin. Right now only four percent of Americans have access to curbside composting pickup, says Szaky. And in a recent study conducted by TerraCycle, only one in 10 of the industrial composters where those curbside binds wind up actually accept compostable plastics.
But plastic isn’t all bad. (Didn’t see that coming did you?)
Yes, plastic pollution is a crisis. But, unfortunately, there is no magic-bullet alternative material, and plastic alternatives can in some cases cause as much if not more environmental impact. Glass, aluminum, and paper all have their own drawbacks — including being more expensive, something consumers may not be ready for, according to a 2019 Euromonitor report — and choosing one of them over plastic isn’t always a sure-fire path to reducing your overall carbon footprint.
Take aluminum, which gets a lot of buzz for being widely recycled, endlessly reusable if uncontaminated, and lightweight. However, it’s important to note that it’s recycled aluminum that gets all the love. When the package you’re buying is virgin, it’s another story, as the byproducts of producing new aluminum, according to the EPA, have global warming potentials (GWP) 6,500 to 9,200 times as strong as carbon dioxide.
And, of course, it has to be recycled by the consumer, which happens about 35 percent of the time when it comes to the category including packaging, according to the EPA. While that’s a number much stronger than plastic recycling, it still leaves a lot of room for improvement.
Paper has its own concerns. When it comes to virgin materials, Life cycle assessments of paper, including those in a case study looking at grocery bags in Singapore published this year in the Journal of Cleaner Production, suggest plastic bags could have a lower overall environmental footprint than paper ones. Recycling paper does cut its CO2 output (as is the case with most recycled materials compared to their virgin counterparts) by a considerable amount (40 percent less) but it can only be recirculated between five to seven times, according to the EPA.
And then there’s glass, a material with complex considerations. It’s not always practical, as soapy hands and steamy conditions offer the threat of shattered bottles in your shower. And according to a study published last year in the International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment that put pasteurized milk bottles made of virgin plastic, recycled plastic, glass, and returnable glass bottles head to head, even after factoring in the savings from reuse, returnable glass ranked behind plastic in CO2 emissions due to the high energy demand in the production process, as well as the carbon footprint of shipping it.
It’s hard out here for an environmentally-conscious consumer. And it can be a tough call for brands when deciding which tradeoffs to make. “Plastic packaging offers a number of benefits, including being lightweight and often requiring less material overall for a package than other materials like glass and aluminum,” says Kachook. “Switching to other formats without considering the tradeoffs might increase the emissions of shipping or sourcing the material.”
So what do we, as beauty-loving consumers, do?
For all of the many factors in this conversation, that answer to that question is actually pretty simple. First and foremost, focus on the “reduce” portion of reduce, reuse, recycle. Strip your routine down to the basics and simply buy less stuff. When possible, you can opt for packaging-free bar options (such as Ethique’s shampoo and conditioner bars).
Refillable packaging is another thing to consider, either directly through beauty brands with refill programs or via Loop, which offers borrowable containers given for a refundable deposit you get back when you return the empty to be professionally cleaned and reused. Pantene, REN, The Body Shop, and more are part of the program, and it recently got a big boost by partnering with Ulta to create the loopbyulta.com store.
For the empties you do end up with, there are ways to up your chances of having the material reused. First, you can check to see if the brand behind it has a mail-back recycling program of its own like Burt’s Bees. If it doesn’t, TerraCycle takes packaging (including hard-to-recycle items) either through drop-off locations (including Nordstrom stores) or via mail with purchasable boxes and labels.
The organization (which is also behind the Loop store) estimates that last year about 10 percent of all the waste it diverted from landfills in 2020 was related to the beauty industry, thanks in part to its launch of over 50 new recycling programs around the U.S. during the COVID-19 pandemic. “By the end of 2020, about one-third of all of our active brand-sponsored recycling programs were for beauty-related products,” says Alex Payne, North American public relations associate for TerraCycle.
Finally, it’s simply back to showing up with your dollars (i.e., votes) by researching before you add to cart. There are niche lines focusing on sustainability (like the 90 percent plastic-free We Are Paradoxx) and companies finding smart ways to reduce their plastic waste (like Colgate’s new Keep toothbrush with an aluminum handle that you, well, keep forever, replacing only the small plastic head) and big splashy pledges from big brands (like Unilever’s plan for sustainable living and Estée Lauder Companies’ new initiative to create an advanced recycled tube package some time this year) and smaller promises to use more PCR material to reduce the demand for virgin plastic… it all adds up.
Pay attention as well to partnerships with groups such as GreenBlue‘s Sustainable Packaging Coalition, which helps companies make more sustainable choices as well as educate consumers with its clear How2Recycle labeling program. The Recycling Partnership has created the Pathway of Circularity program to help guide companies through the process of creating packaging materials that will actually get recycled. They’re currently working with Burt’s Bees, Colgate-Palmolive, Johnson & Johnson, L’Oréal USA, Procter & Gamble, and more.
Buying from these brands making moves truly helps the bigger picture. “Investors are looking at what the consumer is doing,” says Simon Fischweicher, head of corporations and supply chains at CDP North America. Nonprofit that runs a global disclosure system for investors and companies to manage their environmental impacts. Purchasing a product that is labeled or advertised to have more sustainable packaging in itself can have a positive impact.
“Maybe spending that extra 75 cents isn’t going to change the world, but that decision is part of a collection of decisions that people are making that creates a trend,” says Fischweicher. And, trends can become movements — the hope here is to make the movement big enough that it’s not even a possibility for brands not to act.