Unlike products in other categories where consumer use and application is generally limited to private spaces, color cosmetics, their function, benefits, and their failures are visible in public every day. This has meant that the product development and industry learning curve on natural color has been a slow and careful process.
In personal care and cosmetics there’s a common trajectory brands follow as they move into new categories or develop line extensions that take the company beyond what is often a single-category or single-product brand origin.
In color, lip product often comes first; followed by mascaras, eyeliners, or brow products; then brands move into eyeshadows, blush, bronzer, and highlighter; from there it’s on to foundation, concealer, primer, and finishing or setting products.
And so it is as well with natural color cosmetics. Innovative indie brands like Pinch of Colour, launched last summer, began with only waterless lip colors. Since then the brand has added one product, a waterless face balm, which is situated more in the skin care space. But the popularity of brands like this isn’t tied to a comprehensive product portfolio but rather to natural and clean beauty efforts. Pinch of Color, for instance, is a brand built around a global water saving initiative. And the focus on socially conscious business and natural ingredients is paying dividends. Pinch of Colour now retails online and at Anthropologie stores and is adding more doors around the states.
The founder of the (mostly) natural color brand Bite Beauty Susanne Langmuir recently told the audience at a CEW event that “indie brands are a new breed of entrepreneurial beauty and that’s a trend,” which will grow the color cosmetics category. She also noted that consumer demand for naturals and hybrid beauty isn’t going away and that as scientific advances make it possible to do more with naturals, chemists, formulators, and brands will be increasingly well equipped to meet that demand.
And there’s a mounting consensus on opinion: “With increased R&D and more available and affordable active ingredients, gone are the days of having to choose between products that are good for you and products that perform,” says Brandi Leifso, CEO of Evelyn Iona Cosmetics, in last month’s Two Views opinion column on Cosmetics Design.
Evelyn Iona pioneered natural gel eye liner. As Leifso explains it, the company “has found its hero formula in a product that has been deemed impossible to compare to its synthetic peers; that’s until now!”
As it happens with natural beauty in every category the value chain shifts; and manufacturers and brands invest more heavily in sourcing, processing, and credentialing.
L’Oréal is a case in point. The industry leader has joined on to the newly launched Responsible Mica Initiative in India in an effort to eventually ensure that this common, natural color cosmetics ingredient is ethically sourced.
Numerous other cosmetics—and specifically color and pigment companies—are a part of the initiative: Estee Lauder, Coty, Revlon, Groupe Clarins, Sun Chemical, AkzoNobel, and private label beauty maker Schwan Cosmetics.
The Responsible Mica Initiative has a clear and ethical objective: It “aims to eradicate child labour and unacceptable working conditions in the Indian mica supply chain by joining forces across industries,” according to the initiative’s homepage.
According to L’Oréal, the company source over 60% of its mica in the US. “The rest originates from other countries such as India,” notes L’Oréal on a page devoted to mica sourcing.
The text goes on to acknowledge that “In India, mica mainly originates from socially and economically challenged regions where there is a risk of child labor, unsafe working conditions, and where the supply chain involves multiple actors.”
“In spite of these challenges, L’Oréal has committed itself to remain in India and ensure the traceability and transparency of its supply chain.” And so it is that the Responsible Mica Initiative in that country has relevance downstream in the natural color space.