July 14, 2024

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Define Beauty Yourself

12 Clean Beauty Brands Leading The Eco-Revolution

12 Clean Beauty Brands Leading The Eco-Revolution

As we enter a new year, the clean beauty industry continues to evolve from a niche trend into a formidable sector within the $430 billion global beauty market. Sized at $7 billion in 2022, clean beauty is expected to double to over $14 billion by 2028. Explosive growth has been driven not just by corporate marketing, but by consumer demand for effective products that are safe not only for people, but also for the planet.

Recent research conducted by ClearForMe, a company dedicated to helping companies to choose clean ingredients and consumers to find clean beauty products, revealed that 61% of Millennials care about the ingredients listed in their favorite beauty and skincare products. The ClearForMe platform contains a searchable database of ingredients, and currently hosts over 1,400 clean beauty brands.

Here are what the founder / CEOs of 12 consumer product companies at the forefront of the clean beauty movement have to say about their journeys, triumphs and challenages.

1. Lamel

LAMEL was founded in 2012 by Natalia Iaromenko, a Ukrainian entrepreneur and investor who is driven by a desire to help people feel more confident. In just ten years, the company has grown into a leading brand with $20 million in revenue. Currently, LAMEL products are carried in 20 countries across North America, Europe, and the Middle East. In the U.S., the brand has clinched the Amazon’s Choice award.

Tragically, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has cost LAMEL dearly. In 2022, the team had planned to reach $36 million in revenue. But their warehouse containing a six-month supply of products worth almost $2 million was burned down due to an attack by the Russian military.

“In an instant, I lost nearly everything,” said Iaromenko in an exclusive interview with me. “Yet adversities have always been my fiercest motivators. I was in the U.S. at the time. From across the Atlantic, I marshaled resources to safeguard my team and business, not letting distance or circumstances dictate our destiny. Without any stock, we visited our clients’ stores, repurchased our products, and embarked on our first international exhibition in Italy.

Then came exhibitions in Turkey, the U.S., and the UAE. We also established warehouses in Poland and America. Today, LAMEL isn’t just a brand; it’s a testament to Ukrainian resilience.”

“For me, entrepreneurship is not just a career choice, but a calling,” says Iaromenko. “Entrepreneurs are individuals who thrive in uncertainty, constantly seeking uncharted paths and driving the world forward with their innovative ideas. Hence, LAMEL is a natural extension of my innermost self. Life’s grandest adventures often spring from its toughest challenges. Through it all, my love and dedication to my brand remain unyielding.”

2. Moringaia

Moringaia is a pure skincare and wellness line sustainably made in in the Dominican Republic. The brand’s single-pressed, oil-based formulas are sourced from moringa seeds grown on a permaculture family farm and manufactured in a solar-powered lab.

Founded by siblings Elah Barshi and Ben-Yam Barshi and their parents, Moringaia is a family-owned company. 100 percent single-pressed moringa seed oil is always the first ingredient. The resulting oil is made up of 70% oleic acid, a fatty acid the body is quick to absorb, and is packed with natural Vitamin E. No hidden ingredients, synthetic fragrances, or fillers are ever used.

“Moringaia is the embodiment of the values we grew up with,” said Elah Barshi in an exclusive interview with me. “My brother and I cofounded Moringaia with the mission to support reforestation by creating more demand for moringa seeds.” Dry areas of the island that are not typically used for agriculture provide ideal conditions for moringa trees, hence the company is able to provide jobs in economically distressed areas.

Barshi gives this advice to aspiring entrepreneurs. “Surround yourself with mentors and people who have walked the path before you. Reach out to people who inspire you. More often than not, people are happy to share their experiences, and there’s so much to learn from others.”

3. Ocoa

OCOA is a beauty brand created for the self-loving LatinX consumer and made with clean, minimal ingredients. “As Afro-Latina immigrants from the Dominican Republic, my sister and I grew up ashamed of our natural hair texture and thought straightening our hair was the only way to be beautiful,” said Ocoa Cofounder Nicol Varona Cancelmo in an exclusive interview with me. “Over the years, we fell in love with our curly hair. We yearned for a haircare product that met our standards. This is how we and why we founded OCOA. Our dream is to live in a world where beauty is not measured by Euro-centric standards, but rather natural beauty is embraced as that which makes us all unique.”

Founded in 2021, OCOA, which means “a place between mountains” in the indigenous Taino language, has four core products: curl care shampoo and conditioner, curl defining gel and a hydrating curl cream. Products contain ingredients like marula oil, mango butter and hibiscus extract to hydrate and nourish curls, as well as scalp care using ingredients including avocado oil, sea moss, and apple cider vinegar.

In the process of manufacturing back in 2018, the facilities caught fire just weeks before starting OCOA’s first production. The cofounders had to start from scratch. They found a new, state of the art facility and pivoted strategy to launch with only one product instead of five. “This tragedy turned into a great learning experience for us,” says Varona Cancelmo. “It taught us to never quit on our dreams.”

4. Ere Perez

Ere Perez is a sustainable beauty brand that created the first ever eco-refillable compact. The 20-year-old company is also famous for developing multipurpose products such as the coco crayon, which can be used for eyes, lips or cheeks. All products have minimal, ethically-source clean ingredients featuring superfoods with skin-revitalizing properties.

“Ere Perez aligns perfectly with my life purpose as I am a big advocate of life harmony and a firm believer in individual changes for the collective good,” said Ere Perez in an exclusive interview with me. “When I started the brand in the early 2000s, my goal was straightforward—to remove unnecessary elements from cosmetic products. This truly resonates with my life purpose of ‘less is more.’”

The greatest challenge Perez has faced is the battle to maintain high standards in the face of demands for profits. “We refuse to compromise our values,” she says. “’Made with integrity’ is the core principle we stand by. Remaining true to our values is non-negotiable. It demands passion, unwavering belief in our project, and instilling the same conviction in our team.”

5. Winky Lux

Winky Lux is a clean, vegan makeup and skincare line with a whimsical, fun feel that has seen 50 percent year-over-year growth and won three prestigious product awards since launching in 2015. Through their plastic neutrality program, the company offsets waste via a plastic removal program that also supports communities in the developing world. Winky Lux products are available nationwide at Target, Ulta and select department stores.

Cofounder Natalie Mackey left a successful career in finance to create Winky Lux. At the time, the beauty industry had gone minimalist, and she decided to take the opposite approach, using loud, colorful patterns in the product design. She also was determined to make Winky Lux affordable. Flower Balm went viral after appearing on The Today Show, selling 250,000 units in one day. Since then, the company has launched around 100 products.

“I started my first business at 16, so you could say I was designed to be an entrepreneur,” said Mackey in an exclusive interview with me. “Winky Lux also does incredible things like work with RePurpose to remove 50K pounds of plastic from the ocean this year alone. It’s a huge privilege.”

Mackey has this advice for aspiring entrepreneurs. “Be curious, be focused, ask for help, and always give help when you’re able. Surround yourself with smart people.”

6. Saphira

Saphira is the first salon professional haircare brand to infuse their products with 26 Dead Sea minerals, which have natural healing properties. The products have helped chemotherapy patients as well as those struggling with alopecia, dandruff, eczema and more. Entirely bootstrapped and privately owned, Saphira has exceeded seven figures in sales and plans to continue on its trajectory of rapid growth.

Founder Saphira Greenberg studied positive psychology and worked closely with an organization called Strong Women, Strong Girls on empowering young girls at risk. She saw there were not enough fierce women on the manufacturing side of professional hair care. So, she invested her wedding money into creating products, and then literally walked from salon to salon in NYC in order to get Saphira started.

“When we sold through our first batch, women came back with tears sharing how the products healed their scalp, their eczema. Our products literally helped women feel more confident and empowered!” said Greenberg in an exclusive interview with me.

To aspiring entrepreneurs, Greenberg offers this advice. “I’ve always loved this quote from positive psychology: Learn to fail or fail to learn. The failures, the difficult times are what takes you to the next level. At the time of failure, it feels like the world is coming to an end. But take a look at those moments as blessings because there is only one way up. I learn so much from my mistakes!”

7. Attitude

Although ATTITUDE has been producing clean, performance-proven home and beauty products in eco-conscious packaging for over 15 years, it recently released a new line of makeup. The Oceanly collection offers EWG-verified, PETA-certified, marine-sourced ingredients packaged without plastic in biodegradable, FSC-certified cardboard from eco-managed forests. Products include foundations, tinted oils, concealers, blushes, bronzers, highlighters, and lip gloss serums. Since 2020, ATTITUDE has planted over 1.5 million trees to help preserve the planet and saved over 1,000 tons of plastics from entering our environment.

In an exclusive interview with me, François Bernier, the cofounder and CEO of ATTITUDE, said, “The reason for founding ATTITUDE was to use my daily energy in a project that would be aligned with my purpose. When we were thinking about the beauty industry as a whole, we were preoccupied with the fact that it is responsible for 120 billion units of packaging waste yearly (most of which aren’t recycled). In addition, many people talk about clean beauty, yet each brand has its own standard, which makes it hard for people to assess the value provided. Therefore, we thought it could be a useful to create a complete line of skincare and makeup in 100% plastic-free packaging with natural ingredients.”

Bernier offers this advice for aspiring entrepreneurs. “My two biggest priorities are to be a present father and husband, and to also have professional success. To do so, I have to decide what I say no to: never do lunches, as they take too much time; don’t get socially involved after 6pm during the week as I want to have dinner as a family; wake up at 5:30am to work out before going to work. Thinking about what I am willing to say no to removes a lot of stress from my daily life.”

8. Aleph Beauty

Aleph Beauty is a New Zealand-based brand that makes eco-friendly, all-natural makeup. Circularity is also at its core, as all Aleph products are designed to be multi-functional and vegan, toxin-free, GMO-free, cruelty-free, and water-free.

Emma Peters, founder of Aleph Beauty, said in an exclusive interview with me that her life purpose is “to help people choose better.” She has worked in the makeup industry for most of her adult life, studying holistic modalities.

While Peters firmly believes that sustainable luxury is possible, she admits that it does come with its set of challenges. “It’s easy enough to set a path to use organic ingredients, use recyclable packaging, or be cruelty free, but the challenging thing is to tick all the boxes. Those paths are very convoluted. At Aleph, we are constantly facing roadblocks that force us to think outside the box and often create our own systems to ensure all of our boxes are ticked.”

“Stick to your values and don’t conform to ‘how the industry does things,’” Peters says to aspiring entrepreneurs. “Always be looking for a better way. This is not always easy, but it will set you apart. For me, it’s what lights me up.”

9. Figaro Apothecary

Figaro Apothecary is a luxury botanical skincare line founded in 2019. Cofounders Scott Formby and Jennifer de Klaver were busy creating successful brands for large corporations when they realized they were constantly stressed and burned out. As a distraction, they began speaking about working together on a small venture that would celebrate the beauty and healing properties of plants. They decided to create a line of wellness products that would support calming and balance – hence Figaro Apothecary was born.

“Figaro Apothecary is aligned with our life purpose in several ways,” de Klaver said in an exclusive interview with me. “By founding this company, we have created a platform to share our passion for nature, beauty, and enriching experiences with others, enabling them to enhance their own well-being. Our unwavering commitment to using pure, high-vibrational ingredients and intentional scientific formulations reflects our deep belief in the power of natural healing and the interconnectedness of mind, body, and spirit.”

De Klaver advises aspiring entrepreneurs to build a strong brand identity based on your purpose. “Set a mission statement that defines your goals, and support it with strong visual identity as well as clear and consistent brand messaging. Align yourself with your purpose and those who share it. We have been sustained by our strong partnerships with people and companies who share our mission. Finally, stay nimble and flexible. Sometimes the creative process can take unexpected routes and detours, but often the results are better than expected.”

10. Beekman 1802

Beekman 1802 was cofounded by Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Dr. Brent Ridge when they moved to the historic Beekman 1802 farm in rural Sharon Springs, NY and found 100 goats looking for a home. They decided to create a skincare brand harnessing the moisturizing, nourishing benefits of goat milk. All products are clinically tested, scientifically proven, and made for sensitive skin.

In March of 2022, the founders hired former Shiseido President Jill Scalamandre to be their new CEO. Since she came on board, sales have increased by more than 135 percent, Ulta and Amazon Prestige have onboarded Beekman 1802, the brand has adopted more eco-friendly packaging, and it has launched a partnership with Kindness.org to measure kindness within an organization and its relevance to organizational engagement.

“Having been raised on the belief that you get bees with honey, I have always believed in the power of kindness through every aspect of my life,” said Scalamandre in an exclusive interview with me. “Beekman 1802 was founded on a single act of kindness – allowing a goat farmer to graze his 90 goats on their farm. Today, we continue to spread the science of kindness, as it has been shown to improve mental health, make communities stronger, improve productivity in the workplace, and last, improve the health of the skin by improving the health of the microbiome.”

It has been a challenge to convince corporate America that giving some of the profits to your brand’s social mission will reap more for you in the long term. That said, Scalamandre advises aspiring entrepreneurs to “live and breathe your truth and be in it for the long term. Success doesn’t happen overnight.”

11. C16 Biosciences

C16 Biosciences is a New York City-based climate tech startup producing next-generation ingredients to decarbonize consumer product supply chains. Its first product is Palmless, a bio-manufactured alternative to palm oil that launched in early 2023. Agricultural palm oil is tied to deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity loss, and abusive labor practices. Palmless avoids all these problems. Investors include Bill Gates, Ashton Kutcher and many others.

Shara Ticku, the CEO and cofounder of C16, previously worked at the United Nations, the Clinton Health Access Initiative, and Goldman Sachs. “C16 Bio exists because my cofounders and I saw something disappointing and asked if it could be different,” she said in an exclusive interview with me. “In my early 20s, I was working on Wall Street and flew to Singapore for a business trip. When I landed in Singapore, the air quality was toxic — the result, I learned, of palm oil producers in Sumatra slashing and burning land to clear the way for new palm oil plantations. I was shocked.”

So, she and her cofounders started to explore what a radically different supply chain might look like. “Instead of relying on deforestation and monoculture crops, what if we could leverage biology to build more scalable, sustainable supply chains? We started looking at the fungal kingdom, microorganisms like yeast, to make oil rather than plants and animals. Very quickly, we realized we were onto something, and C16 was born.”

“Driving change fundamentally involves resistance: most people, cultures, and systems are pretty uncomfortable with change,” Ticku cautions aspiring change makers. “My advice is to remember that this kind of doubt is a good sign. It means there’s an opportunity to approach the problem differently, in a way that no one has done before. Believe in yourself. When everyone else is telling you it can’t be done, you must be your own biggest champion.”

12. Superzero

As Sephora’s most sustainable brand, superzero is leading the clean beauty conversation with high-performance, zero-waste shampoo, conditioner and hair styling solids. The beauty industry is a major contributor to plastic pollution with its wasteful, oversized packaging. Superzero certified carbon neutral haircare bars are equivalent to two 8.4-oz bottles of liquid for shampoos and one and a half 8.4-oz bottles for conditioners. In addition to being plastic-free, they are also silicone-free, fragrance-free, vegan, cruelty-free, and packaged in post-consumer recycled waste.

Founder and co-CEO Dr. Conny Wittke says that superzero’s mission aligns perfectly with her life purpose of helping protect the planet and hopefully leaving it behind a little bit better. “It’s an all-consuming task and a 1000% commitment being a mission-driven brand. Big brands can throw a lot of money and resources on projects while we must be nimble, hard-working, and scrappy.”

Wittke advises aspiring entrepreneurs to take the time to network within your industry and beyond. “The biggest mistake I made in my career was not networking enough, as I was always so very focused on the work ahead of me,” she said in an exclusive interview with me. “I encourage young women especially to put proactive networking into their calendars as an important part of their workday. You will never get to it if you don’t schedule it.”