How New-Age Wellness Brands Are Creating An Alternative Beauty Category

One of the fastest-growing retail categories of our time, products related to health and wellness are no longer confined to the aisles of supermarkets and sportswear retailers. Driving demand for wellness-led and functional products, consumers are seeking new ways to integrate wellness into their everyday practices, and beauty retailers are taking note.

With the notion of ‘beauty from the inside out’ accelerating growth, according to the NPD Group, innovative products that ‘walk the line between health routines and skincare regimens, have grown more than fivefold over the past two years. In today’s landscape, it isn’t uncommon to find consumers picking up botanical beauty blends alongside their favourite premium face creams.

“Our customers have become more and more conscious of what they are putting into their bodies and how it can affect their overall wellbeing,” explains Sophie Bottwood, Beauty Manager at NET-A-PORTER and MR.PORTER.

Launched in March 2013, NET-A-PORTER Beauty, like many of today’s beauty retailers, now includes a dedicated wellness category stocking brands like plant-sourced alchemy company Moon Juice, Australian organic skincare range The Beauty Chef and nutritional supplement brand EQUI London. With a growing number of its customers choosing to incorporate wellness products into their daily beauty routines, it’s a category that’s set to be an important area of focus for the e-commerce store moving forward, says Bottwood.

The influence of food trends on the beauty industry has become increasingly apparent, bolstered by the rise in awareness around consumption of functional foods as a method of enhancing beauty and preventing premature aging, as well as the clean eating revolution. The creation of a separate wellness category within beauty retail highlights just how much of a driving force the quest for heightened wellbeing has become.

“Finally we are all waking up to realising that beauty really does start from the inside,” says Sian Sutherland, who founded British ‘no nasties’ skincare brand Mio, back in 2012.

Having poured all her efforts into creating a wellness brand that gives women formulas that work as hard as they do, the entrepreneur, who sold the business to The Hut Group last year, is positive about the shift taking place within the beauty industry.

“We need to give women know-how not camouflage, helping them to understand how their skin, their bodies, every inch of themselves is affected by how they choose to live. So the more we can inform, engage and enlighten – the better,” Sutherland argues.

Yet, in an industry driven by premium packaging and flashy marketing campaigns, fulfilling the former while appealing to the mainstream beauty market is perhaps one of the reasons beauty retailers have failed to support wellness products, until now.  

EQUI London, appears to have cracked the code. The British startup, whose ingestible beauty powders are stocked by NET-A-PORTER, delivers on both style and substance.

Aiming to bring practitioner quality ingredients with expert formulations to the mass market, priced between £55-£62 for a 30 day supply, co-founders Rosie Speight and Alice Mackintosh worked meticulously to give the brand a fashion-forward feel, while ensuring that the packaging stood out.

“Quality supplements are no longer only available to those who frequent health food shops, and with people demanding more from their face creams and their gym kit, it’s a natural development to demand more from supplements,” the duo told Welltodo.

Catering to those demands, Equi’s beautifully branded products sit well alongside NET-A-PORTER’s carefully curated designer goods. However, Speight and Mackintosh are quick to point out that “there are so many supplements on the market that are beautifully branded but don’t quite deliver on effectiveness.” Equi, they argue, provides noticeable results, which work in conjunction with alternative products available within the beauty category.

“There’s no point spending hundreds of dollars on gorgeous beauty products if your face is sunken and grey from deficiencies and your hair is falling out from stress,” adds Alexia Inge, co-founder of Cult Beauty.

For the online beauty retailer, wellbeing as a category has been steadily growing at over 100% year-on-year for the last three years, a trajectory Inge says is down to the increase in awareness that beauty and health go hand in hand. It doesn’t need to be an either-or decision, instead consumers are choosing to invest in both beauty and wellness products, so it makes sense to position them side by side.

While beauty retailers are capitalising on the emergence of a new wave of ‘wellness enhancing’ products, as with all trends, the flourishing category has already become a bandwagon to jump on, argues wellness expert and beauty guru, Abigail James.

According to James, the concern lies in the fact that with topical skincare it is easier to conduct before and after studies, whereas with ingestibles, participants would need to stop using other skincare products to gain real results – but that in itself would influence the outcome.

Moon Juice, a controversial brand based in Los Angeles selling tubs of ‘beauty dust’ for $30 a pop, has already had the validity of some of its products called into question, but that hasn’t stopped the adaptogenic elixirs attracting a global cult following.

With the line between beauty and wellbeing often down to perception, in the long term, the brands that have a real understanding of the sector, and have the patience to nurture and educate their customers are the ones that will succeed, stresses Michelle Roques-O’Neil, founder of Therapie Roques O’Neil.

Based on the practices of aromatherapy, Therapie Roques O’Neil, which sells a range of all natural products from Himalayan detox salts to bath infusions, is a top seller within the beauty-wellness category.

Encouraging customers to incorporate Therapie Roques O’Neil products into their own regime, to keep their body, mind and spirit in perfect balance, the brand takes a more holistic approach to health and beauty.

“We are lucky because people seem to have embraced our message and are using the products like a natural apothecary,” says Roques-O’Neil.

Like Therapie Roques O’Neil, brands that use natural, plant-based ingredients to create products that don’t harm the user or the planet, are also driving the category forwards. According to a recent survey by Nielsen, 53% of participants revealed that “all-natural” was an important factor in their shopping habits, while retailers reported 24% growth within the natural and organic beauty channel over the last four years.

CAP Beauty, a New York-based destination selling natural beauty and wellness products exclusively, has taken the emergence of the wellness-beauty category one step further. The company’s innovative brick-and-mortar store operates under the philosophy that ‘beauty is wellness and wellness is beauty’.

“So many people have become aware of the importance of taking good care of themselves. They’re buying organic food, practicing yoga and meditation, taking supplements and working out, but their beauty products don’t always follow suit,” co-founder Cindy DiPrima Morisse tells Welltodo.

“We’ve seen so many advances made in naturals, and the launch of so many truly effective and luxurious natural brands, and so we built CAP Beauty to be a home to these products, a place where people could discover the very best products and the lifestyle that accompanies them.”

Steadfast in the opinion that wellness is not a trend, but a movement, DiPrima Morisse argues that thanks to aggressive demand from consumers, new innovations and healthier products are being developed on a consistent basis. In the future, she hopes to expand CAP Beauty to include natural versions of all types of products.

Mirroring DiPrima Morisse’s long term projections, Katherine Ireland, Associate Principal at Palamon Capital Partners explains that due to the increasing desire of consumers to live healthy lives, fitness, nutrition, and wellness, which are all important components of this shift, will continue to gain significant traction going forward.

How New-Age Wellness Brands Are Creating An Alternative Beauty Category
Image: CAP Beauty

Investing in online beauty retailer Feelunique in 2012, Palamon Capital, which seeks to buy and build businesses that have the ability to capitalize on opportunities to drive rapid growth, believes the company has definite potential for growth around its health and wellness categories.

As more beauty retailers begin to recognise wellness products as falling under the realm of beauty, Karen Grant, Global Beauty Industry Analyst at the NPD Group argues that “the prestige beauty industry has reached a new milestone and a moment of potentially fundamental change.”

Sutherland is approaching the shift more cautiously. “I hope that it will create a new beauty lexicon that uses positive edifying language rather than the insidious feel-bad language I see in beauty marketing still,” she tells Welltodo.  

“To date, the beauty industry is selling in a very old fashioned way. I hope this shift into a more holistic wellbeing approach will change this forever,” she adds.

For startups like EQUI London, the opportunity to sit alongside the next generation of innovative beauty products is an exciting prospect, and one they plan on leveraging.

“As consumers become even more discerning and time poor, market leading retailers, such as Net-A-Porter are stepping in to give their customers what they are looking for and take the confusion out of the equation,” argue Speight and Mackintosh.

With department stores, supermarkets and pharmacies beginning to follow suit, it’s only a matter of time until this new category makes its way into the mainstream.

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