Beauty & Wellness Briefing: What’s next for CBD brands?

This week, I explore what CBD’s future looks like in beauty and wellness.

When I first arrived at Glossy four years ago, internally the team and I joked that I was the defacto CBD editor because of just how much I wrote about the ingredient and the brands built around it: Lord Jones, Cannuka, Foria and Saint Jane, to name a few. In 2018, there was so much excitement, and big retailers like Ulta Beauty and Sephora were quick to be the megaphone these young, CBD-focused brands needed to grow. Some were able to capitalize on their success at just the right moment — Lord Jones, for one, founded by Robert Rosenheck and Cindy Capobianco, was sold to Cronos Group for $300 million in 2019. Soon after, Rosenheck and Capobianco launched a second line, Happy Dance, with Kristin Bell. Then the pandemic happened, and like all beauty and wellness brands, CBD-focused companies were hit by the changes brought on by Covid-19.

Beyond the ongoing pandemic, Casey Georgeson, founder of Saint Jane, believed CBD needed a reset. “In 2019, there was a huge boom of CBD, where interest, passion, trend and proliferation met, but then there was an oversaturation. CBD was everywhere: in turkey gravy, hummus, yoga pants. And even though CBD could have been so helpful as a wellness ingredient in that very uncertain, anxious, burnout [period] at the beginning of Covid, there were overpromises and people did not know what to do with it.”

Even in the early days of CBD’s arrival as a beauty and wellness ingredient, there were questions about its efficacy and consumers needed education. “It was so hyped and CBD was unrealistically high; it was being put into mascara and cosmetics in a way that it didn’t necessarily need to be,” said Foria Wellness chief brand educator Kiana Reeves, who mirrored CBD’s rise to turmeric’s in the food industry.

Saint Jane and Foria were some of the first CBD-centric brands that hit the market, but both are now veering outside their tried-and-true territory. Saint Jane launched its Luxury Sun Ritual SPF, free of CBD, on May 31, and Foria debuted two non-CBD products on June 9: a Breast Oil with Organic Botanicals and Awaken with Organic Botanicals, the latter of which is a take on its best-selling Awaken Arousal Oil, which contains CBD. And Stephen Letourneau, the new gm and chief brand officer of Cannuka, told Beauty Independent in February that the brand, which was Ulta Beauty’s first CBD line, will not have CBD in all of its products going forward. Other beauty brands like WLDKAT and Feelist, which have dipped their toe in CBD, have also begun to focus on other products and ingredients.

Though it would be easy to jump to the conclusion that CBD is “out,” that would be adhering to some sort of prescribed trend timeline. Saint Jane, for one, is experiencing a 375% year-over-year spike in sales on its DTC website and was one of three brands highlighted in Sephora’s first CBD endcaps in April. Georgeson said she made the decision to create the brand’s Luxury Sun Ritual sans CBD due to the family-friendly nature of SPF.

“Even though we got approved by the FDA with CBD, I felt like it wasn’t necessary,” she said. “I envisioned the formula being used by everybody. I didn’t want people to feel like, ‘Oh, I can’t use it if I’m pregnant.’ ‘I can’t use it on my kids and take it to the beach.'”

Furthermore, Georgeson said that, even among Saint Jane’s fervent fanbase, some customers don’t know that its award-winning Luxury Lip Shine has CBD in it. “When we launched, I loved the story of having this super clean gloss and that you were micro-dosing bits of CBD all day, but I’m not sure it resonated as much as I thought it would.”

CBD-focused brands still don’t have all the online advertising levers that standard beauty and wellness brands have. That’s not to mention that many big-box retailers have steered clear of the ingredient altogether. So, it makes sense that the initial purveyors of the ingredient want to expand outside their scope to grow. It’s no different than a skin-care brand launching color cosmetics or hair care, or vice versa.

Georgeson is committed to the success of CBD and Saint Jane’s Luxury Beauty Serum remains its hero product, but she also sees the benefit of creating a select suite of products without the ingredient. The brand’s Luxury Sun Ritual SPF sold out immediately on Saint Jane’s website as well as at Credo, the brand’s exclusive launch partner. Georgeson shared that clients are purchasing two to three sunscreens at a time. The product has also opened up the brand to new retail partners; Saint Jane launched on Goop on June 15. Currently, Goop does not sell any CBD products.

“We’re actually relieved to see the story of CBD take a backseat to companies that are making great products with ingredients that work,” said Reeves. “If CBD is one of those ingredients, that’s fantastic. And if it’s not, that’s great too.”

Reeves expects that, with the brand’s growth outside of cannabis, Foria will also find new retailers. She shared that Foria Wellness’s sales split is currently 80% DTC and 20% wholesale. “DTC has grown massively in the last few years. The internet is the place where people meet new brands, and we’ve done so much vetting for ourselves there. But when you go into a Sephora or Ulta or Nordstrom, there is that extra layer of backing up those claims,” said Reeves.

There is a stickiness, though, for consumers who understand and love CBD. That is not gone, said Anthony Saniger, founder and CEO of wellness retailer Standard Dose. Though Standard Dose came to market with a spotlight on CBD, it began selling non-CBD products in 2019.  Saniger said that while CBD products only make up 30% of its current assortment, 60% of CBD consumers purchase more frequently, typically within 30-60 days of their last purchase.

Georgeson agreed. “The excitement is there, especially around estheticians and spas at the grassroots level,” she said. Saint Jane is included in treatments and sold at Ojai Valley Inn, The Spa at the Austin Proper and select Four Season Hotels, alongside traditional beauty retailers like Sephora and Credo. “There was a lot of noise, but the captive audience still wants CBD. An unlocking is happening, and it’s all about education,” she said.

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