After a knockout year, it’s hard to imagine the fragrance category could see any more growth in Q4, but beauty brand Clean Beauty Collective has its sights set on capturing lapsed fragrance users before the end of the year with its newest Clean Reserve launch.
Available exclusively at Sephora starting Tuesday, Clean Beauty Collective’s new Clean Reserve H2EAU line includes eight water-based fragrances formulated for sensitive skin and without ethyl alcohol. While not new, the water-based and ethyl alcohol-free perfume categories have proven unattractive to most perfume brands over the past decades due to challenges in shelf life, user experience and longevity.
Clean Beauty Collective’s CEO Gregory Black believes this new formula will change the industry as a whole.
“Water bases have been done before, but with the experience and longevity of this technology, we realized we could meet or exceed expectations for perfumes that are alcohol-based,” Black told Glossy. “One of the first things we thought about was, ‘Hey, maybe we can bring in lapsed fragrance users that have sensitive skin or non-perfume-wearers, in general, due to sensitive skin, whether it be dry skin, psoriasis, eczema, you name it.”
The new technology is called Hydro-Tec and was developed by Tokyo-based Takasago International Corporation, one of the largest fragrance houses in Asia. It’s responsible for top sellers from brands like Burberry, Shiseido and Narcisco Rodriguez.
The development process to create a hydrating fragrance that was shelf-stable and lasted on the skin for hours required years of additional testing, said Alpa Shah, director of fragrance technology innovations at Takasago, who reported that the biggest challenges were related to regulations, preservation and stability. But beyond preventing bacteria growth — a common issue in water-based products — water-based scents tend to disappoint the olfactory as well.
“Typically, products with high percentages of alcohol bloom very nicely when sprayed,” said Shah. “The historical downfall of water-based products was that the water does not allow for that type of bloom because it does not evaporate as quickly as alcohol, which causes it to hold down the scent. This particular system is super unique because we have included materials in the formulation that allow for that bloom. This, in addition to a specially designed pump actuator, makes this product very unique.”
Takasago first came to Black with the technology in 2019, and he was skeptical. “We tested it in use for a week with 100 participants, and the results were so phenomenal that we decided to go wider,” Black said. “We ended up doing a 3,000-person survey that came back with extremely high purchase intent. It was higher than I’ve ever seen in my career, in the high eighties.”
Clean Beauty Collective has the exclusive on Takasago’s Hydro-Tec for two years.
Black told Glossy that Clean Beauty Collective has sold approximately $80 million worth of perfume annually and he believes that Clean Reserve H2EAU will allow the brand to hit $100 million annually in fragrance sales in the next two years. “We think this technology will give us the edge,” Black said.
“[The new line] is high-performing, gentle and hydrating, which we know resonates with our clients,” said Carye Campbell, vp fragrance merchandising at Sephora. “We’re thrilled to witness the continued growth of Clean Beauty Collective at Sephora.”
As Glossy previously reported, the brand Clean Beauty Collective encompasses Clean Reserve and started as Fusion Brands. It was rebranded in 2018 as a response to the growth and demand in the clean category. It has since shuttered its namesake line, Fusion Beauty, to focus solely on safe, sustainable and environmentally friendly products. The brand offers fragrance, skin and body products under the name Clean Reserve direct-to-consumer on its site, CleanBeauty.com, and through retail partners like Sephora and Ulta.
Clean Beauty Collective, which is privately held and available in 30 countries, generates $80 million per year in retail sales, according to the brand. The brand also reports that it is the top clean fragrance brand in Sephora U.S. and a top 10 overall fragrance brand in Sephora China. As part of its ethos, the brand uses a variety of environmentally friendly practices, including sustainable sourcing and solar-powered manufacturing.
The Clean Reserve fragrances are formulated using a limited palette of ingredients that align with Sephora’s clean standards, and the brand plans to offer full ingredient transparency soon. “We like to be at the forefront of ingredient safety. And we’re finally at a point where all of our fragrances are updated [with the latest innovative ingredients], and we’re about to [publish the full ingredient lists],” said Black. “[The ingredients in] H2EAU will be disclosed.”
To market the new line, the brand has enlisted board-certified cosmetic dermatologist and Mohs surgeon Michelle Henry, MD FAAD to act as a spokesperson. Dr. Henry has 118,000 followers on Instagram, has appeared on “The Today Show” several times and has created social media content for Vaseline, Aveno, Kiehls and others this year. She is the CEO and founder of Skin & Aesthetic Surgery of Manhattan and a clinical instructor of dermatology at Cornell’s Weill Cornell Medical College.
Dr. Henry told Glossy the partnership with Clean Reserve was a natural fit. “My patients are increasingly concerned about what ingredients they’re putting on their skin,” she said. “It’s a conversation that comes up a lot [in my practice]. Either it’s fragrance and skin care, or women just wanting to use fragrance and complaining that they can’t.”
Until now, Dr. Henry instructed her patients with sensitive skin to only apply fragrance to their clothing. “Alcohol dries out whatever it comes in contact with and is really disruptive to the skin barrier,” she said. “Disrupting the skin barrier can happen all at once with some really caustic product or slowly and gradually with products that you’re using every day.”
But beyond sensitive skin, she believes this product could help to prevent the development of allergies. “The cumulative effect [of regularly using products with alcohol] can be quite disruptive and damaging and sensitizing, so it’s really important to think about when you’re using alcohol in your products,” Dr. Henry said. “As a dermatologist, I know that every single individual is different, but I feel very confident that this is not going to cause irritation or inflammation.”
Clean Beauty Collective will use Dr. Henry as an expert for press, social media and educational videos. “We think she’ll be fantastic in helping us communicate our technology story and validating the hydrating nature and non-irritating nature [of the line] for those that may have sensitive skin,” Black said.
The Clean Reserve H2EAU line’s eight scents were inspired by the ocean and created by Takasago senior perfumers Catherine Selig and Steven Claisse.
Brilliant Peony is expected to be the hero SKU. “I created this fragrance to evoke the feeling of smelling Peony on the banks of Lake Cuomo in Italy,” said Selig. “The goal here was to keep the floralcy fresh and dewy, so I paired it with Italian Bergamot to further capture the essence of the region.”
Clean Reserve H2EAU will launch exclusively with Sephora online on December 12 and in 257 Sephora doors the day after Christmas, to gain traction with those shopping with holiday gift cards. H2EAU will join the rest of the Clean Reserve fragrance line in all 562 U.S. Sephora doors in January, and the majority of Kohl’s doors — 857 locations — in March. It will launch in all 114 Canadian Sephora doors in March, as well. The 100-milliliter bottle will retail for $110, and the 10-milliliter rollerball will be priced at $29.