LVMH may have been the first conglomerate to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic with hand sanitizer, on March 15, but a bevy of other beauty-minded businesses have followed suit, including L’Oréal, Estée Lauder Companies and Coty. Indie beauty brands, too, are responding to the call to action.
This week, Tan-Luxe launched its Hand Luxe sanitizer product and donated 10,000 units to medical workers and others in need. On Thursday, 5-month-old clean beauty brand Saie debuted its version as a free add-on to all orders on its DTC site. (Saie’s product will be available at several food banks across the U.S. via nonprofit organization Feeding America.) And Clark’s Botanicals unveiled its own iteration that retails for $8.63 on its e-commerce site on Friday. It has 10,000 units available to purchase, and 4,000 units will be available as a gift-with-purchase on Revolve.com.
“This product broke every single one of our rules of what we do. It’s not a clean product, it’s not in sustainable packaging, and it’s not about luxury. But it responds to a desperate need from our customers and all people,” said Francesco Clark, founder Clark’s Botanicals.
Clark explained it took about 10 days for his four domestic factories to shift gears. For the next five weeks, the company will exclusively be producing hand sanitizer versus the prestige products it is known for. Clark said the actual cost of the hand sanitizer is $8.63, so the initial run of 14,000 units cost the company $120,820. Five percent of production will go toward Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, and any retailer who picks up the product will be unable to price it for more than its cost, due to a clause Clark’s Botanicals has included in its outreach.
For her part, Laney Crowell, Saie founder and CEO, is not planning on keeping hand sanitizer in the company’s permanent beauty assortment, but she still took a visual approach to the new offering: It features Saie’s lavender packaging and a tangerine scent. Saie’s come-to-market proposition late last year was that existing clean beauty was “too expensive, didn’t work and wasn’t cool,” said Crowell.
“I’m thoughtful about what I buy based on how it looks,” said Crowell. “I wanted our customers to be able to pull out a cute thing from their bag, even if it was hand sanitizer. I’m up for everything in the drug store getting a zhoosh.”
Though it’s unclear and unlikely that larger companies like LVMH, L’Oréal, Estée Lauder Companies and Coty will continue making hand sanitizer for months on end, there has been plenty of proof that back-aisle categories like sexual lubricant and toothpaste have a place in the beauty aisle.
Personal care brand Megababe actually had hand sanitizer in its product development cycle for the last 18 months before launching its product, dubbed Squeaky Clean, on its e-commerce site in January.
“Truly, hand sanitizer fell within our business model,” said Megababe founder Katie Sturino, who also created the brand’s anti-chaffing stick called Thigh Rescue and talc-free powder dubbed Boob Dust. “We thought we just made a cool product, but then March 1 hit and sales surged.”
In the first week of March, Megababe sold out of six months of Squeaky Clean inventory on its DTC site, and when the product launched with Ulta on March 8, it was out of stock within five hours. Megababe also had to limit purchase quantities of its hand sanitizer to five or less at the start of the month. Kate McPherson, Megababe co-founder, said the company sold out of an additional 10,000 units just last week (with a limit of two products per customer) and has a 15,000-person waiting list for its next batch of 100,000, set to launch this weekend.
“Our forecast for the year was pretty much garbage, so we started all over. Now, we are expecting to sell 10 times the amount we first planned for 2020,” said McPherson.
Megababe has plans to unveil a larger eight-ounce version of the Squeaky Clean sanitizer, which will later be available at Target and Ulta. Plus the company is developing a hand sanitizing wipe. The line already includes feminine wipes, deodorant wipes and shower sheets.
“We are the middle of a reframe of what a hand sanitizer is, what it looks like and what it feels like,” said Sturino. “For me, it is definitely something that will become a new part of our daily routine. Big corporations offering their facilities to create hand sanitizer is what they are supposed to do, but candidly, launching hand sanitizer now feels a little like a money grab or a fad. It shouldn’t be about that; it should be about the good of your customer, the good of humanity.”