Since debuting its “Clean at Sephora” seal in 2018, Sephora has been among the most influential industry players in making clean beauty the norm. Buoyed by exclusive brands like Tatcha and Drunk Elephant, Sephora has helped make clean skin care table stakes. Now, Sephora is pushing the clean color conversation forward.
Over the last few weeks, Sephora has added five new makeup brands to its assortment, including Westman Atelier, Merit, Saie, LYS and Freck. That brings its total clean color cosmetics count to 16, said Alison Hahn, svp of merchandising for makeup and fragrance at Sephora. In total, Sephora carries 80 clean brands across makeup, skin care and hair care. This week, select new brands will be featured in a clean makeup campaign alongside Sephora clean color leaders like Ilia, Lawless, Kosas and Tower 28 for the month of March. The campaign will be present in store windows, on the Sephora.com homepage, on a dedicated landing page, in email and in paid social posts, as well as in organic social posts and video.
“We started to tell the story about 18 months to two years ago. It was very hard to formulate clean products that work for makeup clients. We knew know that our clients would never want to buy something that has a compromised formula or payoff. It needs to work,” said Hahn. “The chemists, labs and manufacturers were finally able to make products that wouldn’t disappoint the client.”
Thus far, brands like Ilia, Lawless, and Kosas, among others, have demonstrated that the clean makeup consumer can take on different personalities or looks, like no-makeup makeup, glam or sporty. Hahn said that Sephora’s newer offerings build out Sephora’s initial clean color merchandising experience further. She called Westman Atelier the first full-fledged artist-driven brand in clean makeup, while LYS brings a Fenty Beauty-esque inclusive shade range to the clean foundation space. Saie, meanwhile, adds price flexibility for the customer, much like Tower 28 and Sephora Collection’s own line has done over the last year. Saie products range between $18-$34. Milk Makeup recently reformulated its products to receive the Clean at Sephora seal; it is also featured in the March campaign. Hahn expects to double the sales of clean products by the end of the year.
“We have a broad range of clients. Whether we’re talking about clean makeup or artistry makeup, we want to build an assortment that can speak to whoever our client is or whatever their preferences are,” said Hahn. “The behavior of the person interested in clean is no different than our normal beauty client.”
Makeup sales were down pre-pandemic, and that has accelerated since March 2020. According to The NPD Group, prestige makeup sales were down 34% for the year, while overall prestige beauty was down by 19% to $16.1 billion in 2020. However, Hahn said that the clean color category bucked those trends.
“We are not seeing a downturn in clean makeup,” said Hahn. “Obviously, it’s on a smaller base, but if the product is good, the client still likes it and she is interested in it. Makeup will come back. It’s a very emotional product category for customers, and still our largest category. Clients expect that we will get out of this together with them, and we are bringing better options for them everyday.”