Ever since I started working for a skincare company (which I have, by now, quit for a while already), I was fascinated by it and by how little we, as consumers, actually know about the beauty industry all together. Though the following is a bit generalised, I can easily say, we make the correlation that higher end products are of better quality and vice versa. We assume that when the packaging is similar, brands have copied each other or are dupes for each other and that most brands create the formula themselves. While true to a certain extent, in most part we also couldn’t be more wrong and I, for one, was guilty of thinking a lot of the assumptions we make are true. But today, let me talk about a few things that surprised me a bit and perhaps can give you a better insight too.
The silent suppliers dominate
I honestly had no idea that private label companies even existed and how big there are so for that, I like to call them the silent suppliers. A private label is essentially a B2B company that manufactures items, in this case creates formulas, that can be rebranded to anything and come with a standard array of packaging.
So say, you want to start your own makeup brand but you don’t have the scientific background or whatever the case thatis that’s holding you back, just google “private label make up / skincare company” and you have a wide selection of companies you can choose from to make your own makeup line. They offer a wide variety of options where you essentially just pick and choose from, products to packaging and labels. Custom formulations are even accepted at, of course, a premium price or minimum order quantity.
I knew of factories, but not that one company can in fact supply the beauty products of several brands or that they have a standard selection of formulas that can be adjusted to your liking. Now naturally, most consumer doesn’t even have the slightest idea, purely because many brands choose to go with their own packaging and completely rebrand it. Really most of the western brands we know are made in the same factory and differentiate themselves predominantly through marketing and branding.
Customisation can cost a lot; many private label companies even charge for changing the name of a product they created. So, if you know what name the private label is using for a formula or product, you can google it and no doubt that you will find several companies using the exact same product without changing the name, description or packaging or that products have very similar ingredients.
The so – called "Dupes"
A lot of the times, we as bloggers, can or tend to claim that one company copied another with their packaging. Though some companies might actually have that intention, I doubt that many small companies have much choice in customisation due to financial restrictions.
Packaging companies have a standard brochure with what packaging you can choose from and customisation in any way can really bump up the price, like changing the material. Hence, smaller companies, more often than not, are financially restricted to choose from the standard selection. Because some packaging suppliers already have the mold for the design that larger companies use, smaller companies risk being called “copied” if that’s the only design they like. The material they use tend to be cheaper and thus different though. Trust me when I say, despite the wide variety of packaging option those companies have, most of them are not necessarily on trend or really flattering.
Lastly, it is impossible for Fenty Beauty to have copied KKW packaging (unless there was some insider information leaked) because it seriously takes such a long time to get packaging right, month to even years at times.
There are really only a few major beauty companies
Okay, so yes, there are hundreds and hundreds of beauty brands out there, but really.. most of them are owned by only a few big players or in business terms, conglomerates. While naturally the branding is still separated, once a company is bought up by one of the big players even formulas may become similar and thus can result in nearly perfect “dupes” to essentially save production costs as they are being made in the same factory. Note, of course luxury brands may have some better ingredients in them (not always I might add) and have the ability to spend a more on packaging and advertising.
I’ve personally never really heard much of the conglomerate named Coty, turns out they own over 75 brands including Covergirl, Marc Jacobs, Rimmel, OPI, Adidas Beauty and Max factor, which I’m sure you all heard of.
A few other worthy mentions amongst many – P&G owns Olay and SK-II; Estee Lauder owns La Mer, Too Faced, Clinique and Bobbi Brown; L’oreal owns Clarisonic, Shu Uemura and La Roche Posay; and Shiseido owns Cle de Peau, Nars and Laura Mercier.
The Hidden Ingredients
The beauty industry isn’t as controlled as it probably should be for the consumers sake. Despite consumers become smarter than ever, companies still make the best out of the leniency and they too, have become smarter. The best example that I can think is probably the word “fragrance”. Companies manage to hide a lot of other ingredients in this word if it’s on the back of the label, for better or for worse.
Corporations don’t have to disclose what’s in their fragrance because of one’s company secrets – this I can accept if there are no harmful ingredients but who’s to say there aren’t? Many consumers are well-aware of this fact today and thus some prefer a fragrance-free product. Though, is a fragrance-free product really one without.. fragrance or smell? Not necessarily. Because there aren’t much restrictions by the FDA on using this term, any product can pass as fragrance – free if they don’t have the word “fragrance” on their ingredient list. So, if for example they do have any type of scented oil in the product, companies could just state that oil in their ingredients list instead of fragrance and still brand it as fragrance – free.
Flash sales aren’t always a good thing
Did you know that if you order the special of the day in a restaurant it’s usually the leftovers or items that’ll expire soon? It’s a pretty common practice that isn’t necessarily a bad thing if properly practiced, but the same thing applies to the beauty industry. If you pass by a store and you’d see an unexpected sale, it’s usually because products will expire soon and retailers need to get rid of it. The solution for you? Read the labels and check the batch number. It has become such a habit for me to do this now, especially with skincare items. My go to website is Checkcosmetic (click for link). I haven’t come across any major international product that they don’t have listed and should you really be concerned and wanted to check, you can always call or email the company with the batch number that’s written on the back of the product.
On a final note, if are interested in exploring more, I’d suggest you to go to a Cosmoprof exhibition if it happens to be near you. It’s a great way to get to see upcoming brands, meet with a few key speakers, see how products are made, test out products that aren’t out on the market yet and of course get a few free samples and even buy products that are on discount. As a beauty enthusiast, it was like going to Disneyland so definitely worth it but it can be a bit hectic like you’re standing in a flea market or something. The biggest one in the world is in Bologna I think, but I’ve only ever been to the one in HK.
A little bit of a different post for today, but I do hope you enjoyed it and gave you a bit more insight on the industry. There are many more topics that I could voice my concerns over but I feel like many are already widely known. Do you have any more insights and was this post helpful?