Follain's new brand image.


NEW YORK — Follain is on a mission to help beauty shoppers find the best nontoxic products for their skin type.

The Boston-based beauty emporium — there are two outlets there, as well as locations in New York and Nantucket — specializes in nontoxic brands such as May Lindstrom, Tata Harper and RMS Beauty.

Founder Tara Foley opened the first location in 2013, shortly before the natural beauty wave hit. As consumer demand for nontoxic products has risen, Foley sensed that shoppers were frustrated with the process of determining which clean products — particularly skin care — were right for their skin type.

“If a woman walks into a competitor store or an Anthropol0gie, they’re looking at a sea of clean beauty products and they have a difficult time finding the best things for their skin,” Foley said. “Often they select the wrong product for their skin type and they say, ‘OK, this clean product doesn’t work,’ and they make a decision about the entire [category]. That hurts clean beauty as a movement.”

Foley is launching her solution this week — a revamped web site complete with a “matchmaker” tool that quizzes shoppers on their skin concerns and desires, and then uses that data to select the products most likely to work with their skin type.

“We have a matrix of skin types and concerns,” she said, ticking off oily, combination, dry and normal skin types as examples, also mentioning rosacea, dryness and allergies. “We’ve tagged all our products to align with different skin types and concerns.”

There is also a chat functionality and a number to text that allows online shoppers to consult Follain’s sales associates — or “educators,” as the store refers to them — on what to buy. “They’re unbelievably close to the product and selections,” Foley said.

The enhanced e-commerce strategy is meant to replicate the customer service Follain shoppers get when they visit a brick-and-mortar store. Foley, whose background is in public policy and who had no beauty or retail experience prior to opening her first store, said e-commerce had always been “an afterthought,” while she focused on customers in her local shops.

But she noticed people were finding Follain online and buying product from it anyway. “We built [the web site] on nothing, scraped it together and it managed to get us 15 percent [of overall sales],” she said. “We were like, ‘Oh wow, we’ve been so focused on opening stores, but if we really want to move the needle we can’t open stores fast enough to reach women in Idaho and Indiana.’”

Foley said the new strategy is to open two more stores — likely in New York — and have e-commerce and retail sales be equally split.

Along with the web site revamp is a new logo and brighter, more graphic imagery.

“Our brand identity is much more colorful [now] because we’re aligning the brand with the rich active ingredients that are in the products.”

Also new is Follain’s Go Clean kits — pre-made skin-care sets designed for specific skin types, comprised of travel-sized products picked from Follain’s 70-some lines. They retail for $35 for body kits and $55 for face. “Every beauty brand has a trial kit, but they’re not really customized,” Foley said. “It’s our way of helping people dip their toes into the world of clean beauty.”

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