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EXCLUSIVE: Beautycounter Names New CEO

The billion-dollar clean beauty brand is supercharging its C-suite.

Beautycounter is supercharging its C-suite.

Industry veteran Marc Rey has been named chief executive officer of the Santa Monica, Calif.-based clean beauty brand as founder Gregg Renfrew moves into the role of executive chair and chief brand officer.

Together, the two will focus on growing the brand, which was acquired by private equity giant Carlyle Group in 2021 in a $1 billion deal, with a possible road to a future initial public offering.

A pioneer in the clean beauty space, most notably for ingredient transparency, Renfrew launched Beautycounter as a direct-to-consumer brand in 2013, developing a comprehensive range of cosmetic and skin care products sold online; through 50,000 independent consultants; retail stores in New York, Los Angeles and Denver, and limited partnerships with retailers that have included Sephora, Target, J. Crew and Goop.

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She built the business grassroots-style, not on celebrity faces, but on the pillars of health, wellness, community and political activism, which has extended to lobbying the U.S. Congress for more regulation of the cosmetics industry.

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Rey comes to Beautycounter from Shiseido, where he served as CEO of Shiseido Americas and global chief growth officer until August 2020. While there, he led the acquisitions of Drunk Elephant and Laura Mercier, oversaw a portfolio of global brands that also included Nars and BareMinerals, and specialized in digital transformation. Prior to joining Shiseido in 2015, he was senior vice president of Coty North America, and president of IDC at L’Oreal USA.

“I couldn’t be more excited and honored to be working with Marc.…We’ve been growing steadily year-over-year and enjoying the partnership with Carlyle. For some time, I’ve been thinking about how to find a strong operating partner to take my vision and build on and grow our business, and let me focus on the areas I can have the most impact…our mission and advocacy, our community and our brand advocates to support and empower them,” Renfrew told WWD in an exclusive joint interview with Rey. “This is the right person at the right time.”

“I wasn’t thinking of going back to an operational job and turned down a lot of offers in the last year. But Beautycounter is different.…It’s more than a brand, there’s the mission, there’s the permanent reinvention and disruption, which I completely share and it makes the beauty industry a better place. Now everyone is talking about clean beauty but before Beautycounter that was not the case,” Rey said.

“Business-wise, let’s be honest, the potential is huge. This brand is just scratching the surface and there are a lot of levers untapped. Gregg wants to put it in as many hands as possible and we are going to do just that,” he said, citing the possibility for category expansion, international expansion, particularly in Europe and Asia, and perhaps even a future IPO. “But we have many other things to do before that.”

Rey will work at Beautycounter’s headquarters alongside the company’s 270 employees. He praised the brand’s authenticity, consistency and the alignment of its founder and mission as strengths to build on. “A lot of consumers want clean but they want efficacy also. Beautycounter checks all the boxes,” he said.

At launch, Beautycounter distinguished itself in the beauty landscape with a “Never List” of no-go ingredients, pointing to concerns about photo-toxicity, skin irritation and flakiness and potential carcinogenic properties. Over the years, it has continued to raise its standards for packaging, sourcing and supply chain transparency, shining a light on the forced labor mining of mica, for example.

Although sales of color cosmetics were down during the height of the pandemic, and supply chain issues continue to be challenging, business has been steady, Renfrew said. “Since our inception we’ve continued to enjoy quarter-over-quarter growth, so we’ve weathered the storm quite well in all of our pillars and we are bullish for the growth coming next.”

Among the brand’s bestselling products now are the Countertime antiaging skin care line, Dew Skin Tinted Moisturizer ($45), Counter+ All Bright C Serum ($82), Lid Glow cream eye shadow ($24) and Think Big All-in-One Mascara ($27), which the brand “finally got right” after three tries, Renfrew said.

The duo don’t plan to alter the brand’s d-t-c omnichannel approach; however, opening more stores is a possibility, Rey said: “It’s always a good thing to have a number of stores where you can magnify the presentation of the brand.”

But getting Beautycounter up to speed digitally, including its livestreaming capabilities, will be the number-one priority. “We have a huge community of people promoting, selling and advocating for the brand. They are essential and they need tools to use to make things easier and interacting with the consumer much better. The consumer needs to be able to access the brand easier, and understand what it can do for them, and there is technology to do that,” Rey said.

He wouldn’t rule out an acquisition to get the know-how, he said.

While Rey focuses on operations, Renfrew is looking forward to amplifying her advocacy work.

“One of the things you’re seeing on a macro level with consumers and also specifically with our community is people want to support brands that allow them to be part of something bigger than them, and are voting with their wallets as much as their voices and votes. This will allow me to have more time to hopefully bring more people into our movement at large,” she said.

“Our mission has always been to get safer products into the hands of everyone, which means we need cosmetic reform….We’ve been consistently at it, and I’m going to lean in even more. We have a trip to meet with members of Congress coming up this spring. We’re now coming up on 84 years since we passed a major federal law regulating our industry so now more than ever it’s time for change and hopefully we will start seeing movement.”