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‘Cleanical’ Skin-care Brands Grow by Double Digits

Skin care’s “cleanical” brands are on the upswing, proving consumers no longer have to choose between safety and science.

For the new generation of clean products, what’s inside the jar is increasingly as important as what’s not.

While clean beauty was at first driven by consumers looking for products free of ingredients that they deemed potentially harmful, high-performance products are increasingly driving sales, namely the so-called cleanical products.

Cleanical brands are growing quickly within the clinicals segment of the skin-care market. According to data from The NPD Group, clinical brands make up the largest chunk of the skin-care category at 34 percent. Inside of that, brands that combine clean and clinical are 20 percent of overall sales. While the sales figure is still small at $227 million year-to-date from August, said Larissa Jensen, vice president of beauty at The NPD Group, the figure represents a 49 percent increase. “They are growing astronomically,” Jensen said.

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An early adopter of the clean beauty movement, Goop has seen momentum across its e-commerce for cleanical brands, especially in its own line. “When the consumer thinks about the word ‘cleanical,’ they think about high performance and how brands have really put efficacy forward more than ever before,” said Shaun Kearney, chief design and merchandising officer at Goop. “Consumers are really paying attention to ingredients and what they’re putting on their bodies. Wellness and science are really top of mind for consumers.”

Most recently, Goop launched its GoopGenes Body Butter for $55 on its direct-to-consumer platform in September. For the first time, the results of clinical tests were included in all communications around the product. “We do a good job of highlighting the clinicals in our newsletter, and we know consumers read them, but this was probably one of the first times we really did our whole messaging around the product highlighting the clinical benefits,” Kearney said. The strategy worked: Sales of the body butter beat first-week revenue projections by upward of 750 percent.

Similarly, brands with proprietary ingredients have also seen steep sales increases. Augustinus Bader, for example, which formulates a hero proprietary ingredient, TFC8, in products free of parabens, fragrance, SLS, SLEAS, DEA, heavy metals and mineral oil, has grown 200 percent year-over-year since launch. Chief executive officer and cofounder Charles Rosier expects sales to triple this year to roughly $70 million, and anticipates crossing the $100 million mark next year.

“If you look at the trends of skin-care brands in the past 10 years, you have some focused on science that aren’t so clean, others that are focused on naturals that are not very scientific,” he said. “We are trying to create this unicorn where you don’t have to compromise on the ingredients to have science and efficacy.” 

Augustinus Bader has also sturdily expanded beyond its hero moisturizers with body and hand creams, and added offerings for cleansers, an essence, and a face oil in the past year. Rosier mentioned the brand is reformulating existing products to make them vegan.

Dr. Yannis Alexandrides, founder of 111Skin, also sees safety as crucial to making efficacious products, and said now more than ever, people want to know what’s in the product and why it works. Alexandrides began selling his line commercially when his plastic surgery patients raved about the serums he formulated for post-operational healing. Like other brands this year, he has doubled down on digital, using his web site to provide detailed breakdowns of ingredient benefits. That consumer-facing content has been the highest driver of growth for the business in the U.S. “The web site itself has a wealth of information. I wanted people to get to know the brand, and it takes a little research. People who have really discovered the brand buy it directly from our web site,” he said.

Dr. Barbara Sturm, founder of her eponymous skin-care line, sees consumers homing in on the purpose behind each of her ingredients. “Science, and not marketing, is what I focus on. Communicating what is scientifically good for your skin and what is not is a big part of serving the customer’s needs,” she said. “The public is savvy and hungry for education on physiology, immune system, inflammation and ingredient science. I see an intense interest from the customer in the science of their own health and the products they use.”

Melanie Simon, cofounder of Ziip Beauty, has been able to significantly widen the consumer base for her mircocurrent devise by tapping into the clean-conscious consumer. She launched Ziip on Goop in July and formulated a new conductive gel, The Crystal Gel, specifically to meet the retailer’s rigorous ingredient standards. “I was so frustrated from the get-go that my core demographic was precluded from the retailers carrying Ziip because I use a preservative,” Simon said.

The Crystal Gel, which features organic ingredients, gave Simon access to a broader range of consumers and the plan worked. Kearney said since launching this summer, Ziip has become a star performer.


For more from, see:

Curve Trade Show and The NPD Group Present Excellence Awards

Clean Beauty Leaders Talk California’s Toxic-Free Cosmetics Act

Launch Pad: Clinical Skin Care Is Cool Again