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SheaMoisture’s Beauty Hack Brings Customization to Ulta Beauty

The three-step system lets consumers design their own custom natural beauty creations.

SheaMoisture is bringing customizable beauty to the mass market.

The Sundial-owned personal-care brand next month is introducing Beauty Hack, a collection of raw natural ingredients that shoppers can pick and choose from to design and create their own beauty product at home. Sundial chief executive officer Richelieu Dennis said that because of consumer demand for custom beauty offerings, Beauty Hack, which will be launched in Ulta Beauty, is expected to ultimately have a significant impact on the business once it rolls out to full distribution. Though Sundial executives declined to give sales figures, industry sources estimate the line could do $2 million to $3 million in retail sales its first year on shelves.

Dennis noted that consumers now more than ever crave a personalized experience and, at the same time, are demanding transparency from beauty companies when it comes to ingredients. He also said the natural beauty phenomenon is driving them to get crafty at home, mixing their own beauty products with items found in the fridge, most commonly around skin issues such as dullness, dryness and acne. Dennis saw an opening to offer that experience under the SheaMoisture brand.

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“You see — especially on social — consumers sharing information with each other on what they’re using and what’s working for them and creating different [DIY] combinations,” Dennis said. “[We thought], ‘Why can’t we make it easier for her to personalize regimens around issues she’s having?’”

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Beauty Hack is a three-step system, and consumers are encouraged to pick ingredients from each of three steps. Step one is the base formulas — a body and hair cleanser, body moisturizer, body oil, sugar scrub, Aztec bentonite clay and Moroccan rhassoul clay. Then there are natural oils to add in — coconut, avocado, sunflower, macadamia, grapeseed and raw shea butter. The third step is fragrance, and consumers can choose from a selection of aromatherapeutic oils like rose, frankincense and myrrh and lavender and wild orchid.

“We have foundational bases, and then we have various active ingredients that are each in individual packages,” Dennis said. “[Customers] can take the base and say ‘OK, I’m looking to solve acne and rosacea and eczema and there are four or five different ingredients that can address those issues.’ They’re all available in different pieces so she can combine them together.”

The products are to be launched in Ulta Beauty and on at the beginning of April, a strategic decision on Dennis’ part due to his reckoning that the Ulta customer tends to be more plugged in to prestige beauty trends than the typical mass channel shopper. Ulta collaborated with SheaMoisture on the launch, crowdsourcing via social media the biggest beauty wants and needs from its customers to provide SheaMoisture insight into what types of ingredients to provide.

SheaMoisture is not the first brand to offer customizable beauty using natural ingredients — Loli Beauty is a subscription service offering natural, fair trade ingredients to create your own beauty products at home. But it is one of the first brands in mass to offer a customizable proposition.

Beauty Hack will be in 220 Ulta doors, occupying three shelves that are two feet across. Dennis said much of the real estate at Ulta will be devoted to education, with cards for each ingredient explaining what it is, how to use it and suggested ingredients to mix it with.

There are 17 items in the line and they range in price for $3.99 for the aromatherapy oils to $12.99 for a base clay. The products are certified organic and fair trade, true to SheaMoisture’s mission of offering fair trade products. The ingredients were chosen to work with all skin and hair types.

Ultimately, Dennis plans to grow the line outside of Ulta and take it to SheaMoisture’s other distribution partners, including Target, Walgreens and CVS. The issue is getting the merchandising right, as the mass shopper is likely more pressed for time than a prestige counterpart.

“That’s what we’re working on with each retailer — finding the best way to engage and build specific programs based on each retailer’s strength,” Dennis said. “At the core of it is having the right assortment of bases and ingredients against the varying need states, as well as education on shelf and online to help her navigate how she puts it all together.”

SheaMoisture is one of the fastest-growing brands in the mass market. According to IRI data tracking the 52 weeks ending Feb. 19, shampoo sales were up 53 percent, conditioner sales were up 74 percent and body antiaging sales up 228 percent. Products are currently sold in the U.S. and the U.K., but Dennis is plotting global expansion, ticking off Latin America — particularly Brazil — the rest of Europe, Asia and Africa as places for SheaMoisture to expand.

He expects Beauty Hack to fuel SheaMoisture’s international expansion.

“We now live in a world where consumers are no longer accepting the cookie-cutter offerings and one size fits all approaches,” Dennis said. “They’re wanting to engage with products and ingredients, rather than having something pushed on them.

He takes a long-term view on the customization craze, calling it “the driver of beauty business of the future.” “We think this will have a significant impact on growth in beauty in the next few years, and as we bring Beauty Hack to other retailers and certainly [more doors] in Ulta, right now we are expecting [Beauty Hack] to significantly grow [business for SheaMoisture].”